Mass Effect 2: Jack

By Shamus
on Mar 15, 2010
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Jack was a big part of the Mass Effect 2 marketing campaign. This marketing campaign:

(Warning, bad language and banality.)


Link (YouTube)

My first impression of the character was more or less: Oh look, it’s space-Morrigan. Only more annoying and with a more preposterous top. (How does that thing stay in place? Are we to believe that a mass effect field is being used to secure her you’re-wearing-that-wrong set of suspenders?) Just what the franchise needed. A venom-spewing nihilistic nutjob to give the series the dose of “more badass and stupid” that fans [of other games] have been clamoring for.

But it turns out that my first impression was wrong.

Well, her top is ridiculous and she is pretty nihilistic, but she’s not nearly as two-dimensional as she seemed in the trailers. She’s not there as an author-insertion character / fantasy object. She’s not all fury and kickass. She’s actually a tragically broken person and I found her story to be gut-wrenching.

I don’t claim to be an expert on bras or anything, but I’m pretty sure this design is completely infeasible regardless of your tech level.
I don’t claim to be an expert on bras or anything, but I’m pretty sure this design is completely infeasible regardless of your tech level.

Jack was a victim of (who else) Cerberus. She was raised in one of their distant, clandestine, well-supplied, well-staffed, and completely unprofitable labs which the paranoid spies at Cerberus somehow funded without knowing what they were doing. Or something. Like everything to do with Cerberus, it doesn’t really survive scrutiny and you’re just supposed to roleplay Shepard as a dunce who doesn’t ask about or even notice little details like this.

Anyway. Cerberus. In keeping with the Cerberus we met in the first game, they had a plan to develop the ultimate biotic warrior. They did this by performing batteries of experiments on groups of biotic-sensitive children. They did all kinds of horrifying, monstrous things to the kids and killed quite a few in the process. When they found one that boosted biotic power without killing the patient, they would use that same technique on Subject Zero. (Jack.)

Her story pays off when you bring her back to the now-ruined Cerberus facility so that she can blow the place up. As you tour the ruin, she pieces together what really happened to her. The “tough girl” persona gets wobbly and her voice cracks in places. The writing is great, but a lot of credit needs to go to actress Courtenay Taylor for a brilliant performance.

BioWare did a brilliant job with facial animations.  Not only did they pull off “crying face” that doesn’t plunge the character into the uncanny valley, they also pulled off “<em>nearly</em> crying face”, which is actually way harder.
BioWare did a brilliant job with facial animations. Not only did they pull off “crying face” that doesn’t plunge the character into the uncanny valley, they also pulled off “nearly crying face”, which is actually way harder.

Jack is one of the obvious seams between the two games BioWare was trying to make. On one hand they were making “Captain Shooty Hands out the Galactic Ass Kickings”, and on the other hand they were making “Catpain Shooty’s Dramatic Space Opera Adventure”. The latter is what they enjoy doing and what fans love them for, but the former is apparently what pays the bills. Jack looks like a bit of pandering (and to a certain extent, she is) but she’s an interesting and deep character who stands on her own. (It’s worth doing her mission just to unlock her extra outfit, which is a tanktop. Thank you. Geeze.)

And I also like that you can’t “fix” her. Blowing up her former school / prison / test chamber doesn’t immediately make everything all right. She’s still irrevocably warped and probably nowhere near ready for a trusting relationship with another human being. But we do see a glimmer of hope that through the torture, violence, drug abuse, and neglect, she retained a little flicker of her empathy. She perhaps could be healed over the course of years, given the right group of friends. A lot of it would depend on what she decided to do with herself after the end of the game. (Assuming she survives.)

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  1. General Karthos says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. I was expecting Jack to be boring and two-dimensional, and I actually found her to have one of the more interesting stories of all the characters. (And a pretty disturbing one at that.)

    Of course, she illustrates exactly why I DIDN’T WANT TO WORK FOR CERBERUS, but of course, we weren’t given a choice on that, so we put up with it.

  2. Jarenth says:

    You have to hand it to BioWare: They never, ever take the easy way out when their writing is concerned. They could have easily written Jack off as a little ball of sex, drugs and violence and nobody would have batted an eyelid. But even the obviously over-sexualized half-naked pandering-to-teenage-boy-demographic character gets written better than, say, every character in Final Fantasy XII.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, I agree with what you’re saying here.

    • Psithief says:

      I dunno, I thought that Final Fantasy XII was the boring politics story. In my opinion, worse characterisation was present in FFX-2.

      • Jarenth says:

        There wás no characterization in FFX-2. The characters retained from FFX just sort of ignored their previous characters for the sake of the story (such as it was), and the new characters introduced were bland, boring and without kicking. The only reasons I was able to sit through all of it were a) it sort of promised to continue on from FFX (this was lies) and b) it featured as the protaginists a bunch of teenage girls prancing around in their underwear. There, I said it.

        And yeah, FFXII wasn’t bád; it just was the first game that came to my mind that could have used the magic Bioware touch.

  3. Twosday says:

    I’m pretty sure Cerberus did know about it, and Miranda was just being the lying bitch she is when she told you otherwise.

    • Danel says:

      No, I think the Illusive Man is ruthless enough to experiment on children, but intelligent enough to realise that this project would be likely to create – as it does – an incredibly powerful biotic with a homicidal hatred for Cerberus, which isn’t remotely helpful.

      • swimon says:

        I agree but their funding is weird. How can they keep doing the experiments if they “went rogue”? Did the illusive man just hand out enough money for the whole operation at the beginning no strings attached? If so he isn’t really all that bright and has only himself to blame when this shit happens.

