For the Ugliest Bastard Alive

I was planning to start it by telling what my first impressions of the game were, but because they were too much focused on the face generator aspect of it, I’ve decided to make a dedicated blog post about it.

In short, I despise the face generator in Mass Effect 2. I don’t have the patience Bioware’s dull and minimalistic face modeling parlor. Besides, it took out the only two features I liked about Mass Effect 1’s face creator: the scar gauge and the ability to make your avatar oddly similar to my Jedi from Knights of the Old Republic.

Other than that, the game still asks you to determine stuff like “cheek gaunt” and “eye depth”, which only ever works for making a character uglier. Never prettier.

Time to save the galaxy, Quasimodo!

On the other hand, they are Bioware’s efforts are still years ahead of Bethesda. The more I toy with the faces of my Elder Scrolls guy and Fallout 3’s Lone Wanderer, the more they look the same: generic. At least Fallout 3 offers me a nice selection of facial hair to choose from. Remember kids, facial hair can make one’s face epic no matter how bland you actually look like.

Oh, but if you don’t like generic or Commander Shepard’s–whose eye sockets are so protuberant you might think they were modeled after a Marty Feldman on a caffeine high–Mass Effect still has , distinctive standard faces. Well, while I’m fine with Female Shepard’s (FemShep) face (though I like the idea of giving her a ridiculous tan even though she practically lives inside a spaceship with no natural sun light), MaShep’s face still leaves me unsettled. Those dead blue eyes of his are buried deeper in the uncanny valley than a teen Haley Joel Osment!

But you know what grinds my gears? Is that, theoretically, this was a problem was already solved back in 2000. Back when Perfect Dark was released for the Nintendo 64. During its many previews, Rare kept talking about a feature called Perfect Head, which allowed a played to take a photo of his face with the Game Boy Camera, use the Nintendo 64’s Transfer Pak to upload the photo to the game and then glue it on the face of a multiplayer character. Then, after a little manipulation like changing the skin color and adding hair (the Game Boy Camera only took black and white pictures after all), you could start playing as yourself

This feature was unfortunately ditched. Allegedly by technical reasons, but many people wondered if that wasn’t only to avoid any kind of political controversy (the Columbine High School Massacre had just happened the previous year, after all).

Now, when Perfect Dark was about to be released for the XBLA this year, lots of site started to post rumors (without any kind of research, obviously) about a possible return of Perfect Head’s mapping feature. Meanwhile, nobody wondered why were we waiting only for Perfect Dark to do this. I mean, with the EyeToy and the Kinect, this feature is finally feasible. Consoles are already bugging us to create console versions of ourselves only to sell us cheap Tennis games where an avatar that looks like me can mercilessly defeat an avatar that looks like my girlfriend (chivalry? what’s that?), so why not a Mass Effect where Shepard actually looks like me, instead of a scary albino? Or perhaps a drag queen version of me…

Besides, where is the controversy when we limit face mapping to the main protagonist only? I mean, any kind of complaint would be redundantly meaningless considering the very definition of an avatar is to be a digital surrogate of oneself: any act of violence made by an avatar wearing your face isn’t any different than any other avatar’s act of violence.

It took me 1:30 hours before I finally settled down with a face I was comfortable with and started, you know, actually playing Mass Effect 2. I welcome any solution that will solve my problem more quickly and effectively. And hey, if this solution grants me at least one good reason for buying a Kinect, the better for Microsoft, eh? So what are you waiting for, Don Mattrick? Make it happen!


Update: my buddy just told me soccer games like EA’s FIFA series and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer games are already venturing in the face mapping business – which a quick Google search later confirmed it. Considering EA also owns Bioware, I’m wagging my finger at them! It’s high time those features showed up in real games! “Real games”, of course, meaning “games I like to play”.

Update 2 (Christmas Update!): As HotChops says below, another game with face mapping Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas. Here: If anyone else knows of any other game with face mapping, please tell me so I can add them to article too! Thanks! 🙂


  1. HotChops

    As you mentioned at the bottom, the facial mapping feature has been used with the Xbox camera for a while now. Another game that used it was Rainbow Six: Vegas. It’s a flawed function because the image has to be plastered across a three-dimensional face. My friend and I tried it and our avatars looked nothing like us for the most part.

    In regards to the Mass Effect face creator, it definitely is limited in it’s ability to make faces as realistic looking as the default Shepards. That’s why I rarely customize my Shepard beyond making small changes to the default design. According to Bioware’s stats, most players create their own Shepard and in my experience, they’re all hideous looking.

    There’s cool/fun website for people who want some pre-made Shepard codes to input into the character creation screen:

    As you can see, the face creator works better for some celebrities than others.

    • Hey, HotChops! Thanks for the heads-up! It’s nice to see that this feature wasn’t forgotten after all. From what I’ve seen, the biggest problem with face mapping is exactly that: because it is a 2D image, it will get distorted. The solution so far is to alleviate this issue by taking more pictures at different angles, although, I suppose the Kinect would help greatly in that regard.

      I mean, it can do this: , which is pretty impressive IMO.

      Ah… and if only I knew about this site 1 month ago, my Mass Effect face fiasco could have been avoided!