Behind the Voice: Liam O'Brien - Part 3

Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles - 2009

Voice Director

Evidently they liked what O’Brien did with Resident Evil 5, because they called him in a few months later to work on Darkside Chronicles, the followup to 2008’s Wii light-gun shooter by Cavia. It’s a neat game, if only for the sake of seeing those classic RE2 and CVX locales in a new light. Sadly, though, the game does as much to disrupt that nostalgia by constantly dicking around with the order of events. God knows the Resident Evil series is not known for its deep and nuanced storytelling, but they change such superfluous things that it warrants question. For instance, why is that first cop you meet lying propped up against the fountain statue in the front atrium instead of the office just off to the northwest corner? Was that just to save time modeling rooms? Or does the conspiracy run deeper than that?

Probably not. But they even cock up the pacing as well. It’s not as though Resident Evil 2 was the most subtle of horror experiences, even when it came out, but it at least tried to pace itself a little bit. Darkside Chronicles has you shooting birds out of the sky like it’s Birdemic like two minutes into the game. Remember how the bird attack was kind of a special moment in RE2? But at any rate, the voice performances sound a little off too. They’re quite good on the whole, but there are parts that seem weird.

Leon and Claire’s conversations are a good example of this. When you pass the chain link fence with the basketball court just before the empty white van past the gun shop at the beginning, Leon makes an offhand comment about the zombies ‘having the hots’ for Claire, which is just fucking weird. And it’s shit like this that makes the game seem so strange. Also, Leon sounds all badass and gruff like in RE6 or something, despite this being the events of RE2. It’s worth clarifying that it’s Paul Mercier, or RE4 Leon, this time around. I had really hoped that they would do something to make Leon sound younger and more fresh-faced to fit the time period but what can you do.

Claire does a great job of sounding appropriately freaked out by the events taking place though. And it’s worth pointing out that Claire is the only Resident Evil character who’s actually had the same voice actor for the entire series. And Alyson Court does a really good job here too. It was a really good performance that towed the line between sounding freaked out while still being cool and tough. I mean, she spends a lot of time freaking out about zombies and weird noises, and then of course she has to be all ‘OMG Steve Burnside you saxxy man, I wanna have all ur babbies!’ later on, and that could have really made Claire feel like a shitty character if they hadn’t really gotten that performance balanced out just right.

But speaking of Steve Burnside, what the fuck happened with Steve Burnside? I mean, I know they weren’t going to get that weird Australian kid to reprise his role or whatever, but they had actors. Sam Riegel is an actor. Make him act. The fact that he doesn’t pronounce “I said I was sorry” like a cross between ‘surry’ and ‘soooooooooory’ is a complete dropping of the ball on the entire ADR department’s part, O’Brien included, and I would like to ask for my money back. I don’t think he even says that line in the first place. Some attention to detail.

Laura Bailey does a decent turn as Sherry as well. It’s not always a sure bet that actresses will get those little kid roles down right, but she did pretty well here. Granted, she doesn’t have much in the way of lines. They basically just called her in to cry, scream and try and talk while crying and or screaming, so given the material she was given to work with, she really knocked out a solid performance.

Then there’s Sally Cahill reprising her role as Ada Wong from Resident Evil 4. And I always though Cahill brought a more no-nonsense kind of personality to Ada Wong, as opposed to Courtenay Taylor’s turn as Ada, who has a much more sort of a put-upon seductiveness to her voice. And both are fun for what they are. It’s just that Cahill’s performance here is very sort of cold and businesslike by comparison, which actually makes her character even more interesting given the context. It’s also something Claire is constantly pointing out, when she isn’t getting all weirdly defensive over Leon. I mean Claire desperately wants to cat fight with this girl, which is really fun.

All in all, it’s a pretty good performance. You have to keep in mind that this is a light gun retelling of two of the worst written games in the series. You’re trading in a measure of that old Resident Evil camp for a measure of that old House of the Dead camp. So it all adds up to a tough gig if you’re the voice director and you’re trying to make the story not sound just inscrutably stupid. The game is what it is though, and the performances make the best of what they’re given. Do I think O’Brien completely fucked up with Steve Burnside? Yes. Do I think Sam Riegel could have made it work? Sure. But I’d probably better cut this off here. Cause I could bitch about my waifu Steve all day.

