By dankempster 7 Comments
Hi guys, and welcome to the third part of My Best of 2010 Awards. If you missed parts One and Two, you can find them here and here respectively. Before I get this underway, I just want to clarify that this is going to be a little different to most other end-of-2010, game-of-the-year style blogs. For a start, this isn't limited to games that came out in 2010. Instead, it encompasses every single game I've seen the credits roll in since January 1, whether they were a 2010 release or not. The reason behind this is simple – I spend a lot of my time playing older titles. Even though 2010 saw me playing a lot more 'current' titles than any year before, I'd still feel a lot more comfortable incorporating everything I've played this year into this little award ceremony. Also, you won't see me picking a definitive 'Game of the Year' anywhere here. I'm dead set against the notion that one game can be held head and shoulders above the others, because they all offer such different experiences. Instead, I'll be selecting my top ten most memorable gaming experiences of 2010 and blogging about them on New Year's Eve. With that cleared up, let's proceed.
Part Three - The CharactersEvery great story is carried by a great protagonist, or antagonist, or both. Video games are no different, and the characters we play as or fight against can often be just as memorable as the games themselves. This third part of My Best of 2010 Awards is dedicated to the incredible characters that I've met over the course of the year in my gaming adventures.
Best HeroOne mark of a great game is a protagonist that the player can care about. Interesting, relatable heroes are something of a rarity in the games industry, but every now and then you stumble across a genuinely interesting character that makes the journey even more enjoyable. These are the characters I most enjoyed playing as in 2010.
Bronze – James Sunderland (Silent Hill 2, PS2)James Sunderland is one of the most believable protagonists I've come across in a video game (questionable voice acting aside). He felt like a character ripped out of a tragedy, inexorably marching towards a grim truth while flirting with the boundaries of sanity. His inner turmoil and confusion are what really kept me going through Silent Hill 2 - I wanted to find out what was really going on not just in the town, but in James' head as well.
Silver – Commander John Shepard (Mass Effect & Mass Effect 2, X360)Following my Commander Shepard through the first two Mass Effect games has been one of the highlights of my gaming year. Despite sticking with the stock appearance and name for the character, I really felt like I moulded Shepard's journey into a unique, personal experience. Taking the Renegade path and seeing him cut other characters down with words as well as weapons was highly rewarding, and through the character-building dialogue I really felt like I was getting to know another person. I'm really looking forward to teaming up with Shepard again in Mass Effect 3.
Gold – John Marston (Red Dead Redemption, X360)
Not since Final Fantasy VII have I felt so involved in the story of a protagonist as I did with John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. Far from being the ruthless gunslinger that his appearance suggests, getting to know John over the course of his quest for redemption is a very rewarding experience. The game's lengthy story missions show John to be a family man, trying to break the ties that bind him to his criminal past so that his son Jack might have the life he never did. By the time Red Dead Redemption reached its bittersweet conclusion, I'd come to respect and appreciate John for the flawed hero that he was. Here's hoping that Rockstar continues to deliver such incredible characters in future.
Best VillainA great villain provides the impetus for a great game. If we don't care about the enemy or their motives, there's very little incentive for a player to press on. Below are some of my favourite bad guys from 2010 - antagonists that I loved to hate and couldn't wait to put in their place.
Bronze – Lucifer (Dante's Inferno, X360)While Dante's Inferno was a bit hit-and-miss for me, I thought the characterisation of its main villain was brilliant. For a start, this guy is the chuffing devil. They don't come much more evil than that. On a more serious note, I loved the way he could appear at will in the form of black smoke, loquaciously taunting Dante and threatening sexual involvement with Beatrice as a means of spurring the Crusader on through Hell. Finally reaching the ninth circle and seeing his true form was a fantastic moment, even if the final boss battle was a little lacklustre.
Silver – Al Mualim (Assassin's Creed, X360)Video game writers are generally very bad at handling plot twists. I can usually spot an "unexpected" villain reveal a mile off. Assassin's Creed is an instance where I genuinely didn't see it coming. Al Mualim's manipulation of Altair to remove the nine Templars was only revealed at the last, with any suspicion held at bay by some great characterisation. While I could tell that the leader of the Hashshashin had some grand design in mind, I had no idea it would be such a selfish plan. The writers at Ubisoft did a great job of keeping Al Mualim's motives hidden, making him a very memorable villain.
Gold – Dr. Fetus (Super Meat Boy, XBLA)
I know what you're thinking. Why have I placed a ridiculous cartoon foetus above a manipulative mentor and even Satan himself? The answer is pretty simple - Dr. Fetus is an awesome, awesome bad guy. With his kidnapping Bandage Girl, Meat Boy's motives are established right from the start. He also oozes character, largely thanks to some brilliant animation on the part of Team Meat. Finally, as if all that wasn't enough to earn Dr. Fetus the top spot, consider this. If you played Super Meat Boy last year, think back to all those fiendish circular saws, moving platforms and walls of spikes that claimed so many of Meat Boy's fragile lives. Every single one of those traps was put in place by this twisted infant as a means of stopping our fleshy friend. If that isn't a good enough reason to declare Dr. Fetus Best Villain, then I don't know what is.
Best CompanionWhether it be online co-op or AI-controlled combat support, you can't move in the games industry these days for player companions. 2010 brought a pretty eclectic mix of supporting characters for me. Here's my pick of the bunch.
