Nitpicking: Mass Effect, Part One
Mass Effect is good: I have already established this in the post, and my glowing appraisal echoes what you feel in your own heart to be true. But it has things to answer for, and it will be made to in a new series called Nitpicking.
Desperate for something, anything to criticize about Bioshock, its hacking metaphor was seized upon as being somewhat less than absolutely perfect. But even Bioshock’s gravest enemy must admit that the hacking exists, that someone took the time to create a play system that is integrated with a number of character upgrades and delivers a range of possible experiences. The hacking in Mass Effect consists of pressing A, B, X, or Y when these buttons light up on the screen. Didn’t work? Carpal tunnel flaring up? Smear Omni-Gel - the universal goop of the future - on any locked box, and watch it open like a steamed clam.
Want to know more about Mass Effect? We’ll be doing this for at least a week.
Since I started using the iPhone as my music device, my Zune has languished in the bottom of my Gym Bag waiting for the day when some archaeological expedition will unearth it. I was surprised to learn that new Zune branded music players had been released without making much of a ripple - the earlier iteration of the device at least warranted a snarl of derision. I really liked using it, when I had occasion to. When Apple built a very solid player into a very solid phone that I love touching, the poor thing never saw much use.
When it was my primary, I can remember being really frustrated by the lack of official communication and updates to the device. I threw on the new firmware primarily for kicks, to see what they had been up to. It’s actually a pretty incredible iteration, both as a tiny machine and as an overarching service - both have received a complete facelift, to the extent that they are altogether new products, and the visual design on both is surprisingly strong. The way that your Xbox Live friends are automatically your Zune Friends, letting you check out playlists and send messages is pretty slick. I always wondered if putting J Allard in charge of "This Zune Business" was cosmic punishment for some secret sin, but I’m not sure anyone else could make a genuine statement with this product. He’s the man behind experiences that don’t feel as though like they’re the monolithic, impersonal output of a company as big as Microsoft.
I wonder how long until he’s running the place.