The will likely be spoilers, but should I talk about something super new I'll warn ya. But consider this a pre-emptive warning! You're WARNED!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Top 10 of 2010

We're down to the final hours of 2010, so what better time to talk about the games I enjoyed best this year? No better time. THERE'S NO BETTER TIME I SAY. Please note, this list may be a little...strange. It's certainly nothing so lofty as a "best games of 2010"- I didn't play nearly enough to qualify as someone who could create such a list. I mean, Halo: Reach what? Call of Who-dy? I am always late to the party on games, waiting for price markdowns and the such before taking the purchase plunge. While there are exceptions to that rule (anything Silent Hill, Resident Evil, or BioWare is a Day 1 puchase. DAY ONE.), I generally find myself singing the praises of games everyone forgot about months ago. Oh well.

I'm further unqualified to make a "best of" list because I essentially only play on one platform: Xbox 360. I play Wii games with the friends who have them, and I hope to get my mitts on some PS3-exclusive titles one of these years (eg Heavy Rain), but for now I'm all about the 360. Many of these games however, are available on other systems.

In the interest of all of that, I'm just making a Games I Liked Best This Year list. These are the titles I played the most...hell, a couple of 'em weren't even released in 2010. What can I say? Cutting edge I am not. So, in no particular order, Games I Liked Best This Year!

The Saboteur

I don't understand why it seems that no one plays or talks about The Saboteur, the terrific swan song of beloved developer Pandemic Studios. In this open-world third-person action-adventure game, you're Sean Devlin, an Irish expat who joins the rebellion in German-occupied France during WWII. Gameplay is very similar in style to the Grand Theft Auto series- you drive, you run, you shoot, you punch, you...sabotage (go figure)...and it's all a hell of a lot of fun. As you liberate areas around Paris and inspire the local populace, color literally returns to the world...and who doesn't love beating up Nazis? They're the ultimate bad guys.

Alan Wake

Me, like a horror game? How odd, I know. Alan Wake suffers a bit from its repetitive gameplay and structure, but it's hella creepy and I loved seeing the story of Alan, a Stephen King-like horror writer, unfold as he searches for his missing wife in a nightmarish town.

Fable III

I like the games in the Fable series more than I ought to, I think; in the end, they never quite feel like a complete experience. They're sort of wannabe-RPGs, after all. For example, sure, your character can get married and raise a family, but the experience is lacking as you never actually talk to your spouse...not to mention that all you have to do to get someone to fall in love with you is whistle in his or her face, flex your muscles, and fart a few times. This latest entry has a simplified gameplay style to the point of...well, a complete idiot could probably get through Fable III without dying even once. And yet...I kind of love these games. They're pretty, they're charming, they're compelling, and I find myself laughing frequently in spite of myself. So sue me!

Mass Effect 2

Oooh, baby. When Mass Effect 2 came out, I had a stock up on food and clear the schedule kind of weekend, as I'd been (more than) eagerly anticipating it since before I finished the first game in the series. I also knew that once I started it, I wouldn't want to do much else until I finished it. I was right. ME2 is the second game in a planned trilogy, and it very much feels like it- while the plot is compelling, you're obviously setting up for a big blow-out of a finale in Mass Effect 3...all those decisions your Commander Shepard made in the first two games will come to a head, the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance. Over the year, developer BioWare has cranked out lots and lots of downloadable content for ME 2, including the stellar "Lair of the Shadow Broker" goes without saying that over the course of 2010 I ended up frequently clearing my schedule for this game.

Red Dead Redemption

With the exception of Grand Theft Auto IV and Manhunt, I've adored everything that Rockstar Games has put out, but Red Dead Redemption- this game, my friends, is a masterpiece. This open-world spaghetti western is funny, gripping, tragic, beautiful...I seriously can't sing its praises high enough, even if it did depress the hell out of me at times. Red Dead Redemption is Rockstar grown up- hell, it's video games grown up- but their trademark humor, though blacker than ever, is still to be found. Not to be missed- nor is the downloadable expansion Undead Nightmare, which pits John Marston against zombie hordes in the wild west...and yes, it's a must-get even if you're completely zombied-out.

