The game industry runs on sequels. So much so, in fact, that when we tried to brainstorm our favorite new characters introduced at last week’s E3 2011, we struggled mightily. Then we realized: our favorite new faces at the show were actually the same old faces we’ve been seeing for years, but now updated with excitingly revamped roles, powers and personalities. Here are the most improved.
Agent 47 in Hitman: Absolution
He’s still bald. He’s still barcoded. He’s still rocking a classy suit and tie. Agent 47, however, isn’t the same assassin from five years ago, when the last Hitman game was released. If anything, he’s more like Batman in Arkham Asylum, with increased athleticism, increased spontaneity and – most intriguingly – increased awareness. The new Detect-… err, Instinct Mode enables our antihero to see through walls and predict enemies’ future movements. Preview
Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
Lara Croft is iconic for her beauty, agility and overall badassery, but not really for her personality. Until now. The new Tomb Raider doesn’t just reboot the franchise, it reboots the main character. As an unsure, inexperienced and frightened 21-year-old experiencing death and danger for the first time, Lara loses some of that aforementioned badassery, but becomes a much more likable and relatable hero in return. Preview
Serah Farron in Final Fantasy XIII-2
After spending the majority of Final Fantasy XIII as an inanimate object (she was turned into a crystal early on in the story), Serah's role in XIII-2 as a living, breathing person is already a vast improvement. Even better, she transforms from damsel-in-distress to courageous hero – when her sister Lightning mysteriously goes missing, Serah takes up arms and makes it her quest to find her. Preview
The Penguin in Batman: Arkham City
Perhaps the most hit-or-miss of Batman’s rogue gallery, The Penguin is usually portrayed as either a simple crime boss with a few eccentric quirks or, waaaaay on the other extreme, as a deformed mutant freak who eats raw fish and literally resembles the fat waddling bird. Arkham City, however, has found a more believable – and more believably creepy – middle ground, with an Oswald Cobblepot who is obviously grounded in reality, but whose quirks verge from “eccentric” into “violently psychotic.” A few examples: He collects humans in a massive museum, his monocle is actually the bottom of a broken bottle stabbed into his eye socket and he pits kidnapped policemen against each other in an underworld fight club. This Penguin is no one-joke pushover. Preview
Captain Anderson in Mass Effect 3
As far as we know, Captain (or Councilor, if you didn’t play as a complete renegade bastard) David Anderson has not undergone that drastic a transformation for Mass Effect 3. But he’s now a member of your squad! And likely “too old for this shit!” And even if he only sticks around for the opening mission, the opportunity to see this Alliance veteran on the battlefield – outside of what was described in the companion novels – has us excited enough to include him here. Preview
And the winner is…
Lara Croft in Tomb Raider
We can’t emphasize enough just how instantly winning and engaging the new Lara Croft is in what we’ve seen of Tomb Raider so far. Unlike the other nominees, she hasn’t been given extra powers…. if anything, she has less strength and skill than before, but that’s why you can’t help rooting for her. Unlike the Angelina Jolie caricature, this Lara really could be an archaeologist and, at the same time, really could be seriously injured or killed. As a player, you’ll want to help her complete her journey, discover her self-worth, fulfill her destiny and ultimately become the confident Croft we’ve come to know over the past 15 years.