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Darksiders - 2010

War

War is definitely one of the more stand-out roles O'Brien has done. I wouldn't say it's one of his best performances. It's more that it's kind of a defining role. He's always been good at doing the whole super deep voiced, gravely sounding thing, but War is kind of the defining role for that I would say. Which is kind of a shame, because it’s one of his lesser performances in my opinion.

And Darksiders is a really neat little game, which makes it all the more heartbreaking that Vigil games got shafted so badly by THQ. It was originally conceived of by the comic artist Joe Mad, and it’s pretty much the most heshed out video game this side of Brutal Legend. And speaking of Brutal Legend, this game’s animation is about as bad as Brutal Legend’s, worse, even, actually. At least Double Fine was able to get a good sense of comedic beats with their super barebones animations. Here, the game just feels unfinished. There are even scenes that are lacking sound effects for things like picking up weapons and the such. It really kind of kills the grand scale and scope of this angels versus demons story, and it just sucks all the life out of these awesome performances at times.

But it’s still a really cool game despite all that. The story kind of takes its time in picking up. I would say it doesn’t start getting really interesting until about the halfway point, but it just keeps picking up from there, culminating in one of the cooler endings in a game I’ve seen in a while now. The voice performances are also quite impressive, which makes it all the worse how middling O’Brien’s character, the main character no less, ends up being by comparison.

Maybe it’s that the character was supposed to be so evenly pitched in his disposition at all times that he ends up falling flat, but boy does he ever fall flat. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone else has such wildly exciting and vibrant characters to play around him that make War feel like such a wet noodle by comparison. I mean, just take a look at this video, and compare Abaddon’s scene against War’s scene. It’s not like War is bad by any stretch of the imagination. He’s just not nearly as vibrant or exciting. I mean hell. Look at how awesome Death sounds in Darksiders 2. Michael Wincott gave that dude so much personality and charisma. It’s like fucking night and day. Like I said though, it’s not a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination, and it is, if nothing else, one of his more iconic roles, and a pretty fucking cool game to boot. I just wish O’Brien had gotten to be a bit more cool in it.

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Nier - 2010

Grimoir Weiss

Like this game. O’Brien is cool as shit in this one. Weiss is probably my favorite character O'Brien has played. I mean, it’s hard to say. I’m terrible at picking favorites, but this one’s probably it, which is sort of odd. He does sort of a British accent in this, and it’s not exactly the most believable British accent I’ve ever heard. It kind of sounds like he’s channeling Alan Rickman, which is what everyone always says I know. But it’s fine. Alan Rickman is a rad sounding dude. O’Brien chose to go just a bit more cartoonish though, which I think was probably the idea in the first place. But all arguments about dialect accuracy aside, Weiss is an amazingly awesome character in an amazingly awesome game, and O’Brien breathed so much life into this already beautiful character.

Weiss is a proud to a fault braggart who claims to have all manner of mind blowing ways of destroying your insolent ass if you don’t address him with the proper reverence. I mean he lays it on thick when you first meet him. He’s just awoken from an indeterminately long slumber, and unfortunately his mind bullets or whatever he was planning on using to blow your mind clean off don’t seem to work. He appears as baffled by this as the player, which suggests that either he really did used to be hot shit back in the day or else he was intensely deluded before meeting you.

But while his crazy magic powers may have atrophied to near nonexistence, his ego definitely has not suffered the same loss. The opening hours are spent with Weiss and your character bickering back and forth before introducing new characters to the party for Weiss to bicker with. What’s so wonderful about this game’s story is that it tackles a tired trope in Japanese games, the quirky gang of unlikely heroes meet and come together to save the world. They twist the trope from quirky heroes to broken humans, and their coming together and becoming friends consequently ends up feeling less cloying and obligatory than it does imperative. These are people, and I use that term somewhat loosely here, who have long since given up on dreams of love or even polite society.

