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But more importantly, she taught me that the hardest roles of my career wouldn't involve emotional death scenes, historical research, or any kind of physical and emotional transformation.
The hardest roles would be playing the attractive, heroic leading lady.
Not because the scenes are demanding in the least. In fact, they're usually some of the easiest: Smile, look pretty. Shoot gun, look pretty. Play hard to get, look pretty. Pouty-lipped reaction shot. Repeat.
My acting coach meant that it's easy to fall into the trap of just going through the motions as the ‘pretty girl.' I mean, who cares about my character's subtext (the emotion underneath the words) as long as I had a low-cut shirt, flat abs, and body oil, right? True – and there's nothing wrong with sex appeal – but it's the job of real actors to take something superficial and give it depth.
This same concept applies to video game heroines.
In the original Tomb Raiders, Lara Croft needed nothing more than D-cups and 9-millimeters to satisfy her demographic. But now that the bar of characterization has been raised, what makes a good heroine?
Personally, I compare it to what I've learned in acting: Leading ladies have to be tough, but accessible. Beautiful, with a vulnerable, ugly side. A strong woman and a scared little girl at the same time. Not to mention outfits and overall style need to make sense. And what about throwing some humor in there? A sense of humor makes her relatable. In other words, female protagonists should be well rounded… and not just in the physical sense.
These high standards of mine are the reason I still don't have a favorite video game heroine. The funniest thing, however, is that each of my requirements have been met – only with different characters.
So, I'm breaking all the rules, throwing on my mad scientist goggles, and splicing together some Frankenstein monsters, to see if I can create my perfect female lead.
Elena Fisher's humor (Uncharted series) + Lara Croft's style & weapons (Tomb Raider series) + Bonnie MacFarlane's emotional strength (Red Dead Redemption)
No firearm compares to Nathan Drake's arsenal of one-liners, and while he's not the first wisecracking hero, he's one of the first to have a sarcastic female counterpart who can shoot the jokes right back. Elena's sense of humor could very well be the most lovable thing about her. Combine that charming personality with Lara Croft's short-shorts and pistols, and – well, talk about a firecracker!
You can't deny that Lara Croft's body is as classic to video games as Mario's red hat. I loved her style in Tomb Raider: Underworld, and frankly, I'd wear the same thing if I were chimney jumping like a spider monkey in a hot, sticky jungle. To top off a beauty like Lara with the quick wit of Elena, I'd add Bonnie MacFarlane's full range of emotions.
Bonnie is a real, relatable woman in a man's world. We see her as a protective landowner and a respectful daughter. We watch her take a liking to John Marston, which turns into a silent love, and eventually… we see her realize that love can never develop, as she kicks the dirt like a sad little girl.
While Elena's humor and Lara's style are good first steps toward creating a dynamic heroine, it's really the imperfections and heart of Bonnie that round out this Frankenstein monster.
Zoey's relatability (Left4Dead) + Faith Connors' acrobatics (Mirror's Edge) + Rubi Malone's fashion (Wet)
The Zompocalypse is going to happen. We've all accepted it.
While we know virtually nothing about Zoey from Left4Dead, gamers are obsessed with her. I realized it's because she is one of the most relatable female characters around. She's extremely normal – a girl you could easily run into on the street. I guarantee if the outbreak happened tomorrow, I would be Zoey personified… but I'd wish I had the skills of Faith Connors.
Imagine being a survivor among zombies with the ability to parkour. Talk about a game-changer! Faith's unique, real-life free-running ability given to a sharpshooter like Zoey produces a character that's only missing one thing: some sexy style.
Wet wasn't exactly Game of the Year, but its star, Rubi Malone, knows how to dress. Her style is practical, sexy, and gives off a "Don't screw with me" vibe. Why do I think my down-to-earth, Apocalypse-surviving heroine needs more than just jeans and a hoodie? It's the classic saying, "Look good, feel good," because hell, if I looked like Rubi at the end of humanity, my ass-kicking ego would be bigger than a free Lady Gaga concert.
Lilith's Phasewalk (Borderlands) + Alyx Vance's complexity and independence (Half-Life series) + Lightning's gunblade (Final Fantasy XIII)
Video games are fictional, and the best thing about fiction is that you can give characters unrealistic features, such as incredible super powers. Lilith's Phasewalk in Borderlands allows her to turn invisible and slip out of danger, then reappear in the center of the battle with a shockwave of pain. Yet, this amazing power is given to a character that's hard to get close to. Imagine this power given to a strong, sassy, beautifully complex character like Alyx Vance.
