This is an old article I wrote sometime last year that was uploaded to a web site, which I took with me when I stopped writing for them. What do you mean pointless filler because I can’t think of original material…?

We always want to be our heroes. Or at least a hero of great magnitude. Movies are full to bursting of our personified dreams and fantasies. There is no reason to suggest why games don’t hold the same craving. We can’t pretend that shooting aliens and mugging grannies is something that we would dismiss given the chance. So here is a list of titles that play host to some awesome characters and situations. As well as their drawbacks…

10) Medal of Honour/Call of Duty 5 (i.e. the archetype WWII soldier)

Nothing calms a platoon down quite like a series of horrific explosions...

Why so?

Okay, I’m not for one minute suggesting that being in the midst of a world war is akin to a pleasant sojourn across a meadow of daises and sex. We can all agree that wars are – for lack of a better adjective – bad. But it can’t have escaped any gamer’s knowledge that taking on the persona of a World War II American soldier is like seeing the Waco siege from the perspective of one of the police officers. Okay, you may die in the process but it must be good to know that whatever happens you are (or were – or at least some bits of you still are) on the winning team.

That and the 60’s have yet to happen. Oh yes.

However…

It’s still a war. One of the worst the world has ever seen in fact. Not that people are ranking them in top ten lists (now there’s thought…). Being on the winning team is not much use when you’ve seen the shores of Normandy from great heights thanks to a landmine. And even if you survive you’ll be too old to enjoy the 60’s when they finally roll round anyway.

9) Portal

Portal 1: my mattress. Portal 2: Ruth Jones' crotch.

Why so?

Wielding a new piece of technology that opens portals from one point in space to another is pretty much the only reason this one is on the list. But it’s a pretty big incentive. Having the portal gun is like having Event Horizon‘s gravity drive if it was marketed by Apple. There are a myriad of other possibilities that can be unleashed with this largely untested piece of apparatus. I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say it may make the game less suitable for children. Probably even adults as well.

And if that becomes boring you can always enjoy the comedy stylings of GlaDOS (“What’s the deal with that resonance cascade in Black Mesa…?” etc.)

However…

Apeture Science is a complex limited in size and there are only a number of places to explore. Unless, you know, you can locate a window. And the humorous lines of the in-house computer suddenly become less jovial when you realise it’s a sentient being capable of insane malice and is totally trying to kill you, yo.

8 ) Postal 2

Brings a whole new meaning to the term "I have inserted my automatic rifle into my cats bum hole" doesn't it?

Why so?

I regret that this one is hard to justify without sounding like a sociopath, but the cathartic maimings of The Postal Dude is a violent endeavour that secretly every gamer wishes to be able to experience first-hand. It’s that age-old question of whether or not you would murder someone if you knew you could get away with it. Being the ‘hero’ of Postal 2 combines the brutal world of a maniacal neighbour out shopping for groceries (for real), armed to the follicles with an abundance of weaponry, and the lack of guilt felt when hurling scissors at/or dousing petrol onto over-the-top NPCs.

However…

The game’s tackiness is enough to make one raise an eyebrow. Running amok with rifles and Molotovs may lose its appeal when it becomes apparent that people’s reaction to your anti-social antics runs the gamut between stupidly fearsome and brainlessly nonchalant.

7) Goldeneye 64

To be fair that IS one sexy door frame...

Why so?

I suppose this could include any Bond game. But who in the name of Daniel Craig’s buttocks could possibly pass up the opportunity to play the world’s most suave, chauvinistic, phallus-driving secret agent? Guns, cars, gadgets, women, alcoholism. It’s like my life only without the first four things. I chose Goldeneye in particular because of its stance as one of the most loved of all Bond games. Sure game characters may have developed detailed features since then, and their hands have evolved from the closed oblong fists they were, but taking on the role of 007 is still a bit of a no-brainer.

However…

As flashy and cool as it sounds, being the world’s most formidable Ministry of Defence spy would have it’s drawbacks. There is a never-ending slew of people with comical accents trying to best you in a game of ‘I’ve got the most elaborate death machine ever’. And he never gets tested for Chlamydia does he? That should surely be a priority…

6) Dead Rising

"I hate you more than I can express. So here's a bench..."

Why so?

This is basically the large-scale equivalent of a child being let loose in a sweet shop. Frankly, there is simply not enough spontaneous looting being done in this game. Were I to take on the persona of investigative journalist Frank West stuck in a shopping centre for 72 hours I’d still find the time to baseball bat a zombie or twelve, but you can rest assured I’d leave that place with a lot more shiny and expensive objects than I went in with.

