Dante, Max Payne, Kratos, The Dark Knight – video games have witnessed some cool, clean and charismatic protagonists in recent years. Equipped with a plethora of gadgets, barrel-loads of weaponry or wielding preposterous knives named ‘Blades of Chaos’- taking on the world with these guys has become second nature. That said, what about the character more dangerous than Duke Nukem, more loveable than Lara, and with more stealth than Solid Snake? Don’t get me wrong Uncharted’s Nathan Drake is one of the smartest, sharpest and smoothest lead characters to grace modern gaming but whilst Nate was spending his paper route earnings on tootsie rolls and frozen yogurt another man was in town, cooler than ever and saving the planet; Idaho’s finest: George Stobbart.
For those unaware – George Stobbart is (officially) a struggling patent lawyer come bail bondsman- in order to pay the bills- and is the lead playable character in Revolution’s highly acclaimed 2d point-and-click adventure series of the late 90s and 00s- Broken Sword. Through his dangerously curious nature, George winds up involved in many ventures, driven by justice, starring as a part-time detective, great listener and pseudo psychologist and by all accounts a stand-up comedian. Nothing short of an international globetrotter, George has jet-set more often than Richard Branson; Paris to Ireland, Spain to Scotland, Syria to Egypt, the Caribbean to London, amongst many other locations in order to solve whichever mystery he is entangled with at the time.
Prior to Broken Sword’s first outing in 1996 there were very few lead characters which gamers could engage with, the most notable being Rincewind of similar format title – Discworld. Other popular games at the time, such as Doom had an unnamed frontman who only served as a vehicle to showcase Doom’s hack/slash and obliterate theme. George Stobbart -certainly an unorthodox protagonist- set a standard combining likability, humour, wit and relativeness, which many lead characters would be influenced by in the years to come.
No need for fancy attire or outlandish equipment, Stobbart relies on one weapon – his razor sharp tongue; his bone-dry wit his ammunition. And what a weapon it is! A man that has made indefinite enemies through all walks of life (and beyond!) ranging from an unscrupulous drug lord, a neo-conservative cult in the form of the Knights Templar, an almighty Aztec God and the sacrosanct Catholic Church; it is probably of little surprise that he has brushed shoulders with death on many occasions. Somehow, however, George has survived unscathed by talking himself out of trouble. Naturally accessories such as infinitely deep pockets -which would give Mary Poppins’s magical satchel a run for its money – and an impossibly persistent inquisitiveness, do no harm in aiding his cause.
Dressed like an 80s gangster in blue chinos, white tee and green ‘members only’-style jacket George Stobbart oozes ‘cool’. Ask Nicole Collard – French beauty and eventual girlfriend of our main man. Wooing a classy Parisian journalist is no easy feat, especially when able to fend off love-interest from other men in the way of George’s personal nemesis Andre Lobineau. Perhaps it is his unable-to-grow-a-proper-beard look that Nicole fell for or maybe the floppy Hugh Grant/David Beckham in the 90s haircut? Stobbart has no desire to achieve the hair-gelled, rugged designer stubble look donned by Drake and others of the new era. In his most recent outing, George also finds himself subject to the desires of lustrous Anna-Marie Presa who is quite literally willing to take a bullet for him – the guy can’t miss! Awesome. George Stobbart invented the word then gave it to Chuck Norris to make himself feel more of a man.
The true beauty of George Stobbart and the Broken Sword games however lies in the set pieces and dialogue which takes place as George converses with everyone and anyone attempting to uncover clues in his quests in unravelling mystery. Some of the jokes, innuendo and general humour will leave you teary eyed and doubled-over. It is honestly some of the funniest material to be included in a video game. When describing a slightly rotund fellow George states: “He had the eyes of a cocker spaniel set in a face like a deflated soufflé.”
When eyeing an ample chested woman: “It was a woman with huge... boots. And, an impressive cleavage.”
Even when interacting with Irish animals: “The mournful look in that goat's eyes was beginning to depress me”.
Local police officer Moue in Montfaucon, Paris is weary of George’s nosey-ness:
Moue: [pointing a gun at George] “Freeze! Hold it... right there!”
George: “Woah! Don't shoot! I'm innocent! I'm an American!”
Moue: “Can't make up your mind, huh?”
It is simple humour granted, but as so well executed over the course of each game, these humorous exchanges alone become one of the series’ most superlative assets. George isn’t like modern protagonists. He carries no weapons. He’s not macho. He’s not particularly brave. But he’s hilarious and he still manages to get shit done when it needs doing… and still has time to get the girl!
The Broken Sword series saw a lot of point-and-click adventure games try to emulate its formula after its release however none were produced or delivered to anywhere near the same standard. Albeit a slightly dated format nowadays, these games paved for the way for modern titles such as Heavy Rain and LA Noire. The original Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (Circle of Blood in the US) was re-released in 2009 for Nintendo Wii and DS and also on iOS for iPhone and iPod Touch in 2010 and is definitely worth a re-visit or in fact a first visit. An excellent game but, if for nothing else, give it a shot just to take control of the brilliant George Stobbart and be part of his comedy road-show.
Many lead characters from different games have come and gone since, many of which will be remembered, many of which will be forgotten. One thing is for sure though - Stobbart is one of a kind. It’s now time to raise our mouses and click to a true gaming hero. The man, the legend – George Stobbart.