TA Top Five: Unlikeable Protagonists

By Jonathan Barnes,
Many games are meant to be an escape. Most of us live pretty mundane lives; we wake up, go to school/work, eat some food, maybe have a lover in our life, and don't do much that is terribly remarkable in the big picture. On the other hand, video game protagonists have to dodge death at every turn, save the world, get the girl/guy, and slay evil. While saving the day is always interesting, the people chosen to do it may not be. As suggested by DBD RockLobster, this is our Top Five list of Unlikeable Protagonists.

As always, if we listed a protagonist you love or left off one you hated, we did so on purpose... just to get a rise out of you... you know... for craps and giggles. Feel free to leave your own rants in the comments!

DisHonorable Mention

Cole Phelps - L.A. Noire Achievements

Take one goody two-shoes cop, introduce one desirable dame from Deutschland and watch him fall from grace. While Cole's story was the classic one of falls from grace and redemption, it didn't stop him from being an unpredictable loose cannon in the interrogation room. Few things were worse than "Doubting" something that an interviewee said only to see Cole fly off the handle more than... well... Rust Cohle (NSFW).

Duke Nukem - Duke Nukem Forever Achievements

"I'm here to do two things: Steal and repurpose the best lines from movies to make people think I'm clever and chew bubble gum, and I'm all out of gum."

I respect that some people really love their Duke. He created an antithesis to silent and thoughtful Gordon Freeman, but... let's face it, Duke basically just rips off the best parts of better characters and makes them worse. His schtick may have flown (and flown very well) in the 90's with Duke Nukem 3D Achievements, but at this point the character is tired, hackneyed, and the once-cool things that made Duke fun are now either done better with other character or are not cool anymore. Oh, and let's not forget about the rampant misogyny... oh the misogyny (NSFW).

Top Five

5- Alex Mercer - Prototype Achievements
Alex Mercer

Since this list came from a great community suggestion, I decided to hold one spot on this list for a great guest rant, courtesy of ChewieOnIce:

[Alex is] pretty much a sociopath and doesn't care a lot about the extremely high human cost of his actions.

When he discovered that people associated with the development of the virus were being killed and he was cornered at a station, he deliberately smashed a vial containing the virus, knowing full well that it would cause the death of thousands. What a *expletive deleted* move. Also, he's a hoodie and no one likes them.
4- Subject Delta - BioShock 2 Achievements
BioShock 2

BioShock Achievements taught gamers that Big Daddies were to be feared at virtually every confrontation. They could kill you as easily as look at you if you so much as touched their Little Sister. When 2K Marin put gamers in the shoes of a Big Daddy for the entire game, many gamers thought they'd have that same power. Unfortunately, Subject Delta was a FIAT while the Big Daddies of BioShock were more like Lamborghinis.

3- Michael Thorton - Alpha Protocol Achievements
Michael Thorton

Michael Thorton was supposed to be the ultimate, customizable spy. You could be Jack Bauer, James Bond, Jason Bourne or somewhere in between. Much like Cole Phelps, Michael's dialogue options in this RPG are typically, "Professional", "Aggressive", or "Suave". Even more like Phelps, each option is usually a varying degree of terrible. While you're rewarded for being liked (or disliked) by other characters as well as playing the field in conversation options, the game is so buggy that none of it really matters. While Obsidian tried to make Michael Thorton a blank canvas of customization, he ended up a bland placeholder that didn't hold a candle to any of the three spies Obsidian tried to model him after.

2- Jason Brody - Far Cry 3 Achievements
Jason Brody

A man is a reflection of his friends. As such, Jason is a complete chach-monkey. When not stranded on a tropical island, he probably pops his collar, wears his hat backwards, and calls his buddies, "Brah". The best thing Ubisoft did for him was made his friends EVEN WORSE than he is so that he seemed somewhat OK by comparison. Do you know what the real definition of insanity is? Being forced to play as this dude-bro for 30+ hours.

1- Connor (Ratonhnhaké:ton) Kenway - Assassin's Creed III Achievements
ToKW 3

If you listen to the TA Podcast (you do listen, don't you?) you were treated to an eviscerating (but clean) rant about all of the things that make Connor the worst protagonist ever. As likeable as Ezio was, Connor was the complete opposite. He never smiles. He never jokes. He never has fun. He doesn't seem to enjoy anything he's doing. He's always complaining. If I wanted to be around people like that, I'd become a writer... wait.

The first four games of the series set up the Assassin Brotherhood to be full of interesting, powerful, and cool blade-wielding bad mother-(shut yo mouth)s, but Connor basically sucked every ounce of fun and cool out of being an assassin and soured the franchise.

The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.
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