I realize it’s old hat to pick on things done by EA’s marketing department. However, every once in a while their awfulness starts to chafe and I have to say something. Today is one such day. (And before you ask: No, I haven’t played the demo. I already know I’m getting the game, and I’d just rather just avoid the spoilers and play the real deal when the time comes.)
I’ve been fairly annoyed with the bits of Mass Effect 3 they’ve been showing us. No, I’m not talking about the Take Earth Back Cinematic Trailer. Sure, it might take the easy path with regards to emotional manipulation. But that’s how a lot of trailers work. It’s a solid couple of minutes of cinema. No, I’m talking about the other ads. The small ones. The ones selling pre-order bonuses, DLC, exclusives, and so on.
My first problem is one of tone. The “We fight or we die!” line that was being thrown around was cringe-inducing, since it made Shepard sound like a lunkhead. I mean, the whole point of the series so far is that you supposedly can’t fight the Reapers, or that nobody has ever figured out how. It’s like:
JOKER: Commander, we’re out of food. We don’t know where to get more. What do you want us to do?
SHEPARD: (Adopts a dramatic pose.) We eat or we starve!
JOKER: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. We’re going to starve. Thanks for nothing, dumbass.
Thankfully this line seems to have vanished in the last couple of months. Again, this doesn’t tell us what the game itself will be like, but this clip of dialog is really, really stupid. Why are we trying to make Commander Shepard sound like Marcus Fenix? Not to knock Marcus. He’s got his place in the world of videogames. But lines for Johnny Rico and Dwayne Hicks will not sound right coming out of the mouth of Captain Picard and lines for Professor X don’t sound right coming from Wolverine, no matter how much we like the characters.
This is a game filled with sci-fi ideas. It’s a space opera. Fantastic alien worlds. Strange creatures. Mysterious technology. Ancient secrets. Political intrigue. That’s food for your brain, right there. It’s the one thing that makes Mass Effect stand out from a lot of other games about a dude in body armor, lugging an assault rifle through a showcase of chest-high walls. So why is the marketing focusing on the assault rifles and chest-high walls?
My second problem with the marketing is that it’s just cheap and sloppy. The worst example is this commercial. Let’s go through this commercial.
In the not too distant future…
Mass Effect 3 takes place around 2186-ish. So, over a century and a half from now. I don’t think even an Asari would call that “near future”.
Shamus’ skewering of Mass Effect 3‘s commercials continues …
… the galaxy stands on the brink of total annihilation …
Actually, the galaxy is just fine, thanks. It’s the people living in the galaxy that need to be worried. That’s the whole point of the Reapers. The galaxy goes on, unchanging, cycle after cycle.
… and the fate of humanity …
And everyone else, remember?
… rests on the shoulders of a single man …
Or woman. Remember how you made such a big deal with your “Miss Commander Shepard” beauty contest, and even put her on the box? I guess we know who’s still wearing the pants in this franchise.
And it’s not on the shoulders of a “single man”. I mean, wasn’t the entire last game a huge “team building” exercise because Shepard can’t do it alone?
… and his Valkyrie assault rifle.
Are you serious, EA? Gamestop? You just made Garrus into a lame-ass pitchman so you can sell me pre-order guns? A Garrus who can’t remember of the basics of the universe he inhabits? I hate you.
The pitch was only one sentence long, and it somehow contained more errors than a copy of “Mass Effect: Deception” that was retyped while wearing boxing gloves. I would accept this as a bit of self-referential comedy if it managed to get the basics right. I would accept it as a typical dumbed-down game trailer if they didn’t take a beloved and heroic character from the series and turn him into a stooge in order to sell us DLC guns.
We’ve got this awful dissonance where the “Take Back Earth” trailer tries to sell us on this universe of loss and hopeless odds, and then we’ve got other commercials telling customers the game is all about “LOL Gunz!!!”
Which brings me to my last problem with this marketing push. This DLC / preorder stuff has gotten completely out of control. Mass Effect 3 is Balkanized across multiple platforms, multiple retailers, and multiple editions of the game, all of which bestow usable in-game items. The worst part is, I don’t see any marketing benefit from it. Sure, if I pre-order at Gamestop I get gun A and if I pre-order through Origin directly I get gun B, but so what? I haven’t played the game yet. I don’t know which one is better or more fun to use.
(And I just have to ask again: Why did people aim so much pure rage at Portal 2? Remember that? The game had cosmetic, multiplayer-only DLC, and people got so mad they review-bombed it. Why was so much rage aimed at Portal 2, and so little aimed at Mass Effect 3? NOTE: I am not asking anyone to review-bomb anything. It’s childish and pointless. I’m asking why, not demanding ME3 be similarly punished. Please, please no.)
My point isn’t that Mass Effect 3 will be bad. My point is that marketing is treating it like it’s big, dumb, and loud. It’s just sad when the fans of the game have more respect for the material than the people who brought us the game. I’m looking forward to March 6, not just because the game comes out, but because that’s when the EA hype machine will finally shut up.