        • Mindstar says:

          They *could* be falsifying reports maybe? doing experiments and reporting other things. If you notice the video logs, they state that cerberus leadership is starting to suspect them.

          Yeah, there are a lot of cracks in the Cerberus storyline, but there is also some attempts to make Cerberus seem like a grey-area organization – ruthless, but ruthless with a purpose: to make humanity the premier force in the galaxy.

          I think I had a lot less problems with the cerberus storyline from the beginning because I honestly couldn’t remember the name (it had been ages since I’d played Mass Effect)

        • theNater says:

          I’ve decided to believe that the Illusive Man is more interested in plausible deniability than actual morality. Something like:

          IM: Here’s your funding for the month. Remember, if I hear about you torturing children, I have to cut you off.

          Researchers: We’ll try to make sure you don’t hear about it, then.

          Nothing that’d hold up to real scrutiny, but might assuage a difficult asset long enough to distract them by sending them into an ambush.

      • mark says:

        You make one homicidal pissed off super-biotic, then use that knowledge to make the next 100 kids brainwashed super-biotics.

        • Jarenth says:

          Then you go through a lot of trouble to ally said homicidal biotic with a legendary space captain who doesn’t like your organisation, has shown in the past no qualms about hindering your organisation, and is known for forging strong bonds to his/her squadmates and going trough a lot of trouble to accomodate their desires.

  4. Taellosse says:

    I, too, was surprised at how much I grew to enjoy Jack. Or, at least, appreciate her depth of character–I’m not sure I ever actually liked her.

    And I was REALLY glad to be able to finally put her in believable clothing, too. I enjoy gratuitous boobage as much as the next guy, but impossible clothes get on my nerves.

    • Viktor says:

      But at least her clothing is better than Morrigan’s. Her’s actually obeys the laws of physics as it sets feminism back 20 years. Morrigan just hangs a pair of cloths over her shoulders, and somehow maintains a M rating.

  5. Slycne says:

    Does anyone else feel that maybe they went the oh too obvious route of having her be ‘broken’ though? Although I will give them props for turning that scenario on its head a little. I certainly appreciated that she had depth, but the reveal didn’t come as much of a surprise for me.

    My only other gripe with the character was that it seems to only be possible to delve deeper into her character on a romantic level. In the end she ended up only responding to me with “Fuck off” because I wasn’t looking for a relationship with her.

    • krellen says:

      For what it’s worth, when I got that far with her on my mostly-renegade male playthrough, her “Fuck Off!” made perfect sense: Shepard had pushed pretty hard against her barriers, turned down her casual sex offer, and moved into those “I’d like to get to know you better” categories, but since he was pursuing a Tali romance (actually had gone loveless in ME1 for that), when she did the slight opening that would have allowed a relationship and he turned her down, the “Fuck Off!” becomes perfectly in character: having cracked her walls, she’s now trying desperately to get and keep them back up, and having Shepard around makes that a lot harder.

      • mark says:

        I assumed incorrectly that the renegade option would be the right one. So when i showed interest AFTER having sex with her, getting told to fuck off didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. “Shepard had consentual sex with me and is still interested in talking?! that BASTARD!”

        (WHY DO THESE GAMES NEVER ALLOW THE ‘EVIL’ CHARACTER TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT BETRAYING THEIR CHOICE OF PERSONALITY/ALIGNMENT?! Baldur’s Gate 2, with Viconia, is the only one I can think of, and good characters were allowed the option to romance her and turn her towards the path of good. How come an evil character couldnt seduce and corrupt aerie, for example?)

        • krellen says:

          The thought process you should be assigning is “Just another fucking man after sex. Figures”, which then makes “Fuck Off!” once again a sensible, if not desirable, response.

        • eri says:

          This really gets to me in RPGs as well. Morrigan I guess counts as the “evil” relationship in Dragon Age, but she’s far more self-centred than genuinely evil; her survival of the fittest worldview means she simply thinks the weak get what is coming to them. Aside from her, though, I really can’t think of any other characters like that. It really doesn’t make too much sense, either – if someone is willing to confide in you, to be your romantic partner, it makes sense that you should be able to influence them either way. Yet instead we get cookie-cutter responses from girls who only like nice guys. If you’re going to have alignment affect relationship options, at least give players someone for every alignment.

          • krellen says:

            Zevran in Dragon Age. Offers casual sex, is willing to make it a relationship if you want, or not if you want.

            • Varil says:

              Zevran surprised me at the time. Wasn’t expecting him to start hitting on my guy character. I’m not saying it’s bad, just wasn’t expecting it from an RPG. I actually felt a little bad when I turned him down to keep things going with Leliana. Especially since I found some of the lines entertaining. Morgan I felt less bad about. Erratic psycho of a woman.

              “Well, aside from being tied up by some handsome Gray Warden.”
              “Already done!”

          • Devonian says:

            You can do convert any of the love interests in Jade Empire to Closed Fist if you want…

  6. Kerezteny says:

    I found Jack interesting, but I guess I saw the Really Really Broken Bird thing from a mile away (I didn’t watch any trailers or read any updates or anything like that) and therefore didn’t really find the emotional almost-breakdown all that revolutionary. What I did like was that she has this attitude that she’s incredibly tough and she was able to escape and kill everyone on her own because of that, when in reality (SPOILER) it was the diversion of all the children (who had been tortured for her sake and had a far worse time) rioting in the facility that made her able to escape it. That revelation of ‘so… I actually didn’t get the worst of it and I’m not as strong as I thought?’ actually made me like her a bit more.

    What pissed me off though was that they just sorta handwave the whole Cerberus Tortures Children thing. ‘Oh the Illusive Man wanted that shut down actually, heh, heh.’

