Sunday, May 17, 2009

Uncharted 2: Who is This Chloe Girl and What Have You Done With Elena?

I've seen the footage of Uncharted 2 and while in many ways the game looks to be shaping up nicely, one thing has me concerned; what the fuck happened to Elena? She was one of the best female supporting characters I've seen in a game, so it seemed troubling to nix her in favor of this year's new model. The more I thought about it, the more this seems to be a troubling trend of the action/adventure genre in general, where we're given a lead male character and a new romantic interest in each adventure. James Bond and Indiana Jones certainly come to mind. While it's been suggested that Uncharted swaps romantic interests as its primary influence is, of course, Indiana Jones, I'm not convinced that argument carries much weight, as I think just about everyone would agree that Marion Ravenwood from Indy's first outing was, and always has been, the best quasi-romantic partner for the tomb raiding archeologist. Elena, from the first Uncharted, was a fantastic character as well. Unafraid to jump right into the thick of action, and quick-witted enough to fend off Nathan's Han Solo-esque advances, she was just the kind of spunky, deadly, improvisational badass you would want from a girl to fight pirates with. Replacing her sounds not only misogynistic, but flat out at odds with arguably the thing that made Uncharted most charming; its characters.

While swapping female romantic interests has been a disheartening trend in the industry (and films and books before that), I'd point to something like Sly Cooper as an example of how to do it right. In those games, Sly always had the hots for a certain foxy detective (pun fully intended. Sorry), who was always on his trail. Of course, they could never be together as she'd have to bring him to justice, but their endlessly flirtatious rivalry sizzled, lasting an entire three games. The conclusion of the third game, which I won't dare give away here, found a brilliant way to get around their stalemate, and still leaves room for the inevitable Sly 4.

The influences here are a little different, as Uncharted basis itself on old adventure serials, and Sly on Saturday Morning Cartoons, which required that they keep the same cast for long periods of time (though strangely, they had to replace the voice-actor for Carmelita Fox with each of the three games, which was unfortunate. I'm not sure what the reasoning was behind this, but I'm going to assume that they would have liked to have kept the same actress all along, as it is the same character, after all). Though I believe Sly did things right, and Uncharted could learn from it. Maybe I'll get lucky and be proven wrong and they're keeping Elena a surprise for when the games comes out, which would be kind of awesome. But until then, I'm a little perturbed by the second-hand treatment women are given in these games, and hope to see a change soon.
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