In the wake of E3, I took some time to sift through the many, many, soldier and/or zombie oriented games to look for any traces of promising female characters in this upcoming gaming year. What I found I’ve broken down into three categories: “The Good”, “The Same”, and “The Ridiculous.”
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation: PS Vita
A bonafide “full Assassin’s Creed Experience” boasts Ubisoft, featuring a half French/Half African-American Protagonist in 1700’s New Orleans. Albeit, maybe trying to kill a few too many birds with one stone, seems like a pretty cool concept. In my mind, this seems to me a heck of a lot cooler than it’s big-system companion game, George Washington’s Creed. At least they are experimenting with a female protagonist, even if it is on the smaller hand-held console scale. The main character, Abeline, looks kind of like a badass female Jack Sparrow as she flies through the swamps sticking knives down people’s throats. If I had a Vita, I would definitely be excited to check this out and see what they do with this character.
Beyond Two Souls: PS3
Starring Ellen Page as a badass bald girl with a big ol’ scar on her head. Coming from the creators of Heavy Rain, I expect this to be a game to experiment with some interesting things in terms of decision making and gameplay in general. The trailer shows Page’s character using telekinetic powers to fight her way through various obstacles. The gameplay footage shows her using her abilities to do everything from knocking a water bottle over to busting through a line of police officers. I’ve always been a fan of Ellen Page, despite how generally annoying Juno was, and seeing a female protagonist with a normal shape and underdog size is a welcome sight. Hopefully it will encourage more normal looking female and male protagonists in the future.
Borderlands 2: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
I for one, more or less enjoying playing through the first Borderlands game. I can’t say my experience was greatly enhanced by playing as the sassy looking female character. I did enjoy changing her hair color every now and then, and I did like the way she looked holding a gigantic rocket launcher, but that was about it. Honestly, it made no difference which character I was playing as they have next to nothing to do with the story as individuals, nonetheless, I had a good time playing (despite the fact they killed off T.K. Baja.) A rare couch co-op gem that even has vertical split screen! (Seriously guys, what’s with the horizontal only split-screen? If you have a new gen-game system, you have a widescreen TV. Who can see anything with it split that way? Get your acts together.) My assumption is that Borderlands 2 will provide a similar experience, but with many, many, more guns as much of the promotional material has promised. The trailer did feature a female narrator, but I wouldn’t put any money on any one of the characters being too fleshed out. All and all, I’m up for some more cool guns, couch co-op fun, and dancing Clap-Traps, and will be picking this up after it’s September release.
The Last of Us: PS3
The latest Naughty Dog opus grabbed my attention. On top of some of the gameplay footage I saw taking place in my hometown, I expect it to be every bit the theatrical thrill-ride that we found in the Uncharted series. As far as the female side-kick goes, I haven’t gotten a good sense of who she is or what she does other than follow the protagonist around, but as an irregular character type, I’m excited to find out more about her. (Despite the “changes” made to the original character, she still looks a heck of a lot like Ellen Page, but hey she could have looked like Lara Croft.
The Secret World: PC
If this game was available for Mac, I would probably pre-order it today. I remember reading about it awhile back and being drawn to it’s modern setting and unique claim of “no classes, no levels.” I never expected to want to play another MMORPG after turning in my World of Warcraft armor years back, but I must admit I am intrigued, I didn’t let myself get too deep in the array of videos on Funcom’s website, as I didn’t want to further sadden myself over the PC only release, but I give them major kudos for originality in an MMO. With all the customizability that most MMO’s deliver, you can define your own identity, in my mind this is definitely worth checking out.
Dead or Alive 5: PS3, Xbox 360
Infamous for it’s big-breasted fighting action, Dead or Alive 5 seems to deliver exactly that. In the trailer we get to see a traditionally garbed Japanese girl kicked some ninja in the face with her Geta sandals. Expect the expected when it comes to this new release in terms of female characters.