    But yeah, points go to Bioware for great writing. Even if she did act like a punk girl on a roid rage. And I did have a hard time believing she’d be wearing such makeup while in cryo–and then continue to apply it every single day.

  7. Mark says:

    One thing I like about Taylor’s voice work as Jack is the allusion: Taylor also voiced Damsel in VTMB.

    Though I think Jack only really stands out because most of the other characters are so dull. She’s not the first character to develop a two-layer personality through abuse. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I feel like Jack wouldn’t be so likable if she wasn’t surrounded by characters like a sad assassin, a dinosaur that kills things for fun, and a guy whose only defining characteristic is being black.

    • Psithief says:

      At least he wasn’t Carth Onasi, AGAIN.

    • Michael says:

      Nail. Head.

      Though I came away with the impression that at least 90% of her history was fabricated by her. Somewhere along the line the experiments messed with her memory, and she subconsiously fasioned a new set stroke her ego. Otherwise her character layers make no sense.

    • eri says:

      I actually found the characters in Mass Effect 2 to be a bit more interesting than the ones in the first game. Each of them has their own sort of personal history, but there’s nothing about them other than being aliens that makes them interesting. Wrex is likable, as well as Garrus, and Tali, and the human characters are alright as well, but I don’t feel like their arcs lead anywhere beyond the romances. Garrus is the only one with whom your conversation options aren’t limited to “asshole” and “good boy”, and the only one whose personality changes based on your actions.

    • Krakow Sam says:

      I think its unfair to say Jacob’s only characteristic is being black. His character is just understated. He’s a regular sort of guy. He needs to be, as a contrast to all the ‘wackier’ squad-mates. If instead of a competent, disciplined and modest alliance soldier Jacob was a rogue cybernetics expert with a robot gun grafted to his arm who constantly regaled everyone with stories about how he spent a decade as a freelance pirate-slayer or something, the whole team would start to look over the top and unbelievable.

  8. Ham08 says:

    When you pick her up at the place, you know where, she shows how incredibly powerful she is by doing all those things. Why then, does she never do any of those things again? Did she lose most of her power? She is still helpful, but not nearly as “badassed” as when you first meet her. Except maybe on the final mission when she is doing something for the party and then if you try to go get some ammo she yells at you to get back in the thing. That was one of the best parts of the game if you ask me.

    Was that a “spoiler free” enough comment? LOL

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      Clearly, she suffers from the RPG cliche that states all teammates are super awesome until they become a member of your party.

      Though yeah, being able to have her jump cover/chest-high walls and jump across the map would be enjoyable, except for the fact that it would make all the rest of your characters become uncanny valley characters when they couldn’t. It’s like the Biotic Charge…that can’t work against enemies you actually want to Biotic Charge because they’re the ones with the rocket launchers.

  9. I just love the fact that us women are SO TOUGH that we don’t need no stinkin’ armor.

    You men actually have to wear protective clothing. But us gals? We have internal organs MADE OF STEEL.

    And just for the fun of it, I’m going to try putting a leather strap around my breasts. I suspect it will pinch in all the wrong places and have absolutely no discernible value as an article of clothing or even as an accessory.

    Leslee

    • LazerFX says:

      Can I have the photos? O_O

      Ahem… Yeah, I agree, that’s a pain. Uh… I hate seeing these things too. *Tries to sound sincere. Fails*

      Back on topic – I’ve just completed my first run through ME2, playing good girl (Yeah, I’m a guy – I play the girl as goodie, and the guy as baddie. Whatever :P). And I also though Jack was going to be a pain in the backside, a “whatever” sop character… and was pleasantly surprised by the way she really got under your skin and made you feel for her…

      I also like the way they didn’t just ‘fix’ her, because someone who’s been through that much trauma doesn’t just get fixed by a flick of the fingers. It takes a lot of time, and as someone who’s been suffering mild depression, I know it’s not something you just make go away. What her inner demons must be like, I really don’t like contemplating.

      Still, I find myself hoping she’s in the third game… maybe further fixing can be done? Somewhat softer, perhaps? Or softened? Depending on your choices, of course.

      The true sop character was the Cerberus Network downloadable Zaeed… Big Bad Blue Suns Founder Bastard…

    • MelTorefas says:

      @Leslee Beldotti: That post is love. XD

    • Klay F. says:

      And thats just doing regular things like walking around. Can you imagine what close quarters combat would be like with a leather strap around your chest? I’m betting the thing would eventually draw blood.

    • Mari says:

      Carpet tape or pastie glue will help hold it in place since the world doesn’t have video game physics. But it’s been done. Often. Actually I can point you the way of some fetish lingerie designers that have made a career off of “thin leather strap bras.”

    • Meredith says:

      Not to mention, I highly doubt it will stay in place once you…you know…move. Ah fantasy works and women’s clothing, quite the hilarious mess.

    • Robyrt says:

      What’s weird is that female Shepard wears full body armor, complete with sturdy space helmet. Female crew members are heavy on the cleavage, but you are appropriately attired for combat even during dialogue.

      At least you could put Morrigan in sensible robes and a stupid hat. I wanted to take my Assault Armor off the rack and give it to Samara.

    • Veloxyll says:

      ME2 definately needed a casual attire for NPCs feature. THe ladies wore combat armour in ME1, would it have been that hard to give them armour in ME2 too? Heck, all Samara would have had to do is DO UP HER TOP. Just geez Bio, give players the opportunity to (continue) to play an army of Female Space Marines. Or make Male characters equally eyecandy-y (though I am told that Jacob’s butt was A grade quality)

      Also: psychotic mass murdering prisoner with a thin leather strap. Am I the only one who sees a safety issue with this? Or was she in cryo, I can’t recall. If so, then metal object + really cold + human flesh. Still safety issue, just this time for the prisoner, not the other people.

