Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Lazarus Project of My Very Own

When last I left John Shepard: Infiltrator, he was a man defined by flux; caught between life and death, rugged heroism and chaotic neutrality. My Mass Effect 1 paragon had died and been reborn a Mass Effect 2 renegade, and while the change didn't always sit quite right by me, there was at least comfort to be found in one constant: that ugly, familiar face.

I wasn't sure who my Mass Effect 3 Shepard would turn out to be when I slid the game disc into my Xbox for the first time last night. Considering this, I instructed the game to import my ME2 character, and four years of decisions spread out before me. My Shepard had spared Wrex and the Rachni queen, destroyed Mordin’s data, bedded Liara and Miranda. Most recently/controversially, he had turned the Collector base over to Cerberus. They weren’t all pretty, but those were the choices he had made. I hit the A button to continue.

At first I didn't understand. Mass Effect 3 cannot successfully determine the custom face code used by this imported save game. Please update your character's appearance.”

I blinked at the screen. I pressed A again. An alternate Shepard stared back at me. I recognized him as the quarterback-looking Shepard from the game’s packaging. I moved the cursor down to custom appearance. A different Shepard this time—face vaguely shaped like John Shepard: Infiltrator but with utterly indistinct features, as though my Shepard had been blasted with sand.

I pressed B—take me back. The game dumped me out onto the main menu. I tried again, unsuccessfully. It was a bug, and there was no going back. John Shepard: Infiltrator was gone.

Was it a sign? Had my Shepard run his course?

I had resisted the near-unanimous cries of others that FemShep was the real Shepard; maybe it was time to give her a try. But I just couldn’t bear it—the game wouldn’t allow me to change sexes while preserving my previous choices. I had to decide between playing with a different backstory entirely, or building a brand new, male Shepard.

I considered it: the Lazarus Project had rebuilt Shepard once—maybe this was my chance to rebuild him myself. And so I gave it a try. I fiddled with the sliders trying to get that lovable boot-face just right, pitting jaw size against ear orientation for a good 20 minutes. He’s not pretty; nor is he a perfect replica—but here he is: John Shepard: Infiltrator, back from the dead once again. Click the image for a closer look, and let me know how I did.