Necros Says: Friday Rantoid is going to be up tomorrow (making my column's name sound silly and misleading), but this review relates directly to what I want to discuss tomorrow, so I decided to lead-in with this instead. And yes, I know that by my EST standards, this review is going up on Saturday morning, not Friday night, so no need to be a smart-ass and remind me. Also, I do not have a digital camera, so anyone who would like to send me the money for one so I don't have to use my MacBook Pro's iSight is free to bitch as much as they want about the quality.
I'm a consumer whore. There, I said it. I am generally really cheap with my money, but when it comes to video games, I can't throw my money away quick enough. To properly explain: for no good reason, I own a Game Boy Color (made irrelevant by the GBA), a Game Boy Advance (made irrelevant by the GBA SP), a Game Boy Advance SP (the only Game Boy you need), a Game Boy Player (for my irrelevant Gamecube), a Game Boy Micro (irrelevant to begin with), a Nintendo DS (makes any GBA irrelevant) and a Nintendo DS Lite (makes the Nintendo DS irrelevant); I'm certain that any new DS revision will also find its way into my collection with no decrease in previous systems. In short, I'm willing to shell out for ridiculous things.
Enter game developers. Discovering that gamers will go crazy for tossing something in a tin case, they quickly respond with a new "collector's edition" market of games. They realize what they're doing. They know that they're reaching into my pocketbook as they smile at me and do cheap magic tricks. But I don't care, because I'm a consumer whore. I'll preorder, I'll pay $10 more, I don't care, just give me more useless shit to fill my shelves.
As such, I recently threw more of my money away on things I don't need by purchasing the Limited Edition of Assassin's Creed (360), preordered at EB Games, and the Limited Collector's Edition of Mass Effect, preordered online at EBGames.com (because those bastards need my shipping money so badly). I'm currently unsure of how available these versions are, since neither is listed on EBGames.com any more, but I'd wager that Assassin's Creed is still available in super-happy-deluxe edition in some areas; the PS3 Limited Edition is still available on EBGames.com, if you so desire to take Talladega Nights out of your black behemoth.
But enough flowery padding, let's get on with this twofer:
We're not here to talk about whether or not you think the game is fun or repetitive or malignant, mostly because I haven't even booted this up yet. The night I bought this, I also bought Super Mario Galaxy, and you can see where I'm going with this. Add in Thanksgiving, socializing, and schoolwork, and I'm nowhere near starting this game. Anyways.
The game comes in a tin with a plastic sleeve, a standard set by the "Limited Collector's Edition" of Halo 2 that the industry has unofficially adopted as of late. The art design consists of a calming blue-white background that complements the main shape, the giant A, for Awesome, or Astounding, or perhaps Ass-kicking, or something that gets you pumped up for how cool you'll be once you buy this tin. Unfortunately...
Holding the game with anything less than a killer kung-fu grip will result in the sleeve sliding right off, potentially dropping your $70 investment on the floor. Fuck. I don't remember having this problem with the sleeves for Halo 2 or Halo 3. A sleeve should fit something tight enough to stay on, but loose enough to be slid off. We're not off to a good start, A for Astonishing not withstanding.
Tossing the sleeve aside, it's possible to notice a major issue with the tin. Holding the actual game case up, I'm sure you can see it too: the tin is fucking huge. It will easily stand out in any game shelf, both horizontally and vertically. Why? Because it has to be big enough to hold the actual game case. Stop me if I'm wrong, but I thought I paid extra money for the tin case so that it would be the game case, not so it would hold the game case. Looking at the stuff inside of the mostly-empty tin, the only thing I could think of is that the thin Penny-Arcade comic is a bit too wide to fit into a regular game case, so they made the tin bigger to accommodate this. Beyond that, there's no reason for it, because the Altair figurine could easily be packaged with the game in a small cardboard box. This tin is now tossed away in a corner of my room until the day comes when I need something to hold my cookies.
The actual game case looks identical to the regular edition, except for the added disc-flap. The bonus disc is the usual documentary/making-of content that seems required for nearly every special edition released these days, and to be honest, I haven't really looked at any of it yet, mostly because I haven't played the game yet. The manual is also fairly standard, but at least it's in color, unlike some lazy developers. (I'm looking at you, Sega.)
This edition also comes with a preview of the strategy guide and art book, both published by Prima. It covers the first four memory strands of memory block two; some concept art and in-game renders are also included. For me, this is even more unnecessary than the tin, as the tin at least serves a purpose. I can guarantee that I will not be using the guide, while the art is covered by another bonus I received (more on that later). Another strike.
Thank god for the Penny Arcade comic. I was starting to lose hope here. People unfamiliar with Penny Arcade's non-website projects may be surprised to find not one joke in the entire comic, but they'd be overlooking the fact that the webcomic duo are capable of creations that don't involve wangs or terrifying rape machinery. Gabe's art is superb as always and makes it worth owning, even if it is a little skimpy on page count. My only complaint is that Ubisoft didn't direct them to make the comic a little thiner horizontally so it could fit in the actual game case. As such, this comic is stored in that accursed tin in the corner of my room.