      As for the original topic: Jack was a lot more likable than I expected. I was expecting to be making the -_- face a lot at her dialogues, but she was quite well written

    • DNi says:

      You know, looking at the art book that came with the Collector’s Edition, I get the feeling she wasn’t even going to wear the leather straps. It seems like she was going to go topless, but then Bioware wussed out and stuck some suspenders on her.

  10. Raygereio says:

    What pissed me off though was that they just sorta handwave the whole Cerberus Tortures Children thing. ‘Oh the Illusive Man wanted that shut down actually, heh, heh.’

    Oh, it’s worse then that. It was explained yet again – just like Cerberus’ action in ME1 – to be the actions of a “rogue” faction.

    Jack annoyed me from the first moment I talked to her. It’s the tough bitch attitude, it just doesn’t work for me. Whenever I encounter a character like that – in fiction or in real life, I write them off as the attempt of a 12 year old to be “cool”.
    As a result I never really got into her story as whenever I talked to her, I kept thinking: “Damn, you are a really annoying person to talk to” and just wanted to slap her acros the face and say “Grow up, you angsty teenager”.

  11. acronix says:

    I never liked her after meeting her in the game. When you free her from the stasis, she punchs three heavy mechs on her own. She also makes various holes in the station´s hull. However, once she gets in your team, she can´t do anything of that ever again. “What the hell is so uber about her?” was my reaction. Of course, I know such power would be game-braking, but I still think her introduction should have been something more in line with what she actually can do once on your team.

    Anyway, about her background. She´s well tought and they got the psicology right (or at least, with my scarce knowledge it seems right). Except the part in which we learn that she had no human interaction during her childhood besides killing other children in an arena-like experiment every so often, and she is still civilized. Not to mention that it is implied that the methods used on her weren´t made of candy. I´m quite sure children that get tortured wouldn´t just “like to battle” like Jack does, but would grow into ravenous beasts. The twist of her being a softie in the very bottom of her personality was unexpect for me, but for all the wrong reasons. I expected her to have just one dimension because it made sense within my logic. The broken part just doesn´t look right. Sure, it looks interesting and nice, but doesn´t look right. Not for me.

    Finally, I agree that her leather belt top is the most mindnubbling thing in her.

    • Ringwraith says:

      This cutscene-to-gameplay nerf never really bothered me, though I think I may have rationalised it as built-up rage and excess power from being completely inanimate while in cyro, and she does seem to do less and less as she flees. From taking three (in fact, I think it’s four as there’s another broken one in the corner) YMIR mechs, punching some holes in walls and ramps down to sliding under a door that’s probably thinner than those wall earlier and smashing guys against windows.

      • Jarenth says:

        Jack isn’t the only one guilty of this — Archangel manages to hold off three allied merc gangs on his own, simply by virtue of his amazing marksman skills. Those same skills that seem to evaporate when you finally get him to join. Jack’s shift was a little more pronounced, though, but essentially the same thing: cutscene directors and story writers having their fun and forgetting to invite the balancing crew.

        • Jeff says:

          Actually, if you give the Turian Rebel the Incisor and Tungsten rounds, he’ll obliterate things.

          It’s the AI’s autoaim (sniper headshots) +25% damage from his passive, the Incisor’s reported lack of damage reduction (unlike every other weapon in the game), and +70% damage vs Armor/Health. It’s semi-automatic, and first in bursts – it’s easily the one of the highest weapon DPS available to the AI companions.

          Concussive Shot hits Barriers, Overload eats Shields, and even ignore those abilities the Incisor fires fast enough that it chews them up, before ripping Armor/Health bars to shreds.

    • Miral says:

      Cutscene to gameplay nerfs are almost obligatory, though. I’d link you to the TVTropes page on the subject, but that would be cruel. :)

  12. Factoid says:

    I enjoyed Jack’s dialog tree, but I actually thought her loyalty mission was one of the weaker ones. Not because the emotional connection wasn’t there, but because it felt like a contrived excuse to have a firefight.

    This was a problem with a lot of the loyalty missions, though, and hers was one of the last I finished so maybe I just feel that way because I was having some serious combat fatigue towards the end.

    The way that mission SHOULD have gone down is that you wandered through this ruined building, maybe occassionally attacked by wild animals, trying to navigate around obstacles or just wandering, listening to Jack have flashbacks. Then as you get deeper you realize you’re not alone, that someone else is camped out here…and that’s when you find that guy. Maybe he came back to rebuild like he said, but not with an army of mercs…just him, and he’s completely insane…or maybe he’s been trapped there for 20 years and has gone half feral.

    Now killing him or not has a real dilema to it. He’s could be clearly too far gone to be saved, so maybe it’s better to put him out of his misery. Maybe he attacks you and it’s self defense. Much more interesting I think. The mercs were way too convenient and the fact that he was there at exactly the same time as you felt way too convenient as well.

    Again that’s a problem that almost all the loyalty missions had.

    I really liked Thane and Samara’s mission because there was no combat, just a cool story and interesting gameplay. Grunt’s was awesome because his situation actually made sense why it would happen during the course of the mission.

    Some of the others were really awesome (Mordin, Tali, Legion) but still felt like they suffered from “plot convenience” in their timing.

    The others (Garrus, Jacob, Miranda) Were semi-interesting stories grafted onto the same gunfights you’ve been getting into the entire game.

  13. Ell Jay says:

    [Dragon Age Spoilers Here!]

