Festive Feature #1 - Top Five Characters of 2012

Festive Feature #1 - Top Five Characters of 2012

Written Monday, December 17, 2012 By Lee Bradley
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What makes a good video game character? Is it personality, looks, abilities or dialogue? Is it quality motion capture and well-delivered voice acting? Or is it something less definable?

Between them our Top Five Characters of 2012 tick all of the above boxes, achieving greatness through one or more of these varied attributes. But perhaps even more interestingly, many of this year’s selection share one quality: they're bat shit insane. 

We've got psychopathic antagonists, an increasingly unstable protagonist and a degrading AI losing its grip on reality. Even the most sane of the bunch enjoys splitting skulls in half with a tomahawk, so maybe he's not so balanced either. 2012 was the year of the nutter.

Following in Altair and Ezio's killer footsteps was never going to be an easy task. Both characters became icons; unique ultra-cool frontmen to a multimillion-selling franchise that meant a hell of a lot to a hell of a lot of people. Yet somehow Assassin’s Creed III’s Connor managed it.

His real name, of course, is Ratonhnhaké:ton, the half-British half-Native American. What makes him such an interesting character is that he’s not defined not by his heritage but by his hatred of tyranny. Black and white in his morality, Connor knows right from wrong and isn't afraid of burying a tomahawk in someone's head to prove it. 

Plus he has a colon in the middle of his first name. You've gotta be pretty badass to pull that off.

Many videogame characters emerge from the end of their adventures exactly as they entered them. They may have just learned the secret of the universe, dodged death by millimeters and saved humanity from extinction, yet they rarely change.

But not Captain Martin Walker. Though he begins the campaign as a jobbing soldier, at the end of Spec Ops: The Line, he emerges (or doesn’t) a completely different character. We can't say much for fear of spoiling exactly what happens (or doesn’t), but it's safe to say that Walker’s experiences in post-catastrophic Dubai change him forever.

Spec Ops: The Line is a game that doesn't shy away from consequences. And while many games take their protagonist's mass-slaughter lightly, in Cpt. Walker we have someone for whom it is incredibly meaningful. And that's why he's one of the best characters in games this year.

Handsome Jack, the moon-owning narcissistic antagonist of Borderlands 2 is one of 2012’s most unique characters. Initially a nice bit of comic relief and an amusingly arrogant irritant, it’s not long before things take a dark turn.

By the end of the game Handsome Jack reveals himself to be an all-out bastard, one of gaming's most overtly evil bosses, a truly sinister piece of work. And that's the beauty of the character. Funny and uncompromisingly sadistic, he's one of the few antagonists you'll laugh along with but also want to hit straight in the nuts. Repeatedly. With a Hyperion Nidhogg rocket launcher.

He does own a diamond pony called 'Butt Stallion' though. Respect for that.

Some characters are bought to life by great voice actors. Some are brilliantly scripted. Others are well animated and situated within their worlds. Far Cry 3’s Vaas Montenegro is all of these things and more.

On an island of complete lunatics, Vaas is king of the psychos. He’s a completely unhinged nutjob whose lung-shredding, ultra-violent outbursts rip through his more reflective, quiet moments like a machete through a jugular. The thing about Vaas is that you never feel safe. He's a deeply unsettling character.

Yet somehow, despite this you may grow to like Vaas, in a strangely twisted way. He's utterly doolally, completely deranged and yet oddly charismatic. Whether you like him or not, Vaas isn’t a character you'll forget in a hurry.

While everyone else in our Top Five Characters of 2012 list are new, Cortana has been around for years, a cornerstone of the Halo franchise. We know all about her, and it’s this familiarity that makes the AI's story in Halo 4 all the more remarkable.

Previously an odd mix of TomTom navigation system, narrator and love interest, Cortana's character takes a dramatic left turn in Halo 4, as the tech that drives her breaks down and she becomes ‘Rampant,’ degenerating into anger, madness and schizophrenia. 