Alyx, more than Gordon Freeman, is the face of Half-Life 2, giving us a real human with which to connect as we control a voiceless hero. Maybe I'm just a sucker for that wink of hers, but Alyx's personality is a breath of fresh air in the video game land of superficial beauties.
Lilith and Alyx? They're all about guns. So, we'll stick with what they're familiar with and throw in a sword. The Gunblades from Final Fantasy are undeniably cool, and the one wielded by Lightning is probably the most gorgeous of all. Lightning's weapon, Alyx's depth, Lilith's powers – yeah, I'd play that game.
There is an obvious shortage of multifaceted female protagonists. Even in Game Informer's "30 Characters Who Defined a Decade," only six were women. In our male-dominated world of games, I'd love to see more female heroes that break the shallow mold and show us their gritty, even ugly side. And hey, a few more funny girls wouldn't hurt, either.
So, those are my creations – what are yours?
Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as a graphic designer and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.
That's Mikey Neumann, writer on Gearbox's megahit Borderlands, smashing up living room furniture for the debut episode of "Anthony Saves The World." His mom did not actually give him that table. It's from IKEA - it's got cardboard in it.
But they are in fact filming in Mikey's home. "Anthony" is Anthony Burch, another Gearbox writer. And the episode's director of photography is Brian Thomas, Gearbox's cinematic director. The music, also, is done by Danny Baranowsky, who composed the soundtrack for Super Meat Boy.
Mikey promises more episodes are coming, so be sure to check back at his YouTube page.
Gaming on the Mac improves later this year when Gearbox Software's shoot 'n' loot hit Borderlands comes to Apple computers courtesy of publisher Feral Interactive, shipping complete with everything a Vault hunter would need.
This is the "Game of the Year Edition" of Borderlands, which includes add-ons The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, Mad Moxxiʼs Underdome Riot, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, and Claptrapʼs New Robot Revolution. All that Borderlands will be available to Mac OS X gamers on December 3, thanks to Feral, which will charge you US$49.95 if you're in the U.S., £34.95 in the UK and €39.95 in the rest of Europe. Borderlands for Mac is available for pre-order from the publisher right now.
Welcome to the club, Mac people.
Borderlands [Feral Interactive]
Gearbox Software's promised patch for its smash-hit action RPG Borderlands is coming, raising the level cap for everyone in the pursuit of better loot and harder bosses. When's it coming? Soon. Soonish. Maybe.
An official post on the Gearbox forums says the free title update for Borderlands is finished on the dev side. They just need to get the thing reviewed by the right people and fully "green lit across the board."
"We expect that last light to turn green within a couple of weeks, possibly sooner," writes Gearbox marketing guy Adam Fletcher. Fletcher also explains how the level cap boost will affect all Borderlands players, whether they own expansions like The Secret Armory of General Knoxx or not.
Here's the official breakdown.
An update on Title Update 1.41 [Gearbox Software Community]
Looks like you don't have to purchase the Borderlands Game of the Year Edition to join the Duke Nukem Forever First Access Club if you've already purchased the original Borderlands on Steam.
Readers Jon and Steve sent in images showing off the Duke Nukem Forever First Access Club codes that have shown up in their Borderlands CD keys on Steam, so I wandered into my account and took a snap of my own, showing off the amazing seven minutes I played Borderlands on PC.
Earlier this month new Duke Nukem Forever publisher 2K Games revealed that purchasers of the Borderlands Game of the Year Edition re-release would score access to the club, which will provide players with exclusive access to the Duke Nukem Forever demo before it's released to the public.
It's worth noting that while my CD keys include the additional DLC released for Borderlands, reader Jon did not purchase the DLC and still had the Duke Nukem Forever code in his account.
So check your accounts, Borderlands players! There could be a Duke Nukem-flavored surprise hiding inside.
Borderlands is a fresh take on the first-person shooter. Even then, there was concern at developer Gearbox Software about the game standing out in the crowded FPS genre.
There seems to be less of that concern for upcoming (and forever-in-development) Duke Nukem Forever.
"You know I think it was more of a concern for Borderlands actually, because of the nature of that game. But with Duke we feel like it's not like any other game," says Gearbox's Steve Gibson. "We look at your Call of Duty's, Halo's Gears of Wars... outside of being just a first-person shooter, it's so different. I can't imagine someone going to the store and thinking 'Hmmm, do I want Gears of War 3 or do I want Duke Nukem Forever'." The point won't cancel each other out, says Gibson.