    I thought Morrigan’s character was intriguing as one that is so broken that resolution isn’t even possible. If you romance her and do her quests, she is genuinely torn when she has to leave at the end, and begs you not to make it any harder than it has to be. She was raised without learning any social graces whatsoever, by a twisted old woman that may or may not have even been a demon, and isn’t even dead-for-good if you kill her (which Morrigan seems to be aware of) Morrigan knows that if she defies Flemeth’s plans, she may be faced with a very unhappy and very powerful shapechanger, which explains her reluctance from a self-preservation point of view to let the player change her plans significantly.

  14. Draconis Ravenus says:

    I loved Jack. I always assumed she would have a good amount of depth and not wallow in the “I’m here to pout and nothing else” category. EA clearly marketed the game towards the FPS crowd without pushing the game’s finer RPG elements.

    I thought the level of detail they put into her (& all the characters) was amazing, and I agree with you Shamus that the facial animation throughout the game was incredible. (I do 3d modeling and animation on a very small scale for work, and I’m happy if I can make a face look human, forget about conveying actual, real emotion!)

    As for the Cerberus-is-evil-so-Shepard-is-stupid angle, I’m doing what I always do, and that’s give Bioware the benefit of the doubt. There are instances from both ME games where Shepard is in the know on things and doesn’t always show his hand. I have no doubt come ME3 the whole Cerberus plotline will get wrapped up in a bow so tight it’ll make your head spin. Doubting them now, before the trilogy is even finished, seems futile and unfair.

    Imagine people who read Tolkien back in the day when he was first publishing Lord of the Rings. You finish the second book, and I’m sure someone was all “Gollum wouldn’t turn around and be friendly and helpful like that! You’re a bad writer, Tolkien!”

    Bioware will assuredly have Cerberus take the same 50 ft plunge into lava. You just have to give them the 3rd game to wrap up the ends, folks. At least, that’s what I’m doing. And I doubt they’ll disappoint!

    • Soylent Dave says:

      Except Tolkien characterised Gollum as a character who was torn from very early on – he has a split personality even as far back as the Hobbit, really, but for the purposes of the LotR story we know that at least part of him is only accompanying Frodo so he can get close to the Ring.

      Whereas Shepard working with Cerberus in ME2 requires him to have taken a dramatic personality switch (particularly if he’s a Paragon), and to constantly overlook all the abhorrent things Cerberus does – even Renegade Shepard likes aliens more than Cerberus does.

      Shepard wouldn’t work with Cerberus without some pretty serious coercion (unless he didn’t know who they were or what they were doing) – he doesn’t have any reason to keep reporting back to them.

      If they’re planning on writing Shepard as undermining Cerberus from within (or whathaveyou) for ME3, then there should really be some foreshadowing of that within the ME2 storyline.

  15. Psithief says:

    Leather belts + boobs in real life here:
    D&D PHB PSA part 48

    Enjoy.

  16. Falcon02 says:

    I too found Jack’s Loyalty mission interesting… but I still did not like the character herself. Her Personality is too arrogant and self-absorbed.

    I’m not sure how much more Shamus is planning on writing about ME2. But, one of the things that really bothered me though about the whole Loyalty system was Garrus and Tali. Despite working together to save the Galaxy with them once before in ME1 their loyalty is equal to Miranda and Jacob starting out…

    I could almost forgive Tali due to Shepard’s involvement with Cerberus and the reported Cerberus interference with the Flotilla… however she would still know Commander Shepard from the ME1 days and understand his priorities and that he wouldn’t be working for Cerberus unless it was for some greater good (specifically for characters who took the Paragon path, not sure how that would go for a Renegade Shepard…). Same with Kaiden/Ashley encounter.

    And yet Shepard is forced to “earn their loyalty.” If it was presented outside of the Loyalty system more in terms of making sure their minds were on the mission, and not distracted by other events, I doubt I would have been bothered by it. But they clearly go from “Normal” or whatever it is (Equal to all others per-loyalty) to “Loyal” after completing the mission.

    • Raygereio says:

      I personally think they came up with the wrong name. It shouldn’t have been called “loyalty” missions. They’re more of a… err… leave-your-baggage-behind-missions.

      You don’t have to earn Garrus’ trust, you already have it. His mission is helping him get over his dead anti-merc team. The same is pretty much true for the other missions.

      • Miral says:

        Actually, if you look at the mission-wrap-up screen, it never describes them as resulting in loyalty to Shepard, but rather as loyalty to “the mission” or that they “have no further distractions from the mission”. So in that sense it works for all of them.

    • eri says:

      To be fair, the game does take what, three years after the first? That is a long time without contact to still maintain trust, especially if your dead clone comes back with the backing of a terrorist organisation and asks for your help.

  17. Rick W says:

    Jack is one of the characters in ME2 who never connected with me. Part of that is, just as I was actually starting to find her interesting enough to talk to, she stopped wanting to talk to me. (On a second playthrough, with a male Shepard, she’s refusing to talk to me unless/until I dump Tali. Sigh.)

    It starts with the mission to recruit her. Just how stupid is that Warden? How did he manage to survive as long as he did? I know I shouldn’t hold any of that against Jack, but it didn’t help my mood toward her.

    Still, having Jack around was worth it, if for no other reason than having someone around who hated Cerberus worse than I did. (Tali may qualify there, too, but shortly after she joins up with you she doesn’t bring up the subject again.) Oh, and an exchange with one of the characters in Miranda’s loyalty mission (“I like her! Are we still recruiting?”). But she’s one of the characters I didn’t feel any compulsion to keep alive at the end.

  18. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I was actually very surprised how much I got into Jack as a character, I really liked the SPOILER twist where what actually happened in that Cerberus facility was revealed and her entire “nobody can judge me because nobody has suffered like me” line of reasoning began to crumble and she could see that maybe her attitude towards most everyone she met wasn’t entirely justified. I actually romanced Liara in the first game just for the heck of it and intended to stay faithful in ME2 but changed my mind because I really wanted my Shepard to get closer to Jack and not just bunk her. I am told that this is likely to come back and bite me in the ass in ME3 but if there’s an option like this I have to say that Liara was just company and the thing with Jack is serious.

