Home Gaming FFD: Do you prefer voiced or silent protagonists?

FFD: Do you prefer voiced or silent protagonists?

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freeman

Some people love them, others hate them. Out of necessity, many games have featured a mute protagonist, a guy or gal who doesn’t say a single damned word. Probably best epitomised by the crowbar-wielding Gordon Freeman, the silent protagonist isn’t one for mealy-mouthed replies; they’re an avatar through which your own physical responses and emotions are conveyed.

It as its merits – but it ultimately feels like a bit of a cop-out; the blank stares are more of a void than a canvas on which to paint your own feelings. But, it’s still better than a main character that’s poorly voiced or badly written.

On the other side, you have the wordy, voiced hero – a character who has, well – his or her own character, delivered by an actor through the magic of voice capture, and often those vocal performances can make or break the game you’re playing.

I personally prefer voiced characters; I never really feel like I’m the character I’m playing anyway (even in RPG’s), and I find that having a mute hero – especially when everyone else around me is being lippy – breaks the flow of storytelling.

Imagine that Mass Effect’s Shepard wasn’t so brilliantly voiced by Jennifer Hale (Mark Meer doesn’t exist at all in my world)? The game would have felt duller, lifeless. But would something like Half Life 2 have worked if Gordon spoke? I’m not so sure.

Tell us! Which do you prefer, and why?

Last Updated: April 1, 2016

124 Comments

  1. Pariah

    April 1, 2016 at 10:34

    • Original Heretic

      April 1, 2016 at 11:04

      Ah duct tape. Turning “no, no no!” into “mmm, mmm, mmm” for so many years now.

      Reply

  2. Umar

    April 1, 2016 at 10:34

    Silent Protags in jrpgs are the worst. Nothing like characters talking to each other and your character is making weird sighing sounds and hand gestures. Voiced all the way. The only time I really loved a silent protag was in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne.

    Reply

  3. Hammersteyn

    April 1, 2016 at 10:35

  4. Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

    April 1, 2016 at 10:36

    I was never a fan of Gordan Freeman not saying anything at all. I don’t need my character to have a voice, as long as I am able to choose what I want to say or how to respond to a situation.

    Reply

  5. Alien Emperor Trevor

    April 1, 2016 at 10:41

    I don’t mind either, but I prefer voiced protags – particularly in story-heavy games because it makes me feel closer to the character.

    Reply

    • Umar

      April 1, 2016 at 10:43

      Same, it’s weird, but silent protags are there for you to project yourself onto the character but it never helped me feel more immersed in a game, it kind of just makes the main character feel disposable and not important.

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        April 1, 2016 at 10:44

        Agreed. One of the reasons I liked Mass Effect so much, was the excellent voice acting.

        I even thought KotOR would be epic if the main character actually made sounds

        Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        April 1, 2016 at 10:53

        For me, if the protag is silent then a lot depends on how good the supporting voiced chars are at making you look past that & feel invested in the character (you) they’re talking to.

        Reply

    • Captain JJ the Isolated

      April 1, 2016 at 11:03

      Except in Far Cry 3 where I wanted to beat myself with a blunt object.

      Reply

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        April 1, 2016 at 11:17

        YES!!! Especially opposed against that BRILLIANT Vaas Montenigro character!

        Reply

        • Captain JJ the Isolated

          April 1, 2016 at 11:18

          So far the Far Cry 4 main character seems quite alright to me, but the antagonist (though awesome) is no Vaas.

          Reply

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            April 1, 2016 at 11:19

            I don’t think there will ever be another Vaas, Michael Mando went all out during that scene, if anything, someone matching that will have done a great job in achieving at least something comparable.

          • Captain JJ the Isolated

            April 1, 2016 at 11:24

            Yea Mando really lived that role.
            I do like the direction Ubi is taking with FarCry though. To have very memorable antagonists that completely outsine the protag is a nice change.

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            April 1, 2016 at 11:29

            I agree in full! If you are going to have an antagonist in a game, you have to make your audience hate him, the way of achieving this would be to make him slightly relate-able but mad off of his rocker, the only way to make it even better (if say you have a voiced protagonist), would be to portray the hate that the audience feels through your protagonist.

          • Captain JJ the Isolated

            April 1, 2016 at 11:32

            Yea man. Exactly.

