Nudity Not Needed: Loving The Love of Mass Effect 2

There are a lot of things Mass Effect 2 does very well. Any review you read will tell you just how well done the game is, from gameplay to the soundtrack to, and perhaps most importantly, the story. BioWare creates an epic tale of saving the galaxy from certain doom and intertwines it with characters, both teammates and random encounters, that allow the player to become fully immersed in this world.

There’s one part of the story that I believe showcases the incredible skill of BioWare’s writing team above all others, and that’s the numerous possibilities to fall in love. Whether one plays as a female or a male Shepard, the player can pursue 8 different characters as a potential love interest (5 for male Shepard, 3 for female). Each one is written to perfection, almost on the level of art: beautiful without being gratuitous, touching without being overly dramatic. Some of them are a bit awkward (Jack in the lower levels), and some are too abrupt (Manhandling Miranda in the engine room), but all of them not only fit with the characters being portrayed, but they fit in the story as a whole.

Here are a few of the best examples:



Tali’Zorah vas Normandy (Male Shepard)

The quarian engineer, a character who joined you in the first game but wasn’t allowed to be pursued, can finally be romanced. Tali is obviously more knowledgable about technology, because in both of the scenes she is visibly nervous. She even says that she is "babbling like an idiot," calling her nervous speech "a defense mechanism" before Shepard calms her down. Tali really develops as a character here, showing weakness and a lack of confidence we are not aware of until now. A particular scene of note is while Tali is (inadvertantly) killing the mood with her ranting, Shepard takes off her mask, seeing her face for the first time. This is a major step in building this love, as quarians have much weaker immune systems than other races. Once the mask is off and she realizes everything is fine, she feels comfortable enough to (literally) pounce. The entire mood of the scene is conveyed to perfection, from Tali’s obvious nerves to the incredible sense of fire between the two. Even more remarkable is that the player can truly sense the passion even though Tali’s face is hidden. Not seeing her face should be a huge handicap as far as making the scene grow, but everything else makes up for it so well you almost forget that’s not her true face until Shepard takes the mask off. I’m sure many of those reading this can remember being in Tali’s shoes, being nervous as all hell and babbling like a moron before the person they’ve been longing for finally gives something back.



Thane Krios (Female Shepard)

Pursuing Thane is probably the best example of character development through the love scenes. When you recruit Thane, he seems a cold, calculated (yet spiritual) assassin, but as you speak to him, you realize that he is a conflicted, emotional being, scarred by memories that his race is able to recall so clearly. His loyalty mission reunites him with his son, whom he had deserted in the hopes that he wouldn’t become an assassin like him. He speaks to you about his wife, killed by one of his enemies, and how her death killed him on the inside. He reveals that he had planned to die after fulfilling the contract on Illium where you met, saying that "[his] body has accepted its death, [his] mind had been dead a long time." He even develops a pet name for Shepard: "siha," or "one of the warrior-angels of the goddess Arashu" in drell culture. Finally, when he comes to your private quarters, he reveals that he is afraid to die of the disease that is eating away at him, pounding his chest on the desk and crying to himself. To see Thane develop from the precise, deadly killer to the broken, conflicted man is truly amazing character evolution, and one of the best to be found in Mass Effect 2



Garrus Vakarian (Female Shepard)

This one I consider my favorite of all the scenes, if only because I can vividly remember being like Garrus earlier in my life. Much like Tali, this proud warrior, who earlier in the game held off three different mercenary groups by himself, has been reduced to a bumbling idiot when trying to pursue his love interest. The scene produces every emotion you can think of: laughter when he turns on the cheesy techno music (which Mass Effect aficionados will recall as the music from Flux in the first game), awkwardness when he talks about the differences between turian and human compliments, and compassion when he finally drops his guard. The compliment part is truly embarrassing: "If you were a turian, I’d be complimenting your waist or your fringe. So…your, uh, hair looks good. And your waist is…very supportive." Who doesn’t recall being nervous as all hell as you made the move on the one you liked? Especially with Garrus’s next line "I hope that’s not offensive in human culture…crap, I knew I shoulda watched the vids. Throw me a line here, Shepard!" The true power of the scene, though, is just after Garrus makes a fool of himself, realizing that he didn’t chase Shepard away, and he drops his guard: "I just…I’ve seen so many things go wrong, Shepard. My work at C-Sec, what happened with Sidonis…I want something to go right. Just once. Just…" He trails off after Shepard grabs his hand, and they touch foreheads. That’s all you see, and really, that’s all you need to see, because the feeling the scene portrays is one that does the entire relationship enough justice.