    On a more practical note, as one of the players who are completely unfazed by boobage, cleavage and all that other stuff (more of a Zevran type here) I agree about the armour. Before she gets a change after her loyalty mission I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and keep thinking “yeah, nothing says ‘deep, thought out characters’ like ‘let’s just cover the nipples’ armour. What’s going to be next? A Fallout game with a tribe of Amazons only wearing old coca-cola caps?” I could even buy it as some sort of harness for the stasis thing but seriously, once she’s on Normandy I’m sure someone could lend her a shirt or something.

  19. Nyaz says:

    I think one of the coolest things about Mass Effect 2 is that I don’t actually hate any of the crewmembers you pick up along the way.
    The only one that verged on the “Meh”-spectrum of things was Jacob, but he was still quite bearable, compared to Whiny McWhine (Kaidan Alenko) and Bitchy McBitch (Ashley Williams) from the first game.

    I actually came into the game thinking that she had no name and was only referred to as “Subject Zero”. When everyone started talking about “Jack” I was a bit confused, but hey, it worked out well.
    And thank god you could actually change poor Jack into a tank top after her loyalty mission! I mean, sure, breasts are fun and all but let’s leave SOMETHING to our imagination, okay?

  20. hewhosaysfish says:

    “Catpain Shooty”?

  21. Electron Blue says:

    I agree about the facial animation – especially at the end of Miranda’s loyalty mission. That ‘about to cry’ look is pitch-perfect.
    Also I found myself loving every character in ME2 – even Jacob, because when I followed the romance path I found he acts a lot like myself – he deals with his problems, and can always see the bigger picture. He’s very laid-back. That’s a man I want in a firefight.

  22. swimon says:

    Jacks loyalty mission was really nice. Not the “I’m broken because they were mean to me” thing, that was both obvious from the start and didn’t really feel all that new or interesting. No, the interesting part was how it slowly became apparent that she was not the one who got the worst of it and how she refused to beleive that.

    Unfortunately her loyalty mission was the only interesting thing about her IMO. She might have been a somewhat beleiveable character but that character was not one I liked. I can take hostile or angry but Jack is just an annoying combination of machismo and a vocabulary of a rebellious 12-year old.

  23. nerdpride says:

    Eh. Sounds pretty much like Ripley from the Aliens movies. With less clothes. Man, Mass Effect just takes stereotypical sci-fi material from everything.

    I still have suspicions that you’re turning into a fanboy, Shamus, more than the preposterous notion that the game is actually pretty good about these kinds of things, anyway.

    And don’t rant at me. I’ve been pretty successful at not playing it, thus far. And I’m really loving the amounts of time and money (in computer upgrades, mostly) that it’s saving me.

    • Sheer_Falacy says:

      So Jack sounds like Ripley, despite the fact that Ripley is neither homocidal nor broken. And you think he’s a fanboy because he liked a character that you don’t understand in a game you never played. And it saved you upgrades, despite the fact that if your game ran Mass Effect 1 it can easily run Mass Effect 2. But then again you probably didn’t play ME1 either, and consider that a success as well.

      Or maybe this is just a troll.

      • Draconis Ravenus says:

        I think you’re right, Falacy! Also, nobody named “Nerd Pride” would be caught dead admitting their PC wasn’t up to snuff!

        If it’s not a troll, it’s one sad potatuh. To go through life without knowing the joys of Mass Effect??? *shudders*

        • Raygereio says:

          To go through life without knowing the joys of elevators??? *shudders*

          There, fixed that for you. ;)

          • nerdpride says:

            I jokingly call Shamus a fanboy. Plus it’s a semi-warning, since he’s the one who poked fun at Gamepunx magazine.

            The “you have to play Mass Effect” sentiment radiating from the Escapist is getting a bit dull.

            Also, that’s right! I haven’t bought games since, like, 2000ish. Somehow, there are things more important for me than PCs and/or games. You’re probably familiar with the situation where this happens due to lack of nerd, but large quantities of nerd can also cause a person to do crazy things.

    • eri says:

      Why do you even comment if you’re not going to bother reading responses? Are you so arrogant that you don’t even want to contemplate hearing any possible refutation of your points?

  24. Angie says:

    I’m not interested in these kinds of games, but I’ll definitely agree that her outfit is ridiculous. If the straps were tight enough to have a ghost of a chance of staying in place, they’d flatten her breasts out, although given her pressure-neutral shape, they’d probably bulge weirdly above and below. [Pauses to ponder how many male gamers would love to see a picture of that, LOL!] And that still wouldn’t stay in place, certainly not through the kind of action movements I’m sure she goes through.

    The only way I can see it working as-is would be if the straps were superglued to her shirt, and the shirt itself were very tight and securely fastened, probably leotard-style, to anchor the whole thing down.

    The way it’s presented, though, is impossibly stupid. Which, of course, means it fits perfectly well into the world of computer game (and comic book/strip) female clothing.

    Angie

  25. Hey Shamus, if you decide to pursue a romance (admittedly one of the more fickle ones to romance in ME2, last I tried I messed up and got casual sex instead of romance (or is that the same in her case?)
    In any case, you learn even more gut punching back stories from her.

    Oh and make sure to drag her along with you, for example if you take her with you into the bathroom in the citadel bar/club she’ll tell a short story of one time when she was attacked in a bathroom.