Bronze – Urdnot Wrex (Mass Effect, X360)While Mass Effect 2 trumps its predecessor overall in terms of interesting supporting characters, I still think Wrex is the most memorable character from either game. Learning about his past, and by extension the story of the Krogan race, really made me empathise with their situation and had a big influence on how I dealt with a lot of situations pertaining to the genophage in both games. On top of his interesting background, Wrex also proved to be a great party member, balancing out against my Infiltrator Shepard. I really hope Wrex makes a comeback in a squad capacity in Mass Effect 3, as I'd love to embark on missions with him again in the future.
Silver – Sheva Alomar (Resident Evil 5, X360)A lot of people moan about Sheva in Resident Evil 5, but I found her to be an incredibly useful companion in my journey through Kijuju. She was always on hand with healing items if I ran into trouble, and provided really great combat support throughout the game, even if she did eat through my ammunition a little too fast for my liking. I personally think she's one of the most intelligent AI companions I've ever had in a video game, and I look forward to working with her again the next time I play through RE5.
Gold – The Dog (Fable II, X360)
There is no greater bond than the one between a boy and his dog. So the saying goes, and Fable II provides a pretty compelling argument in its favour. The constant presence of a canine companion didn't seem like that big of a deal when I first started out in Albion, but as my adventures wore on I found myself getting more and more attached to the mutt. My dog proved an invaluable adventuring buddy, pointing me in the direction of treasures that I might've missed otherwise. His involvement in the various character interactions probably played a big part in developing that bond, too. When the time came to make my final choice at the end of the game's storyline, I couldn't bring myself to do the right thing and fulfil the needs of the many, simply because I couldn't imagine going through any of the post-game content without my best friend. That's probably the best indicator I can give for just how attached I became to my dog in Fable II, and my best justification for awarding him the Best Companion Award.
Funniest CharacterA well-written comedic character in a video game is hard to come by, but incredibly rewarding when you do. I met my fair share of funny characters in 2010, and these are the funniest ones, at least in my mind.
Bronze – Mordin Solus (Mass Effect 2, X360)On the surface, a hard-nut, know-it-all Salarian scientist doesn't sound like the best foundation to build the funnies on. In the case of Mordin, though, something about it just works. Maybe it's his rapid speech, skipping out on function words as if they're completely unnecessary. Maybe it's his dismissive attitude towards everything Shepard seems to throw at him, a byproduct of his confidence in his mental abilities. Whatever it is, there's no denying that Mordin is a very well-written comedic character. Still disagree? Then ask him about Gilbert and Sullivan.
Silver – Guybrush Threepwood (The Secret of Monkey Island, XBLA)If I had to pick the funniest overall game of 2010 for me, it'd definitely be The Secret of Monkey Island. A big part of that is the character of Guybrush Threepwood. He's written incredibly well, and the writing is bolstered by a flawless vocal performance from Dominic Armato. Every single one of Guybrush's witty lines is guaranteed to raise a chuckle from all but the most stone-faced of gamers. Best moment? Without a doubt, I'd have to say the swordfighting training segment.
Gold – Bolo Santosi (Just Cause 2, X360)
I'd like to stress that Bolo Santosi isn't like the runners-up for this category at all. She isn't a well-written comedic character at all - she's a horrendously-written serious character. Somehow, though, that manages to make her even more funny than characters which are meant to be funny. A combination of dodgy, innuendo-laced script-writing and awkward intonation from her voice actor ensures that every single sentence that rolls off of Bolo's tongue is comedy gold. She's head of the Reapers, you know.
Character I Hope to Never See AgainEvery now and again you'll run into a character that you just hate. Maybe they're poorly written, maybe they feel out-of-place in the game world, or maybe they're just straight-up unlikeable. I met my fair share of awful characters in 2010, but here are my top three - the ones I wouldn't even piss on if they were on fire.
Bronze – Ashley Williams (Mass Effect, X360)Weird face aside, I didn't care much for Ashley right from the start of my Mass Effect playthrough. As her true colours became apparent and she revealed herself to be a horrible racist, I stopped interacting with her altogether. When the time came to choose between Kaidan and Ashley on Virmire, I had no problems sending her to her doom.
Silver – Genesis Rhapsodos (Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, PSP)I enjoyed Crisis Core a lot. The Zack-and-Aerith parts of the story were pretty great, and I loved the action-oriented combat system. I even kinda liked the incorporation of Angeal, Zack's mentor, into the Final Fantasy VII world. I can't say the same for Genesis Rhapsodos. Another one of Shinra's SOLDIER experiments gone rogue, Genesis felt like he'd been retconned into the franchise just to avoid the otherwise inevitable cliché of a final showdown against Sephiroth. The existence of Genesis left a sour aftertaste from what was an otherwise satisfying return to one of my all-time favourite game worlds.
Gold – Barry Burton (Resident Evil, GC)
I'm aware Barry has something of a cult status among Resident Evil fans, mainly for his humorous dialogue. Personally, I just found him annoying. The GameCube REmake removes all of Barry's famous comic lines, leaving him as little more than an annoying presence with a poor voice actor and an ulterior motive that's about as subtle as a flashing neon sign saying "I'm being manipulated behind the scenes and will betray you before the game is over". I hated - nay, despised - Barry Burton. With a plan to get better acquainted with the franchise in the coming months, I'm praying that he doesn't appear in any other canonical Resident Evil title. One dose of Barry is one dose too many.
And on that note, I bring Part Three of My Best of 2010 Awards to a close. Agree wholeheartedly, or think I missed the mark? Let me know below. I'm always grateful for feedback of any kind. Tomorrow I'll be posting Part Four, a look at 2010 beyond the games console - the music, books, and general events that made my year. On New Year's Eve, I'll be posting the final part of this - ten hand-picked titles that stand above everything else I played in the last twelve months. As always, thanks for reading, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing – Fallout: New Vegas (X360)