Bioshock 2

I don't think anyone who loved Bioshock thought it needed a sequel, but the success of that game practically guaranteed one. Sure, this return trip to the failed underwater utopia Rapture doesn't quite employ the same sense of wonder that its predecessor does (after all, we've been here before), but in many ways Bioshock 2 is a superior experience. Gameplay in the first-person shooter has been tweaked and improved (dual-wielding weapons and plasmids is a dream), and ultimately I found the story of a Big Daddy seeking to reunite with his Little Sister to be more rewarding than the tale from the first game. I totally loved it, and I didn't expect to.


Hey, I reviewed-n-talked about Limbo here. Yup, one of my favorites of the year.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

When this new adventure featuring my favorite Tomb Raider herself appeared on Xbox Live Arcade, I was both intrigued- I do so loves me some Lara Croft- and trepidatious. After all, plenty of Tomb Raider titles totally suck- I've been burned before! But then, Guardian of Light eschews the Tomb Raider moniker. But then THEN, it also eschews the traditional third-person POV for an isometric view. I was so confused! Ms. Croft proved too tempting, however, so I took the plunge...and man, am I glad I did. This action/combat/platformer/puzzle game is just plain fun. More fun than I'd anticipated, sure, and more fun than I've had with Lara Croft in years. Well, except for that body pillow...wait, okay, that joke is too gross even for me. Pretend you didn't read that. If you can!

Deadly Premonition

I'm still slogging my way through this bizarre Twin Peaks as interpreted by Japanese developers game, and it could be years before I finish. Yes, I said "slogging"- gameplay on this fucker is a chore. Cars handle like your worst nightmare, and everything beyond that is even more of a nightmare. The dialogue is awful, the voice-acting just a titch above awful...the graphics are early-Dreamcast era and severely out of date. Textures are...well, crashing into, say, a bush is akin to crashing into a concrete block. The world map, when not completely useless, is confusing. The music is always irritating and inappropriate. All in all, playing Deadly Premonition is a mind-numbingly terrible experience. it is on my year-end list. What the huh? That's right. Despite all of its numerous NUMEROUS problems, there's a charm and quirkiness to this game that makes you want to play. You deal with all the crap just to see what ridiculous things the main character, FBI agent Francis "York" Morgan will say. The game just doesn't make sense- vending machine lollipops cost about $125??- but you keep hanging on in the hopes that it might. The main story (murder and evil rain and all that) is intriguing- sometimes even creepy- and somehow that's enough to keep me slogging away at it.

Dragon Age: Origins

YES I'M STILL REGULARLY PLAYING DRAGON AGE. I don't care how long it's been since it came out! I don't care how many times I've played it! I can't help myself and this is my list, so there. Why, if a sequel wasn't due next year (hurry up, March), this title would probably be on my Games I Liked Best 2011 list come next December. Aw, who am I kidding? It still will be- there are two endings I haven't seen yet!

So there you go, the ten games that took up the bulk of my playing time in 2010. What tickled your fancy in 2010?

Monday, December 27, 2010

worth a click

Over at Kotaku they've posted pix from a recent Hot Toys anniversary exhibition- in particular, a diorama featuring the women of Resident Evil 5 (Sheva and Jill, aka this humble blog's namesake!) versus Thriller-style Michael Jackson zombies. I swear, some days I wake up, turn on The Internet, and it's like someone out there made my dream diary come alive!

For more Thriller/RE 5 mashup pictures, click here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PANDEMIC 2 coughs up a good time

Okay, I know I'm late to the party on Pandemic 2, the free flash strategy game you can play after you click right here. I tend to ignore most computer games, particularly the casual ones like FarmVille or MafiaFace or whatever else is floating around. I'm not trying to be hoity-toity about it, I swear! First of all, I'm on a Mac, and while there are games available, most of them won't run on my machine. As for internet-based games, well, all those on Facebook seem rather irritating. If I could just, like, grow my own crops or something I might start clicking...but having to ask (aka harass) my cyberfriends to see if I can borrow a bucket or whatthefuckever so I can grow said crops? Nah. I'm not into the community aspects of it. As I said, this doesn't make me hoity-toity- it makes me a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

So no, I don't generally pay attention to computer games, especially is they're anchored to a browser. I do, however, dream of someday having a bitch-ass gaming PC, at which point my assimilation into full-blown nerdhermit will be complete. Still, I read a bit about Pandemic 2 and though the rest of the world has known about it forever, I got all excited about this new thing whilst restraining said excitement in case it stunk.