    I kinda agree that her clothing (or lack of such) seems over the top.
    Then again, she may want to show off her tattoos (as they all tell the story of her fucked up life)

    I kinda find it interesting how BioWare made it “easy” to bed her, but somewhat difficult to romance her. (and how I-can-handle-anything-Jack can’t really handle having feelings for Sheppard)

    Is it possible BioWare made Jack dress like that to make the “what is on the inside, is what really counts” gap even larger?

  26. Sean Riley says:

    I’m just amused by the fact that the skimpiest outfit in the game isn’t meant to show off her boobs. It’s to show off her tats. A lot of love went into that design.

  27. Retlor says:

    Jack’s is probably the second best loyalty mission, IMHO. It’s certainly one of the less combat-centric ones. What is it, one big fight and a couple of varren early on? Her reaction to the various datalogs is just supremely well written though. Only Mordin’s mission has better writing (and incidentally the facial animation comment goes double there as well, ever seen a Salarian try to emote? They pulled that one off with some style!).

  28. Chiller says:

    Best thing about her loyalty mission?
    You get the opportunity to learn that A Bullet to the Head Fixes Everything (TM).

  29. N Cowan says:

    I’m a huge Bioware fan personally, ever since Baldur’s Gate. And with ME2, they have really out done themselves in the character department. Jack is absolutely one of the most brilliant characters they’ve ever done, hands down. And also kudos for making her built athletically and fairly flat chested. It fits her personality and skill-set far more than a huge naked buxom chick would have done. Unlike Miranda, she wasn’t altered to be the perfect woman, she was altered to be the perfect weapon, and it shows. I kinda hope she has some hair in ME3 though; not because bald isn’t cool, but because it would be neat to show some character growth with a bit more clothing and maybe a spikey hair cut.

  30. Jeff says:

    Sure, overall Jack may be well written, but there are places that are just frickin ridiculus. For example, on her loyalty mission: “It’s like, I’m an all powerful bitch, but sometimes I’m just a little girl.”

    W.T.F? Maybe I’m looking at it from the wrong perspective (ie. male), but does anyone call themselves a bitch? Does a guy say “I’m an all powerful badass”, or does he say “I’m an all powerful asshole”? Or “I’m a badass, but sometimes I’m just a little boy.” It’s just head shakingly bad.

    • N Cowan says:

      I can’t speak for all woman, but I know a few who do wear the term “bitch” as a badge of honor, in a sense. And I think when Jack refers to herself as bad ass and a bitch, she’s referring to how everyone around her sees her. I also know a handful of woman who think this way.

    • Retlor says:

      YMMV, I figured it was just her acknowledging that that’s how people viewed her (not that she seemed unhappy about it).

      In the end though, I guess I can’t really speak as to how realistic she is, I’ve never been an all-powerful biotic who spent her first….period of time stuck in a small room with nothing to do but kill children.

      Actually on that note, do we ever discover how old she was when she escaped? I’d assumed mid teens or so, but I’m not sure it says anywhere.

      EDIT: Sniped by N Cowan! What she said.

    • krellen says:

      I know guys that wear “asshole” the same way Jack wears “bitch”.

    • Sean Riley says:

      I know someone whose childhood was also fairly torn up. (Obviously, not to Jack’s extent, but was a horrifying mesh of sexual and physical abuse.) She refers to herself as a bitch on a fairly regular basis. So that part of it is realistic enough.

      On the other hand, is was MUCH more mentally well adjusted. Apart from a perversely fatalistic streak, she’s quite mature & responsible, and has a great sense of humour.

    • Jeff says:

      I have to add it’s the tone, as well.

      Sure, I can see ManShep go “I’m an asshole *smug grin*”, but it wasn’t a directed at outsiders kind of way, but quiet introspective musing.

      In other words, it just sounds like a kid trying too hard (which I suppose may or may not be what the aim is). A kid running around with a loaded shotgun demanding he be taken seriously, really.

  31. Joshua says:

    Hmm, tangent here, but I’m remind of River Tam from Firefly who had a lot of psychological baggage. In one episode, it was also plainly explained that a good part of what was wrong with her was physiological(spoiler down below). However, the movie just went and *fixed* her, by an event like what you’re describing above. I wish Serenity had played it straight like this game you’re talking about does, and made such pathos not easily cured.

    *Spoiler*
    Part of her brain was removed.

    • Giggity says:

      I don’t think it was an instant fix for River, she was just able to start healing. With the secret still inside her, no matter what Simon did he was going to have limited success.

      I can’t think of a great analogy. Maybe having to clear away dead plants before planting new ones? You can have a bit of success if you don’t, but it will be limited.

    • Tizzy says:

      Well, brain damage is not thought of as being quite as irreversible as it used to be (which makes some sort of sense when you realize that connections in the brain are constantly changing). Maybe it’s fully curable in the Firefly universe.

      More seriously, I imagine that the recovery process was intended to happen over a long period of time. Of course, Firefly was never given that chance…

  32. D says:

    The ‘Captain Shooty’ titles alone made this whole entry about a game I haven’t played (but might now consider) SO worth it.

  33. Corsair says:

    I never got the impression from Serenity that River was ever going to be normal. She was just better than she was. Keep in mind that there are several points in the series where she acts pretty normal, and other times where she just goes off the deep end. Hell, at the start of Serenity, she’s pretty fine if a bit quirky, up until she sees the Fruity Oaty Bars ad which makes her go completely nuts for most of the rest of the movie.

  34. Conlaen says:

    I felt the same way, and also about Grunt. Having seen their trailers I kept sighing. All there seemed to be to them was: “I like to kill stuff, *rawr*!”. But playing the game, you find out what brings them to that. For both of them it’s a result of how they were raised. Jack having been through all sorts of torture in her youth, and Grunt not having a youth at all and just having the images that were put in his head to simulate a personality of sorts. Both their stories of how they come to terms with their pasts were done very well.