“Brave” The Video Game: DS, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360
Featuring Disney/Pixar’s rowdy new red-headed heroine, Brave the game looks like a top-down style dungeon crawler which I’m assuming tells the story of the movie. Probably not making any great strides here, but who knows, it might be the natural segway for little girls to go from Disney toDiablo. Disney is also releasing a bevy of other girl-centric games that looks more or less insulting, but only the array of real-life clothing brands featured in the soon to be epic, Disney’s: City Girl will let us know for sure.
Fable: The Journey: Xbox 360
Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan of the Fable franchise. An equal-opportunity adventure, you can always play as a woman, (albeit a strangely large woman with no suitable in-game men to mate with, but still.) Featuring a story as gender-neutral and unbiased as the Mass Effect games, the Fablefranchise has done a good job. The co-op mode has also evolved in a cool way throughout the series, with the last game allowing you to play couch co-op with two completely individualized characters which was pretty darn neat. The trailer for this new installment however, makes me completely uninterested. An average looking male youth summoning fire-balls in this Kinect-sploitation trailer does no justice to the revolutionary elements of the Fable games. Especially in the wake of some of the amazing trailers for previous fable games this trailer does nothing for me but isolate me as a female gamer who doesn’t own a Kinect.
Tomb Raider: PS3, Xbox 360
Lara Croft’s creator once explained that he envisioned here as, “a female character who was a heroine…cool, collected, in control. It was never my intention to create some kind of ‘page 3’ girl to star in Tomb Raider.” But, low and behold she will go down in infamy as the poster girl of the sexy stereotypical female game character. As far as the new game is concerned, her boobs are smaller, so I guess we have to give them that. I am on the fence about the new Lara. The trailer gives us a taste of what could be an interesting journey in terms of character development, but in my opinion, if they had just called her by a different name, I think this could have possibly been a big achievement in terms of allowing a female heroine to take the stage in a big-budget game. Instead it reeks of a stigma concerning female identity in games that I don’t think can ever really be shaken. But, it of course, will sell a trillion copies so what can you do?
Aliens: Colonial Marines: DS, PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360
I really cannot even begin to fathom why, a game based on a franchise with one of the most memorable, strong female protagonists would be mutilated into just another generic soldier game. This is gigantic missed opportunity if there ever was one in terms of creating a game heroine who could be easily both sexy and badass with no public backlash because the character already exists and has been loved for generations. Honestly, what were they thinking?
Demon’s Score: Android/iPhone
If you’ve always dreamed of a music game featuring a scantily-clad pink-haired heroine with a dancing Teddy-bear companion, well my friend, it’s your lucky day. This one I almost couldn’t believe, and almost really want to play for some strange reason. Thanks, Japan. You never let me down.
Lollipop Chainsaw: PS3. Xbox 360
When I saw this one I let out a genuine “ugh.” Yet another zombie killing game, only this time featuring a busty blonde cheerleader yielding a chainsaw. Just what I’ve always looked for in a game, unlockable costumes! It makes me sad that people spent so much time and effort to put such a game out into the world. As a fan of Troma and the like, I wish they had taken the overweight Asian woman with a meat-cleaver from the Sleeping Dogs trailer, and made the game about her. Now that is a game I would have spent sixty bucks on. Whether a game is self-aware about it’s ridiculousness or not, this is still as generic as it gets.
So that’s it for me as far as what I gleaned after sitting through 3,000 Speed Stick deodorant commercials on Gamespot. By the time I got to the end of the list, I felt exhausted after watching so much of the same. People are finally starting to acknowledge the importance of games, and E3 is one of the most talked about gaming events of the year. It makes me sad that the fictional female soldier voiced by Jane Lynch in the Wreck-It Ralph trailer was the most promising new female game protagonist, and it’s not even for real. I’m anxious to see what comes of the few promising characters I’ve mentioned, but overall, it’s sad to see the lack of any kind of shift in general. For now, I guess we ladies will have to throw on our cheerleading uniforms and keep yielding our chainsaws, in hopes of a better tomorrow.