Musical scores and sound effects have always been essential components to the enjoyment of video games. They set up the way we experience the mood and environment, and with the change to disc and hard drive, voice acting has gained just as much influence. Games like The Last of Us demonstrate just how far games have come to providing an emotionally charged cinematic experience with good voice acting. However, I’d like to pay homage to opposite end of the spectrum. This editorial is for the D-list: all those voice actors who turned otherwise decent titles into cringe worthy experiences that will forever exist in auditory infamy.
Resident Evil: Script writing for the newly literateIt’s a good thing to feel pain for characters when some traumatic event has happened to them. However, Resident Evil successfully endows us with palpable sorrow for the voice actors behind the characters. Pay special attention to the dialogue of one of our heroes: “Here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you.” Yes, the voice acting is painful and sounds like it’s being read for the first time, but that line is horrible, and only one of many. If I had to read that script, I would’ve done it once and gotten out before its idiocy could have any side effect on me. I can only assume the actors were dying on the inside as they cranked out their lines, and I feel sorry for them.
House of the Dead 2: Foreign accents for the stay at home dadHouse of the Dead 2 reminds me of most fighting/action movies; ignore any part outside of a fight scene, and you’ll probably enjoy it more. Each cutscene is filled with so much robotic speech and horribly cliched dialogue that by the end, the main actor probably wished the game ended with Goldman’s fall rather than his monologue. Admittedly, his final words are some of the best acting in the entire game; if you listen close enough, you can hear his sense of relief. Though that can probably be contributed to the fact that he was happy to be done with this painful project.
I do have to give credit to House of the Dead 2 for providing some of the most memorably strange lines in voice acting history. In moments of sheer brilliance, the actor behind Goldman utters strange syllables pronouncing the easy to say “life” into “loife” or perhaps “l-Ife”? A beautifully transgressive pronunciation that shows the artistic side of this man. Clearly, he felt obliged to push beyond the dull script and invigorate it with l-Ife! Bravo!
Deus Ex: A robots guide to human reaction“A bomb.” Apparently, JC’s just too cool to care that he’s about to be blown up. Well, he is actually really cool, but it’s still pretty sad when any character outside of the protagonist sounds better (Jock, you rule). The voice acting in Deus Ex really made it hard to get through my first playthrough. Admittedly, the voice acting was at times decent, but at others just horrible, bland, or stereotypical. Going through Hong Kong was by far the most brutal experience in the game. I had to mute it, because so many accents and lines made me cringe and grind my teeth. It’s a shame, because the game is an amazing one, but I really don’t find myself going back to it any time soon.
Chaos Wars: Nepotism and cost saving – it’s all relativeAnyone familiar with Shadow Hearts or any of the series’ that were incorporated into Chaos Wars was probably crushed when they put their copy in and were greeted by some of the most inexperienced dubbing ever pressed to disc. It was heartbreaking to hear some of my beloved characters steamrolled completely flat. In fact, I chose to play on mute because it was just too distracting to hear their conversations. I’ve heard that the company’s budget was extremely low, so Idea Factory hired actors that were actually related to the CEO. That explains a lot, but doesn’t make me feel any more inclined to replay the game. I do get the sense that they were trying though. Some moments outperform the acting in Resident Evil and House of the Dead 2, so kudos Chaos Wars, you aren’t the single worst voice acted game in history.
Two Worlds: How to go from payroll accounting to Orc Warlord without ever leaving the officeThough it received praise from RPG lovers for its large world, Two Worlds drove even more away thanks to a low production value. This was exemplified by the terrible dialogue that attempted to sound Medieval through the use of awkward pausing. Making matters worse were robotic tones that contrasted with the Medieval inflections. All in all, the incongruous voice acting made for a world that felt artificial and uninvolving. But not surprisingly, Two Worlds also ignored hiring professional actors. Instead, the characters were voiced internally by the staff at Reality Pump. It’s just too bad they didn’t hire a voice coach, or better yet a team of them. What’s a better corporate activity than one that improves your game? They could even call it a team building seminar and have written it off on their taxes.
When we feel pain for the actor or are too busy mending our broken expectations, or ears for that matter, the game is basically ruined. Frighteningly enough, games today are still being produced with horrible dubs. It’s even more unbearable when games with gorgeous graphics are paired with amateurish awkward voices. Developers, please, help me enjoy what you produce by finding actual talent. If the “Where are they now?” section of checkout gossip magazines are any indication, there must be plenty of actors eager for the opportunity.