Rochelle is an attractive young woman, but never ever inserts sexuality into the game. She is well dressed, has a nice body and good looking face, but never does anything seductive. While there are many woman in real life like that, in video games girls and women usually insert sexuality into a game. Well, maybe not in kid’s titles. Also noticeable is that she is a black lead woman, which in video game land is also quite uncommon.
Coach defies all current gaming hero cliches at once. He is way older than the target audience, he is bald and overweight, not very agile and he is black also.
I mention that both characters are black, because it makes them stand out from the crowd of other video game heroes. Unfortunately, most black lead characters are made to fit a racial stereotype. With Rochelle and Coach, no racial stereotype is displayed. This is rare, very very rare. Try to name 5 video games with black lead heroes, where the hero is no criminal, no musician/DJ or talking in ebonics. Its kinda hard, isn’t it?
Ellis is the closest thing to the actual young white male target gamer, most shooter games are aiming at. He is the closest thing to the guys who buy Modern Warfare and Halo and L4D2. He is physically fit and courageous, but to deconstruct him, Valve made him not the smartest guy. He is kind of slow and talks a lot and he is emotionally numb towards many aspects of the horrific situation the characters are in.
Nick is the closest thing to the male white lead characters that dominated the shooter genre. He has the proper age, he has stubble, wears a nice suit and is comfortable with guns. He would be a perfect fit for a GTA title. But he is broken. He is a drug addict and he is used to be stealing things, no impressive big heists or anything, just a wallet here and a cash register there.
With Coach and Rochelle Valve gave us characters, that usually never get a lead role in a video game from a big publisher. And with Nick and Ellis, Valve took what big publishers in general view as an idealization of their target gamer and damaged it, to make it something special. At least since Half-Life 2 and Portal, Valve showed how to make unconventional characters work for big audiences. Good job.
The special infected are a more advanced zombified mutation. Their bodies mutated in a way that would give them special powers and they are named accordingly. Visually their physical mutation defines how they look, with the exception of the Witch and the Hunter. All infected wear very basic clothing, but the kind of clothing they wear and how they wear it supports their abilities visually. We will examine how every special infected clothing and physical appearance suits their powers and combat strategies individually. Also of note is that the designers took good care of creating individual silhouettes for those creatures, so they could be easily recognized in the heat of battle and when you think of the special infected as carnivore animals, we get a diverse assortment of deadly predators.
Hunter use stealth to prey on his victims. His strategy is by far the most advanced from the special infected, demanding planning and patience. His hoodie hides his face, like he is hiding in the shadows. His clothing is dark, so he becomes barely visible in the darkness. His pants a customized using duct tape, which hints at a rest of intelligence and strategic thinking.
Spitter is puking corrosive acid all over the place. The acid is colored in a cartoonish bright neon green, which even makes her skin glimmer in a light green glowing tint. Her mouth area is a wide open gap, burned by the acid, she is barfing. Her breast and her stomach are dangling sacks, as if the acid melted her inner body and her skin now only serves as a reservoir for the toxic green liquid. A bra is mend to keep everything from hanging and now supports the visual of her dangling skin bags.
Jockey jumps on the backs of survivors and rides them, while biting ferociously into the shoulder and neck area of his prey. He is a small creature, so survivors would be able to carry his weight. His hunchback references, how his victims look, when he rides them. His arms are roughly the same length as his legs and his hands are very big. So, he is not only able to cling onto his victims back, but also his physical appearance resembles a monkey. His cut off jeans and the worn out tank top articulate his arms, legs and hunchback.
Witch is a walking fly trap. She lures humans close to her, by pretending to be a scared and hurt girl in need of help and comfort. When you get to close and get her attention, she enters a vicious rage mode, biting, scratching and slashing. Her sobbing and crying makes her appear vulnerable, and so is her visual appearance. Thin, weak looking, half naked, wet and dirty, cowering in corners… her look supports the overall fragile character, she wants us to see in her. And the fact that her body is not as damaged as other zombies are, allows us to believe that she is still human.
Boomer works like a land mine. You get to close and he explodes. he damages nearby survivors with a strong shock wave and spurts of green acid, akin to the substance the Spitter is gushing out. His clothing shows mostly his bloated belly, while giving less attention to the chest section and lower body. His skin is covered in giant blisters, threatening to burst every second, adding another hint at his way of attacking.
Smoker are attacking by lashing their tung around their victims neck and choking them. The big tentacle tung grows out of their face, beneath heaps of boiling blisters. These blisters burst and release smoke, hence the name Smoker. The rest of his body is of no interest and covered in clothing.