Game makers have long tried to bridge the gap between Hollywood and gaming, hiring A-list (and sometimes not-so-A-list) talent to bring extra sales and legitimacy via their star power. Quantum Break is the newest title to combine Hollywood and the gaming world, creating an interesting hybrid of gaming and episodic storytelling. Quantum Break brought in strong, memorable actors such as Game of Thrones Aiden Gillen, Lost’s Dominic Monaghan, and Lance Reddick, the spookyman from many cult classic shows. Quantum Break’s cast does a great job instilling the sci-fi thriller story with a real sense of legitimacy, but Hollywood actors don’t always do such a good job in video games. In fact, there are plenty of times where otherwise great actors just don’t seem to give a damn, dragging down the entire project with listless, weird performances. Those are the actors we’re here to talk about today— the good actors who step into the world of gaming and, for whatever reason, decide to leave their talent at the door.
Though Apocalypse came out in 1998, Willis’ performance is every bit the modern “I just don’t care anymore” guy who has been sleepwalking his way through films for the last decade. Willis signed off his likeness rights to Neversoft, but refused to do any motion capture for his character, and he recorded almost no dialogue outside of some grunts and errant one-liners. The result is a Bruce Willis Mannequin, mumbling to himself in what sounds like a phone booth, while fighting off the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When Neversoft signed Willis up to play Trey Kincaid, they probably thought he’d add some of his usual John McClane-ish charm and humor to the role. They were wrong.
Honestly, no one is doing the finest acting of their career in this FMV detective game. Otherwise capable actors are reduced to stuttering goobers, delivering hackneyed lines while pausing at random, probably to check the cue cards they had to glue to themselves to remember this terrible dialogue. No one’s performance in Ripper is more bombastically uneven than Walken’s. To be fair, while it’s definitely not what you’d call good acting, it is entertaining, which makes it leaps and bounds better than the rest of the clown-shoe performances here.
Billy Dee WilliamsCommand and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
Lando Calrissian himself gives a rousing speech to the people to assuage their fears about the acts of war and terrorism which might be knocking at their door. Only, instead of speaking with power and determination, Lando speaks with the same silky smoothness he used to sweet ‘n greet Princess Leia with. If we’re going to war, it’s probably best if our leader doesn’t sound like he’s about to slip into something more comfortable, put on some Barry White, and open up a bottle of Colt 45 malt liquor.
Tim CurryCommand & Conquer: Red Alert 3
The Command & Conquer series has always asked for a bit of over-the-top-ness to its actors performances. The stories are big, cheesy adventures harkening back to ‘90s blockbusters like Independence Day and Dunston Checks In, so a certain amount of acting cheese is required. Tim Curry, however, spews cheese like a Golden Corral nacho fountain. The man’s built his career on portraying electrifying, larger-than-life characters like Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Pennywise the Clown, and that bigheaded Satan dude from Legend. He does, however, need reeled back on occasion, and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is one such occasion.
David DuchovnyArea 51 (2005)
If Tim Curry can be accused of going too big with his performances, Duchovny could be accused of going too small. Duchovny’s dry, almost flat intonations work well onscreen, where the subtle nuances of body language and facial expression can make for a complete message. In a video game, however, it makes for a slap in the ear every time he opens his mouth. Duchovny just sounds so bored with every line of dialogue. Area 51’s not exactly the best or smartest game, but what little energy it does manage to get going is annihilated every time Duchovny speaks up like the kid in the back of class who got called on to answer a question while he was half-asleep.
Someone get Gary Oldman a lozenge, please. Wikipedia refers to Oldman being known for his “big” style of acting, and that big style has lead to some memorable movie moments (like him screaming EVERYONE in Leon the Professional or pretty much every line in The Fifth Element). He’s not always over the top, though. As Commissioner Gordon he generally brought a quiet, exhausted humanity to this character embroiled in chaos. Here, however, Oldman just sounds choked with a dry throat as he reads through one of the most generically rousing speeches ever written. Perhaps Star Citizen’s creators should have spent the ludicrous, world record-breaking amount of crowdsourced money they’ve acquired on a cheaper, more low-key actor and better writers.
Matthew PerryFallout: New Vegas
Flat, flat, flat, flat, flat. When Bethesda hired Perry for Fallout: New Vegas, they were probably hoping he would make the gangster character of Benny kind of Chandler Bing-ish, You know, a little sarcastic, a little funny, and weirdly charming when he needs to be. Instead what they got was a guy who sounds like it’s fifteen minutes ‘til lunch and he’s ready to clock out early, hurrying through his lines with a delivery that couldn’t be any more rushed.
Mena SuvariKingdom Hearts II
As Aerith/Aeris, Mena Suvari sounds like someone on the writing staff who got called in to do voice work because the real actress had to cancel. She’s clunky, awkward, and breathy in all the wrong places, breaking pretty much every rule of voice acting as well as any possible thread of enjoyment players might have felt watching the beleaguered lovers Aeris and Cloud finally get to reunite onscreen.
Christopher Walken True Crime: Streets of LA
That’s right, the Walkenator’s on this list twice. Apparently Ripper was such a rousing success for him he decided to give video game voice acting another go in True Crime: Streets of LA. Here he sounds like a terrible comedian doing his first Christopher Walken impression, putting weird… pauses in every thing he… says, along with an unusual emphasis on specific syllables. When used correctly, Walken’s unusual affectations give style and intensity to his performances. Here he just seems like a weirdo.
Really, could this list have ended any other way? No great actor has managed to deliver a video game performance as mind-blowingly bad as Dinklage’s in Destiny. As Game of Thrones’ Tyrion Lannister, Dinklage is funny, empathetic, and complex. As Destiny’s Ghost he’s detached, bored, and, to put it technically, just plain awful. In a video game first, this performance as so bad it not only became a meme, but it was patched out of the game entirely. Instead of listening to Dinklage dull tones, players now have the luscious vocals of legendary voice actor Nolan North to guide them through the game.