Video game cutscene acting jobs must not pay much because for most actors, they seem to be the last stop before dinner theater. But that shouldn't require them to suck, should it?
Apparently it does, as everyone from top-level stars to washed-up '80s actors seems to turn in cringe-worthy performances. We believe none were cringe worthier than these:
#5. Christopher Walken in Ripper
In this futuristic retelling of the Jack the Ripper legend, via crappy PC game, there was no definite answer as to who the Ripper was. The game randomly generated a new character as the killer every time you played. Thus, every character was written much like Christopher Walken's character, Detective Vince Magnotta: shifty, untrustworthy and ready to stab a whore at the drop of a hat.
There are half a dozen familiar faces in the game's trailer--watch in amazement as each tries to out-suck the other. What becomes quickly apparent is that nobody in this game is going to chew the scenery like Walken:
In what will become video game cutscene tradition, Walken gives what may be the worst performance of his sort of illustrious career ("sort of" refers to Balls of Fury).
Seriously, as much as we love the man, it appears that Walken hasn't turned down an acting role in his life. This game came out in 1996, right between Pulp Fiction and The Suicide Kings for Walken. He doesn't care, he just really, really likes acting.
But that still doesn't explain what it is about video game cutscenes that turns every actor into William Shatner.
#4. 50 Cent in Bulletproof
A great game should transport the gamer, and immerse them in a new world where all things are possible. Bulletproof, on the other hand, was created to satisfy this need within only one person: rapper 50 Cent.
This PS2 and Xbox game is to 50 Cent what an angry, murderous crayon drawing is to a 9-year-old fat kid that gets picked on in gym class. It's a hastily thrown-together, cartoonishly violent revenge fantasy.
In this clip Fiddy loads up in his apartment and declares himself to be the "hardest muthafucka on the street," enunciating fairly well for a guy who took a bullet to the mouth during a 2000 shooting incident.
Want to know how you can tell this is a bachelor pad? Ass poster.
The character of 50 Cent in the game gets his likeness, voice and name from the real-life 50 Cent, but with the added bonus of having John Woo-like gun fighting abilities. You can imagine 50 drawing this up on a napkin as one stick figure named "The guy who tried to kill me" is drawn being murdered in many different ways by a mysterious second character only referred to as "Me."
Observe as this real-life victim of gun violence conveys his personal suffering into a cautionary tale for his fans:
Fiddy passionately believes that his own personal tragedy could have been prevented if he had just practiced a little Gun Kata. And by "a little" we mean enough to double the entire New York murder rate in a single day.
#3. Gary Coleman in Postal 2
When you're asked to voice yourself in a game only so your digital visage can get can get pissed on and exploded by the player, you know your career might not be at its apex.
It isn't so much the acting in the satirical PC shooter Postal 2 that puts Gary on the list, as much as it is the sad subtext behind it.
Now, there are a lot of stars out there that eventually become walking jokes. Some embrace it, some become angry and bitter. Coleman took the idea of embracing it to a higher level of low when he agreed to get paid to be in a game that openly mocks the idea of Gary Coleman even being alive, by having you kill him within minutes of meeting him.
He isn't a part of the story in any way and he has no impact on anything. He's just there, as Gary Coleman, and the game is clearly programmed with the foregone conclusion that upon recognizing the man, any of us would
1) piss on him ...
... and 2) try to take his life.
We happen to think the game has over-estimated the amount of murderous animosity the public holds against Gary, but upon hearing the concept of the game, Coleman apparently nodded and said, "Yes, that sounds about right." Might need to work on the self-esteem there, Gary.
#2. Dana Plato in Night Trap
When five of the most flamboyantly '80s-fabulous girls ever assembled decide to spend the night in a home in which five other girls had previously disappeared the "Special Control Attack Team" or SCAT send in undercover agent Kelli Medd (Dana Plato of Diff'rent Strokes fame) to protect and investigate.
So it turns out that Gary Coleman was not the first to travel the bitter Diff'rent Strokes-to-exploitative-video-game career path of despair.
This Sega CD game appeared in 1992, in an era when the sight of live actors moving around in our video games was so amazing to us that it was almost enough to make us ignore how shitty the game was. Almost. Plato's performance consisted of running around in a sports bra (which was as sexy as video games got in 1992, sadly) and her occasional "Can you fucking believe this shit?" glance at the camera like she's a student of the Jim Halpert school of breaking the fourth wall.
It's impossible to say whether her death scene in Night Trap had more or less dignity than Coleman's in Postal 2, as science has never developed device to measure such things:
Once again, subtext plays as this game marked the beginning of Plato's decline. The same year the game came out, Plato was arrested for trying to rob a video store (Wikipedia says Wayne Newton bailed her out) and she was working at a dry cleaner's shop.
Then, in 1999 ... well, let's just move on before we get any more depressed than we already are.
#1. Billy Dee Williams in Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
Billy Dee Williams may be known to a generation of geeks as Lando Calrissian, but he was known in every other circle as a silky sex machine. The man was good at one thing: acting as if he wanted nothing more than to mate with you. Witness the pinnacle of his non-Star Wars work, which was of course this series of Colt .45 commercials:
Sure, he slurs the word chances at the end there so it sounds more like "chanchesh." But rarely has a performance more clearly and concisely conveyed the subtext: Helllll, yeah.
So, it's not surprising that as Redmond Boyle, the acting Director of the Global Defense Initiative in Command and Conquer 3, Williams is less hard-nosed leader of the war effort, and more a guy who wants to make sweet love to the war effort. Watch this short clip and listen to his smooth, sexy and sultry declaration of retaliation:
The sultry delivery of the promise that Kane has " ... Sewn the seeds of his oooown destruction ... " makes us think that Kane's "destruction" will involve a glass of wine by a roaring fire.
We know what you're asking yourself. "Did I just accidentally stumble onto a list of the best cutscene performances of all time?"
Unfortunately, when Billy Dee is forced to portray some emotion other than barely repressed lust, he flies right into the same gesticulating Shatnerization that seems to befall even the most competent actors when cast in a video game:
Keep in mind, this game is from 2007. So, through 15 years of progress, somehow video game cutscenes are still just as cringe-worthy as Dana Plato's arm-flailing death scene in Night Trap. If Billy Dee couldn't save us, who possibly can?
For jokes about video games you've actually played, check out The The 10 Most Irritatingly Impossible Old-School Video Games. Then, avoid all that taxing "thinking for yourself" bullshit and instead feast on the opinions of the much more qualified Michael Swaim in Super Smash Brothers: The DEFINITIVE Review.