The last few years have given rise to the stereotype that video game protagonists should be male, dark-haired thirtysomethings, with a hint of gravel to lend their voices gravitas, and the hint of some designer stubble to ensure gruff machismo...possibly voiced by Nolan North. But there was a time, back in the glorydays of the venture game, when heroes didn't have to be armed with chain blades, AKs, M4 rifles, dual silver ballers, or a massive scythe . In fact, they didn't have to be armed at all.
Long before the likes of Nathan Drake were delivering throwaway lines following the mass murder of several goons, there was a floppy-haired Yank with a frequently flippant sense of humour saving the world from Templars, Aztec deities, assorted gangsters and drug barons, armed with only a quick wit, an uncanny gift for hide-and-seek, and a seemingly unlimited supply of air miles.
That man is, of course, Broken Sword's George Stobbart.
One can't forget the unnaturally deep pockets too, nor his affinity for disguise. As much at home yanking out a manhole and heading into the sewers as masquerading as a doctor or a hilariously bad jongleur, Mr. Stobbart's best qualities are an undeniable sense of curiosity, and the tenacity of a bloodhound with a scent caught in his nostrils. He's a child of the Nineties - no Wella-styled hair for him, it's all about an early-Beckham mop on top. There are times when Stobbart channels the pithy asides of classic Hugh Grant, albeit without the quintessentially English bumbling.
That last comparison stacks up well in a slightly different department, though: Stobbart knows how to woo the ladies. Prickly French journalist Nico Collard is strictly business to begin with, with the highly intelligent, worldly charms of Andre Lobineau between George and the woman he's clearly enraptured by. But who could fail to fall for his easygoing nature, everyman appeal, and that awful jacket? Plus, in the first game, we're never exactly sure where he's staying in Paris. Has he been kipping on a park bench?
It's his wit that makes him endearing to us, though, injecting the point-and-click adventure with plenty of descriptive humour. His American background is liberally poked fun at, as well as the hints towards his background as a fairly middling patent lawyer and bail bondsman, but it's his verbal sketching of the situations in which he finds himself and the strange assortment of character with whom he comes into contact that provide a great many of the chuckles to be found in the series.
In fact, here are some of or favourites:
George Stobbart: Let's just say I'm working in the interests of truth and justice.
Todryk: Ah, Thank God, I thought you were the police.
George Stobbart: You speak very good English for a French girl.
Nicole "Nico" Collard: Thanks. You speak very good English for an American
"He had the eyes of a cocker spaniel set in a face like a deflated soufflé."
"The mournful look in that goat's eyes was beginning to depress me."
"Sometimes, I got the feeling that communication with Pearl was like sending signals out into space. Maybe, if you waited long enough, you'd get an intelligent answer back... but it was a long shot."
"Someone had thoughtfully provided little shades for the light bulbs. The rest of the prison area looked like an English public toilet."
"One of the reasons I hate guns so much is the way they make people so damned impolite.
"The red-haired woman had an air of authority that might intimidate some men. But not me. She terrified me."
Witty, pithy, occasionally childish stuff, but it's also perfectly executed, with Rolf Saxon providing soe fantastic voice work. Crucially, Stobbart never overstays his vocal welcome. A character that is constantly delivering dry commentary on the proceedings of the game could become quite tiring and trying after a while. But it's to Saxon and Revolution's credit that this never really happens.
The re-release of Broken Sword on iOS has only served to underline how much we miss the true everyman hero...or even just someone different from the staid norm of today's top-level games. We call Drake an everyman, but he's not really. How many of us could be riddled with bullets, carelessly dispatch thirty-odd goons, then hang from several cliff-faces, swing acrobatically from a bunch of vines, decipher an ancient language, and take down a bunch of the slavering undead? But taking down a zealous bunch of centuries-old religious cultists with a sharp tongue, or disarming a wanted assassin with a handshake zapper? Oh, now you're talking!