30 Days of Video Games: Day 26, best voice acting

I initially thought this prompt would be difficult, since I wasn’t sure where to go with it.  And I’m sure there are better voice-acted games out there than I’m putting down right now, but I think I’m going to have to go with Gears of War.  Yes, yes, I’m a fangirl.  But I’ve always felt that the characters are what really make this game, and a large part of the characters is their voices.

Each of the members of Delta Squad has a unique voice that matches his personality and makes him a fully fleshed out character.  Marcus’s cynical, laconic gruffness adds to his mystery.  Dominic is gentle and soft-spoken, but can tell it like it is when he needs to.  Baird is a pain in the butt, just whiny enough to annoy you, but not so whiny that he grates on you and makes you wish you could turn and shoot him.  And then there’s Cole, whose enthusiasm and exuberance adds humor.  He tells it like it is in a way that makes us shake our heads, but we’re smiling when we do.

All three of their individual voices add a lot to their interactions.  They are all so completely different in terms of personality, and that shows through in their speech with each other and with other people.  The NPCs also have good voice acting, and as you play and listen you get the feeling that these could be real people.  Not only are these characters well-written, but they’re well-acted as well, making them more real than most.

Like I said, I’m sure there are better choices out there, but for me, for now, I’d say Gears of War has the best.

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30 Days of Video Games: Day 18, Favorite Protagonist

Yesterday we took a look at my favorite antagonist.  Games and stories need conflict and obstacles, which usually come in the form of antagonists.  But they also need protagonists.  Pretty much unless you’re playing a puzzle game you’re playing as a protagonist (Portal and Portal 2 exempted), whether it’s in first or third person, shooter or platformer, survival, or adventure.  A likeable protagonist can make the game easier to immerse yourself in, and can make the game more interesting.  For example, I highly disliked Dead Space because I couldn’t get behind the protagonist, Isaac Clarke at all.  I didn’t care about his story, didn’t know what was at stake, and I felt like I was being ordered around from place to place for no real reason.  You could argue the same happens in BioShock, but they fit that into the story.  You could also argue that all game protagonists are ordered from place to place by the sheer nature of game mechanics.  But from a story-based perspective, a protagonist is vital

That’s why I’m pretty sure my favorite protagonist is Marcus Fenix from Gears of War.  For starters the storyline of Gears is fantastic in and of itself.  But it’s one of those franchises in which I believe the characters really make it.  One of the reasons I got so into it was because I love the dynamics of Delta Squad.  Baird and Cole do plenty of talking, and Dom does plenty of peace-making, but it’s Marcus who’s really fascinating.

I’m one of those people who likes to really get into a franchise and its lore.  So I’ve read the Gears of War novels and gotten a lot of background, and from it, I’ve come to like Marcus as a protagonist even more.  The son of a wealthy, prominent scientist, Marcus spends most of his youth with the blue-collar Santiago family.  He’s considered an honorary brother by both Dom and his older brother Carlos.  Marcus is quiet, and when he’s not quiet he’s gruff and matter-of-fact.  He’s this huge, hulking guy, but he’s intelligent and introspective.

He joined the COG army as a mere Gear rather than an officer; his father’s wealth and standing could have gotten him a commission as an officer easily.  But Marcus is a man of principles, and would rather enlist with his brothers and work his way up with them.  He’s a man who wants to earn his keep rather than have things given to him.  He’s a man of duty, but he’s also a man who cares deeply about those he loves and cares about.

When Gears of War opens, Dom has just freed Marcus from a prison in Jacinto City.  Marcus has been serving time in the deepest, darkest cell there for abandoning his post.  Insubordination is a major offense in the military, but it’s later revealed that he disobeyed orders to go save his father.  In the end he failed, but the fact that he risked himself and his future to rescue his estranged father speaks volumes about the kid of man that Marcus is.  Throughout the first mission in Gears of War several NPCs make comments to Marcus about his past, which he just shrugs off.  And when finally faced with the man responsible for his imprisonment, Marcus doesn’t fly off the handle or get angry.  He calmly accepts that they must work together to end the struggle against the Locusts.

Now that’s not to say that Marcus is all happy-go-lucky, forgive and forget.  Not at all.  Beneath his gruffly silent exterior it’s clear that he’s struggling with his feelings, but he’d rather keep them at bay and focus on the issue at hand.  He realizes that there are more important things than personal feuds, and that he can worry about the past once he’s ensured that they’ll all have a future.

And all that?  Is just in the first game.