The figurine is small. That was my first impression. Maybe I've been spoiled by Bioshock's massive Big Daddy statue, but Altair isn't even as big as the other figurine I got in the past year, Haseo from .hack//G.U. Vol. 1. What is here is nicely crafted and feels metallic, so even if it's not, I can at least let my sense lie to me. What I really appreciated, though, is that the figurine was broken out-of-the-box. It really added to the discontent I was feeling with the purchase. To be fair to Ubisoft, though, I must admit that I haven't heard of any other broken figurines so far. Futhermore, Ubisoft's support is easy and responsive once you register on their site, and they've already made arrangements to send me a replacement figurine, after I went through a few prompts that confirmed I wasn't having a double Altair glitch.
So there's not much that I'm really crazy about in this special edition. What I do like, though, is something that wasn't even officially in the tin: a hardcover art book I received for preordering at EB Games. This is one of the nicest preorder bonuses I've gotten in a while. The short book is full of lots of sketches, official renders, and expansive concept art that highlight such details as the basing of Altair's character design on an eagle (with included references). Kudos, Ubisoft, this is tops. I'd like to see more art books of this quality included with games in the future.
But ultimately, this is a review of the Limited Edition, not the bonuses, and it's time to render judgement. Overall, I'd have to recommend passing this up if you find one for $10 more than the regular game, mainly on the uselessness of the tin. I buy special editions to display on my game shelf like an obnoxious twit, and there is no way I want that eyesore sticking out. In my mind, it's failed, and the numerous other failures or nitpickings do not make it any more worthwhile. I'm happy I have it, but I'm weird like that. For you normal people, I can not recommend it in good conscience.
At least the art book comfortably fits into the tin.
Moving on, we come to what is essentially KOTOR 3. Not surprisingly, I haven't started playing this game either for reasons already explained. Just knock it off; here I am, telling you what to think, sacrificing my gaming time, and you complain about me not playing more. It breaks my heart.
The game comes in a tin with a plastic sleeve, just like Assassin's Creed. However, Mass Effect makes a departure and forgoes the clear sleeve to feature a yellow-tinted alternate box-art. I like this, because it makes me feel like I'm getting something more special than the rest of you wankers. In addition, the sleeve is much better than the ultra-slippy one featured in -
OH GODDAMMIT. How hard is this, publishers? Make a sleeve that stays on the fucking tin! Otherwise, the game falls out! It's the law of gravity! I'm sure you learned that somewhere in your obviously misspent schooling!
Moving away from my rage, the tin is also a departure from most tins, as it has curved edges and big images on both side. This side features some alien crew, while the other side features the generic male hero and a few other characters that I think are on your side. Looks nice, if a bit unconventional. At least it fits on my shelf without looking like a misplaced toy box. Opening the tin, we see...
...the Limited Collector's Edition cardboard disc case. Let me repeat that: the Limited Collector's Edition cardboard disc case. What the hell? When did it become unacceptable to make a tin case that holds the actual game? Publishers, I thought you figured this out a few years ago with Halo 2 and knew the drill after numerous other special editions. I did not pay $10 more so that I could get an actual game case that's worse than the regular edition. Granted, once the initial outrage wore off, I really didn't mind it, since it does fit inside the tin and looks nice enough, but it still seems weird to me.
The bonus disc has some nice bonus content on it, beyond the standard documentary/making-of stuff. There are a bunch of exclusive themes and pics for your 360, along with every major trailer released for the game. There are also a few unrelated trailers, including the requisite Halo 3 trailer, as well as the Blue Dragon demo, in case you ever want to stop playing this massive game.
Obviously, the manual is not in the cardboard case but in the tin. Not much to say, other than it looks nice and pretty. I recall, though, that Penny Arcade complained about poor instructions, so keep this in mind.
What I appreciate most, being the loser that I am, is the inclusion of two 36-page booklets in this special edition. Galactic Codex: Essentials covers many elements of the Mass Effect universe, such as timelines, creatures, technology, and locations. In effect, it's a more expansive version of Halo 3's limited edition Beastiary.
The other booklet is my favorite kind of bonus, the art book. It's not hardcover, which lowers it a bit in my eyes after flipping through the preorder bonus for Assassin's Creed, but it's still a nice compilation. This paragraph is boring, though, so let's move onto the final, unexpected bonus:
The totally-necessary promotion for some Sci Fi show called Battlestar Galactica. I'm not sure why they tossed it in here, though, because I doubt Mass Effect's audience is going to care what happens to some girls and a guy with a mullet since neither are alien boobs.
Before I conclude, let me give a special "fuck you" to EB Games for the craptastic preorder bonus. This "exclusive bonus content disc" that arrived with the game is just the bonus disc from the Limited Collector's Edition, but with 1/3 less content. That's not a pre-order bonus, that's just another disc to waste space in my collection. Screw that.
So if you're buying Mass Effect (and from what people in IRC tell me, you should), should you seek out a copy of the Limited Collector's Edition? Despite a few shortcomings like an unimpressive cardboard disc case, I'd recommend trying to find one on eBay. The whole collection of bonuses is much more impressive than those of Assassin's Creed, and I'm a sucker for art books.
Also, because I know you guys love scores so much, here they are.
On a scale of one to ten winged-unicorn-bear-knights, Assassin's Creed Limited Edition gets:
Pros: Penny Arcade comic, tin holds cookies
Cons: Tin is ridiculously large, sleeve slips, mini-strategy guide is pointless
On a scale of one to ten winged-unicorn-bear knights, Mass Effect Limited Collector's Edition gets:
Pros: Two bonus booklets, nice tin
Cons: Sleeve slips, cardboard case is poor