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You know that games have nearly made it when big-name acting talent from cinema and TV signs up to get involved. We say "nearly" because games will only really have made it as an art form when said talent deigns to provide said games with the same degree of artistry it does on camera, rather than mumbling through its lines and buggering off quickly before the sandwich shop closes.
It's not always the talent's fault though. Sometimes the gap between our expectations and the reality comes from the way the game treats the performance, or how big an aspect of the overall production it turns out to be. We've got a few examples of each kind of disappointment here, but regardless of cause, they are all very, very disappointing indeed.
So, Bungie announced that Nathan Fillion and Tricia Helfer would be appearing, and lo the geeks did rejoice. And rightly so. Both are much-loved and very talented stars of stupendously good sci-fi shows and should be the video game casting equivalent of adding red pesto to an already tasty slice of cheese on toast. (what, you’ve never tried it?)
Fillion is obviously much-beloved for his natural and charismatic appearances in Firefly, Serenity, Slither and erm, White Noise 2. And if he doesn’t get cast as Nathan Drake in the rumoured Uncharted movie we’re going to burn down all of Hollywood just to make sure we get the guy responsible. Helfer put in a mind-blowingly layered and often mesmerising character performace in Battlestar Galactica (several in fact), and also looks really good in a small red dress. But in ODST, we got this:
Two bored-sounding read-throughs that had any residual hint of the two’s talents bludgeoned brutally to death by the flailing arms of Bungie’s ludicrously rubbery character animation. Bungie apparently licensed the actors’ likenesses as well. Apparently. Fillion’s model is alright, in a slightly-melted action figure kind of way, but Helfer’s face looks like it’s been carved out of a boiled potato with a blunt spoon.
Underwhelming us with: Mike Patton
Never has a good voice been so wasted on unworthy material. It’s a fact accepted by all of a decent moral grounding that Mike Patton’s vocal chords are a supernatural treasure, gifted to us from on high; an inhuman, inverse Pandora’s box of noises, which produces sounds, music, characters and noises no mortal man should be able to create. He fronted Faith No More. He fronted Mr. Bungle. And Fantomas. And Tomahawk. And Peeping Tom. He did all the Infected voices in Left 4 Dead. He played The Darkness to a goddamn horrifying, guttural T. He’s made whole albums just using his voice.
So what did Grin do? They gave him a generic gruff-voiced space marine character to voice in a generic gruff-voiced space marine voice. And they gave him lines that weren’t even written in sentences.
We weep. We genuinely weep.
Underwhelming us with: Billy Dee Williams
When you think of Billy Dee Williams, you think of the smoothest motherf*cker in the world. A man so cool and slick you could ice-skate on his face and use a distilled form of his aura to grease overheating factory machinery. He was Lando Calrissian. He was the original cinematic Harvey Dent. You know he’s awesome, we know he’s awesome, and Family Guy certainly knows he’s awesome:
And knowing that the Command & Conquer series thrives on its superbly cheesy acting, Billy Dee’s appearance in Tiberium Wars should have been the most outrageously smooth thing since Prince fell into a barrel of crude and then stumbled out in front of a steamroller (seriously, it happened).
But instead it was like watching a black Bill Shatner come up on acid after eating a pound and a half of cocaine and washing it down with espresso. Bloody fantastic in its own way of course, but certainly not what it could have been.