To make a point, I think Gibson is selling Borderlands somewhat short. The game was also a new title, and that is often hard for titles to stand out.
Gearbox is bullish on Duke Nuke Forever — as it should be. "Now the only question for gamers is 'is it real?', and do they still love the Duke? Hopefully when we get the demo out we'll know."
Duke Nukem Forever was developed by Dallas-based studio 3D Realms until last year. Since then, Brothers in Arms dev Gearbox Software has taken over development duties.
Duke Nukem Forever: Interview [Strategy Informer]
Want to get your hands on the Duke Nukem Forever demo before anyone else? Then you might want to buy the Borderlands Game of the Year edition, your key to the "Duke Nukem Forever First Access Club." What's that about?
2K Games says today that Duke Nukem Forever First Access Club grants members access to "exclusive items, including early access to the [DNF] playable demo before it is publicly released." The upcoming Borderlands collection comes complete with a redeemable voucher, a unique key offering a "wealth of goodies," including the Duke Nukem Forever demo.
The Game of the Year version of Borderlands hits October 12 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for $59.99 USD, and for PC for $49.99 USD. The Duke Nukem Forever demo? No idea. The only release window we have is "prior to the retail launch of the game," currently scheduled for "calendar 2011."
Battle your way through a rise of the robots in Claptrap's New Robot Revolution, the latest (and last) expansion to 2009's surprise hit Borderlands. Can the promise of an expanded Pandora bring you back for more sci-fi tinged treasure hunting fun?
Style: The fourth downloadable add-on for the shoot 'n' loot action game pits players against the formerly docile Claptraps, Borderlands' robotic comic relief. Like the already released Zombie Island of Dr. Ned add-on, you'll face new, uniquely themed enemies, almost all of them built from rusty Claptrap parts.
Audience: Borderlands players who have already logged 100 hours in the Pandora wastelands. Anyone who thinks Claptrap humor is still funny. People who like picking things up off the ground.
Why should I care about this game: It's probably the last fresh helping of Borderlands you're going to get for a long time. And if you've already played through everything Borderlands has to offer, it's designed specifically with you in mind. New Robot Revolution an inside joke-stuffed send-off, full of memorable characters, amusing pro-robot propaganda and self-referential gags.
So, this is just more Borderlands, right? Pretty much. New environments to explore, new missions to undertake, a few character upgrades. There are new enemies and bosses to battle, some of them quite memorable, but most are variations on old enemies and bosses. Skags are now Skag-Traps. Midget Psychos are now Midget Psycho-Traps. Totally new are the militaristic Claptraps you fight—some of which sport Mr. T mohawks, some of which smack at you with boxing gloves—and a few heavily armored Hyperion soldiers.
I *really* like picking things up off the ground. Will I like this? You are going to love it. You'll be sent on all manner of fetch quest in Claptrap's New Robot Revolution, including one series of missions that ultimately sees you harvesting hundreds of Claptrap bits and pieces dropped by enemies. Hundreds. If you enjoyed the brain collecting grind of Zombie Island of Dr. Ned, there's more of the same loot farming here.
Actually, that sounds tedious. It can be, especially during endless walks to and fro in Borderlands' big world. Fortunately, the Claptrap expansion maintains the same level of goofy humor and offers more of the same addictive just one more level gameplay.
Buy it: If acquiring more loot, more skill points and hundreds of surplus Claptrap parts sounds like the ideal way to spend another six hours in Borderlands.
Don't buy it: If the mission "Braaaaaaaaaaaaains!" seriously pissed you off.
The bottom line: Claptrap's New Robot Revolution doesn't revolutionize the generally rock solid action of Borderlands, it just throws more of it onto the heaping pile. And that's perfectly fine for ten bucks. The one-liners from Claptraps can grow as repetitive as the collecting of guns and ammo, but the add-on livens up near the end, which somehow borders on bittersweet.
What they promised:
What they delivered:
Borderlands - Claptrap's New Robot Revolution was developed by Gearbox Software & Darkside Game Studios and published by 2K Games for the PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 on September 28. Retails for 800 Microsoft Points of $9.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the campaign and completed all but one side mission, primarily in single-player mode on Playthrough 1 with a level 44 Siren, on Xbox 360.
Claptrap's Robot Revolution, the Borderlands DLC available today, carries this homage to another 2K Games hit, BioShock. You'll run across it very early in your return trip to Pandora. [Thanks Pascual M.]