Stunk it didn't.

In Pandemic 2, you create a deadly virus, bacteria, or parasite, name it and use it to try to kill everyone in the world.

As you advance, you basically level up, choosing different symptoms, resistances, traits, and modes of transmission. Strategy comes in to play from the get go; while having your virus cause vomiting sounds, you know, fun, it's a very noticeable symptom. Fever, on the other hand, is insidious and barely noticeable at all. The key is to keep things on the downlow- if a government catches wind of the problem, they'll close down airports and harbors...and no international travel means no international disease-spreading.

Pandemic 2 is tough to conquer, but watching the death toll rise is oddly compelling. Seeing the words "Disease spotted in Madagascar" brought a huge smile to my face, I'm almost ashamed to say, and I felt like a real James Bond villain the one time I actually wiped out all life on Earth.

Of course, this calls a few things into question. Am I the disease itself? Am I a supervillain hiding on my asteroid base or something and thus far away from the chaos? Am I a superintelligent animal who has decided to get all "down with people"? What do I do after I've wiped out all life? It might get boring, sitting on that asteroid all alone. One can only gloat for so long, after all.

None of that matters, though! What matters is that I found I was immediately hooked on Pandemic 2 and tried out all manner of bacteria, virus, and parasite, which lead to a serious case of the "mua ha ha"s. Seriously, when Stacicoccus Phlegmeticus became the lovechild of Ebola, the Black Plague, and Pac-Man Fever all rolled into one, I reveled in my power every time someone sneezed their way to the grave.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

holiday cheer and all that

I lament the fact that sending Christmas cards is a lost social construct...not that I, myself, am doing anything to help keep it alive. Still, I definitely appreciate the cards I get from diehards (such as my gramma, who has always puts my name in quotes- "Stacie"- as if it's a nickname) and I think we can all pretty much agree that receiving a "MERRY XmAS!!!" text message just ain't the same as receiving an overpriced piece of cardboard with a handwritten message in it.

Here are a few video game-flavored holiday selections, some of which you can even purchase. Maybe next year I'll make an effort...yes, next year...

This Fallout themed card is courtesy of Bethesda Softworks; has this and other cards sent out by development companies posted here.

Oh, Left4Dead, how I heart thee! Though I always play as Zooey, I love the three guys just as much. How can you not? Francis hates everything, Bill is decidedly Colonel Tigh-esque, and Louis is always "grabbin' peels". You can get this card and plenty more (as well as a selection from L4D2) at The Valve Store.

Also at The Valve Store is this Portal/Aperture Laboratories card. Ah, my faithful companion cube. I done euthanized it.

Finally, BioWare posted this Mass Effect 2 card at their blog. Mordin is so damn cute, my coal-black heart grew three sizes just looking at him! Then my heart exploded, because it being three sizes bigger is not actually a good thing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

you should play: LIMBO

The story of Limbo is slight- so slight, in fact, that calling it a "story" may be overstating things. The premise, then, is this:
Uncertain of his sister's fate, a boy enters Limbo.
The player controls the boy as he tries to find his sister in this haunting, puzzle-filled side-scroller.

The gameplay is as simple as the story: you can jump, and you can push or pull levers and certain items. Make no mistake, however: easy control schemes do not mean an easy difficulty level. You will die in Limbo, and you will die a lot...and you will not care, because even the deaths are enthralling. The black/white/grey palette is beautiful and unlike anything I've ever seen in a game, but beyond aesthetics, the color scheme serves a purpose: dangers are often well-hidden. I can't count how many times I stumbled into my own death in this game, whether falling on spikes, getting smushed by some machinery, getting shot or torn apart; it's horrendously violent, though artistically so- completely gruesome, beautiful, and hilarious. By the end, I was very thankful that the game auto-saves frequently and death doesn't mean backtracking.

Much has been made of Limbo's abstract plot: when all is said and done, is there a deeper meaning to it? Or are players simply trying to ascribe meaning where there is none? I've got my own theories, and if you poke around The Internet, you're bound to find more. I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, because it's worth getting there yourself without knowing what's going to happen. Still, Limbo answers no questions for you and the narrative is never spelled out. If neat & tidy packages all tied up are your thing, you're likely to be disappointed.

