There are many reasons to make your Commander Shepard a female. Maybe you are a lady, and the best way to truly engage yourself in the narrative is to create a character as close a resemblance to you as possible. Maybe you just want to do your part in the fight for female protagonists in games. Maybe you just wanted something nice to look at. In any event, rolling FemShep had a hell of a bonus perk: you got to hear some of the best voice acting in the game, all the time. Blame that on Jennifer Hale.
If you have been playing games since voices have been in them, then there’s a strong chance you’ve already heard Hale’s work. Her dynamic talents have put her in the shoes of many a character, in genres spanning the industry. For every Shepard she plays, there’s a disembodied announcer’s voice for which she brings unique life to, in a robust and elegant way that has become a signature of her’s over her 20 year career in gaming.
She’s been working far longer in other industries, namely TV and movies, being every sort of character under the sun, as well. Go back and watch the Cowboy Bebop movie or the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon, and let the “Oh Shit!” moments wash over you as you start picking out all of those voices you never knew where her’s. I did already; it was magical.
It’s hard to not gravitate towards Hale, especially for me, considering she tends to play characters I already love from comic books or tv shows. She lends a real legitimacy to Silver Sable in the Spiderman titles she’s played her in, and hearing her Black Cat from the old Playstation Spiderman is one of the most distinct memories I have playing that game. Even with characters who don’t say a lot, or ones who have never had a voice before, her talent’s really allow these characters to make great impressions with their screen time. Her Stepford Cookoos is strange and interesting, and her Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel for those way less nerdy) is absolutely awesome.
It’s fun to hear her interpretations of already established characters, but her best work is when she’s given the opportunity to surprise people. Bastila from KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) is a great example of a character that, though well written, is really bolstered by Hale’s well practiced ability to bring believable life to a character with no real establish preconceptions about it. Of her work, though, my favorite Hale moments happen to also be my favorite moments in Bioshock: Infinite. The Lutece twins were such well paced, well imagined characters that it’s hard for anyone not to really love them. But the journey Rosalind takes throughout the game is a hectic and damaging one, taxing the limits of her beliefs and her skills alike. Most of this journey is only alluded to, but Hale’s interpretation of this madness is immensely believable, studded with the sort of mesmerizing epiphany, agonizing heartache, and dogged determination that the Rosalind becomes synonymous with in the game’s third act.
It isn’t just me that thinks she’s great, either. Guinness World Records named her video games’ most prolific female voice actress in recognition for her absolute domination of the voice acting space. In 2010, the Spike VGA’s gave her the “Best Performance by a Human Female” award for her work in Mass Effect 2.
In case you missed it, I think Jennifer Hale is pretty damn rad. When I see her name in a cast, I’m instantly more interested in that product, and even if the whole product doesn’t work out, I can rarely say that she wasn’t excellent in it. Here’s to 20 more years of industry-leading voice work!