Nier lives only for his dying daughter who has been cruelly kidnapped from him, Weiss has lost his power and lives in a strange and alien world after a long slumber, Kaine is a foul-mouthed hermaphrodite in a negligee with a sociopathic monster constantly speaking to her inside her head, and Emil was turned into a grotesque skeleton with a Burtonesque face after having lived in exile as a child because anything he looked at with his eyes was turned to stone. No one in the party has had an especially easy go of things. Their unlikely friendship is a slow convalescent for these broken and tragic creatures. It’s a constant ameliorating force that helps to make them all whole again.

So if you haven’t already, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t, I’m not remotely close to being the first person on the forums to recommend this game by far, you really should go ahead and check this game out. You’ll want to be all caught up for Drakengard 3, which is somehow actually coming out in the states next year.

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Notable Quotes:

"Speak the truth hussy!"

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I shall smite you with unholy magic!"

"You can hide nothing from Grimoire Weiss! Confess Oh guilty one! Confess and unburden your soul! Confess, lest others who are not as forgiving as I discover your terrible secret!"

"Will you at least procure a new set of lingerie for the festivities? Some, spring colors perhaps?"

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Transformers: War for Cybertron - 2010

Air Raid

Well this is a bit of a change of pace. High Moon’s Transformers games just never quite appealed to me personally. I actually didn’t grow up with the Transformers animated series, despite being old enough to have, so I don’t have the nostalgia for the characters like most do. Also, spoiler alert, but I don’t actually play all of these games, and what I watched of this game on youtube gave me a fucking headache. There are some definitely serious issues with the art style in these games.

It’s mostly an issue of there just being so much shit on the screen at any given time, that eventually nothing in the game reads visually. It’s just a bunch of noise with a startlingly uniform color scheme on top of it. And it’s bad enough that this kind of game is usually super repetitive in the gameplay department. The visual style on offer here only worsens that. Honestly, I think if they’d just changed up the color pallet here and there, and had a few areas that didn’t look like Unreal Tournament 3 on amphetamines, that it would have worked out just fine. But, nonetheless, these games definitely appear to be fairly potent fanservice, which is definitely cool.

At any rate, O’Brien plays Air Raid and evidently also Cyclonus, but he’s only in the portable version. And I think they did a fantastic job of taking these anime voice actors and having them effectively mimic the unique tone of the old cartoon. Obviously they had Peter Cullen returning to his classic role as Optimus, but all the other characters have new voices behind them. And while the voice work could have stood to be just a smidge more campy and goofy, they did a great job of evoking the sound of the old cartoon that inspired these games. Because the late 80s and early 90s cartoons had a unique sound, and you don’t need me to tell you that. You just know it when you hear it. It’s unmistakable, and I think they pulled it off really well here.

There is something just a bit surreal about hearing these familiar actors being transformers and hanging out with Optimus Prime. Air Raid is kind of a cocky smartass, and O’Brien makes his little quips work really well. And he’s just a very charismatic and energetic sounding personality, which works well for one of the bigger Autobot characters. So if the look on this game doesn’t turn you off, and you like you some Transformers, and you somehow haven’t already checked this game out, then I guess there’s no time like the present?

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Professor Layton and the Unwound Future - 2010

Dr. Stahngun

Aside from having just about the most badass wrasslin' name this side of the Macho Man Randy Savage, Dr. Stahngun is also a nice change of pace in O'Brien's work. The video above starts with O'Brien playing some portly announcer with a microphone, who sounds like he enjoys the sound of his own voice just about as much as he enjoys ladling gravy over his dewlap. The announcer promptly hands it off to Stahngun, and I think O'Brien was channeling Cam Clarke with this one, because Stahngun sounds like an older, more chilled out Liquid Snake. He's got that sort of, off-kilter pep in his voice, almost veering into Captain Kirk territories.

He also has some very, very crisp diction mixed in with just a tad bit of that British 'harrumph,' so that we're covering all the bases for stereotypical British accents. It's suitably cartoony for the material, and O'Brien's amiable voice is on full display with Stahngun. Also, it’s kind of strange how these actors tend to get attached to certain studios’ games, in this case, Level 5. He also seems to show up in nearly every CC2 game that’s come out in the states, what with having been in all the .hack//G.U. games and Asura’s Wrath, not to mention having been so wrapped up in the Naruto franchise like he has been. But I guess these are just the happy little accidents of the video game voiceover world.

