Want me to love your video game? Put a good robot in it!

In praise of the video game robot. But who’s the best bucket of rust?

This week I’ve spent an awful lot of time playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Knight. Not a new game – a pretty but middling hack-and-slash title that EA released late last year – but new to Xbox Game Pass. God bless Game Pass.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: If there’s one way to make me enjoy your video game, it’s to include a robot in it. I love video game robots. Fallen Knight introduces BD-1, a diminutive bipedal fella who follows you around for much of the game, distracting you with its cuteness during critical moments of combat. I am a sucker for video game robots.

I haven’t enjoyed a video game robot as much as I am doing BD-1, since Gears 5 – also released last year – gave a load of screen time to JACK, Delta Squad’s perennially hovering sidekick. Nobody is impervious to JACK’s charms, not even the perennially skulking Marcus Fenix, and without the little robot, nobody is getting through any big ass doors. Isn’t it strange that the time it takes JACK to rip open a door is the same length of time it takes for Delta Squad to clear an area of Locust? Curious.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Knight
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Knight. Credit: Respawn Entertainment

Then there’s the Eyebot from the Fallout series. I’m a big fan. Built by RobCo before the Great War, the Eyebot – of which there are many – survived the falling of the big bombs and now wafts around the wasteland by means of unseen propulsion, spreading Enclave propaganda. Eyebots are essentially a cross between the sort of men who approach lone female travellers on public transport and a rusty bucket.

Consider Ghost from the Destiny series, famously voiced by Game Of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, until a tidal wave of poor feedback from players – believing Dinklage to sound “bored” or “disengaged” (hey, you try carrying Game Of Thrones’ season eight on your back) – prompted Bungie to have the lines re-recorded by veteran video game voice actor Nolan North – best known as Nathan Drake.

And what of Borderlands’ Claptrap? Sure, the one-wheeled-one-eyed dustbin-on-legs is a divisive figure. Some players have expressed frustration at his over-enthusiasm – the fact Claptrap just won’t shut up. Ever. And yet Claptrap gives Gearbox’s franchise its soul. It’s basically like the Zooey Deschanel vehicle New Girl – irritating, but much missed now it’s gone.

I’d also like to make a case for Portal 2’s Wheatley. It’s never explained in-game why Michigan-based Aperture Science’s neurotic companion has an English West Country accent, but its brilliantly voiced by Bristol-born comedian Stephen Merchant. It’s interesting to note that Valve originally had The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade under consideration. Oh, what could have been!

Ratchet & Clank
Ratchet & Clank. Credit: Insomniac Games

Another Valve creation is Half-Life 2’s Dog, Alyx Vance’s growling, ground stomping companion. Dog would win no awards at Crufts, but he is adorable in his own fiercely loyal way. “First model was about yay-high,” says Alyx, the first time you meet her hulking robot pet. “I’ve been adding to him ever since.” Which begs the question, why hasn’t she given him the ability to speak with anything other than canine-esque whines? Cruel.

How about Ratchet & Clank’s Clank? You know when you go to a rock concert and there’s some douche in front of you wearing a backpack? You’re like, “hey buddy, this is a rock show, not a camping trip!” And then they punch you in the face? All of this is theoretical, obviously. But if said douche’s backpack was Clank – as how Ratchet wears him for much of the beloved 2002 platform games’ playing time – we’d keep our mouths shut and just enjoy looking at his adorable face.

Man, I love me a video game robot.

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