    The main stories of either this or the first game of the series, are not really all that great. But it’s the characters, the conversations you have with them, and (more so in this game then the previous one) the background of those character, which make this game appealing.

  35. Danath says:

    I made sure she died. No matter how they justified her in the game, I hated the trailer SO much that I made sure to take special care that she died. I didn’t find her story that compelling myself, but I don’t really have a belief that the past justifies the future either, so even if I empathized, I did believe she had to go. To be honest I might have been more sympathetic with her had I not seen her introduction trailer, which is what REALLY made me hate her. As an actual character I still didn’t like her, but I would not have actively tried to kill her either, so I guess there’s that much, although my reasoning is still the same.

    Then again I’m a horrible person who actually cheered when that woman I refuse to name was killed in the Dark Knight after she wasn’t rescued by Batman. It was not a Tear Jerker or Sad, it was a moment when someone who was a drag down on the entire film was removed, and for the better.

    • AboveUp says:

      You actively tried to kill a female team member and cheered when the female lead in The Dark Knight died… If I was a woman, I’d stay as far away from you as I possibly could.

      • Danath says:

        Sorry? She was a murderer, a killer, had a terrible upbringing and reveled in pain, death, and suffering of others. I would have sent her to jail forever afterwords if I could, but since it’s a game, and my distaste of how they marketed her yes, I willingly exercised my potential to be nasty in the videogame. She had a horrible childhood, she should be locked up for life because shes a danger to everyone around her. Complex psychological issues are not solved by the power of love and letting dangerous psychotics run free, no matter how the game tries to portray her. We don’t treat people like that in real life, nor do I agree with it in game, I only went along and got her for the story.

        Just because it’s female, am I required to sympathize and care for her? Does that not seem unfair? Should I not qualify her with the same standards that I use with men?

        As for the Dark Knight, she is not human, she is a movie character who is excessively angsty and a terrible person unwilling to sympathize with the main characters plight, superimposing herself on him with cheesy irritating statements like “You’ve changed Bruce.” As a character, she was horrible, and thus did not sympathize with her when she died, as it was supposed to be a tragic moment of the film, and it simply did not evoke that emotion in me.

        Amusingly enough I talked with a few of my female friends who played ME2, some of them detested Jack as well, and one of them DID kill her. Your opinion is garbage and should be tossed out on the bases that you obviously are a rampant feminist who does not agree with viewpoints other than your own. If I was a woman, I would stay far away from you.

        See what I did there?

  36. Hanz says:

    I’d say that Jack could be stated to be a combination of River Tam (escaped experimental asskicker) and Kratos (pure hairless rage).

    While Jack is hardly the most pleasant of characters, I’d say that she’s still an interesting character nonetheless (at least more than the Cerberus Duo). It’d be interesting to see how things work out for her in the long run.

  37. Mike Jones says:

    Terrible character with unrealistic development that is the very definition of wish-fulfillment. I really hope they don’t waste development time on her in ME3.

  38. Dea says:

    Jack was by far my favourite, alongside the assassin… and as a male Shepard, a relationship with her is the most satisfying, interesting story-wise.

  39. Markymark says:

    I started to like Jack too but now she just says ‘fuck off’ to me after I sided with Miranda (romancing) lol…

  40. Ethan says:

    Jack’s issues remind me of myself. I was immediately drawn to her. You don’t want to know my story.
    She single handedly turned ME2 from another great bioware Sci Fi into an almost spiritual experience because she drew me in so hard.

    Props to all writers and developers etc.

    And on the chest straps. Come on, not that unrealistic.
    The only purpose of a bra is to keep the general shape yet prevent droop etc.

    Jack takes this a step further. She straps some leather across her chest to make sure they never get in the way, cause she doesn’t give a fuck. And yeah, they would stay in place.

  41. Sydney says:

    My biggest beef with Jack is, Renegade Shepard has no reason to leave her alive.

    In ME1, Shepard-as-Renegade goes around summarily executing terrorists, criminals, and scientists who got Shanghaied into helping the wrong team. When Jack confesses her string of murder, piracy, and “vandalism”, there’s really no excuse for Shepard not shooting her in the face.

    If you think about what she’s done, no matter the motivations, Jack’s probably done more wrong to the galaxy than any character in ME1 short of Saren himself. If he’s willing to kill a blackmailer, surely he’d be willing to kill a mass-murdering space pirate.

    Personally, I handwaved this by saying “One on one, Jack could probably kill Shepard”, which is probably true. He’s unarmed on the ship, she’s still wearing her amp. Still, it seemed like a bit of a character break for him to just lecture her and leave.

  42. Stephen says:

    Jack was great, but NO, they did not do the facial animations right.

  43. plugav says:

    Getting the tanktop might have been the whole point of doing Jack’s loyalty mission. Without it she’d be cold and unable to focus on fighting the Collectors…

    Bad jokes aside, I was really pleasantly surprised by how they handled Jack. And Miranda as well. (You can’t safely admit to liking Miranda, though, because liking her must mean you’re immature and sexist. She’s got unrealistic and needlessly underlined shapes, therefore she cannot be a well written character.)

  44. Paniwi says:

    To all the complaints about Jack’s wardrobe not being doable (obviously said by girls – those who know) never took into consideration that she may be holding the leather straps to her boobs with special nipple piercings.

    Or hell, maybe she DID super glue them to her breasts, because she’s so hard core and can handle pain? Or maybe her powerful biotics create a great magnetic field and she put magnets on the inside of the leather straps? You women are thinking of wardrobing you’re only WILLING to do, not CAN do.

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