Speed Dating: Pick A New FemShep

By Alec Meer on July 25th, 2011 at 9:28 am.

Yeah, everyone's mentioned Metroid like a million times already

Oh dear, there appears to have been some kind of mistake here. Bioware, as part of their long-awaited marketing acknowledgement of the female version of Mass Effect hero Shepard, have offered fans the option to vote for which of six new versions of FemShep (I really dislike that portmanteau for reasons I can’t entirely pinpoint, but it seems rather too late to resist it now) will be added to the character creator options in Mass Effect 3. However, none of them look like the FemShep I know, and thus presumably you know. Mysterious! Someone must have uploaded some fan-art by mistake, right?

Somewhat depressingly, the blond, blue-eyed, most trad-sexpot of the six is currently winning this Facebook-based vote by around 10,000 Likes. And they all seem rather more geared towards young’n'hot than the FemShep of old. There’s obviously no reason at all Shepard can’t have conventional (or even extraordinary) good looks, but for me at least part of the appeal of the character is that she’s a million miles away from so many other games’ depicition of female heroes.

I’m sure this is really only about expanding the range of visual options for the character, but there is this niggling worry that maybe someone hopes to recast FemShep as something more marketing-friendly – given the news that just 18% of ME players plump for a female starship captain.

Still, don’t panic: ME 1&2′s default FemShep will remain alongside whatever the new one ends up being, and obviously we’ll be able to have a good old face-tweak again too. And, of course, the excellent Jennifer Hale will return for voice duties, which gurantees that regardless of how the character looks, she’s going to be that familiarly wry, no-nonsense hardnut we so admire.

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216 Comments »

  1. terry says:

    These are pretty terrible :(

  2. vodka and cookies says:

    I’d quite like to see #6 but yeah #5 was always going to win with nerds voting

  3. Gilly says:

    I’ll take the one that hasn’t been bombarded with kilotons of make-up and a personal hairdresser…wait, what’s this? In the modern world, all women are photo models, and those who are not are no women?

    FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-

    • gwathdring says:

      Even the macho male commandos did modeling in high school. The future is entirely populated with the children spawned from the hellish pit of Beautiful People dot com, which has been stockpiling genetically linked deadly neurotoxin for years.

    • Nalano says:

      As Miranda pointed out, genetic tinkering a la Gattaca is the wave of the future.

    • Gilly says:

      Still doesn’t explain the never-dishevelled hair and ever-unchanging make-up. I thought this was about grimdark soldiers doing nasty, brutish things! Not permanent cosmetics!

      Also, all the Femsheps look like they’ve taken their haircuts straight from the 2010s.

  4. Zwebbie says:

    Tip for BioWare: Number 4′s hair is the most difficult to create, and as far as I know, no Western developer ever managed a hairdo that complex (in the East, FFXIII has some wonderful hair). You’ll fail.

    On an unrelated note, when I played Mass Effect I made a female Shepard with the longest blond hair I could find and a ton of make-up to take the piss out of BioWare, but it’s less funny now that they’re doing the same themselves.

  5. Turkey says:

    This is stupid.

    Stop being stupid, Bioware.

  6. Nalano says:

    I voted for #1, but then it seemed weird for me to keep seeing the most badass marine in the galaxy in anything other than a crew cut.

    But then, a friend called my FemShep “the littlest cancer patient” and now I want to hurt him with something sharp and pointy.

  7. stahlwerk says:

    When I played ME 1 for the first time, I chose the default female configuration, space-marine and all, but I think I moved the scar around. I played the game in a very goody-two-shoes manner, yet not trying to be as paragon as possible, since I didn’t get the relevance of that stat in conversations, or maybe because that’s what I expect the default behaviour of a protagonist to be. All in all this lead to a strangely heroic, yet timid experience.

    Then for the second playthough (sadly unfinished) I picked a male space-mage but made him look a bit like this fella, blond hair, scarred face, furrowed eyes. I played him in the most renegade way, because one thing I wanted to do was to unlock the renegade conversation options as soon as possible. And it was just glorious, also the sometimes nonplussed voice acting of maleshep could easily be interpreted as snark.

