The lights are on
As part of our continued coverage of the greatest characters of the decade, we look at the artificially intelligent characters that have shaped the games we love. Our list looks back across the last 10 years to find a surprising number of compelling characters whose origin was completely artificial. Whether a malevolent computer program or a sentient transforming robot, these characters showed that science fiction storytelling is fond of the idea of machines that can think for themselves. Three of these characters even made our overall top 30 list. Scroll ahead to find out who else made the cut, as well as our honorable mentions on the final page. Then jump into our comments and let us know which of your favorites we may have missed. SPOILER ALERT: We talk about each character in detail, which reveals key plot points in some cases. Proceed with caution!
10. Eden from Rez
Fans of the 2002 PlayStation 2 release of Rez will talk your ear off about what makes the game so cool. Ultimately, behind the unique gameplay and hypnotic music is a strange existential story of an AI named Eden. The vast and powerful computer consciousness becomes so overwhelmed by the gathered knowledge of the world that it shuts down, and begins to doubt its presence in the universe. The trippy visuals and music that ensue throughout the game seem to echo the story of Eden’s confusion, and offer players a chance to reflect on similar themes. While Eden never emerges as a fully relatable character, she fills a classic sci-fi role as a foil to the viewers experience, challenging players to consider their own perception of self. Deep stuff for a rail shooter.
9. The Colonel from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of LibertyCalm down, Metal Gear enthusiasts. We know that Roy Campbell was a real man. But the AI that pretended to be Roy Campbell throughout Metal Gear Solid 2 sure wasn’t. The “Colonel” walked Raiden through a precise sequence of events and objectives throughout the Big Shell incident, using Raiden as a puppet in an attempt to recreate the improbable conditions of the Shadow Moses Incident and further the ends of the Patriot AI system. The Colonel AI’s most memorable scenes came near the end of the game, after Emma Emmerich managed to upload a virus that attacked his cognitive capabilities. As the climax of the game approaches, players are treated to a series of surreal outbursts from the malfunctioning program, adding to the tension of an already heated conclusion.
8. Optimus Prime from Transformers: War for CybertronOptimus Prime has appeared in many games beside his transforming brethren, but not until War for Cybertron did he match the coolness of the cartoon original. The story of the game revolves around Prime’s rise to power as leader of the Autobots, and makes clear why all those other robots are willing to follow him. Fearless, committed to high ideals, and more than capable of turning the tide of any fight, the original robotic *** shines in the recent game, and gets his first truly worthwhile video game appearance.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.