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Atelier Arland Series - 2010-2012

Sterkenburg Cranach

The Atelier Arland series is some of the most brutal and and violent RPGs ever released. All jokes aside though, the recent entries in the Atelier series are basically one step removed from Otome games. And you know what that means. Bishies. O’Brien plays Sterkenberg, who is one of the side characters. These games are basically structured around hiring from a pool of pretty boys to come along with you exploring as an attache/body guard. Sterkenberg is one of those boys.

He’s also the first character you meet in the first game. He’s a knight, serving under the king of _, and on top of being an optional party member, he also serves as a go between for your character and the local government as you build your business over the course of the first game. And he’s got kind of an attitude. He’s sort of standoffish and is of painfully few words. This ends up being a being a jumping off point for all the girl characters constantly commenting on how scary he is and telling him not to scare the girls so much with his grumpy attitude. My theory is that all the girl characters being stupid is the real reason for his attitude. But that’s just me.

Then some stuff happens in the second game. Then in the third game everyone keeps calling him grandpa for some reason. The idea here is that time has passed since the first game, and they wanted to draw some attention to the fact that he’s no longer the young heartthrob, and has since transitioned into more of an older hunk role. But calling him a grandpa is probably the most counterproductive way of going about that that I can imagine. And he doesn’t like it. He’s all like ‘Ahh, come on guys, that hurts my feelings’ like some kinda baby.

All in all, the Rorona sub-series is kind of whatever. They’re pretty cool, but the more recent games are considerably better in production quality. So unless you’re looking for something to play on your Vita, and the awesome art style on offer appeals to you, then you’re better off looking forward in the Atelier series. That said, I don’t think any of the other games include the Masked G. So, just keep that in mind I guess…

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Sengoku Basara - 2010

Ieyasu Tokugawa

Ieyasu is sort of the main hero in Sengoku Basara. What’s cool about O’Brien’s performance here is how cool and friendly Ieyasu sounds. He’s written to be a very cliched character. He’s about as generic a hero as you can get, but he’s still really fun to listen to. I’ve mentioned before, when I was talking about Persona 3, that O’Brien kind of stands apart from other actors for being able to put on such a jovial sounding voice, and Ieyasu is probably one of the more stark examples of that.

And Ieyasu kind of sounds like a slightly older, somewhat more barrel chested Akihiko, which is somewhat strange. If you follow the Sengoku Basara series at all, you know that this is the first we’re seeing of Ieyasu as a grown up in the series, and he’s really not even all that grown up here. I don’t know what age the writers would slap on him here, but I would estimate somewhere around seventeen to twenty tops. So it is kind of surprising that they went for such an older sounding, manly voice for Ieyasu here, but it does kind of work.

He is supposed to be the main good guy after all, and the Sengoku Basara series is kind of all about lampooning anime and video game story tropes. So Ieyasu is sort of the shounen equivalent to Leslie Nielsen in this game. So you can probably see how he would need that more radio announcer quality deeper voice going for him here. And O’Brien brings that quality to this role full-stop. The character doesn’t really give him a whole lot to work with, but he does sound like a weird cross between Leslie Nielsen and Jeff Bridges, and he does make Ieyasu a character that’s really hard not to like, despite being such a cliched and generic hero.

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Fallout: New Vegas - 2010

Half the male cast

I don’t really have the time or the patience to write about this dumb game and all the characters O’Brien played in it, so instead I’ll leave you with this list of all his characters in New Vegas.

Pacer, Cachino, Jessup, Sergeant McGee, Sergeant Lee, Sergeant Cooper, Major Dhatri, Major Knight, Private Davey Crenshaw, Lieutenant Gorobets, Captain Parker, Poindexter, Comm Officer Castillo, Comm Officer Tilden, Comm Officer Stepinac, Private Kowalski, Private Sexton, Ranger Pason, Private Stone, Lieutenant Markland, Ranger Grant, Alexander, Isaac, Tomas, James Garrett, Ralph, Santiago, Orris, Jacob Hoff, Carlitos, Jerry the Punk, Anders, Ranger Jackson, Dixon, Mr. Soren, Comm Officer Green, Farris, Private Jensen, Little Beard, Tom Dooley, Les Fretwell, Willis, Missionary, Paladins, NCR engineers, Gomorrah bartender, Atomic Wrangler cashier, Gun Runner guards, Gun Runner gunsmith, and Kings gang members.