Helped along by some fantastic voice acting from Jen Taylor and some great writing by 343 Industries, Cortana’s fate is simultaneously frightening, heartbreaking and sorrowful. Piling all this into one character and making it believable is no easy task, but it’s delivered perfectly.

Making us look at someone we already know in a completely different way? That's why Halo 4's Cortana is a triumph fully deserving of our Best Character award. In a year overflowing with head cases, Cortana tops them all.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 670
Comment #1 by mentaljason
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 08:36:02 PM
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Yes! This is what the VGAs got wrong! They nominated Master Chief for character of the year when it should of been Cortana.
I like this list, although I am not familiar with the Spec Ops character

Forum Posts: 64
Comment #2 by Dlark17
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 08:47:40 PM
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You know, after the big Angel reveal, I was almost sympathizing with Handsome Jack, somewhat.
Then he attacked my team, and that arrogant son of a bitch had to pay. He really was an amazing character and a VAST improvement over Commandant Steele. Just further proof of Borderlands 2's amazing leaps forward from the original.

And, for once, I have to agree and give it up for Halo. #4 sucked me in and blew me away for the first time in the series. Reach was well put together and I loved it, but this latest installment did a great job in the writing and character department. I finally saw what people loved about the old ones, and the exploration of MC and Cortana's relationship was really the backbone there.

Forum Posts: 1539
Comment #3 by Schism
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 09:00:30 PM
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#4 was probably my fav. You really see Cpt. Walker get broken down towards the end of the game. Starts off as this strong soldier and shows that even the strongest have trouble with War.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #4 by 232323jvc
Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 11:47:35 PM
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Well I liked Max Payne:P I don't know if you considered him, but I liked the way he started out quite calm and somehow somewhere ended up like full-time badass. Let alone the voice acting being excellent.

Still, great list! Kudos for Lee:)

Forum Posts: 1758
Comment #5 by dirge
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 03:17:07 AM
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Vaas would have been top for me but then it's not my list. Anyway love these end of year features you do, keep them coming!

Forum Posts: 215
Comment #6 by High Lord Sigma
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 04:02:26 AM
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One slight wording choice that irks me: "His real name, of course, is Kanien'kehá:ka, the half-British half-Native American." Connor's given name is Ratonhnhaké:ton.

Aside from that little quibble, I agree completely with this article. I haven't touched Specs Op or Far Cry 3 yet, but there's been so much promotional material starring Vaas that he's already a great character in my eyes.

Forum Posts: 26
Comment #7 by the bears beard
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 04:14:34 AM
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Handsome Jack would have been my #1, but then he does what he does to the person and I'm all like "Nooooooooooooooooooo", especially when after it all happens he is on the ECHO taunting everyone.

Forum Posts: 937
Comment #8 by Hagane
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 05:30:59 AM
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Not particularly fond of any of these characters, but it's a pretty solid list. :p

Great article.

Forum Posts: 85
Comment #9 by LeeBradley
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 07:02:26 AM
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Oh shit yeah, you're right!

Thanks for the pointer dude. Corrected.

Forum Posts: 915
Comment #10 by I mak3 big boom
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 07:26:53 AM
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I realize its your opinion but Connor should be replaced with Max Payne. Connor was so boring. Ezio was so much cooler.

Forum Posts: 868
Comment #11 by Hurricane Of 87
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 09:36:29 AM
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Connor was alright but it was hard to get fully behind his super good guy, never tell a lie, mentality. Haytham and the Templars and their arguments for the Templars being the good guys were great but they were a collective.

Sam Becker from the second half of Far Cry 3 was also a good one, but is lost in the promotional shadow of Vaas.

Agreed on Max Payne.

SLeeping DOgs was okay, but nothing from that campaign really stuck with me. Wei Shen's gradual connection to the Triad dudes he was secretly working against was effective, but then he got tortured and then killed BSL shortly afterwards and that was it.

Young Heihachi looks cool as heck, but it's just that. A look.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #12 by HumbleMrRecker
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 12:44:55 PM
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Clementine or Lee belong on this list.

