Why Jennifer Hale Is The Perfect Voice For Ratchet & Clank’s New Lombax

Yesterday was a big day for Ratchet & Clank fans (and a certain type of artist, but let’s not talk about them), as we finally learned the name of the female lombax who has stolen the show ever since the first trailer dropped almost a year ago. It’s Rivet, which is a nice piece of symmetry with Ratchet, both in terms of its sound and its meaning. The character seems like she’ll be getting a lot of screen time in Rift Apart, as well as bringing some new abilities and weaponry with her. Possibly the most exciting thing about Rivet seems to have been lost in the shuffle though, because it wasn’t featured in the trailer and was instead confirmed via a tweet: Rivet will be voiced by the one and only Jennifer Hale.

I suppose technically, it did feature in the trailer. Rivet talks, after all, but it’s not Hale’s most iconic voice, so it might have been missed. Certainly, I didn’t catch it. Hale is best known for FemShep, whose voice is fairly similar to Hale’s own timbre. There are a few voice actors working today that don’t necessarily have that much range, but rely more on depth. They don’t do a million and one different voices, they’re just able to imbue their regular voice with so much emotion that it can carry different characters. Laura Bailey is an excellent example of this, able to sell Abby from the Last of Us, Nier’s Kaine, Saint’s Row’s Boss, and Black Widow from the Avengers each as completely different people who think differently, approach situations differently, and feel very differently about the world – they just happen to sound similar. It’s all in the tone and emotions and energy; the basic sound is the same. Nolan North would be another actor that largely builds off one voice.

This is not a criticism of these actors; I never once while playing as Abby felt like I was really the Boss, used to strutting around in a leather domme suit with a pirate tiger’s head. Despite sounding near identical, they feel like completely different people, because of the energy in each of them. But with these voices, they’re instantly recognisable, so you know exactly who is voicing the character on screen.

Hale is sometimes lumped in with this selection, owing to how similar FemShep is to her natural voice, and I’m glad people are going to get to see (wait, hear?) her range; especially with Rivet arriving so soon after Mass Effect: Legendary Edition. Her role in Halo 4 and (one of) her roles in Star Wars: The Old Republic also have ‘the FemShep voice’, so it’s natural that people would associate her with this voice alone – but she has so much more in her locker, as those surprised to discover her role as Rivet have only just found out.

FemShep is quite a harsh role, even played as a Paragon, with an acerbic wit, a forceful delivery, and a resolution that cannot be broken. While some of FemShep’s dry tone will find its way into Rivet’s timbre, expect her instead to borrow from her lighter roles, just with FemShep’s steely core. Overwatch’s Ashe, also a Hale character, is like a more charming Southern Belle FemShep with a ‘bless your heart’ sweetness behind her angry eyes, but that’s just scratching the surface of what Hale can do. She’s also the voice behind both Cinderella and Aurora in Kingdom Hearts, and plays a soft interpretation of Black Cat in the PS1 Spider-Man game. While she’s best known for her Charlize Theron style rougher tones, a huge chunk of her performances go up an octave and bring a lot more airyness to her characters, while retaining the ‘don’t mess with me attitude’ of her best known roles.

Prior to the reveal, Hale would have already been one of my first picks. If you’d forced me to choose, I probably would have been torn between her and Tara Strong. Hale for general badassery, and Strong for a sense of chaos. Both would have been great interpretations of the role, and I can’t wait to see (again, it should be hear, shouldn’t it?) Hale’s take on it this summer.

Away from the voice behind the lombax, it has also been great to see Insomniac putting so much faith in her. I get that Ratchet & Clank is a more cartoonish series than most and therefore more open to new characters who embrace the cuddly and colourful aesthetic, but this still amounts to a well established Sony property with a male lead giving the reins over to a new female character; and the fans have all instantly gone ‘yep, sounds good’. We don’t yet know how the game will play out, but the box art gives both Ratchet and Rivet equal space, she has been heavily featured in the marketing, and she gets the lion’s share of the most recent gameplay trailer too. It seems like, at least for part of the game, she’ll be partnered with Clank as well, meaning the more typical Ratchet & Clank gameplay might come through her, rather than having her under the pressure of coming in as a new spotlight stealer and compromising how the game is supposed to be played.

I have no doubts that Insomniac has leaned into the marketing of Rivet, withholding her name and dropping minor updates on her, because of the fervent fan reception to her first appearance. It’s quite similar to Capcom having Lady Dimitrescu’s (deadly) height and shoe size ready to go as soon as ‘The Big Lady’ became a thing. But it has become increasingly clear that Rivet is not just a tagalong, nor is she just a lazy attempt to expand the game’s demographic or be ‘woke’ – whatever you interpret that to mean in the first place.

She even got the ‘Sony makes a gif’ treatment, with Rivet replicating Agnes’ knowing wink from WandaVision. I have to be honest and say I usually hate these, but for Rivet and Jennifer Hale, I suppose I’ll make an exception.

Next: When Will Gaming Have Its Promising Young Woman Moment?

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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey

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