Friday, July 29, 2011

Redemption stories - from chump to champ

Some characters are cut from heroic cloth. From the very start of Halo, Master Chief was all shining armour and against-any-odds heroism. As soon as you start Just Cause Agent Rico is a paragliding, carjacking secret agent from James Bond school of driving. Captain Shepherd knows one end of the galaxy from the other the moment you start playing Mass Effect. It must be nice to burst forth into the game world as a well rounded and fully realised paragon of coolness and capability, but just like in real life, not everyone gets a lucky break. Some guys have to work for it.

For every lead character that exemplifies heroism and selflessness, there’s another whose moral compass has got a bit too close to the speaker magnets. For every character who displays an effortless sense of style and grace under pressure, there’s another who’s panicking, shrieking and begging for someone to explain what’s going on. Obviously, we at Megabits are all effortlessly cool and competent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sympathise with the guys who take some time to find themselves. Here are our favourite chump to champ, crook to paragon stories.

Starkiller/Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Starkiller tops our list because he fits neatly into both categories. He starts out as a whiny brat and ends the game as a whiny brat in a long coat, which for a Star Wars character represents a massive leap up the coolness food chain. More importantly, he starts out as Darth Vader’s apprentice and carries out numerous murderous missions for his master, but by the end of the game he’s instrumental in founding the Rebel Alliance which will go on to liberate the galaxy from the asthmatic space samurai. You don’t get much more redemptive than that.

John Marston/Red Dead Redemption
Ah, the western, the natural home of the redemptive tale, the place where you expect to find a killer come good. In John Marston, Red Dead Redemption hits all the bases: a man with a history of violence, murder and robbery, whose known associates include outlaws, banditos and the crazed Dutch van der Linde, a man who appears to be trying to halt the march of progress with ever increasing acts of savagery. The fact that all Marston wants is to return to his wife, son and drunk uncle shows just how far from his rotten roots he has come.

Gordon Freeman/Half Life
Granted, physicists are the coolest of all the scientists, but really, that’s not saying much. After all, Gordon Freeman starts Half Life as a goatee’d nerd too nervous to even speak to the ladies, but by the end of Half Life 2 Episode 2 he’s a crowbar wielding saviour, a gravity defying agent of ineffable forces, on a quest to save the Earth. And he’s still too nervous to even speak to the ladies. Maybe in Episode 3?

Travis Touchdown/No More Heroes
At every Comicon or gaming convention you can find an anime-collecting, pornography-loving geek who thinks that a lightsaber will alter his status in life more effectively than, say, personal hygiene. The brilliant thing about No More Heroes’ Travis Touchdown is that it turns out to be true. Winning a lightsa...sorry, Beam Katana in an online auction sees our flamboyant nerd step onto the ladder of coolness, bringing him wealth and status. Now when he rubs one out in the toilets it’s in order to er...charge his weapon.

Isaac Clarke/Dead Space
Putting Isaac Clarke in the same room as Gordon Freeman would be amusing. Much like Sheldon and Howard in The Big Bang Theory, Gordon would be able to console himself that even though he may be a nerdy scientist, at least he has one up on Isaac, who is equally nerdy, but only an engineer. An engineer whose girlfriend was so committed that she disappeared off into deep space without him. Still, from these inauspicious beginnings does coolness and heroism eventually grow, as Isaac dissects monsters, blasts asteroids and eventually disposes of an ancient and incredibly evil space-totem. Not bad for a guy with pocket protectors and polyester trousers, eh?

Perhaps the ultimate patsy, Jack’s whole life was someone else’s power play, and his presence in Rapture has been engineered by external forces. Even his actions when he gets there are not his own. But instead of being everybody else’s mug, Jack emerges from the experience stronger, wiser and, depending on your choices, the saviour of seven sweet little girls who would otherwise have suffered a terrible fate. Nice comeback.

Ezio/Assassin’s Creed II
While Assassin’s Creed had a fully trained badass in the form of Altair, players of the sequel have to start out with Ezio, a fop so far down the coolness pecking order that his first lessons in assault and evasion come not from an actual hardcase, but from a fellow renaissance dandy. When you’re getting lessons in toughness from a fey Florentine, you know you’ve got a long way to go in the coolness stakes. Luckily, Ezio climbs the coolness ladder with the same speed and efficiency that he scales European landmarks.

Andre Bishop/Fight Night Champion
At the start of Fight Night Champion, Andre Bishop is an ex-contender, a con with anger management problems and the marks of a serious prison beating. Not many people come back from that, but by the end of the game, when you’ve defeated a boss so difficult you’ll think you’re playing a game from the 1980s, you’ll find that your sense of achievement in real life matches that of Andre in the’re the Champ.

Grayson Hunt/Bulletstorm
Sure, Epic Games and EA pulled one out of the bag with their new IP Bulletstorm but questions must surely have been raised by the execs in the boardroom at the decision to cast a violent drunk as the protagonist. However, the transition from heavily imbibed assassin to loveable rogue proves pretty seamless as the game progresses, Hunt discovering that all those nasty no-hopers he’d so happily been dispatching were, in fact, innocent civilians and he was nothing but a pawn of his former boss General Sarrano. He’s therefore determined to right those wrongs and kick Sarrano’s ass.

Cole MacGrath/Infamous
A humble courier just minding his own business gets caught up in an almighty firestorm when Empire City spontaneously explodes, leaving him able to shoot electricity from his fingertips. Suddenly, Mr Ordinary is tasked with saving not only the city but the entire world, and making some pretty mammoth karmic decisions along the way. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Leon Kennedy was also pretty damn lame in RE2, but became completely awesome in RE4.

Raiden from mgs2 to mgs4. That's the biggest change ever.