    All in all, I think default character is helpful for first time players, because you need to understand the game play mechanics before you can make informed decisions. I hadn’t played a Bioware RPG before, so I didn’t understand to what extend the stats, background, or looks of your shepard mattered gameplay wise. Respectively lots, less and not at all.

    To the topic at hand I say it’s a bit sad that they seem the need to replace the default female version to make the option more appealing. ME1&2′s default female face has a lot of character beyond OMGHotness, and while it doesn’t look a lot like her, it matches Hale’s voice almost too well. I can’t see them successfully replacing her stern complexion with a more model-y type and Hale’s shepard voice still fitting, yet if Hale changed her performance (of what she would be more than able, having a really broad range of voices) to fit the sexy better it would play against a lot of the shepards out there.

    Strange also that Bioware PR surmised that male shepard apparently didn’t need a pageant, but what if I’d like to have my Mr. PerlmanShep represented? Why is there no “ugly” or even “moderately handsome” option in the vote? (yeah, yeah, rethorical question)

  8. Kefren says:

    Please can we have more games where heros look normal rather than good looking. We should care about them because of writing and predicament.

    • Nalano says:

      All the more reason to prefer the printed word than whatever Hollywood’s up to these days.

  9. Gaytard Fondue says:

    None of the women I served with in the military wore any make-up when on duty. And yeah, camouflage face paint doesn’t count.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I’d rather like that as a make-up option in ME3, though.

  10. kibayasu says:

    No matter what she looks like, I will always, always, find it amusing that every single woman in the ME universe has breasts so massive and firm that combat armor needs to be molded around them. This concept art has also seem to have made the boob armor a lot more pointy than previous games. Perhaps this is to protect against the new husks!

  11. Nalano says:

    Generic short hair?

    I thought blonde locks and/or bangs were the generic staple of female characters.

    Hell, the short-haired female characters I can think of were noted for generally not being generic: Pvt Vasquez et al.

  12. Strontium Mike says:

    I would of thought after all the fuss and since this is for the collector’s edition cover they might of made an effort and licensed someone’s appearance like they did for Male Shep.

    I wonder will the camera angles, textures and lighting still be set up for default Male Shep? Will visors etc still clip on Fem Shep or any custom head?

  13. Ratamacue says:

    You know, I love most of BioWare’s games, but damn do they make themselves look like idiots sometimes.

  14. shoptroll says:

    I don’t see why they need to do this. Default Female version is perfectly fine.

    Even more curious, why can’t we vote on the appearance of Male Shep too? I for one would like a less meat headed looking grunt on the cover.

    It’s only fair, right?

  15. derella says:

    I was pretty bummed when I saw the blonde had won. Shepard is a badass commando… Why would she run around with feathered hair? I was hoping the brunette with the short hair would win.

  16. silver1881 says:

    I hate #5′s long hair. She’s still a soldier, and that long hair blowing in her face is totally impractical. It doesn’t matter if she’s pretty if she can’t do her damn job. But she’s the prettiest/Barbiest, so of course she’s winning. I do like the others, except for Blondie and Bangs. Interestingly, someone from Bioware marketing did a survey on Twitter a while back regarding what she should look like on the box, and the default redhead won by a landslide. So…apparently that information was ignored.
    It would be nice if they had a vote somewhere other than Facebook, for those of us who don’t use it. One there and one on the Bioware forums, maybe.
    I guess when it comes down to it, my Shep looks nothing like any of these, so it doesn’t really matter. At least marketing is throwing us a bone and actually acknowledging she exists, so that’s a step. And it only took until the third game in a trilogy…

  17. Starky says:

    Number 6 = Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.

    Vote for her damn it!

  18. Sicram says:

    no 5 reminds of mine although my femshep is a readhead and has a red eyeshadow

  19. Kaira- says:

    They all look very strong and very angry. It frightens me. Hold me, someone.

  20. seattlepete says:

    I can’t be the only one who made both my male and female Shep as ugly and ridiculous as possible? Blonde cornrows, blonde eyebrows, wide-set blue eyes, scrunched up nose, no chin…I also opted for the pink suit since it was the most eye-searing.

    Am I wrong?

  21. DrGonzo says:

    Why would she be wearing make up at all? Really ruins all the female characters.