      • Deceased

        April 4, 2016 at 07:45

        ^ This guy knows what’s up

        Reply

  6. Admiral Chief in New York

    April 1, 2016 at 10:42

    A very good question Geoff. I actually prefer voiced protags, PROVIDED THAT THE DIALOGUE IS MEANINGFUL AND WITH A PROPER VOICE ACTOR!

    Nothing worse than a dude muttering nonsensicle rabble to himself

    Reply

    • Hammersteyn

      April 1, 2016 at 10:44

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        April 1, 2016 at 10:45

        If my protag talked like Arnie, that would be cool too

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn

          April 1, 2016 at 10:47

          Or Christopher Walken

          Reply

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            April 1, 2016 at 10:49

            Now you’re onto something!

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 10:50

            But he has to, you know, talk in these kinda, phrases, to get the, you know, desired effect

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            April 1, 2016 at 10:52

            ‘Cause’eh, otherwise, it wouldn’t be, eh, right?

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 10:55

            (I actually read this out loud now again, made myself lol)

      • Captain JJ the Isolated

        April 1, 2016 at 11:27

        Upvote, because Arnie.

        Reply

  7. Admiral Chief in New York

    April 1, 2016 at 10:43

    If my protag is silent, he better be wielding a crowbar and/or zero-point energy field manipulator and be involved in something with an integer value higher than two

    Reply

  8. konfab

    April 1, 2016 at 10:47

    It depends on the game, nowadays we are spoilt with good voice acting. As

    But then again, I play a game like blood borne and don’t really notice.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      April 1, 2016 at 10:48

      Missing some words there?

      Curious to what you meant

      Reply

      • konfab

        April 1, 2016 at 10:48

        Bad dialog ^__^

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          April 1, 2016 at 10:49

          xD

          THE SUSPENSE WAS HORRENDOUS!

          Reply

    • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

      April 1, 2016 at 10:48

      In bloodborne, they figured you’d be swearing too much to care…

      Reply

  9. Her Highness the Hipster

    April 1, 2016 at 10:49

    i like them to talk, but i hate the breathing and grunting noises that are so popular. I don’t want to hear exertion from my protagonist, unless it’s part of the dialogue.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      April 1, 2016 at 10:49

      “breathing and grunting noises”

      O___O

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        April 1, 2016 at 10:54

        That reminds me, need some hot coffee.

        Reply

    • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

      April 1, 2016 at 10:51

      Aah, the fond memories of having a full team in Borderlands 2 and having everyone in the team jumping/running at the same time in close proximity to each other, of course, with the sound turned up to window shattering volumes could help too, especially with some conservative neighbours….

      Reply

    • konfab

      April 1, 2016 at 11:03

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        April 1, 2016 at 11:07

        xD

        Reply

    • Captain JJ the Isolated

      April 1, 2016 at 11:05

      I think it adds in some cases, depends on the genre, I suppose. Hearing the protag scream out of fright adds to the atmosphere sometimes in horror-like games (that’s if I can hear their screams above my own)

      Reply

  10. GooseZA

    April 1, 2016 at 10:52

    I like both, although it felt very wrong when Isaac Clarke spoke in Dead Space 2.

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      April 1, 2016 at 10:54

      Dead Space hasn’t had any sequels at all, especially not a Dead Space 3. What are you talking about?

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        April 1, 2016 at 10:54

        The games getting a #3 and the games NOT getting a #3 is just wrong

        Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        April 1, 2016 at 10:56

        ^This

        Reply

        • GooseZA

          April 1, 2016 at 10:57

          Dead Space 1 is still probably one of / the most terrifying gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I had to take breaks and go hug my wife every hour or so.

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn

            April 1, 2016 at 10:59

            Same here, except the wife part. Bought a teddy bear with the game. Dead Space 2 already felt way too different from the first. And the third was an abomination. Just one more thing we have EA to thank for

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:02

            Dead Space 1 was everything a proper horror game should have been for me.

            Space station with creepy things…..(purely because it reminded me so much of Event Horizon)

          • Captain JJ the Isolated

            April 1, 2016 at 11:06

            Haha. I loved Dead Space so much. Played it twice.
            Sci-Fi horror is a firm favourite of mine. Alien Isolation is also brilliant.
            I’m contemplating installing Outlast for the weekend, but that kind of horror causes me more strain than pleasure sometimes 😀

          • GooseZA

            April 1, 2016 at 11:12

            I can’t bring myself to finish Alien Isolation. Stuck in the medical bay now and running for my life from the Alien. Getting tired of changing my pants.