Forum Posts: 103
Comment #13 by mercyforme
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 07:23:33 PM
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It's good to see Cortana not getting overlooked but where is Lee and/or Clementine? I don't remember any gut-wrenching moments with Cortana that made me question my humanity :p

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #14 by APOLLO10
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 08:08:26 PM
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Cortana for number one. Seriously. Just no.

Forum Posts: 128
Comment #15 by linkin10362
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 09:01:17 PM
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Take Cortana off, add Lee Everett, and then you have yourself a good list.

Forum Posts: 5487
Comment #16 by Tyger7
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 09:21:00 PM
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No Assassin's Creed 3 characters were anything special. Almost anyone is better. Res Evil 6 had a few. Hitman took the route of hero. Darksiders 2s Death. I've said it before, lollipop chainsaw. silent hill downpour's main character. ME3!? And Max Payne too.

Forum Posts: 67
Comment #17 by Rucking Carl
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 12:06:57 AM
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Do you have links to previous year's festive features please?

Forum Posts: 84
Comment #18 by Lazy_FAQer
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 10:50:07 AM
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Initially surprised by #1, but thinking about it, it is a great choice!

+1 internet!

Forum Posts: 247
Comment #19 by atomic viking54
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 05:16:50 PM
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wasnt a big fan of connor compared to the previous AC characters. i would have took max payne instead imo

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #20 by II BOMBSCARE II
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 06:46:23 PM
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cortana over vaas, seriously ? did i miss something in halo 4, out of all the games i played this year vaas stands out by a mile as the best, i'd even put handsome jack above cortana

Forum Posts: 221
Comment #21 by the ferenczy
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 08:18:50 PM
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Agree with 12. How do you leave out Clementine and/or Lee on this list?

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #22 by Eoth
Thursday, December 20, 2012 @ 03:37:55 AM
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Great choices though my order would be a bit different. Also I would like to see Max Payne in there and Geralt of Rivia. But I'm not sure who to take out to be honest so yeah great list. Though Vaas should have won. Best nutjob ever.

Forum Posts: 46
Comment #23 by 123yhman
Thursday, December 20, 2012 @ 06:42:32 AM
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I disagree with Number 1 as, in my opinion, I find her character completely boring haha

Forum Posts: 404
Comment #24 by ViNyLek
Thursday, December 20, 2012 @ 11:05:29 AM
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I also think Max Payne should be on the list. I kep chuckling constantly whil feeling sorry for him all the time. One quote stayed with me till today - " I felt like and avenging angel coing to exact revenge. I looked like a balding dude with bad temper". He deserved to be on this list for that alone, but there is so much more to his character than that.... Other than good list.

Forum Posts: 15
Comment #25 by Jaws as Crowns
Thursday, December 20, 2012 @ 12:32:33 PM
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Vaas is my favorite. He was such a well thought out villain and driving point to the game but I was disappointed when someone much less memorable took his spot.

Forum Posts: 191
Comment #26 by ash356
Saturday, December 22, 2012 @ 10:06:04 AM
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A good list...although I think Connor should be replaced by Lee off The Walking Dead, personally.

Connor was just too bland for me, and he seemed arrogant throughout the whole game; points being when he snapped at Achilles and one of his conversations with Washington where he basically claimed he had won them the war.
Plus the whole 'Templars killed my family' shtick as a motive wasn't as effective after it was already used to great effect with Ezio.

Forum Posts: 3224
Comment #27 by DecadentBeaver
Saturday, December 22, 2012 @ 05:20:02 PM
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I think Agent 47 deserves a mention at least. Especially with the scene involving the desert. Won't say why, but he shows just why he is the best contract killer ever.