    • DainIronfoot says:

      There’s not much make-up in the army. They only have that night-time look and that’s a bit slapdash isn’t it?

  22. v_ware says:

    Nr 1 looks the most shepardish.

    5 is just another blonde bombshell…

  23. Pointless Puppies says:

    I’ve never understood why BioWare keeps putting make-up in the FemShep options. In fact, I find it odd why there’s even an option for that in the in-game editor.

    I just find it weird that a battled-hardened marine fighting for her dear life would take the time each morning to apply lipstick and do her eyelashes. Who’s she trying to look good for? The Krogan mercs trying to slit her throat?

  24. Nick says:

    You’ll create/impor your own anyway, so who cares really? I don’t know who that dude is they have in all the ME adverts either, but it doesn’t matter.

  25. Tatourmi says:

    Not enough love for number one and number six, but that is a matter of tastes.

  26. exurban says:

    This whole thing has been weird to me. My Shep has been a female Vanguard for both games.

  27. ziusudra says:

    Bioware. How the mighty have fallen.

  28. Cuchulainn says:

    Never mind the femshep thing, anyone else change the colour of their armour in ME2 so that it looked more like a HEV?

  29. Saskwach says:

    For all the totally legitimate concerns about popularity contests and make-up and stuff, the thing that gets me the most is that none of those Shepards look like they could ever have Jennifer Hale’s voice. Maybe it’s just me subconsciously projecting my personal OnlyShep but I can’t imagine Shepard being anything less than mid 30s. 1-6 all look in their mid-20s. Plus none of them could have those caramel smooth tones.

  30. CloakRaider says:

    Holy christ people picking an attractive shepherd what an outrage.

  31. Vinraith says:

    Unfortunately this was the inevitable consequence of shining a brighter light on female Shepard. Not that it really matters to me, as I’ll just import my ME1/2 FemShep for game purposes, and I never watch trailers for games I intend to (eventually) buy anyway.

  32. ghazbanbodarr says:

    Perhaps this is all a clever ploy to distract us from the fact that they inflated her breasts by about two cup sizes.

  33. Apples says:

    I voted for blonde Shep. I’m a woman; in real life I’m a programmer who slobs around in jeans and no makeup but foundation. My Shepard, on the other hand, had styled hair (red, but in a similar style to the blonde Shep), eyeliner and blusher, a fairly similar face to those Sheps except a bit older and less pouty, and nice-looking customised armor. Hence I picked her. Sorry for ruining ME3 guys :’( Seriously though, what exactly is wrong with a female Shepard who wants to look good as well as be the savior of the universe? How is the blonde version any less authentic or more insulting than the others? Honestly I’m pleased that they offered up some fairly non-traditionally-feminine versions, but ‘respectability and strength of character’ is not inversely proportional to ‘attractiveness’ or ‘femininity’. Nor does she look like “a lingerie model”; it’s not as if they’ve put her in a chainmail bikini. Yes, she’s been sexed up a bit to act as marketing material, but let’s not forget that male Shep is literally a male model.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s all about the menz. The women are depicted as male sexual fantasies, and the men as male power fantasies. That’s the problem.

      It’s a pretty consistent pattern across various forms of media.

  34. Deviija says:

    I completely agree with you, Mr. Meer. I too find this rather depressing. And frustrating. The same standard, the same sexpot idealized blonde, blue-eyed, white female. The Samus, the Zela, the Princess Peach types that can be alluring and sexually appealing, but never too intimidating to not be accessible.

    Honestly, none of these Shepards are remotely inclusive or diverse. They all share similar facial features in some kind of amalgamation of Scarlett Johansson/Natalie Portman, and the ratio of minorities/mixed race features in the choices is really shallow. The only dark-skinned character there is fairly light-skinned for brown/black.

    But I think what you’re trying to pinpoint is that this ‘poll’ ultimately boils down into a “Vote For The Hottest Babe” contest rather than voting for whom would make the best Shepard as Shepard. Of course, as I mentioned above, the real lack of any diversity in skintone and facial features, lack of any scarring, and the overuse of makeup, really sells it for the contest really is.

