With the re-release of Grand Theft Auto 5, I’m reminded of my one of my favourite things in video games: good voice acting. GTA5 had this in spades, with all three main characters really nailing their performances. Good voice acting can mean the difference between a good game and a great game. There’s nothing more jarring than flat, monotone and emotionless dialogue.
What say you? Which games have great voice acting? Which ones have terrible voice acting?
Friday, 11:35 am – Ricky
Quiet week! Thanks for throwing in, Gavin – I knew this was up your alley.
Some great examples here. Most of my recent examples of good voice acting involve Troy Baker, and most notably his performances in Bioshock Infinite as the lead, Booker DeWitt and in Far Cry 4 as the chief bad guy Pagan Min. He’s got a great range, and really brought both of the aforementioned characters to life.
Bad voice acting? Plenty of that! But I refuse to focus on the negative on this fine Friday morning. Enjoy the weekend and enjoy some gaming!
Monday, 9:10 am – Gavin
Oh boy, voice acting! That’s where I’m a lion!
I have a lot to say about voice acting. It’s much harder than people give it credit for; you are not going to be a good voice actor just because you are famous. It requires significant vocal training and a unique, clear voice. There’s a reason that Disney and Pixar don’t just go with the star of the day, which is something that Fox, and to a lesser extent Dreamworks, are often guilty of. How many people remember Robots or Shark Tale?
I struggle to think of the specific best game for voice acting. I suppose it all depends on my mood, but generally, I’ve found the following to be top-shelf:
- Splinter Cell: Conviction (per the title art for this week). Michael Ironside has a tremendous voice, and was fortunate enough that Ubisoft actually got a good script and direction for Conviction. It’s a poor SC title insofar as gameplay goes (a good standalone game, but not a good SC game), but the voice acting was top shelf. When Sam discovers the nature of a conspiracy midway through the game, he freaks out, and it’s a tremendous segment. Plus, we get Elias Toufexis as Kobin, and his comedic delivery is wonderful. He plays a coked-out arms dealer and he plays it well.
- Spec Ops: The Line. It’s one of Nolan North’s eleventy billion gaming roles, and he really nails it. The changing subtleties in his voice as the game progresses and as you realize the “point” of the game are wonderful.
- The Mass Effect series. Now, I’m not certain that I’d call all of the voice jobs in here great, but the major ones were wonderful. They were great in that they were unique – in a game with so many characters, they managed to find so many unique voices, and that’s wonderful. Jennifer Hale as Shepard, Martin Sheen as The Illusive Man, Seth Green as Joker, Keith goddamn David as Admiral Anderson, Carrie-Anne Moss as Aria T’Loak (my favourite performance in the game), Lance Henriksen as Hackett, Yvonne Strahovski as Miranda, Freddie Prinze Jr as James, Shohreh Aghdashloo as Raan, it’s a testament to the writers and producers that they creating such unique roles and cast them appropriately. That’s to say nothing of the voice actors who are less famous who carried such significant roles like Garrus, Wrex, Tali, etc.
- Portal 2. GlaDOS and Wheatley and turrets. Nothing else to be said.
- Gone Home and The Stanley Parable. Both were successful with only one performance – that of the narrator.
Now, on to the bad. The bad ones are bad for many reasons, but it fundamentally boils down to poor delivery, poor timing, and inappropriate inflections. I’ve got a lot of these.
- Deus Ex. I adore this game – it’s one of my favourites of all time – but the voice acting is miserable. They didn’t have much of a budget for that part of the game, so they just brought in random people to fill the minor roles. The lead actors are all fine considering the state of voice acting in 2000 – the actor who played Bob Page did it with an almost cartoonish glee, and it really worked – but the supporting roles were all terrible. The bartenders in the Chinese bars were so awful that you couldn’t hear what they were saying half the time.
- Half-Life 1. The G-Man aside, none of the voice acting in HL1 was good. It got better in HL2 and the episodes, but back in 1998, this was garbage.
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent
- Skyrim. Aside from Paarthurnax, voice acting here was incredibly bland, and that’s a huge offence for such a AAA title.
- Mirror’s Edge (man, I really am listing a lot of good titles here)
- Jade Empire. Nathan Filion provides the voice for one of the antagonists, and he does a terrific job with it, but everything else is as mediocre as possible, and even the inclusion of John Cleese as an arrogant British man doesn’t help.
- King’s Quest V. I guess it was 1990, but still, it was bad.
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Metroid: Other M. I find that English localizations of Japanese titles tend not to have decent voice acting, so that explains Other M, but I’m stuck on Prime 3: Corruption, which was developed by Retro Studios. Probably more that it was the first time there was voice acting of significance in a Metroid title, but it was not good at all.
- As mentioned below, Just Cause 2
Monday, 7:45 am – Ricky
Hello! Happy Monday! I’m around this week again. Having a blast playing some Far Cry 4 (no pun intended), which coincidentally has great voice acting. Even the island natives have believable accents … unlike the inhabitants of the island of Panau in Just Cause 2…