List with a Twist: The silent protagonist is a staple of modern shooters, with Gordon Freeman front and centre. Joannes Truyens takes a look at a couple of talkative gaming heroes he wishes were kept silent…
Alan Wake (Alan Wake)
The eponymous Alan Wake is kind of a jerk. He’s got an assholish streak that makes it tough to be around him (well, he is a writer). That’s alright, it makes his character infinitely more interesting than the valiant space marine who vomits righteousness all over everything. So why does he need to shut the fuck up?
It’s because he keeps spoiling everything. Throughout the game, Alan finds scattered pages of a manuscript he can’t remember writing. Granted, you’re never forced to have Alan read out those pages, but as soon as you let him, you’ll be wishing he kept his mouth shut.
“The man turned to face me. It was hard to make him out in the darkness of the forest that surrounded him, but the axe he lifted was plain to see,” reads one such page. Five seconds later, an axe-wielding man turns to face Alan. It’s bad enough to have someone narrate things as they happen, but Alan narrates everything before it happens. It’s like watching a movie, except there’s a guy sitting behind you shouting that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
Grayson Hunt (Bulletstorm)
Remember the valiant space marine who vomits righteousness all over everything? Grayson Hunt is only the space marine part. And maybe the vomiting part. The problem is that he is obsessed with genitalia. “Dicktits”, “pussyzilla”, “butterdick” and “tallylicker” are but a few choice obscenities. The man is a single dick joke stretched over an entire script.
I realise full well that Grayson’s affinity for dick jokes is part of Bulletstorm‘s intentionally brash and excessive tone. It would be like asking Duke Nukem to shut up. But as misogynistic and cheesy as Duke’s quips are, at least there is a hint of meaning and originality to them. Grayson calls his Asian friend “sushi dick”. That’s not even offensive, that’s just nothing.
There are plenty of shooters where every third kill is accompanied by a cheesy quip from their protagonists, but Grayson takes the cake by virtue of his singular focus on dick jokes. Somehow I don’t see “dicktits” making it into the memorable quotes section of gaming.
Alex Mason (Call of Duty: Black Ops)
All we usually hear of the Call of Duty protagonist is his laboured breathing whenever he’s absorbed too many bullets. The Modern Warfare games started playing around with the character of “Soap” MacTavish, who spoke whenever he wasn’t being controlled. But Black Ops was the first to have a fully voiced protagonist with Alex Mason.
One of his first lines is “Fuck you”, followed by a quick “Kiss my ass”. As with Alan Wake, the fact that Alex is a jerk isn’t why I wish they kept him silent. It’s more that all his lines consist of little more than variations on either “Vorkuta” or “Reznov”. If you made a drinking game out of that, you’d by dead of alcohol poisoning by the third mission.
A later scene has Alex stumbling down a corridor and constantly screaming “VORKUTA! VORKUTAAA! REZNOV! AAAAH REZNOV!” We get it, dude. This is only made worse by Australian actor Sam Worthington voicing the American Alex. His accent is all over the place, especially when there is shouting involved. And this being a Call of Duty game, you’d be hard-pressed to find a line that isn’t shouted.
Alex D (Deus Ex: Invisible War)
Deus Ex: Invisible War is a game that was soundly thrashed for its perceived ‘consolification’, meaning that its gameplay mechanics were streamlined and dumbed down for the console crowd. An unfortunate side-effect was that the game’s protagonist, Alex D, was literally dumbed down. Seriously, the man has no original thought. All he does is ask people questions and then regurgitate what they say. It doesn’t help that the voice actor’s delivery is utterly flat and lifeless.
I understand why they turned Alex into a complete moron. Deus Ex had datacubes, emails, newspapers and bulletin boards to bring across plot-relevant information, but Invisible War was considered from the ground up with the Xbox in mind. The developers couldn’t expect everyone to keep getting off their couches to read fine print off their television set. All the necessary plot points needed to be communicated through dialogue, which means Alex can only stand there while other characters ramble off whatever encyclopaedia entry he asked about.
JC Denton has deeply philosophical discussions with bartenders and Adam Jensen has a no-nonsense attitude that brings across an intensity of character. Whenever Alex opens his mouth, all that comes out is derp.