The real Splinter Cell Question

So Ubisoft has come out and shown us a bit of the Splinter Cell: Blacklist Campaign. It is predictably moving in the direction established in Conviction; mark-and-execute is back, stealth seems to be available but totally optional and functionally scaled back to make room for the "Sam Fisher is a slaughterhouse with legs" mechanics. I'm sure there will be a totally passable story, and while Michael Ironside will be missed, and missed sorely, I've no doubt the single player experience will hit all the notes that we should expect from the 6th entry in a series that has followed a well-telegraphed arc.

But fuck all that.

The big news about Blacklist is the return of Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory had for my money the best multiplayer experience basically ever. From the concept to the gameplay to the level design, it was pitch-perfect. When Double Agent was released I was excited to see a new coat of paint on the old Spies vs Mercs, but in the end, the 3 vs 3 concept, the gadget changes on both sides and the level designs didn't recapture the magic introduced in Pandora Tomorrow and perfected in Chaos Theory.

Now Blacklist has stated its intention to bring back Spies vs. Mercs, but with no information beyond that it exists. This is the information I need. I pray for a return to the 2 v 2 Spies vs. Mercs and secretly hope for a couple classic maps to be rereleased (Aquarius, Club House). Will I get satisfaction, and another kick at the Splinter Cell Multiplayer can? We'll find out soon enough. But in the meantime, I've learned everything I care to learn about the single player experience, bring on the multiplayer news!

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Vague news and hope springs eternal in 0x10^c

Notch's announcement of the new 0x10^c (I'm pushing for the proper notation here) really doesn't tell us anything. That doesn't stop me from colouring in his very vague skeleton for a game with my own expectations, and almost all those expectations are coloured in by my (extremely fond) memories of Toys for Bob and Accolade's Star Control II.

With Firaxis granting wish #3 with their re-imagining of the original X-COM, 0x10^c is my current best hope for granting wish #2; more Star Control in some form. Hell, the mako landings in Mass Effect are one of the two main reasons I was drawn to that franchise in the first place. (The other being the Vangelis-inspired soundtrack. Can I get a hell ya?)

This is totally conjecture and pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but hot DAMN would that be exciting if I could get some of that original 1992 lovin' back in some form. It's not going to take much of that to get my money, Notch. I hope you're listening.

I'm sure everyone else has their own images that this announcement conjures up. I'd be very curious to know what they are.

PS Wish #1 is for, as it always is, more wishes. Failing that it's for Olivia Wilde.

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Going through the motions in a post-Mass Effect world *SPOILERS*

**THIS POST CONTAINS MASS EFFECT 3 SPOLERS**

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

I beat Mass Effect 3 a few days ago. It took me 48 hours to come to terms with the last ten minutes of the series. I questioned the weight of a ten minute cutscene on a 100+ hour story. I went through everything I could find on the internet about the ending, the way other people were thinking about it, the possible changes from BioWare and what other endings that could have existed if I'd played the game differently. If you're thinking of doing something similar, let me help; 5000+ military strength, destroy all synthetics. You get a half-second breath from what looks like Shepard's body. EDI has to die, the Geth have to die, and the Mass Effect Relays all need to be destroyed. The galaxy is no more saved, though. More on that shortly.

I'm not angry. I'm not sad. I won't lie, I wanted to beat the odds, get all the free drinks I'd been promised from all the people I'd helped and make blue babies with Liara and die old and surrounded by loved ones in my bed, with statues of me on every civilized world for thousands of years. Then I want to play the inevitable Mass Effect MMO and see those statues everywhere, matching the Shepard model I'd created pulled from my saves. I can never have that, though. The feeling I was left with after seeing what was actually offered was just... unfulfilled.

