The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
I was trolling Twitter today when Andy McNamara, head honcho of GI, asked a question. Basically, should Valve make Gordon Freeman silent again if Half-Life 3 is ever made/released. It made me think, and a blog appeared in my head. Yea... I operate in unconventional ways. It was a simple question, but a complex one at the same time.
The voice of a protagonist is a huge part of a video game, even if it is overlooked. If done wrong, it can take away from the gameplay experience. In particular, I have never been a fan of the voice actors in the Resident Evil games, and it effects the games.
If done correctly, however, that impact is reversed. An often overlooked aspect of the Mass Effect games (3 in particular), is the voice acting. It definitely adds to the game when Shepard gets emotional because it shows through the stellar voice acting. The supporting cast also shines with their voices. Thane is a pretty recognizeable voice, along with Jack, Grunt, Tali, and Liara. Mass Effect wouldn't be the same if Shepard was a silent hero.
Grand Theft Auto always has memorable voice actors. From Ray Liotta in Vice City, to Sam Jackson and James Woods in San Andreas, the series never disappoints. No matter the role of the character in the game, you can always tell that the voice actors are carefully picked for each individual role. But... if you look to GTA III, you play the silent protagonist and it still works out splendidly.
Thinking about GTA III makes my mind wander to some of the Nintendo powerhouses....
Their flagship, Mario, is such a silent protagonist. Sure, he has the occasional "It's-a me!" and other such phrases, but there's little to no dialog to speak of. And yet, fans are constantly chomping at the bit to get their hands on the next game with "Mario" in its title. Then there's Link of the Zelda games. Most gamers consider one Zelda game or another their favorite, or among the industry's best. To my knowledge, however, aside from a few grunts here and there, he has a permanent case of strep throat. Then there's the Pokemon powerhouse. While there's no actual audio speaking to mention, the protagonist doesn't even have much text-based dialog. There's the mandatory "Yes" answer when receiving the Pokedex, and maybe the occasional yes/no answer, but your character says absolutely nothing.
Some games make the switch from a silent main character to a more vocal one. The first that comes to mind is Dragon Age. I loved the first installment, but the silent main character has always been a point on the negative side. He/She spoke during combat, but honestly, I am concentrating on avoiding death and not listening to quips. When it came to conversations with squad mates, The Warden is about as interesting as a brick wall. Bioware fixed this in Dragon Age 2. While it is an inferior game to the first installment, DA2 did well in my book by incorporating a more vocal protagonist.
When a series goes for so long with either vocal or silent main characters, its difficult to stray away from it. Master Chief wouldn't be the same if he was spouting off insults to fallen enemies, and Mario would be silly doing that when stepping on Goomba's and turtles and such. Then again, if the next protagonist in Grand Theft Auto V was silent, it would cause a pretty huge backlash.
So... should Gordon Freeman have a voice in Half-Life 3? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.