Is Call of Spacey just another casting stunt?

casts a critical eye over Hollywood voice actors


With Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfareright around the corner, many have questioned the inclusion of the film and House of Cards star, Kevin Spacey’s voice. Immediately after the trailer, no doubt people across the world were excited. Who better to voice the leader of a ominous, technologically advanced private military company than the man who played the manipulative and sinister congressman we’ve all come to love and cherish?

But after several months, and the imminence of the next instalment in Call of Duty, it might be a good time to think about the possibility of a marketing ploy by Activision, coming to terms with the knowledge that interest from certain target audiences may be dwindling.

Or maybe not; stars from the red carpet have voiced characters before and have made those titles a more enriching experience. Think of Portal 2. Admittedly, while Stephen Merchant might not be the biggest Hollywood star, his presence in America is well-known. His partnerships with Ricky Gervais in both writing and acting, as well as his own writing endeavours, have endowed him with a wide appreciation.

Chosen to voice Wheatley due to his role in Extras and the creators’ fondness for British Comedy, Merchant became a permanent fixture throughout Portal 2. Starting off as an irreverent and zany companion, the offset to GLaDOS, but eventually going insane and becoming much more similar to her. Through the frantic bursts of Wheatley came a unique personality and his inferiority complex, arising from his purpose as an “Intelligence Dampening Sphere”, was only magnified after he seized control of the facility. Merchant, in fact, won two awards for his portrayal of Wheatley, and his soft Bristolian tones mixed with panic and stupidity really made the game shine from GLaDOS’s strict and methodical intelligence.

However, it doesn’t all work perfectly. If any of you have played Fallout 3 you would know that star of Taken and Love Actually, Liam Neeson, voices the father of the protagonist.

Initially, when the news broke of his role in the game there was quite a buzz; an excitement to see what Neeson could bring to the apocalyptic wastes of DC, or the “Capital Wasteland” to be more precise.

Unfortunately, this was less than true, it turns out that Bethesda’s trademark stiff character interaction couldn’t be helped by the soothe tones of Neeson, who always sounds wistful and monotonous. Not to mention that his role is rather miniscule. You spend the majority of the main story trying to find your father, and after that he’s hardly in it. It felt like a gimmick and it just didn’t feel authentic.

Bethesda only decided to twist the knife further when it came to voice acting in their follow-up, Fallout: New Vegas. Perhaps in one of the worst performances in a video game came Matthew Perry, of Friends fame, playing Benny, the smooth-talking and ambitious leader of the ‘Chairmen’. Once again though, the voice fell flat, and the attempts to make Benny a true blue 50s throwback were simply laughable.

Kevin Spacey could be a compelling (and appropriately evil) addition. But with the recent hype behind Spacey, it feels like it’s all just one huge case of stunt-casting, one that’ll undoubtedly leave the experience feeling a bit hollow.

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