Given the buzz around Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare following the House of Cards-esque trailer that made its debut last week featuring Kevin Spacey, this week's top ten is all about Hollywood talent in video games. To be clear, we're talking about a handful of the most memorable and meaningful performances from big names and Tinseltown stalwarts. You won't find the outstanding specialists such as Troy Baker, Jennifer Hale, Ellen McCain, or Ashley Johnson here (we'll save that for another day), but rather this is a top ten for those actors and actresses better known for their onscreen presence than in a vocal booth. So without further ado, in no particular order, let's DO THIS!
Liam Neeson - Fallout 3
Is there anything better than romping around the Capital Wasteland with Liam Neeson as your dad? No, no there isn't. Don't go to Rivet City, go frolicking with Papa Neeson and rebuild the childhood that your protagonist had whisked away from them. It's just the best father/child moment in gaming.
Look Dad, I just saved Oasis! You can't play catch with Liam Neeson in the Capital Wasteland, but you can take out a bunch of Super Mutants and then pick their corpses clean, which is kind of the same.
Ray Liotta - GTA: Vice City
Vice City might be a massive ripoff of Scarface, but it's Ray Liotta that gives the game an unmistakeable authenticity. Goodfellas is borrowed from too in a number of ways, but in no bigger fashion than in the voice of Tommy Vercetti. Liotta is brilliant, a likeable psychopath -- an affable, charismatic, occasionally very, very angry nutcase.
The best bits, though, are the little asides and one-liners, like when you get knocked down by a car or run into someone on the pavement or accidentally miscue a jump and injure yourself. Vice City has arguably the best setting and script of all of the games, but it's Liotta that brings it to life in spectacular fashion.
Mark Hamill - Batman: Arkham Asylum
I'm cheating here, I know, but I can't leave Mark Hamill off of this list. He's most recognisable as Luke Skywalker to most people, and that's fine. But ask any Batman fan what Hamill's best role is, and they'll probably say The Joker. Sorry Heath, Hamill's the best Joker we've ever had, and that's reflected in his captivating performances in the Arkham series of Batman titles.
He made his name as an idealistic farm boy from the Outer Rim, but Hamill's really at his best when he's playing slightly unhinged characters. And Cockknocker, of course.
Patrick Stewart - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow/The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
I'm not really counting the Star Trek and X-Men tie-ins that Stewart has done here. Chances are that if you ask a gamer to point to a title that features the mellifluous tones of the RSC alum, it'll be CLOS or Oblivion. His turn as Uriel Septim is short-lived but intensely memorable (though perhaps not quite as much as the man behind Uriel's son), and Stewart's Zobek brings the same theatricality and quality to Lords of Shadow as we hope Spacey might bring to Call of Duty.
Ellen Page - Beyond: Two Souls
You don't play Beyond: Two Souls for the gameplay, David Cage's latest opus is an utter shambles in that regard, but Ellen page is a marvel. Successfully playing Jodie Holmes over the course of a decade and a half is no mean feat. It's Page rather than the script that keeps us invested, giving absolutely everything in a performance that runs the gamut from powerful to subtle, from sweet to devastating. She is a tour de force in a game that often short-changes her, and the scenes between Page and Willem Dafoe are enthralling and electrifying.
Samuel L. Jackson - GTA San Andreas
One of the nice things about being Rockstar is having all of the money, which allows you to throw fat wads of cash at famous actors. Sometimes that works well for them, sometimes it just seems a little like name-dropping through characterisation, but in the case of Sam Jackson's Officer Tenpenny, it's a masterstroke.
Tenpenny is a diabolically corrupt cop, and Jackson imbues him with such menace. He's wonderfully realised, you hate Tenpenny utterly, but you can't take your eyes off of him, and that's all down to Jackson's masterful performance.
Jack Black - Brutal Legend
I'm not sure I can ever forgive Tim Schafer for Brutal Legend. It comes so close to being amazing, and so much of that is basically down to Jack Black just being unleashed all over this game. If Tenacious D ever made a video game, this would be it. Black has such genuine love for the source material and for the music involved, that it's hard not to be swept up by his sheer enthusiasm.
Until those sodding RTS elements turn up. Why Tim, WHY?! You built the world, you got a cracking performance from your lead, you made a game that was interesting and different and vibrant and rocked! Why the hell would you ruin all of that?
Rachael Leigh Cook - Kingdom Hearts II
If that remake of Final Fantasy VII is ever made, Cook is a shoe-in for voicing Tifa in the English language version of the game. The She's All That and Josie and the Pussycats star locked it down with Advent Children back in 2005, and went on to voice Tifa across Dissidia, Kingdom Hearts II, and Dirge of Cerberus. Cook has nailed the sweet-but-tough attitude of Ms. Lockhart across two mediums.
No-one else will do, frankly.
Sean Bean - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Sean Bean has only appeared in one video game, but what a game, and what a performance. Okay, so it's a little difficult to imagine the Yorkshire-accented Bean as Patrick Stewart's son, but his Martin Septim is a wonderfully realised character that you, as the protagonist, get to befriend. And who doesn't want to be friends with Sean Bean?
“Oblivion is something unique, an epic entertainment experience unlike anything I had seen before,” said Bean of working on his first game. “I decided this was a project I really wanted to work on creatively and I hope fans of the game enjoy the results.”
He hasn't done another game since, sadly, but we think that's just because no-one's come up with a decent idea for Sharpe: The Video Game yet. Give us a buzz, Sean. We're full of blue-sky thinking.
Mickey Rourke - Rogue Warrior
Sometimes you have to pay the bills.
Rogue Warrior is a dreadful game. It's so bad, in fact, that even IGN gave it a bad score! It follows a fictionalised version of real life SEAL Dick Marcinko as he romps around behind enemy lines, shooting people up in hilariously clunky fashion and swearing incessantly. And that's pretty much it. Everything in this game is broken, nothing is worth your time. But in barrels Mickey Rourke, dropping dickmines and f-bombs with some serious gusto, managing to make a line about a polar bear's ball-sack seem both perfectly apt and inadvertently hilarious.
"It's a goat fuck!" says Rourke, sounding more gravelly than The Thing, describing every situation where guns go off. Mind you, it's still better than his turn in Iron Man 2.
Honourable Mentions: Andy Serkis (Enslaved), Kiefer Sutherland (MGS V), Vin Diesel (The Chronicles of Riddick), Jeffrey Combs (The Secret World), John Goodman (Rage), Seth Green (Mass Effect), Gary Oldman (COD).