    • wootles says:

      You speak mounds of truth. Every one of those options lacked any sort of variety that makes you wish to vote at all. Perhaps what explains this is that sometime between now and then the human race comes close to mass extinction, and only a handful of humans are left to populate. In this context I could believe the reasons why everyone should have somewhat similar features. Whatever happened to other ethnic variations or how about age for that matter?

  35. Real Horrorshow says:

    Of course Blondie wins. Sigh.

  36. Lucifalle says:

    *Cries* Why internet? Why?
    I absolutely loved the original female shepard :(

  37. mkultra says:

    I will never deny I would prefer playing a sexy, 21-year-old-with-predatory-features Shep over the default. But, with tweaking, it’s possible to take her into hot mom status.

    Angry moms are where it’s at. Hopefully a dead child is thrown in sometime as a plot device. And betrayal. Lots of betrayal.

    Shepard’s gonna Shep.

  38. Hypatian says:

    4 and 6 are some interesting new options. Of course, I always tweak all the sliders by hand anyway…

    And of course I can’t vote, because I am one of the 3 people left in the universe who don’t have a Facebook account.

  39. Rii says:

    3, 4, 5 are ok. None of them are great. This whole thing does feel more than a little ‘off’ and the only thing mShep communicates to me is ‘hi I’m mcblandface here to star in mcblandgame’.

  40. Davie says:

    Yeah, I picked 2, because she appears to spend the least amount of time on her hair and has the angriest expression, which is entirely suitable for a role played by Jennifer Hale.

    Still, there was nothing wrong with the original Shepard. There’s no point in character customization if every option is gorgeous, really. My male Shepard was a rather homely guy, himself.

  41. Kevin says:

    I should hope that if these were considered for what the new image they’re trying to go for for Femshep in ME3 that these haircuts would be available in the character creator (not that the modders won’t already be adding mohawks and freedom spikes into the mix somewhere down the line).

  42. Kevin says:

    I am a feminist (I believe when it comes to women’s rights, there is no such thing as moral relativity), but I feel like as of late a lot of guys are trying to avert using the male gaze to the point that I’m really cynical with their motivations. For better or for worse, it’s going to be a part of society for as long as there are Y chromosomes and eventually we’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that admiring the female body doesn’t automatically make a person a misogynist.

    But if we want to eliminate that gender-based asymmetry, really the best men can do is not to hold a double standard whenever it comes to things like if it’s reprehensible if a man is the one that stays home and does the housework and takes care of the kids. Eliminating man on man homophobia I think is a good start (though that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, unfortunately).

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      eventually we’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that admiring the female body doesn’t automatically make a person a misogynist.

      If you’re a feminist, why repeat this mind-bogglingly dumb strawman?

      I’d like it very much if more media weren’t targeted at horny 14-year old boys. If pandering to male sexual fantasies weren’t the default mode of advertising. That would be nice.

  43. DaFishes says:

    Current opinion goes like this, on BioWare’s forums:

    - You 18% of players who choose female Shepard, you should be grateful for this choice of Spice Girls.

    - If you’re a woman and you don’t like that these six Shepard options don’t look like marines, it’s because you’re jealous that they’re prettier than you are.

    - That there’s any marketing being done AT ALL for female Shepard is evidence that male gamers are oppressed.

    - Blonde Shepard is awesome because I’d Hit That.

    So yeah, kudos, BioWare, for excellent marketing and community management.

  44. oatmeal says:

    Can’t a female character be attractive, even if she’s a soldier? You never hear anyone whine when there’s a sexy male lead character. What makes this so laughable is that it’s mostly guys who complain. What do they think, that they’ll score points by being politically correct? It seems like the more bland a female character look, the more they claim to like her. It’s obviously just immature teenage boys who are attracted to beautiful women.

    The comments I’ve read about this story (here and other places) have been just as expected: negative and hypocritical. It’s one of the reason I don’t want to look at “discussions” on video games on the Internet anymore. It just sickens me how most people think.

    • Rii says:

      “What makes this so laughable is that it’s mostly guys who complain. What do they think, that they’ll score points by being politically correct?”

      “It just sickens me how most people think.”

      Yeah … me too.

  45. Jibb Smart says:

    I’ve just bought Mass Effect 2 (finally). It’s downloading right now, and after seeing videos of FemShep beating up perfectly healthy male soldiers with her fists, I’ve decided there’s no way my suspension of disbelief can carry that far, and I’ll have to be male Shepard.

