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Speak Out

Author:
Tamsin Oxford
Category:
Features
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Features

It was on December 14th that Zachary Quinto, he of Heroes (Sylar) and Star Trek (Spock) fame, announced that he would be providing voice talent for the hugely anticipated MMO, Star Trek Online. Ok, I say hugely anticipated but most people I’ve talked to have stared at me blankly.

Speak Out

Am I the only Trekkie left in the UK?

So, it was thanks to this announcement that a bolt of inspirational lighting hit me. What famous voices have ambled into dark and gloomy game studios with t-shirt wearing developers and slapped their famous tones onto video game tracks?

Starting with Zachary, I must admit to really being impressed with his portrayal of Spock. I didn’t think I’d be able to get past the whole “slice open your head and eat your brain” thing. However, it didn’t take long before his performance outstripped his past as he delivered a very believable version of the man Leonard Nimoy made famous. According to reports his role is to voice the tutorial provided by an Emergency Medical Hologram. So not Spock then?

Speak Out

Here’s one for you to try and guess. This famous actor has been on stage, been a part of the Star Trek universe and is the voice of Emperor Uriel Septim VII from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Any idea? His Hamlet was praised and his Jean Luc Picard drew in a huge older female audience. Yes, it’s none other than Patrick Stewart. He’s a firm favourite among fans thanks to his rich voice and obvious talent.

Another actor who’s had an impressive run of film and game roles is Ron Perlman. He’s Lord Hood in Halo, Conan, Batman in Justice League Heroes and is planning some new appearances soon. Personally I’m not a huge fan of his voice, or his acting, but he seems to be in demand, most recently in Fallout 3 alongside Liam Neeson and Malcolm McDowell.

Speak Out

Of course the Grand Theft series has probably had the most hype thanks to Rockstar’s use of famous voices in all of their titles. There’s even an entire Wikipedia entry dedicated to the multitude of famed ones whose voices have graced the bytes of these games.  Notable entries include Samuel L. “Aargh, snakes” Jackson, Debbie Harry, Gary Busey, Phil Collins, Peter Fonda, Ricky Gervais, Dennis Hopper, Ice T, Ray Liotta, Ed McMann, Michael Madsen, Iggy Pop, Burt Reynolds, Axl Rose and James Woods.

That’s not even half of it!

Speak Out

Another game that boasts an impressive voice cast is Mass Effect 2 by Bioware. Recent news had them announcing a bushel of Emmy Award winning actors as the cast. Mass Effect 2 has Martin Sheen, Seth Green, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin, Keith David, Carrie-Anne Moss and Michael Hogan throwing their throats around and will be out in January 2010.

Dennis Hopper not only did GTA: Vice City (or taped gold watches to busses) but he worked alongside Billy Bob Thornton in Deadly Creatures. This Wii game is the first for Billy Bob and I’m personally looking forward to hearing his screams of agony as he’s eaten by a tarantula. He does scream, right?

Speak Out

My personal favourite is Michael Ironside. Obviously this is my opinion but his voice is the sexiest in the industry. Velvety gravel, yum. His face, not so much... Michael Ironside has also been one of the most believable vames (an entirely new word for video game famous names) with his portrayal of Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell series. He’s also appeared as General Jack Granger in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.

Kiefer Sutherland has to be one of the most wooden actors on the planet. I just could not take 24 seriously although he did kind of rock as the nasty leader of the Lost Boys. Clearly taking on the role of Jack Bauer in 24: The Game was inevitable. Then the team behind Call of Duty: World at War felt it would be a good idea to cast him as Sergeant Roebuck. And it was! One thing Jack, I mean, Kiefer is good at is shouting a lot. “Thousands of people will DIE!” I felt compelled to obey.

Speak Out

Another person who’s become a supremely famous cult actor, adored and revered by millions, but can’t actually act at all is Bruce Campbell. However, if he could act then it would all be ruined. He is perfect just the way he is and nobody else would have brought the same magic to the Evil Dead games as he reprised his role as Ash. He’s also taken on the Spiderman movie games, Tachyon: The Fringe, Broken Helix and Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle.

There are plenty of other stars that have entered into the video game fray including Eliza Dushku (of Dolls House and Buffy fame), Chow Yun-Fat, Jackie Chan, Vin Diesel, James Earl Jones, Jet Li and Mark Hamil.

Personally I think it’s kind of fabulous when a famous voice enters into a video game, especially when it’s done really well and suits their persona. For example, using Mark Hamil in Star Wars related games or Vin Diesel as Riddick. However, there has been a lot of debate and there are plenty of detractors. What’s your call? Do you love it, like it, not give a damn or think it should be banned?

Add a comment7 comments
A Chilli Mondo  Dec. 16, 2009 at 14:58

I think it's a massive waste of money - 95% of the time I don't even recognise the voice. Same story with all these big-budget disney cartoons with "famous" voice-actors. A large percentage of the budget could've been saved if they had hired other actors.

I'd rather have cheaper games/movies with little known thesps - but who am I kidding, prices would stay the same. At least more time/money could be spent on the production of the game/movie though.

Matt Gardner  Dec. 16, 2009 at 16:15

I personally don't really care if the game I buy has a Big Name doing VO work in it....just that the work is good. As various branches of gaming evolve into interactive cinematic experiences, the demand for quality voice work must be matched by a level of commitment from the developers and producers.

I don't think that the high-street price of a game is much affected by the incorporation of a well-known thesp, but that inclusion might well lift an average game through excellent characterisation. Halo ODST didn't really offer anything new, but its more character-based storyline was certainly helped by bringing in three established actors - Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin and Adam Tudyk - who had only worked together before, but had an amazing capacity for crew/squad-based rapport. There's also a familiarity factor, an associative aspect that kinda makes you feel like you're in safe hands story-wise.

Plus it was frankly an excellent bonus for any of us Firefly fans still bitter about its cancellation.

Matt Gardner  Dec. 16, 2009 at 16:19

Also yes......Michael Ironside FTW!

Gunn  Dec. 16, 2009 at 20:39

Not sure I agree Mondo, I certainly recognise a famous voice and I think if your a fan of that actor/actress in real life then it does carry some weight. If your playing an RPG it can help as its obviously story driven so you will be spending a fair bit of time listening to the voices, so I say its a plus to have it delivered by someone talented.

I have no idea how much percentage of a games budget is allocated towards voice talent but I can't imagine it's a large enough percentage to affect retail value.

As a Disney fan I must disagree with you on that as well :)
Think Jeremy Irons as Scar or James Woods as Hades, just would not be the same without.

Emma Kelly  Dec. 16, 2009 at 22:09

I was pleasantly surprised to recognise Adam Baldwin as a voice actor, in Half Life 2 Episode 2.

Jad  Dec. 17, 2009 at 08:03

I loved Patrick Stewart's intro to Oblivion. I think it helped make the game even more epic and unforgettable.

However, even non-famous voices can sometimes do that, like whoever did Prince Malchezaar ("Madness has brought you here to me. I shall be your undoing!") in World of Warcraft. It always makes me think - Oh yes! Please, undo me now.

And there's "Voice", of course. ;)

Dunelore  Dec. 23, 2009 at 16:22

I remember Mark Hamill in Full Throttle - one of the best.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQtyZ7PmFdw

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