I fully understand the anger, manifested in typical internet fashion as lashing out at BioWare, the denial, as seen as the "Shepard Indoctrination" Theory, the bargaining via Child's Play and the acceptance where people champion the ending as "brave" or "edgy". I need to correct myself. I was a little sad. Not sad at the ending, in the sense that I was mourning Shepard. I was sad that after all the brilliant storytelling that managed to make an amazing narrative that was consistent between all three games and a dense, believable galaxy culminated in a tacked-on conversation with a robot kid that was supposed to represent some deep connection to Shepard's feelings of loss in the war against the reapers, when every game had at least one significant loss experienced by every player that had been through all three games and a Red/Green/Blue ending that essentially comes around to the same thing:

The galaxy was not saved.

Players of the series were out to save the galaxy. That is the main goal throughout every second of gameplay through all three games. Save the galaxy. Save the inhabitants of the galaxy, their government, their society. From the Citadel and the incredible cooperation between varied species at the seat of power for the galaxy to the fringe colonists dependent on the infrastructure of Relays delivering the supplies that keep them alive. Save the ability to explore the amazing universe created in the series. People will be lost, absolutely. Whole planets will fall. Maybe entire species will be destroyed. They can be mourned, but the galaxy must continue on. The remaining inhabitants of the galaxies must be allowed to rebuild in the wake of the Great Reaper War, that started on Earth and was fought in every corner of the galaxy. Instead every choice available at the end of the game kill Shepard and destroy all the Mass Effect relays in the galaxy. Those who survive on the fringe colonies are cut off from their home worlds. Those who survive on the main worlds are stuck there. The galaxy cannot be explored further as of the end of the game. For every jump forward made since the discovery of the first Relay, the war with the reapers ends with an equal and opposite jump backward. Individual worlds may be saved from destruction, but the galaxy as it was is destroyed.

I feel like I could go on about this for a lot longer. I won't though. Anyone that is reading this after reading the spoiler warning has likely played the series to completion. At first I thought I could get past it. Accept the ending as it is, and play the series again and again and gloss over the ending and its shortcomings. Now, though, I hope BioWare makes good on their statement that they "are listening", and gives me an ending that, maybe doesn't have to just be rainbows and flowers (though I'd like that), but needs to give me the option to save the galaxy. I mean isn't that what the whole thing was about?

This has been rambling and meandering. I'm sorry for that. It's late and I've seen how the galaxy ends.

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Nearing the end of my productivity...

3 days to go until Mass Effect 3 launches. After that, all bets are off. I managed to finish Deus Ex, as I mentioned before, and I also got through Outland, and am one chapter away from being through the Resident Evil 5. As excited as I am for ME3 to finally launch, and damn am I excited, I will almost be sad to see this period end where I was able to go through a few games on my shelf and give them a second try or just pick them up after something shiny and new took me away from them. The boss fight in 5-2 of RE5 has me almost ready to quit again. Sheva needs to work on her not getting killed abilities.

Back to Mass Effect 3, though, I'm noticing the Collector's Edition on Xbox 360 is looking a little rare around here. Is anyone else out there finding that as well? My local Best Buy (where I also work) got only four copies of the CE on 360 and only 2 on the PS3. I'm going to do some internet scouring for this thing today, I think. Hopefully I'm not too late.

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This is a nice time...

I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution the other day, and while Skyrim is sitting there on my shelf calling to me, it is too large a game to start in on with Mass Effect 3 looming so close in the future. I'm taking this time to clean up some games I never finished but did start. I managed to finish Outland finally (awesome game) and now I will be dividing my time between the disappointing Resident Evil 5 and the lovely Bastion. No idea why I stopped Bastion before seeing it through.

This will be a nice time to get through a couple entries on that backlog before diving face-first into Mass Effect and that hot blast of Sci-fi should set me up nicely for a Fantasy chaser via Skyrim.

Of course with my schedule, that means by the time I'm done Skyrim it will be Christmas 2012 and the cycle will start over again. Oh well. There are worse problems I suppose.

*so proud of myself for actually typing up a blog entry before I had to flip another page on the calendar.

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