It's morphin time!
Tell me, when did 'brooding dude' become the be-all and end-all of lead character design? Sure, it certainly fits in with some scenarios, but as the industry's go-to archetype? Surely we can do better? Surly vets and space marines, rogue cops and bitter criminals, all wearing shaven heads and sullen grins - they're ten a penny, right? Well, that's certainly one opinion, but just how well does it stand up to scrutiny?
In order to find out I've merged together a whole host of famous faces - using magic, or maybe software - and divided them up according to genre. If our heroes really are generic as some commentators claim them to be, then eagle-eyed gamers ought to be able to guess their genres simply by gazing upon their ugly mugs (though I'll tell you just below each picture). Yes folks, it's all completely interactive, and definitely 100% scientific These are the generic faces of gaming!
Well if it isn't Soccer USA's resident bad boy Clint Dempsey, and look he's cosplaying as Michael Douglas from that one movie I tried to sue for false advertising. 'Falling Down'. Pfft, yeah right - not even one solitary faceplant in 113 minutes... He also appears to be having some sort of debilitating flashback, which as the veteran of a dozen-or-so FPS games is probably to be expected. He's seen some stuff man, some really nasty stuff. The kinda things that'd make a normal man snap, turn totally nutty, go properly bonkers - but enough medical jargon already - all you really need to know is that Mr. Clint 'killing machine' Douglas is the ultimate FPS soldier. Facial blending: it's an exact science.
As for his lady friend, well believe it or not I didn't just stick a picture of NOLF's Cate Archer up there and call it a day. Apparently, the female super sleuth is just so bloody brilliant that she utterly consumed her test tube rivals in order to remain on top. So, if you're planning on launching a successful female-fronted FPS, just rip that one off, I guess?
Hack 'n' Slashers
Did anyone order a flame-grilled Anakin Skywalker circa Star Wars Episode III? Well that's just what you've got - complete with all of the scarring, cyber enhancements and mussed up/ burned off hair you can handle. Talk about tragic. Though between Kratos, Gabriel Belmont and Dante, hack 'n' slash heroes have some of the saddest back stories around, so who better for them to wind up looking like than Star Wars' very own fallen Jedi? For those of you still trying to spot the constituent characters behind each mash up, this entry ought to be a little easier to crack. It certainly doesn't hurt your odds that any 3D hack 'n; slashers of note are relatively few and far between. So how about it, can you name the faces making up this miserable mug?
The same thing goes for the ladies of the genre. You can bet that if she's a well known warrior, there's a fairly strong chance she's in there, somewhere - looking for all the world like a Christina Hendricks love doll not that I'd know anything about that. I'm just writing that bit for a friend.
Remember that annoyingly handsome chap who died during the first season of LOST? No? Well suffice to say he looked an awful lot like this man - yanno, aside from all that ninja face apparatus and douchebag trucker hat. Combining the facial traits of many fighting fan favourites, this mighty amalgam would likely prove dangerously popular among players, even prompting some to engage in bitter gladiatorial-style bouts to establish dibs. Hell, I bet they'd even have to start hosting EVO events inside actual abattoirs, though it might improve the smell at least. Heyoooo! Just kidding fight fans, or am i?... Yes.
Our female fighter represents an equally interesting blend, not least because many of the characters she best resembles weren't actually included in the mix. So what does that tell us? Perhaps that unlike some of the zanier male archetypes, female fighters tend to sport most of their polygon counts at chest level, leaving their faces pretty, samey and altogether unremarkable.
What do you get when you combine the beast-battling powers of Geralt, Shepard, and Planescape's Nameless One, among others? Congratulations - those of you who answered 'Christopher Walken as a 16th century dandy', stand up and take a bow. Yes, marketing gurus, this Frankenstein-like beast represents the ultimate in role-playing protagonists. Men want to be him, women want to be with him, and players all over the world are practically crying out for a 'pocket watch' option to appear in every dialogue box.