It’s good to see the Oblivion engine wasn’t the only corner they cut with this game. But I guess at least they got someone who can do a lot of different kinds of voices. Oh that’s right. They pretty much just had him do the one voice for all of them. Well what can you do. Also, a huge thanks to the Fallout wiki for having already compiled that list for me because there’s no way in god’s green earth I would do all the research to compile that list myself. His most prominent character on that list though, I would say, is probably James Garrett at the Atomic Wrangler. Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a little look at Dissidia, why don’t we.

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Dissidia 012 [Duodecim] Final Fantasy - 2011

Kain Highwind

The voice over in this game is, well, not the best. Most of the performances feel a little lifeless, and some of the voices seem really mismatched. Like Cloud sounds like Master Chief. I mean, some of these voices sound super miscast. Even Kefka sounds bland and lifeless half the time. Kefka! How the hell do you mess that one up? The actor really killed it on a few scenes too, so it’s not the actor’s fault. But half the time he sounds like he’s just reading off a script. So something is definitely up here, but who could say what?

At any rate, O’Brien plays Kain Highwind, and he has one of the better performances in the game. Granted, they have him doing ‘that one’ voice, that sort of low, dramatic voice that he does, and it is kind of weird to have O’Brien doing that voice for Kain Highwind in Dissidia, and then have him do the same voice as Caius Ballad in Final Fantasy XIII-2, but that’s neither here nor there. I hear that might have something to do with his having played Kain in the remake of Final Fantasy IV on the DS. Sadly, he also inherited his terrible looking costume from the DS remake as well. Either way, no matter how many times you hear O’Brien doing ‘that voice,’ it’s inarguably badass sounding, and he’s got some pretty decent lines to do in that voice, so it works out pretty well.

Most of the best dialogue happens in the battles though. The cutscenes are more about characters standing around and talking about the not so great plot they contrived together to get all these dumb characters in the same place. Though Kain is doing sort of a buddy cop thing with Cecil, who is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal in one of his more awesome sounding roles. And the pair of them make a pretty awesome team. That little hook is sadly but a stop-gap between fits of plot exposition. But the battles have a bit more pep to them, which is really good for such an actiony character as Kain. And O’Brien sounds really good in combat. I mean like, really good. And that isn’t always the case, even with the good actors. You can’t go one battle with Kain without being like ‘damn, what a badass.’

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Notable Quotes:

Exdeath - “So, you offer your life in exchange for theirs?”

Kain - “Of course not. I offer yours.”

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Anyway, that just about does it for part 3. Join me next time where I'll spend way too much time complaining about Catharine. Then we'll look at a bunch of pretty obscure games and then I finally get to Asura's Wrath. See you then.

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- Kris Osborn

4 Comments
4 Comments
Posted by Video_Game_King

Wait, you're asking for your money back after finding out that Capcom removed one of the more annoying traits for Steve Burnside? How does that make any sense?

Edited by Eribuster

Nice article!

Posted by stubbleman

Wait, you're asking for your money back after finding out that Capcom removed one of the more annoying traits for Steve Burnside? How does that make any sense?

It makes sense for the same reason I never really want to play the RE1 remake, even though it looks amazing. If I'm going to play RE1, I want to hear Barry sound like the dumbest person ever to speak into a microphone. I want the version with the awesome live action intro with the sick assed bass guitar background music. In the same way, if I'm going to play Code Veronica, and honestly, I'd probably rather play the Darkside Chronicles version of Code Veronica because the original is pretty garbage. But if I'm going to play Code Veronica, I'm going to want the version with the dumb version of Steve in it.

Posted by Video_Game_King

I'd probably rather play the Darkside Chronicles version of Code Veronica because the original is pretty garbage.

Oh, I know.

But if I'm going to play Code Veronica, I'm going to want the version with the dumb version of Steve in it.

I'd rather play a version without Steve in it.