If there's one word I'd use to describe this game, it's sinister. It is as creepy as it is compelling, and the atmosphere is heavy with doom, particularly in the games earliest levels. The boy wakes in a forest and simply begins to move forward- what else can he do?- and it quickly becomes clear that this is no simple stroll through a friendly wood. Besides the requisite traps and monsters, there are also these...well, they might be children- and they're stalking you. And they're trying to kill you. And you don't know why or who they are. Corpses litter the ground and swing from trees, and all you can do is keep moving as you try to find a way out. It's oppressively gloomy and terrifying. How cool!

is available on Xbox Live for 1200 points- perhaps a bit steep, you might think, as the game is roughly 6-7 hours long, even on your first playthrough. Personally, I don't find it too high a price to pay for such an immersive, fascinating piece of art. It's a great way to spend a cold, rainy winter's afternoon.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

mon histoire avec les video games, part one

As I mentioned yesterday in my remembrathon: yes, I'm old. There. Now let's move on so we can all thrill to this post which is all about my history with video games- the systems I've owned, the games I've hearted hard. Trust me, I realize that this really won't be interesting to anyone besides me, unless it spurs you on to great heights of nostalgia or maybe tosses out a game title that's new to you. That's all your business, however, and right now I just feel like having a nice cup of General Mills International Coffee (Suisse Mocha) with video games as we hash over times both old and new. See, I've been a gamer for pretty much my whole life and since, as I said, I'm old, I find it curious to marvel from time to time at how far the medium has come during my substantial lifespan. Come now, pour yourself a cup and get bored read on!

Atari 2600

I got my first taste of games thanks to my old pal Smitty when I was in...oh, fifth grade, maybe? His family was the first on the block to get the Atari 2600; it came with Combat, and all the neighborhood kids wanted a piece of the action. I mean, look at the box! Can you feel the flames shooting in your face? Are you choking on the smoke and covering your ears in a futile attempt to block out the roar of the engines? Don't lie. You know you are!

The game totally lived up to the promise of the box art. Check it out, and try to contain your eyeballs because they'll be popping out from the intensity.

I know it looks so lame, but you know what? It wasn't. We were all clamoring to play, always. Smitty's mom would only let one of his friends in at a time to play but we didn't care. Everyone else would hang around outside while one lucky soul went in for a round of Combat. "Jet Fighter" was my jam, and my love of video games was born. It wasn't too long until my family got the 2600 and that was it. If playing Combat at Smitty's put me on the road to loving video games, then my parents handed me a map and the keys to a car...or some other less muddled, more meaningful metaphor.

Favorite Atari 2600 games:
  • Pitfall
  • Yar's Revenge
  • Missile Command
  • Space Invaders
  • Activision Grand Prix
Activision Grand Prix: you can practically smell the burning rubber

Nintendo Entertainment System

The leap from the 2600 to the NES was a mega one, wasn't it? First of all, it came with a gun and a robot. A GUN AND A ROBOT. Mind you, the robot proved quickly to be a pain in the ass and fairly useless and the gun fared not much better, but still. A gun and a robot. Even beyond that, it was a whole new world of gaming- more realistic, bigger, more exciting, games that spoke- spoke in voices! It was marvelous.

Incidentally, I hope that "A Whole New World" from Fievel or Aladdin or whatthefuckever is now stuck in your head.

So cool, so useless. Just like me!

Of course, Nintendo also gave a home to many who would become video game icons, characters who still appear in new games yearly- you know, like Mario and Link. Even crappy games were a revelation on this machine- I played more Top Gun and Airwolf than I care to admit (although...fuck yeah, Airwolf!). Was NES the greatest video game system of all time? No. But maybe.

Favorite NES games:
  • Balloon Fight
  • Dr. Mario
  • Castlevania (even though I sucked at it- stupid Medusa heads)
  • Contra (Do you know the Konami Code? If you do, type it now, substituting "ENTER" for "START")
  • Excitebike (ah, such impossible tracks I would make!)
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Prince of Persia
  • R.C. Pro-Am (I loved this game more than it probably deserved)
  • Super Mario Brothers (all of them. ALL OF THEM I SAY)
  • Paperboy (that bitch in the convertible got me every time)

Super Nintendo

8-bit gave way to 16-bit and I got the first game system to hug and call my very own. This was one hell of a system with some damn terrific games. I had SNES and my best friend had Sega Genesis- between the two of us we played everything there was to play while his mother yelled at us to go get some sunshine. I never really got into RPGs during the SNES era; whatever Final Fantasys and Chrono Triggers were out there in the world, they passed me by. I was all about platformers, side scrollers, and anything else I could play co-op.