Notice that in all three scenes there’s one thing missing: nudity. BioWare has created tremendous scenes oozing with passion and love, and yet has done so without resorting to showing skin. Sure, Miranda unzips her blouse for male Shepard, but she does not expose her bare breasts, she has a bra on. Jacob takes his shirt off with female Shepard, but he’s a dude, there’s nothing to hide. Amazingly, some people find a problem with this. In a thread on BioWare’s forums, user Menalaos1971 says the following:

"I know I’m not the only one disappointed in Bioware over the last year. In Mass Effect 1 they gave as fairly tame scene with a team mate if we went through the trouble of spending time with them. The scene would have been acceptable on broadcast television, but it was a step in the right direction for Rated M games.

But somehow Bioware only heard FoxNews and not the enormous backlash from people that actually played and loved the game. This is obvious since in their next two games where having a relationship with your team mates was a part of the game they took a giant step backwards. Dragon Age had sex in bra and panties, and now Mass Effect didn’t even have the sex. You and your partner start to make out and start to slip out of their clothes and the game cuts away.

Now I’m not asking for what FoxNews said was in Mass Effect 1. I don’t want a game where I control my character in a graphic sex scene. Besides the whole creepy factor none of the console manufacturers would license the game since that’s an obvious AO rating that no retailer would sell. But there was nothing wrong with what was in Mass Effect 1, and at least two other games have gone further than Bioware did then. In Grand Theft Auto 4 there was actual full frontal nudity (male) and fairly graphic sex acts (strippers and prostitutes), while in The Saboteur the (now bankrupt) developer released a Nude Mod on day 1 that took off the pasties from the women in the brothels.

The point is that some limited nudity and sexuality in a Rated M game designed for adult gamers is not unacceptable. So why take it out?

As for the why, I think I know the answer. Mass Effect 2 is Rated M for Mature gamers, but just for violence and alcohol. But most absentee parents don’t seem to care if little Billy plays those games and will buy them without thinking twice. But through in some nudity and a portion of those parents might just say no. Sales fall and EA isn’t happy. Or was it just EA lawyers???"

While I see where he’s coming from, is the lack of nudity all that important? Instead of thinking of Mature as "Yay! An excuse to include boobs!", BioWare obviously thought of Mature as "Yay! An excuse to write incredibly powerful scenes with vast amounts of emotion!" Yes, the scenes in this game are a bit tamer than the love scenes in Mass Effect 1, but who cares? The scenes themselves, and the drama they include, show much more maturity than any amount of bare body parts would have. Furthermore, gamers want their hobby to be taken more seriously, but they are willing to throw a title under the bus when it’s the one that could be a centerpiece for why games are to be taken seriously, just because it doesn’t show any nudity? I don’t know about anyone else, but that seems a bit counterproductive.

I don’t see any signs of BioWare being afraid of the media, nor do I see any signs of EA getting in the way of what BioWare wanted to do. I distinctly remember BioWare not giving a flying crap what Fox News said. All I see is an incredible game that is mature for the right reasons: story, character development, and dialogue. Including nudity just for the sake of nudity wouldn’t make the game seem more mature; the result would be quite the opposite. To be disappointed with BioWare for not showing any nudity is not only short-sighted, but it’s also, dare I say, immature.

Please, if you’re reading this, don’t let the lack of digital breasts keep you from playing what is a truly fantastic experience. To do so would not only be a slight to the game, but a slight to gaming in general.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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