2014 was a disappointing year for a lot of people that expected great things from the new generation of consoles. As I talked about in the Most Disappointing category, that didn’t necessarily apply to me, although I had my own set of personal disappointments. However, if I could single out a category that I feel the most disappointed in, it’s this one. There were barely any new characters of note in 2014, mainly because there really weren’t that many well-written games. As someone who often plays games for their story, I was hoping to split this into Best Male Character/Best Female Character, as well as including a Best Story category. Nope. Not possible. There just aren’t enough. The Best Story list would be made entirely out of games released in previous years, and although I’m not entirely against the idea, I may as well just give them their due in my overall top 10.
So, here’s the list. There are caveats for all three, which I shall detail after I talk about the characters’ merits.
Nominee: Bill Carver (The Walking Dead: Season 2)
If there’s one thing Season 2 did far better than its predecessor, it was in the “bad guy”. It’s a low bar, to be fair, as the infamous Walkie Talkie Guy of Season 1 was probably the weakest element of the whole package. But, perhaps because of his fascinating dynamic with Clementine, perhaps because of Michael Madsen’s admirable performance, Bill Carver is the true stand-out character of Season 2. Perhaps the only stand-out. Every other new character seemed to go to waste in one way or another. Carver feels a bit wasted, too (see: caveat), but all-in-all he makes for an incredibly imposing villain.
Caveat: His character arc, while promising, is far too short. He makes his exit in episode 3 of 5, and from then on the story suffers from his absence. There’s no major threat to focus on, and all the drama from then on is left to happenstance. He ultimately serves to emphasise Season 2’s faults, and I doubt that’s what the writers intended.
Nominee: Red (Transistor)
Red is a mystery from the beginning of Transistor right up until the end credits. Like the rest of the story, you’re barely ever told anything direct about her. Those things you are told directly are never fully explained or elaborated upon (Her voice was taken… but she can inexplicably still hum?), but the little things you get as you assemble the background story build a compelling picture. The only time Red “speaks” is when she types messages on the terminals scattered throughout the game, and these make for some clever and poignant moments. Also, the fact that Red is a woman is almost completely irrelevant to the story… and I appreciate that. It’s nice to have a strong woman protagonist with no fuss over matters of gender.
Caveat: I like the idea of Red’s characterisation far more than I like her actual character. While what you get is enough to make you want more, there’s never a moment of payoff where you feel like the character herself is anything special. Even considering the things the writers did well, Red still feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Winner: David Young (D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die)
OK, I promise this isn’t surname bias. Young is a pretty great surname, and I’m happy that I get to share it with such an entertaining character, but David Young stands entirely on his own merits. I never would have thought any character could live up to Francis York Morgan of Deadly Premonition fame, but David Young does not disappoint. He’s loveable, goofy, and somehow occasionally tragic in a way that only a protagonist of a Swery game can be, but in a completely different way to York. As someone who knows almost nothing about Boston, David’s delightful accent and oddball references to Bostonian culture are all the more charming in how obviously off-the-mark they are. His exaggerated movements and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure-like poses are both hilarious and well suited to D4‘s Kinect gameplay. There’s depth to this oddball, and we’ve only seen a couple of glimpses as of yet, but here’s hoping D4 will get more episodes so we can learn more. I’m fully on board, I can say that much.
Caveat: I haven’t played D4. I wish I had, but I don’t have an Xbox One. I’ve seen the entire game (so far) played through by Super Best Friends, and yet despite a lack of first-hand experience I couldn’t in good conscience put David Young anywhere but as the winner of this category.