Forum Posts: 73
Comment #28 by bradengunn
Sunday, December 23, 2012 @ 06:25:00 PM
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I'd have replaced Connor with either Haytham Kenway or Max Payne but apart from that I agree with this list

Forum Posts: 152
Comment #29 by NeoSant
Sunday, December 23, 2012 @ 08:48:35 PM
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To me Connor was one of the worst Characters in AC series and a forgetable one in genereal terms. The other characters are great.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #30 by Feared Despair
Monday, December 24, 2012 @ 05:01:38 AM
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Harper from blops 2 should be on this

Forum Posts: 373
Comment #31 by Sgt Scyther
Wednesday, December 26, 2012 @ 02:13:36 AM
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How are neither Clementine or Lee on here?

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #32 by ThoracicKez
Wednesday, December 26, 2012 @ 03:25:59 AM
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connor was boring

Forum Posts: 124
Comment #33 by Croc 494
Friday, December 28, 2012 @ 05:14:05 AM
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Cortana at #1 seriously? she is the same as she has always been and she spends the entire game trying not to kill you. Agent 47 or even Gaige from BL2 are both way better

Forum Posts: 3353
Comment #35 by Jack Frost
Thursday, January 03, 2013 @ 11:49:48 AM
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The only problem with Vaas is that he really just isn't in the game enough...

Forum Posts: 107
Comment #36 by Silicon Iceman
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 @ 03:17:20 PM
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Clementine and/or Lee Everett needs to be on this list. I don't care what anyone says, they are excellent video game characters and deserve to be mentioned.


Forum Posts: 2405
Comment #37 by Iceskater101
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 @ 06:41:00 PM
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Agent 47 or Max Payne could be on this list..

Forum Posts: 38
Comment #38 by Aussie27Legend
Tuesday, January 08, 2013 @ 10:31:32 PM
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Stopped at "Connor is the 5th best character of the year" and cried at the lack of Clementine :(

Forum Posts: 6
Comment #39 by Lord Atheos
Wednesday, January 09, 2013 @ 12:39:45 AM
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The voice actor for Vaas deserves some kind of award.

Forum Posts: 477
Comment #40 by MoldyClay87
Wednesday, January 09, 2013 @ 06:07:33 AM
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Good to see Lee from The Walking Dead on this list. And Murphy from Silent Hill Downpour and...


Instead, the winner is a character who has existed for years? Awesome sauce.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #41 by DC KUSH 91
Wednesday, January 09, 2013 @ 09:01:22 AM
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Vaas is hands down the best villan, probably the best character in 2012. The game i can see topping it in 2013 is GTA V.

''This phone, this is a nice fucking phone man'' *Slips phone into back pocket*

I thought Connor's farther also deserve a mention, the way he was a bad guy with the best intentions put an interesting twict on the AC3 story line.

Forum Posts: 18
Comment #42 by Suthef
Wednesday, January 09, 2013 @ 11:18:18 AM
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Thumbs up for Walker guys!

Forum Posts: 490
Comment #43 by L4D II JoK3r
Wednesday, January 09, 2013 @ 12:06:57 PM
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Having played all of these I agree but Cortana has been great over all the Halo series not just 2012, for 2012 hands down Handsome Jack has been my favourite character even though he's constantly trying to get you killed.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #44 by RDWatson16
Thursday, January 10, 2013 @ 11:29:52 AM
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Connor should be removed from that list thrown in the trunk of a car drove out into the middle of a desert and painfully killed he was that bad, ps you forgot claptrap

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #45 by The Cipriani
Saturday, January 12, 2013 @ 10:05:40 PM
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Conener is number 5? WHAT
i cared so little about his story, i loved playing as the british templar so much more, Haythem should be number 5 instead !

Forum Posts: 771
Comment #46 by Axel 360
Sunday, January 13, 2013 @ 10:22:58 AM
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Connor...SERIOUSLY??? And Handsome Jack just number 3. By my book, that was a complete failure. But tastes and all of that.

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #47 by DannyG92UK
Sunday, January 20, 2013 @ 12:54:30 PM
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i thought Connor was an incredibly boring character eith very little personality. I don't understand how he can be on this list yet there is no mention of The Walking Deads Lee Everrett who for me was by far the best character of the year

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343 Industries


US November 06, 2012

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