Favorite SNES games:
  • Alien 3 (this was, like, my favorite game for a while. Bald, badass Ripley FTW!)
  • Star Fox
  • Aladdin (ridiculously fun)
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (does it GET any geekier?)
  • Shadowrun
  • Pilotwings
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Star Wars (and SSW: Empire Strikes Back and SSW: Return of the Jedi...all three games were hard as hell!)
  • Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Oh, giant baby from Zombies At My Neighbors...I love you

So there you go, Part One is out of the way. I bet you can't wait for Part Two, amiright? Well, you'll just have to. In the meantime, you can bore me with your history!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

two pockets full of quarters

Tomorrow will be a great day on Xbox Live. Why, you ask? Because tomorrow is the day that a wicked sweet blast from the past becomes available for you to download, play, and clutch to your bosoms: the 1992 arcade classic X-Men. I loves me some late 80s/early 90s X-Men (particularly the awesome cartoon Pryde of the X-Men, wherein Wolverine inexplicably has an Australian accent) and way back when, this side-scrolling, 2-screen behemoth brawler was the shit. I believe it still will be, and I can't wait to get my download on.

I call dibs on Dazzler!

As I am elderly and therefore I love remembering, the news of this game has me in a state of bittersweet nostalgic bliss about arcades. You Kids Today can't possibly know what it was like to have real arcades in your life like we did during their heyday. Or maybe you can. I don't know, I don't live your life! Still, every modern incarnation of an arcade I've seen is mall. So bright and family-friendly. So Chuck E. Cheese or Dave and Buster's. We olds, however, know how they used to be, dammit. Arcades used to be dark- very, very dark with minimal lighting and tinted windows- and funny-smelling and grimy and illicit-feeling. The first time I walked into Twilight Zone- my local arcade, yo- I felt as if I didn't belong there, even if I did have two pockets full of quarters. It was kind of amazing.

I got over my trepidation pretty quickly- I mean, video games were involved, and therefore I wasn't about to fuck around- and I walked to Twilight Zone whenever I had the chance. I fed many a quarter to many a machine...including X-Men (duh) and these other favorites of mine:


The ultimate play-with-your-friends button masher. I was always Valkyrie, and she always needed food badly because she was always about to die.

Dig Dug

What's not to love about a game where you head underground to inflate dragons and...blob things in goggles until they explode? Nothing, that's what.


My favorite thing to do in Asteroids was to get down to one tiny remaining asteroid, then hit the turbo boost on my ship and fly erratically everywhere until I hit the tiny asteroid and died. YES I WAS WEIRD.


Looking at it now, I feel really bad for Q*Bert. He's trapped on this odd pyramid in some weird negative zone, forced to hop away from snakes and other creatures for the rest of his life. Poor guy. Man, my mom used to have lunch with a friend every weekend at the Howard Johnson's and I went, too. After I finished my clam roll, I'd go play the hell out of Q*Bert while they talked.


Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong was a real jerk, wasn't he? And honestly, I don't know how well Mario's plumbing business ever did financially seeing as how he was always off rescuing one Princess or another.

Dragon's Lair

I shudder to think about how many quarters I put into this damn game- at fifty cents a go, even!- since I was so, so, SO bad at it. I didn't get the concept of the timed-reflex gameplay at all; I do now, but then...oh, it was constant death. Still, I couldn't resist- its FMV cartoon was unlike anything else in arcades at the time. Damn you and your money-sucking pretty pictures, Don Bluth!

Ms. Pac-Man

I've never been good at Pac-Man. Never. I was marginally better at Ms. Pac-Man, but still I was nowhere close to the place called good. Let's put it this way: if I got to the pretzel, I was having an exceptional game. That's level 4 out of roughly 250. However, a local Chinese joint called Ming Garden had a Ms. Pac-Man table (like the one above) in their bar...and if there's something better than having a beer and an egg roll and playing Ms. Pac-Man with a friend, well, I'm not sure what it is.

Okay, I can think of a few things that might be better, but still- it was pretty fucking good.


