6) Best - Mortimer ‘Morte’ Rictusgrin (Planescape: Torment)
Everyone has a friend they don’t really like - an abusive arse who lives to see you suffer, but who you still like having around. Mortimer Rictusgrin - Morte to his friends - is exactly that guy... well, head. He’s a sarcastic, lying and stunningly witty flying skull. By the end he accepts the blame for the lives he’s destroyed (including repeatedly causing the death of the immortal, amnesiac Nameless One - your character) but is redeemed through his friendship with you. Amongst a pack of memorable characters, Morte is the one you love Planescape for.
6) Worst - Tommy (Prey)
As much as we share Tommy’s skeptical stance on the dualism of body and spirit, we like to think that we’re open-minded enough to change our minds, should we find ourselves using that very spirit to navigate a gravity-mangled spaceship. And any justifiable doubts about the afterlife should be wiped out after you’ve been taken there a number of times, and bestowed with magical powers that you immediately start using. Although Prey has a number of memorable moments, the Cherokee-in-denial and protagonist Tommy provides precisely none of them. You know a character has failed to engage you when you gleefully kill your own love interest.
5) Best - Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2 and Episodes)
On the upside, Alyx is a strong female character who is well-realized, scripted, and acted. Although her jokes can fall flat (naming the zombines, for example), that’s only human, and the times where you trigger one of her hidden phrases in Episode One made you feel like you were fighting alongside someone you actually liked. Hardy bullet sponge that she is, you still felt protective, and when she pranked you with her torch, you really did want to slap her. In Episode Two she may as well have been replaced with a talking keyring that says “Thank goodness you’re alive”, “I thought... for a minute...” and “This way!”, but the final sequence reminded everyone why they cared so much...
5) Worst - Prince of Persia (PoP: Warrior Within)
Whose idea was it to have the Prince regress into an angst-ridden teenage state? The same dead-eyed idiot who messed up Sam Fisher we suppose, trying to increase his appeal by making him ‘edgier’, ‘hip’ and ‘eternally tormented’. The prince has gone ‘bad’, he’s ‘rogue’, and he’s got ‘problems’ he doesn’t want to talk about - look, just check his MySpace. He was embarrassing at the best of times, but the second game pushes the envelope by delivering dialogue that’s on par with that bit in Spider-Man 3 where Peter Parker went emo. Still, it made impaling him on spikes that little bit more fun.
4) Best - Sander Cohen (BioShock)
Rapture is full of mad bastards, but our favorite is this particular mad bastard - whose underlying theme is that of the inflated artistic ego (or Ayn Rand or something clever like that). We’re introduced to Cohen’s madness with a brilliant scene in which a tortured pianist struggles to bang out Cohen’s masterpiece without fault - ultimately failing and incurring the full brunt of Cohen’s lunacy. Andrew Ryan lead the best scene, Atlas has the best lines, Tenenbaum was a vision of maternal loveliness juxtaposed with unethical genetic experimentation (everything got juxtaposed in BioShock), but Cohen’s relentless theatrics in the face of desolation bowled us over.
4) Worst - Matt Baker (Brothers in Arms series)
Brothers in Arms, ostensibly, is a delicate and touching tribute to the men who fought and died for our freedom in World War II. But Matt Baker never seems to be a real person, more a banal rose-tinted Apple Pie-ism. The way he talks as he wistfully stares out of a plane is like he’s on Dawson’s bloody Creek, while cutscenes are like watching members of an obscure cult coughing up the more mundane parts of a dictionary. The games may be well meant, and you can’t fault the historical accuracy, but if the American GIs that kept on chasing after your granny during WW2 had voices this cloying then the reason she refused to put out is clear.