Jack was a big part of the Mass Effect 2 marketing campaign. This marketing campaign:
(Warning, bad language and banality.)
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.|
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 “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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