I played Outrun before I could drive, and therefore I found the option to choose my own in-game/in-car radio station very scintillating.


The cabinet had handlebars. What was I to do? It was like riding a bike, yet not at all like riding a bike!

Star Wars

I mean, duh...Star Wars. Like I wasn't going to be all over a Star Wars game- especially one with such a sweet-ass cabinet (as seen above), actual sound clips from the actual movie, and cutting-edge graphics like this:

No seriously, those were cutting-edge graphics.

In closing, I would just like to say this: on the occasions where I was able to enter my three initials because I earned a high enough score, I never ever ever put SMP. It was always DIK, TIT, FAG, or ASS. I know I'm not the only person to have done this- not by a long shot- but surely it says something about something.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I think 2011 may finally be the year where I become a complete shut-in. I stress the "complete" because really, I still venture out from time to time...although to be honest, that has as much to do with my fear of rickets than anything else. Also, I still mostly wear pants that employ the use of fasteners. What can I do, though, in the face of all the ba-rilliant releases lined up for next year? It may be time to give my life over to elastic-waist bliss. Just a few of the titles that have me salivating already:
As you can see, I have no choice in the matter.

BY THE WAY. The trailer for Mass Effect 3 was just released at the Spike TV Video Game Awards and let's just say that I'm already lined up outside of Best Buy. HURRY UP 2011.


Hi. My name is Stacie and I like video games a whole frickin' mess. I like them so much that I've decided to write about them, or at least the ones I like and play and find of interest. I'm not a big fan of introductory blog posts, but I thought I should at least say hello.

Oh, and if you're wondering what the hell a "Jill Sandwich" is, it's a reference to the original Resident Evil, wherein Barry Burton saves Jill Valentine from certain death and...

That's right, the voice acting is so bad that it's possible he's saying "jibble sandwich" or "jiggle sandwich". Resident Evil rules!

Anyway, hi.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What, no ILLBLEED?

Via Kotaku, here's a big-n-handy chart listing a whole messa scary, horror, and mindfuck video games across multiple platforms.

Sure, it's horribly (HORRIBLY I SAY) out of date- last updated June 2009- but it's still a terrific resource for those of us who dig it when horror and video games hang out together.

I've played most everything on there that's not a PC title, although I'm still a bit desperate to get my mitts on a copy of Rule of Rose.

Well, at least I'll be hot.

Dragon Age: Origins fans were up in arms- or, at least, I was miffed- when developer Bioware announced big changes for the forthcoming Dragon Age II. They're not talking mere gameplay or graphical changes, although leaps in those areas are in the works- they're talking about an entirely new player-character experience.

Here. I'll explain for those of you who aren't quite the Dragon Age nerd I am (although I can't imagine why you're not because it's so good). In Origins, the player chooses from six distinct character types, each with its own...wait for it...origin. The main plot of the game is the same no matter who you are, but how you become involved with the goings-on in Ferelden varies whether you opt to be, say, a human noble or a dwarf commoner or a Dalish elf. There are six opening stories to play through, and the random encounters throughout the game vary depending on your background- hell, the way just about everyone in the game treats you varies depending on your background. Add in choices in gender, sexuality, hair, tattoos, everything and the player commands a Grey Warden that truly feels personalized.

It was a shock, then, when Bioware announced that your Grey Warden's adventure would end with Origins and not carry over to the sequel. In Part II, you will play Hawke, the son (or daughter) of a Noble family, Champion of Kirkwall, and survivor of the Blight. In other words, it will be one character's story and, if the game's trailers are any indication, the male version will be canon, much as the case is with Bioware's sci-fi epic Mass Effect and its Commander Shepard.

It's unknown how many customization capabilities players will have to modify Hawke's looks- if Bioware's history is any indication, there may be a lot, which will go a long way towards personalizing the game despite the avatar limitations. After all, my Shepard feels like my Shepard- and I can pretty much guarantee she doesn't look like or act the same as yours. Hopefully the same will be true of my Hawke.

Although honestly, I don't know how much modifying I'll do. Bioware recently revealed the face of the female Hawke, and wow, what a CGI babe! No matter whether I choose to play as a girl or a guy (oh, let's be honest- I'll have 436598 playthroughs as each), I know that by default my Hawke will be hot, which know...the most important thing.