Throughout Gears 2 Marcus continues to develop.  We learn more about his family with a trip to the derelict Fenix estate.  While he’s his usual self, it’s clear through some of Dom’s dialogue that the visit affects Marcus.  Dom knows Marcus better than anyone in Delta, after all.  And Dom spent some of his childhood visiting the estate (though the two spent far more time at the much smaller, but far homier Santiago home).  When it becomes clear that Adam Fenix, Marcus’s father, may still be alive, there’s a slight crack in Marcus’s stony exterior, but he manages to keep it together.  He travels to the locus of the Locust kingdom, confronts the Queen, sees Dom through his heart-wrenching reunion with Maria, and blows up a Lambent Brumak.  It’s just another epic moment for Delta Squad, but there’s definitely some emotional tension going on.

The end of Gears 2 sets up perfectly for Gears 3, which I confess I haven’t finished yet.  I got to Dom’s death scene and have had a hard time picking the game up again.  I know I should, if only so I can see how Marcus resolves things with his father and with his feelings about Dom’s loss.  For such a violent, gory game series, Gears of War creates some remarkable characters and relationships.  They become real people with real issues and emotions, as is clear with Dom and his search for Maria, and Marcus and his search for inner peace amidst all this turmoil.  He’s a huge mountain of a man, but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface that make him absolutely fascinating.

Tomorrow: Day 19, Picture of a game setting I wish I lived in.  I’m going to try to post it, but may end up double-posting on Sunday, since my concerts are this weekend and I have dress rehearsal AND a concert tomorrow.  Then seeing Bard 🙂

30 Days of Video Games: Day 9, Saddest Game Scene

I’ve seen many sad scenes in video games: from the baby Metroid sacrificing itself in Super Metroid, to Kat taking a needler in the head in Halo Reach. But there is one scene that hands-down takes this title. And not only does it take it, it twists the knife to make it hurt more, and then it pours lemon juice on the wound. I’ll cut for spoilers just in case, but the game’s been out since September so I’m not sure how much of a spoiler it’ll be. But better to be safe than get all sorts of irate comments, right? Continue reading

30 Days of Video Games: Day 5, a character you identify with

Characters are probably my favorite part of video games, as I said in the entry on May 2nd. A story is only as good as the characters who make it happen, in most cases at least, and again, just in my personal opinion. But I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book or played a game or seen a movie and thought, “Whoa, that’s so… me!” I see a lot of my personality quirks and foibles in some characters, but no one in particular that I think I definitely identify with.

I considered saying Samus Aran, for the sheer reason that she was kicking arse in a man’s world in the early days of NES gaming, much like I thought I was (hey, I was twelve, cut me some slack). But with the direction her personality and character have taken recently, I don’t feel like I can identify with her much. And besides, many females these days are gamers, and gamers of all varieties.

I could say my main Dragon Age character, Fianna Cousland, but again, she only has some of me in her. Her decisions are decisions I would make, since I’m controlling her through the game and trying to get the outcome I want in the game. In that sense I think it’s very easy to identify with the character, because her choices are my choices. Even Commander Shepard is a lot of me in that sense, so despite the sci-fi setting of Mass Effect, I still have a lot of myself invested into the game.

But for a character who’s been pre-written to behave in a certain way and make certain choices, it’s hard to think about identifying with them. Maybe in this case I identify with Anya Stroud, from Gears of War. In the first two games she’s calm, cool, and collected under pressure, and she has a job to do and gets it done. However, it’s clear that she wants to do more than sit behind a desk or at a com-link. She wants to be on the front lines kicking butt and taking names with the rest of the Gears. She doesn’t feel like she has something to prove, though. From what I’ve seen in the games and read in the novels, people are pretty sure Anya can and will hold her own on the field; but she’s so good at what she does off the field, they keep her there.

She accepts her role with dignity and does her job extremely well… but when the opportunity comes to rise to the occasion, she definitely does just that.

In that sense I think I identify with Anya. I have my job that I do, and do to the best of my ability. But at the same time, if opportunities to seize the moment arise, I’m all for it. I like to push myself and challenge myself and rise to the occasion, and not just in my teaching, but also when it comes to the other things I do: whether it be writing or singing. In my voice lessons I’m constantly pushing myself to learn technically difficult songs, and when my teacher gives me something difficult, her confidence in me inspires me to work that much harder. Much the same way the confidence of the other Gears inspires Anya to work hard. She works for them, so they work for her.

It’s not who I would expect to identify with, which is a nice surprise.

Tomorrow: Day 6, most annoying character. Good thing it says “most”. There are so many of them!