    That, and I always play a guy because I’m a guy.

    • Nalano says:

      I tend not to play guys because I am a guy and thus it feels rather redundant.

      But at any rate, are you saying that no woman can beat up a guy?

    • Jibb Smart says:

      I’m saying that that woman can’t beat up those guys. There’s martial arts prowess, but then there’s strength. Men don’t just tend to be a bit stronger than women; they tend to be a lot stronger. Take into account that the soldiers and mercs depicted in the game are pretty well built, and that FemShep is built for beauty, not for breaking things.

  46. Rii says:

    Re: the nomenclature issue.

    Given that BioWare for whatever inexplicable reason established a default, male Sheppard in the course of the game’s marketing, it’s hardly unreasonable for the Hale-voiced Sheppards to be referenced with respect to that baseline.

    I prefer to refer to them as fShep and mShep, but only because the former is quicker to type and the latter aesthetically pleasing in its consistency with the former. To actually object to the ‘FemShep’ label is, I think, a bit unreasonable under the circumstances.

  47. Saskwach says:

    News Flash: For daring to be a man with an opinion on sexism you are officially a Politically Correct Hypocrite trying to Score with the Ladies. More at 11.
    Seriously, do better with the mudslinging. Who ever got laid posting about feminism on the internet?
    To all those asking what’s the big problem with being attractive as well as a soldier, the answer is: nothing. I’ve met plenty of lookers in my time as a reservist. But none of them slapped on more make-up than a clown, and they all tied their hair back (especially “out field”) because the army’s big on actually being able to fight effectively and not wasting your time looking good doing it.
    Yes, Male Shepard is some sort of model. But the important part is he wouldn’t look out of place in the mud with bullets whizzing over him. All those FemSheps would. Bioware set out to make a “hawt” FemShep, not a soldier FemShep. With MShep they also wanted a guy who looked the part.
    That’s what’s “off” here.

    • Rii says:

      “Yes, Male Shepard is some sort of model. But the important part is he wouldn’t look out of place in the mud with bullets whizzing over him.”

      It’s easy with mShep because the ‘male as warrior’ look has never really gone out of fashion. Alternatives have had their days in the sun, but that’s always been a safe base to return to and one that is congruent with Sheppard’s role in the game, and indeed in most video games. In contrast, with women we continue to have a conflict between practicality and cultural standards of beauty – which in turn reflects the fact that women actually doing stuff is a comparatively recent innovation – and so it becomes a balancing act on BioWare’s part.

      That being said, I think they’ve gone in entirely the wrong direction here in opening it up for a vote. Gee, I wonder which one is gonna win? /rolleyes

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Hair makes you ineffective? How? If you have long hair (I do, have since I was aged 12) you instinctively see through or past it. To say it impacts your combat effectiveness any more than, say, wearing a hat is a myth.

      Also, this is the far future, with presumably a few advances in cosmetics,and Shepard spends 90% of her time on the Normandy…you know, with the fishtank and the music player and model ship collection, all those hardcore military accessories.

  48. TheGameSquid says:

    One day, I swear to god, I’ll make a game starring a whole bunch of the most mediocre/ugly-looking people you’ve ever seen running around in world where it’s absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to do your hair, finely trim your beard, choose the best shoes in your closest and apply make-up before going into sweet sweet alien combat.

    Then I’ll go in time, publish it and solve my many psychological complexes! HUZZAH!

  49. YourMessageHere says:

    My own Ms Shepard is obviously who I’ll play ME3 with; as such, I have no interest at all in the default appearance. If I was dying to play using a default face, however, I’d be really annoyed that I can’t actually vote without being part of sodding Facebork to begin with. Polls on websites are too old-fashioned, or something?

    Never did understand why they didn’t do a downloadable version of the trailer via their own Bioware Cerberus DRM Network thing that used your own Shepard in the trailer. Might as well use this silly network integration rubbish if they went to all the trouble of making it. As it is I can’t watch a trailer for ME3 without thinking of it on some level as an experience I can’t ultimately have, because my character’s not in it.

  50. Gvaz says:

    Numbers 1 and 6 are the best ones. You’re all stupid if you think otherwise.