Anyone who’s so much as dabbled in the video game world will know that the key to any award-winning concept is through the hero. Without an enticing backstory and a genuinely convincing motive to drive them, players can get a little lost during the early hours of the narrative. And that can seriously exacerbate things when the campaign stretches to dozens of hours in length. Because, at the end of the day — nobody wants to be the passenger on a long and monotonous road trip where the driver has no entertaining qualities to keep us entwined.
We want a genuine connection — and we want it for the long-haul. We want to embark on enormous quests where our characters are forever keeping us on our toes through their unpredictable reality. And above all — we want to be able to stay on track without ever breaking the immersion from the world we’re embracing. That’s not a great deal to ask, right? Sure, it seems like quite a demanding list to boot — but it’s a fundamental part of any successful video game nonetheless. That said, as promising as these following five games were, it was the protagonists that ultimately dragged these otherwise fantastic stories into the dirt.
5. Aiden Pearce (Watch Dogs)
On the glossy tin that was the Watch Dogs trailer, Aiden Pearce looked like a promising character with plenty of mystery to shed. On top of his tanned trench coat and snapback combo, the hacker guru left almost everything open to the imagination. And that was something players were more than willing to adopt prior to stepping into Chicago as the masked hero. If anything, people were desperate to start piecing together the tech icon to help shape a backstory and motive. Only, Aiden Pearce, despite his anonymity, had neither to reveal over his lengthy tale. Instead, what we were left with was an emotionless drone that had about as much personality as a watered-down teabag.
4. Jessie & Zofia Blazkowicz (Wolfenstein: Youngblood)
If you enjoy cringe dialogue that never strays too far from the words “tubular” and “dude” — then you’ll love sister duo Jessie and Zofia Blazkowicz. But that’s about all you’ll love from this sisterhood, to be honest. Apart from that, you’ll also be treated to some of the most boring character development in recent gaming years. Even as the children of our beloved BJ Blazkowicz, almost nothing links the tedious twins to the iron soldier from previous Wolfenstein chapters. And that’s sad, considering the amount of room for growth that nested within the two. But unfortunately, the devs were content with copying clichés from a spool of bad eighties movies and nothing more. Shame, as Wolfenstein: Youngblood could’ve worked remarkably well as a tie-in chapter to the series.
3. Desmond Miles (Assassin’s Creed)
As much as we adore Assassin’s Creed and all of its fascinating additions to the character roster, there are some notable flaws that we can’t help but acknowledge. Desmond Miles, despite being the leading force of the first four games, really was just as bland as the environments he patrolled. Sure, Nolan North is a fantastic voice actor and a true credit to the gaming universe. But as far as implementing raw emotion into the oblivious hero went — nothing was captured. And if anything, the protagonist fell flat at almost every hurdle all the way through to the Black Flag finale. Painfully dull and monotone, Desmond Miles almost destroyed an overall phenomenal concept. And frustratingly, Ubisoft never looked to evolve the character into anything more than a monochrome carcass.
2. Duke Nukem (Duke Nukem)
If you’re buying into the likes of Duke Nukem, then you can definitely expect to encounter one of his many flaws along the way. Of course, being the frat hero he is, millions of players have idolized the blonde bad boy ever since he made his debut back in the nineties. But that was twenty years ago — and things have definitely changed a whole lot since then. Sure, the odd sexist remark might’ve tickled the occasional player some time ago, but after a while, those comments became a little sour and uncomfortable to receive. All in all, Duke Nukem never really evolved into anything more than a testosterone-fuelled meatbag. And while that can be sufficient for some — it can also be a serious issue in an otherwise fun little shooter for the rest.
1. Jason Brody (Far Cry 3)
It’s fair to say that the Far Cry franchise has never really embraced compelling protagonists. I mean, villains, sure. In fact, Ubisoft has always made sure to mould the opposition to leave a lasting mark on the player. Unfortunately, when it comes to designing the actual playable hero — all of that is immediately thrown from the table. Instead, what we’re left with is emotionless shells with very little room for character development. And the same goes for all Far Cry protagonists, to be fair. Though we do have to acknowledge Jason Brody for being one of the least likeable characters in the series. Because truth be told, he really is no different from the other Far Cry siblings. And, overall, he contributes nothing towards the franchise other than template voice work and predictable actions. And, honestly — where’s the fun in that?
Of course, what’s a diabolical hero without an equally as underwhelming sidekick? Just take these, for example.