The first Bioshock had a silent protagonist, but Bioshock Infinite trades him in for two that won’t stop talking. At least that’s the case in the latest gameplay demo. They joke, tell each other what to do, and seem somewhat attached to each other. Will gamers become annoyed from all the talking, or will it make the game better?
That isn’t a tough question; it will make the game a lot better. A silent protagonist is never a good idea for a story driven game, and Ken Levine and the folks at Irrational Games realized this. I understand some gamers say it adds to immersion—but I’d argue the opposite.
What’s so immersive about someone asking you questions, only for you not to respond? Did you talk to your PC while playing Half-Life 2? If you did the character in the game wouldn’t understand anyways, they wouldn’t even hear you. See, that’s the problem with the silent protagonist, it can’t be truly immersive if they can’t respond. Games with mute lead characters need to use something like Kinect’s voice recognition software, and then you can respond and become truly engrossed (the person talking to you won’t move on with the conversation until you reply).
It’s wonderful that Booker and Elizabeth constantly talk to each other—this builds an actual relationship and eventually makes you care about the characters. And for a game like Bioshock Infinite, this is just as important as the gameplay. Imagine if Nathan Drake was mute, would Uncharted 2 still be thought of as a masterpiece? The gameplay would stay great—but most (all) of the charm comes from Nate and how he interacts with the other characters.
The first Bioshock felt lonely. Sure, the sense of loneliness added to the atmosphere, but that was a simple trick, since you were underwater and couldn’t talk to anyone. The sky is the perfect setting for Bioshock Infinite. Irrational Games will have to work harder to sell their atmosphere now. Since both protagonists talk they can aim for something that beats loneliness, friendship (or possibly romance). That’s cheesy, but it’s true. What do you think, do you prefer a protagonist that doesn’t talk?