As for the female of the species, the quintessential RPG protagonist is all big eyes and colourful hair, the kind of girl who used to hang out with the emo crowd before deciding she wasn't all that miserable to begin with. Together they fight dragons, demons and deep space demigods galore. Oh, and the occasional cowbell.
Cheer up bud, it's not as if you pulled the short straw or anything. I'll bet being the epitome of survival horror is an absolute hoot. Yes, yes I know - you had your heart set on being the happy-to-lucky kart racing enthusiast of the group, but well I'm afraid all we'll really need to do is look glum and endure a whole lot of terror. Alrighty? Still, at least you get to look a bit like Tobey Maguire wearing a Jake Gyllenhaal skin suit, so that's something right?
As for his female counterpart, so what if the top of her head looks like a botched photocopy job? This anxious lassy remains the perfect distillation of horror game heroines. Sullen but steadfast, innocent yet strong - this composite scream queen could fit snugly into any one of the roles left recently vacated by our dangerous face-morphing technology.
Open-world sandbox/ Action-adventure
Well wadda ya know? Mashing up the faces of several digital criminals, rebels and anti-authoritarians turns out a slightly rougher sort of face - the kind you might see on a moronic boy racer or a budget Eminem. Just look at those vacant eyes of his, that utterly spaced out expression. Why, I'll bet he's snorting marijuana or injecting ecstasy on a daily basis! The youth of today are out of control. Out of control I tell you! His accomplice isn't much better. From the looks of her I'd say she's been smoking those funny cigarettes, palling around with the wrong sort, kicking dustbins and the like.
It might surprise you to learn then that very few of the faces behind these composites are actually owned by out-and-out criminals. There's superpowered outlaws, mercenaries, adrenaline junkies, even an undercover cop - but only one, perhaps two full-blown crims residing inside each face. Your answers on a postcard.
Oh God! What have I done?! Kill it, kill it before it can reach the mainland! Burn the research. Salt the earth. Napalm everything! Broken arrow! Broken arrow!... Damnit, where did it all go wrong? Our only goal had been to combine the cutest of video game characters into one ultra-lovable mascot. How could this have happened, and more to the point, why does its chin look like half a packet of Pringles? And those eyes - those horrible eyes, ever-drifting like the vacant, undulating globs of a lava lamp. Truly, this is the mask of madness.
Oh God! What have I done again?! Kill it, kill it as well! Burn the research. Salt the earth. Yes well you get the message by now. We've only gone and messed it up again, this time unleashing some sort of nightmare Cabbage Patch Doll creation - sorry, make that 'doubly nightmarish Cabbage Patch doll creation' - onto an unsuspecting world. Is that a vortex for a nose? Probably. Are those ears different sizes and colours? Yup. Maybe it's best I stop playing God for a while.
Here we have the combined might of football, b-ball, and competitive skull crushing merged into one almighty avatar. What do you mean, 'looks like a male Halle Berry?'. Tosh! I'll have you know that Miss Berry is a thoroughly handsome woman and err, oh alright, so maybe it does look a little bit like that. Turns out that the world's best undiscovered sports star shares a striking resemblance to the world's crappiest Catwoman. Who'd have thought?
Sadly, it seems the old GR+ Matter Mangler has all but robbed this superhuman athlete of his obligatory 'eye of the tiger'. I mean, just look at that face. He's as likely to hug the opposition / nurse an ailing bird back to health as he is to score a game-winning touchdown. Note to self: include more irrationally violent sportsmen in next batch - John McEnroe?
Face to face
So, just how well do you know your generic genre stars? Think you spotted all of the constituent faces behind each blend? Then feel free to flaunt that humongous knowledge in the comments section below. Ciao for now.
But before you toddle off to safer, less nightmarish climes, why not check out some more delightful features? To keep things horrific, have a loot at Game characters' Valentine's Day love poetry, and if you then want to segue off on a romantic kick, click over to The 8 wrongest romances in video games.