However…

“Bloody zombies everywhere! Can’t a guy procure some fashionable trinkets without the threat of being mauled in the spine?! No you can’t eat my kneecaps! Back I say you swine lest I should pummel you with these here Coldplay CDs!”

5) Aliens vs. Predator

Generic marine no.803 heads to the diary room to talk about his feelings about generic exoskeleton Xenomorph no. 23, Susan.

Why so?

Perhaps not so much the marines. As the alien, however, it’s the opportunity to strike fear into the hearts of another species and to climb up and through vents like a hyperactive spider-monkey. You may look like a deformed skeleton wrapped in bin liners but there aren’t many other species that come close to your unbridled viciousness and speed. And I really don’t think I need to say much about playing the predator. We all know that would be awesome-trousers.

However…

Being an alien also means you’re quite susceptible to bullet-y goodness. With just as many marines as there are aliens you’re bound to succumb to one of those curiously large shooting devices. As the predator you’re pretty much invincible but what do you do when you’ve hunted everything in the game? There aren’t going to be many terraformed planets that will give you a visa looking like that. Remove the skulls from your belt and maybe you’ll get served at McDonald’s. Maybe

4) Fallout 3

In the future zombies will be insatiable in a different way...

Why so?

It’s not only the chance to take on a fresh role that evolves along with the story, it’s also the chance to play a part in the remaking of humanity. With no official laws and rules the Capital Wasteland is as close to a free-for-all as you can get. And with no structured economy there is no one person hierarchically better off (with the possible exception of one or two). Civilisation reverts back to basics with only the strongest and most intelligent to fill the gene pool and keep the species going. Being a privileged Vault 101 dweller also gives you a head start in life. Like a white kid in middle America.

However…

It’s a big step away from the cushy interior of your Vault when you do step outside. Adjusting to natural light and the harsh outdoors would take more than the 18-seconds it takes in the game itself. Add onto that the levels of radiation, the mutated beasts and the undrinkable water (key, I feel, in society) it’s not going to be the fun adventure you were hoping for. Also there are no Subway outlets…

3) Thief

Hundreds of years before the Jeremy Kyle show, people had to make do with stained glass windows...

Why so?

Garrett is probably one of the most interestingly cynical characters in gaming. This sets him up as some sort of awesome anti-hero and who doesn’t like them? Plato argued that most people would forgo their morals if they knew they wouldn’t get caught. And what could be more enthralling than sneaking into rich guy’s homes, hiding in impossibly dark corridors and swiping the shiniest of shines? It’s sort of like being a peeping Tom only without the pantslessness and creepy drooling.

However…

You’d think by now Garrett – being a successful creature of the night – would have some sort of monetary stability. He may have to pay people off and buy new bludgeoning weapons but you’d think after three games he’d have something to show for it. At least buy some shoes that haven’t been lined with tungsten!

2) Oblivion (Or any Elder Scrolls game)

Not pictured: Terry Gilliam clasping two cocnut halves together in rhythm.

Why so?

Much like Fallout, it’s the chance to play a significant role in an unravelling story of honour, bravery, mystery and talking monstrosities. In most games the protagonist is the ultimate hero. Often it is only evidenced with a throwaway statement of “you are the only hope…kill all beings…rescue humanity…pick up some milk from Spar.” and it may feel as though your messianic mission is something anyone with a head can do. It’s not like that in the Elder Scrolls universe; there is a genuine feeling that you are the most important character around…like how I feel when I spend days browsing questionable websites in my underwear. Drunk.

Also, you totally get to set horses on fire.

However…

There is literally nothing else going on in games like Oblivion. Being famous for saving the world has obvious advantages but entire conversations between NPCs seem only to revolve around things that you’ve made happen. Fame is suddenly replaced by a feeling of superiority as you look down your noses at everyone else who has taken solace in the fact that all problems will disappear if they just leave it up to you, like the independent,  career-driven twats they are.

1) Left 4 Dead

"My name is Cedric. I like candelit dinners and unicycles. Also: Mmrrrrrrrr..."

Why so?

Because unlike other apocalypses, the zombie version is probably the only one of its kind that people actually want to happen. Why? It’s hard to say. But you can rest assure that humanity fighting to stay on top of the food chain probably accounts for it. It’s probably the only apocalypse that we can fight against. And being in Left 4 Dead also means you are immune to the infection. Which, when you think about it, means you’re already way ahead. I would imagine World War III would be just as popular if an immunity to nuclear assault and napalm was more common.

However…

It’s a tiring affair no doubt. These aren’t the George Romero-esque zombies that move at the speed of a rather lethargic glacier. These fuckers run and climb like a horde of tropical spiders only without actually being part of the arachnid family. And there’s only so much time you can spend with the same three people without tensions mounting. Sexual or otherwise. Oh, and no Subway outlets…

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