          • Captain JJ the Isolated

            April 1, 2016 at 11:13

            I’m there right now….and I’ve been there for two days now.
            So I know what you mean 🙂 It’s actually a bit of a tedious part tbh

      • GooseZA

        April 1, 2016 at 10:56

        There was a 3?

        2 put me off copmletely, except for the space walk section. That was amazing.

        Reply

      • Umar

        April 1, 2016 at 10:58

        There’s a Dead Space 3? First I’m hearing of this.

        Reply

      • Captain JJ the Isolated

        April 1, 2016 at 11:11

        ^ I’ve taken this approach to quite a few things.
        Some like Bale’s Batman (which ended at The Dark Knight), Iron Man (which never had any sequels) and Supreme Commander….to name but a few

        Reply

    • Umar

      April 1, 2016 at 10:59

      Dead Space 1 was such a good game, modern but old school survival horror.

      Reply

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        April 1, 2016 at 11:00

        I’ll never forget the scene where you can hear this odd thumping noise and when you go around the corner there’s this dude hitting his head on the one panel…

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          April 1, 2016 at 11:03

          W
          T
          F

          yeah that game creeeeeped me out

          Reply

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            April 1, 2016 at 11:08

            Yes, I too had so many freaked out moments, it’s very rare for me to sit back from playing a game and going, “Ok, I think that was enough for tonight” Dead Space invoked that with every moment of it’s existence…

        • GooseZA

          April 1, 2016 at 11:03

          They got the sound and level design for the ship just right. So incredibly eerie.

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:07

            I had to play that game in short stings, you know, for the nerves

        • GooseZA

          April 1, 2016 at 11:04

          Not to mention that huge arm thing shooting out of the wall and grabbing you from behind.

          Reply

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            April 1, 2016 at 11:06

            Holy glob, yes!! not once, but three times I had to remove my head from the ceiling boards…. Excellent game…

      • Captain JJ the Isolated

        April 1, 2016 at 11:07

        The ending was just such a let down.
        I want to replay it again, but stop before the end.

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn

          April 1, 2016 at 11:08

          Classic horror ending

          Reply

          • Captain JJ the Isolated

            April 1, 2016 at 11:09

            It was a typical horror ending, I agree, but the mechanics were just too dull and predictable.

  11. Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    April 1, 2016 at 10:58

    Undoubtedly the best voiced protagonist was Max Payne, but it was exceptionally written, which was key to it being such a big success, whereas, depending on the genre, it could be simply annoying, having something like Far Cry blood Dragon hitting the spot perfectly w.r.t. the character and how he performed is great, but making the mistake of letting him/her sound like a looney in the wrong setting…well…

    Reply

  12. Jonah Cash

    April 1, 2016 at 10:59

    I prefer a voiced protagonist… If I wanted silent I would just tell my wife she is fat… Baie beeld fokol klank vir die res van die naweek

    Reply

  13. TriangularRoom

    April 1, 2016 at 11:00

    I despise silent protagonists. I don’t see myself as that character, I just see a blank idiot nodding at random times while everyone else reacts to the situation at hand. In RPGs it often makes it feel like your party members are the stars of the game instead of you. I’d rather be Commander Shepard any day.

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      April 1, 2016 at 11:00

      100% this, always and forever.

      Reply

      • Darren Peach

        April 1, 2016 at 16:14

        But this kinda misses the point. I always felt gaming was about you living that experience. I don’t mind if you play a talking protagonist, But it can be argued that it breaks the illusion somewhat. Depends on the game.

        Reply

    • GooseZA

      April 1, 2016 at 11:02

      Hi I’m commander Shepard, and this is my favourite comment on the Citadel.

      Reply

    • Guild

      April 1, 2016 at 11:03

      This is one of the things that grind me about The Division currently. The character you play doesn’t say a single word and it’s annoying especially with all the cutscenes that happen and people interacting and talking to you. And you stand there and not respond once.

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        April 1, 2016 at 11:04

        Yeah, that annoys me quite a bit

        Reply

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        April 1, 2016 at 11:05

        YES!!!! THIS^^ Oh My for your safety the underlying text has been censored, it could have been so good, but no… you don’t deserve a voice, you go and make up your own lines…

        Reply

        • Guild

          April 1, 2016 at 11:07

          There could have been soooo much more added but nope, your character is apparently mute who just stares. Grinds me. They could have even added some dialogue choice which would have been fun. Like “This place has gone to shit” or “Chilly Outside” or just something

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:07

            DUDE, this exactly!

          • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

            April 1, 2016 at 11:12

            I hate it! I hate it, I hate it , I hate it… Just something…. a cough would’ve been good every now and then…. and when you look at the physical detail of the game, every single detail is exquisite!! I saw crows fighting off rats, I saw so many little things that made wish that they’d spend a little bit more time on character development, like where does the character that you chose come from? A simple one liner would have sufficed!!! But no…

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      April 1, 2016 at 11:03

      “blank idiot nodding at random times”
      LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL

      Reply

      • Guild

        April 1, 2016 at 11:04

        The Division is like that. Fucking annoying

        Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        April 1, 2016 at 11:04

        Me in the pub

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          April 1, 2016 at 11:05

          I dread the day we do that together, (the pub thing, not the nodding at random times) the world is not ready for that awesomeness

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn

            April 1, 2016 at 11:06

            I don’t dread the day. I dread the hangover to follow

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:06

            Pacing padawan, pacing. While possible to consume all the things, it does not mean that we HAVE to.

          • Hammersteyn

            April 1, 2016 at 11:07

            Never thought of not having to.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:08

            It is more powerful to know that you can, but don’t have to

          • Guild

            April 1, 2016 at 11:08

            Hey, you the one who skipped out on the after rAge braai at Gavin’s last year. Although I think it’s fair to say all who attended were pretty stuffed the next day

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:09

            I cannot drive THAT far in THAT state

          • Guild

            April 1, 2016 at 11:10

            Uber……or Gavin’s spare room. But to be fair I would have also skipped if I made a commitment to my daughter.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:11

            I’d rather keep the people close to me happy, than the people I barely know mildly entertained

          • Guild

            April 1, 2016 at 11:12

            Truth

    • Hammersteyn

      April 1, 2016 at 11:04

      I prefer them silent because I immerse myself more in the game. I don’t want to it to be Commander Shepard saving the universe, I want it to be me

      Reply

      • Captain JJ the Isolated

        April 1, 2016 at 11:08

        Agreed

        Reply

      • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

        April 1, 2016 at 11:14

        I like narration, the bit where the main character explains how he ended up in said shitstorm and how he tried to carry his bowels through it…

        Reply

      • Captain JJ the Isolated

        April 1, 2016 at 11:15

        Fallout would’ve been k@k with a voiced lead:
        “Another settlement needs your help.”

        – “Thank you Preston”
        – “I’m on it”
        – “Not again”
        – “Seriously, can’t these people do anything themselves?”
        – “I don’t care anymore”

        Reply

        • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

          April 1, 2016 at 11:16

          “Remind me of another settlement again and you’ll be the one looking for assistance….”

          Reply

          • Captain JJ the Isolated

            April 1, 2016 at 11:17

            Haha. Exactly

        • Hammersteyn

          April 1, 2016 at 11:25

          LOL

          Reply

    • FreddyBear

      April 1, 2016 at 12:13

      Now imagine your character talking in Dark Souls…

      Reply

  14. Captain JJ the Isolated

    April 1, 2016 at 11:03

    Personally I think it depends on the game. In most FPS games I’m very happy with a silent protag and with games like Fallout and Elder Scrolls it also worked well, it made it feel like you were living it, not someone else.
    But other games like Alien Isolation and Far Cry the protag needs a voice to tie in with the story.

    Reply

  15. Hammersteyn

    April 1, 2016 at 11:06

    Most FF characters just need to shut up!

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      April 1, 2016 at 11:07

      Yeah, I always hated the whiny little protagonists. You’ve just killed some uber huge creature, but then he starts complaining about the peanuts or some stupid shit.

      Reply

      • Darren Peach

        April 1, 2016 at 16:27

        Far Cry 3………….

        Reply

  16. konfab

    April 1, 2016 at 11:13

    I have a challenge for everyone: let’s list the best silent(or very quiet) protagonists.

    I would say one of my favourites is Wander from Shadow of the Colossus.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      April 1, 2016 at 11:13

      The header dude

      Reply

      • konfab

        April 1, 2016 at 11:18

        Admiral Obvious…

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          April 1, 2016 at 11:19

          What can I say, I like him

          Reply

          • Pariah

            April 1, 2016 at 11:20

            Oh my…

    • Captain JJ the Isolated

      April 1, 2016 at 11:23

      Challenge accepted.

