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A modest little indie game called Mass Effect 2 appears tomorrow. You may have heard about it. It's made by an upstart Canadian studio called Bioware, best known for its previous sci-fi opus, Shattered Steel. If Bioware can manage to get the word out about this new game, I have a feeling it may do alright sales-wise. Thousands of copies sold is not outside the realm of possibility.
But they'll need help to move that many copies, and I'm pleased to report that several outlets are jumping on board with effusive praise and hyperbole. Consensus seems to be forming around two main points: 1) The game is a vast improvement on the the original; 2) It elevates the RPG genre to as-yet-unseen heights.Pretty much everything that anybody took even the slightest issue with in Mass Effect 1 has been axed or rebuilt entirely. -IGNAn astonishing RPG…daring, shocking and often awe-inspiring in its use of choice. This is the future of storytelling in videogames. -X360 MagazineA gorgeous experience and a staggering achievement. … [Characters] are unique. They are individual. They are a pleasure to interact with on every conceivable level. [One of the] top five games of all time. BioWare, we love you. -NowGamerWhen you've finally completed every last side quest…sadness sets in – until you remember there's at least one more Mass Effect coming. -Official Xbox Magazine
Maybe Mass Effect 2 is exactly the outstanding game these sources claim it to be. I hope so. I'm excited to play it. Find more info on call of duty ghosts cheats here www.iwantcheats.net com .
But there's a problem here, and it has to do with print and online outlets granted 'exclusive' rights to publish their reviews before anyone else. Should we be troubled by the fact that these handful of privileged sources have assigned the game a collective average of 97? Does it matter that early exclusive reviews nearly always skew higher than those appearing later?
When media outlets make deals with publishers to be first out of the shoot, their credibility is instantly compromised. And, oddly, they appear to acknowledge this reality even as they ignore it:
And as if our own misgivings over the revelation of plot points were not enough to throttle the very existence out of this very review, EA has also included a handy list of specifics we’re not even allowed to mention, let alone put into any kind of narrative context. Major characters, enemies, squad members, the list goes on. Instead then, we’ll tell you what we can, and perhaps when you witness for yourself the limits of our remit, you will forgive us this somewhat lethargic preamble. (from NowGamer's review of Mass Effect 2)
Got any openings
A few days ago I wrote about the first hour of Bioshock and its shrewd method of establishing a world and delivering exposition. The game may unravel a bit later on, but it does a remarkably effective job of setting its hook in the player during the early stages of the journey through Rapture.
This prompted a discussion with several of my students about games and their capacity to grab us or leave us cold. Naturally, we began tossing around titles of games with great openings.
One student cited Halo's intro sequence as especially magnetic, drawing him into a fight. Another mentioned the G-Man's "Rise and shine, Mr. Freeman," and stepping off the train in Half-Life 2's City 17 with no clear objective or destination. One student claimed that Peggle's opening levels possess a mysterious power to lure players, game vets and noobs alike, into its mad can't-stop-playing vortex.
I thought it might be fun to expand the conversation here by including your 2 cents on the question. Can you think of a game you've played that contains an especially effective opening or beginning? If so, why do you think it work so well?
Like my Peggle-addled student, you needn't limit yourself to narrative titles. All games face the same imperative to hook players early on, lest they grow bored or frustrated and move on to the next time-wasting, brain-shrinking, culture-in-decline activity.
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