      Not sure if Elder Scrolls and Fallout counts, since you can pretty much be whomever you want to be.
      Otherwise:
      ….
      this is actually quite challenging.
      Artyom from Metro is one I suppose.

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        April 1, 2016 at 11:28

        Artyom is a good one.

        Well, THE DRAGONBORN DID NOT SPEAK, HE/SHE SHOUTED!

        Reply

        • Captain JJ the Isolated

          April 1, 2016 at 11:30

          I’ll be honest, that first time I played Skyrim I did not hear “fus” when he shouted the first time.
          I just thought his insult was powerful enough to blow people away. 😛

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 11:31

            Lol, same!

          • Captain JJ the Isolated

            April 1, 2016 at 11:33

            I miss a good Elder Scrolls game. It’s been too long.
            Cannot wait for Skywind to be finished!

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            April 1, 2016 at 12:03

            You know, when I played Skyrim, I had no idea there were Dragon shouts when I started the game. After getting my first, COULD NOT STOP!

  17. DragonSpirit009

    April 1, 2016 at 11:53

    Mmm… depends on the game for me. But if I had too choose it would be voiced. They have better come backs than me XD

    Reply

  18. The Sten

    April 1, 2016 at 11:58

    Am I the only person in the world who played as male Shepard….???

    Reply

    • Jan Prins

      April 1, 2016 at 12:02

      Nah, I played as both male and female. But only because Ashley Williams would have nothing of female/female romance. (No no no! This is not some lesbian fantasy I am having.)

      Reply

  19. oVg versus

    April 1, 2016 at 12:07

    Dead Space would be shit if he talked to himself while traversing the Ishimura. OOPS DS 2 and 3 were. RUNS

    P.S. Never localise Japanese games. ITS JUST SHIT. Keep the Japanese voice actors ALWAYS!!!!!!!

    Reply

    • Jan Prins

      April 1, 2016 at 12:10

      But see now. Who is the real monster? The mutated horrors or the guy that does not even go “Oh SHIT!” when something horrible comes at him from the dark.

      Reply

      • oVg versus

        April 1, 2016 at 12:24

        Silent Isaac Clarke added so much more to the atmosphere even so far as to give the ship living breathing personality, more so than the engineer protag who had nothing more than a rail gun and an inbuilt HUD.

        DS1 had ATMOSPHERE. If he spoke, then an ego is created bypassing the immersion.

        Deadspace was pure CLASS. Then like all sequels, they had to attract new casuals by going action.

        Reply

  20. Word Of Mouth

    April 1, 2016 at 12:33

    GTA 3 is so much better than GTA 5’s too much talking.

    Reply

    • Darren Peach

      April 1, 2016 at 16:16

      Trevor had brilliant dialogue. I was astonished at how entertaining his character made the game. I actually wanted more of him.

      Reply

  21. James Anderton

    April 1, 2016 at 13:26

    Both.

    But if I think about my favorite games of all time (games are continuously revisit over the years) they all have silent protagonists.

    Reply

  22. Jim Hogan (Banana Hulk Hogan)

    April 1, 2016 at 13:56

    Silent protags are the best kind of protag.

    Reply

  23. Raptor Rants

    April 1, 2016 at 14:19

    Before I played Tomb Raider I would have said silent. But after the amazing voice acting from that…… Not silent. As long as the dialogue is quality and believable

    Reply

  24. Darren Peach

    April 1, 2016 at 16:05

    Brothers in Arms……..Is a example of the non silent type not working. Great games but the emotional part comes across as corny. But, Fear is a incredible example of how music can set the tone of a game thus elimination the need for the player having to say anything. Half life is the standard. But given the fact that Directors like Spielberg have foolishly said that games are not forms of art, Narrative is fairly important. I guess you can say that only gamers understand that a well executed experience that leaves you wanting more regardless of a talking or silent protagonist is far more emotionally moving than a passive experience when fed a completely linear story in film. Call it nerdy, But games are the ultimate form of entertainment.

    Reply

  25. chimera_85

    April 4, 2016 at 15:38

    Hahahaha is that even a question? Voiced for sure, however if they can make the game good/creepy enough for no voice acting at all then go for it.

    Reply

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