The year 2008 has pushed forward the often unstable union of video games and the ritzy-glitzy world of Hollywood. There are more movies based on games than ever before, for one. Sure, the majority of them are produced by Uwe Boll and aren’t very good, but it’s also working in the opposite direction. Just look at Quantum of Solace for a big name publisher and developer taking on a video game adaption of a movie. Then there’s the influx of voice talent from Hollywood stars. Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War and Fable II are just three examples of games with star quality.
So, the question is where do these illustrious games line up in a list of the top 10 star-studded games of all time? Which games have the cast lists that make us faint out of giddy excitement? Lucky for you, wonderful reader, the answer has been provided for your scrutiny. Before we continue, take note of one proviso: games that are official adaptations or spin-offs of movies and TV shows have been disqualified from the list, because that’s just too easy for me. That’s why you won’t see any sign of Superman Returns, Lost: Via Domus, or 24: The Show on this list, and I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a good thing. Let’s begin.
10. True Crime: Streets of LA
True Crime wasn’t a poor game really, but history will likely remember it as the GTA III clone where you play a cop. It did a lot of things right, such as having decent graphics (minus a few obvious glitches), a big city, and a fun auto-targeting system. It also did a lot of things badly. Take the cliché-ridden script, bizarre inclusion of zombies, and incredibly unlikeable protagonist for examples. That’s fine ‘cos we don’t care about them, just their famous friends. Academy Award winner Christopher Walken bookended True Crime with narration, whilst Academy Award hating Gary Oldman, The Fast and the Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez, and everyone’s favourite tough guy, Michael Madsen lent their talents to fill out the cast. Creepy Walken starred in the sequel, True Crime: New York City, alongside Laurence Fishburne and Mickey Rourke. There won’t be a hat-trick of appearances, however, as Activision cancelled True Crime 3. Oh well.
9. SSX Tricky
This is choice you may not have been expecting, but 2001’s SSX Tricky (really SSX 2) featured a damned impressive cast list. That’s odd when you consider that no other game in EA’s snowboarding franchise has featured one recognizable name. One for the philosophers, I guess. So, who was in it? Well, you could pull off crazy tricks with Lucy Liu, the perfect choice for cool-as-ice babe Elise Riggs, or as David Arquette in the form of 70s throwback Eddie Wachowski. Macy Gray, Billy Zane, and Bif Naked also provided voices. Plus it had the coolest theme tune, Run DMC’s ‘It’s Tricky,’ and a small clip from the song would play whenever you pulled off an uber-trick — something to bring back for that rumoured next SSX…
What happened to XIII 2, or XIV, or whatever the sequel was gonna be called? That’s what comes to mind immediately when I think of XIII. True, Eurogamer’s description of it as a “flawed masterpiece” is reasonably apt, but there was so much potential in this beautifully cel-shaded FPS. Will we ever get resolution to the conspiracy surrounding XIII himself, played by Fox Mulder (sometimes known as David Duchovny), and supporting characters Major Jones (rapper and actress Eve), and General Carrington (Batman-turned voiceover whore Adam West)? No, probably not.
7. Call of Duty: World At War
World at War is Gary Oldman’s second entry on the list, here comprising the role of beardy Soviet Sgt. Reznov. However, it’s not Oldman alone that pushes the 5th entry in the Call of Duty war-em-up series, but also Kiefer Sutherland. That’s right, Jack freaking Bauer. Sutherland provides an excellent (if familiar) performance as Sgt. Roebuck, an American soldier leading the line in the Japanese invasion of World War II. Unsurprisingly, he shouts, then he shouts some more, and then he shouts a bit more. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to imagine you’re fighting alongside Agent Bauer himself. An awesome feeling that is, only ruined by opening them to find that you’re inevitably dead. Again.
6. Def Jam: Fight For NY
If you like your fighting games full of hip hop, or your hip hop full of fighting, then you probably loved Def Jam: Fight For NY when it came out in 2004. Praised for its deep combat, fearless brutality, and high level of polish, Fight For NY was one of the surprise hits of the year. What’s also unexpected is just how many stars, through voice talent and likenesses, appear in this game. There are voiceovers from Snoop Dogg, Omar Epps (of ER and House: MD), Busta Rhymes, Ice-T, Danny Trejo, and Carmen Electra. In fact, you could elect to have the Playboy and Baywatch babe to be your girlfriend after she has a catfight with your current one. It’s art imitating life, really.
5. Kingdom Hearts
Disney and Square-Enix teaming up to produce one of the PlayStation 2 mega-hits was a little unexpected. Its cast list comes as something of a shock too. The big-eyed cuddle-fest featured Hayley Joel Osmont as lead character and future deviantART victim Sora, and Hayden Panettiere as Kairi. Panettiere would go on to play the cheerleader from “save the cheerleader, save the world." The supporting cast was impressive too, featuring Sean Astin (of hobbit fame), Billy Zane (again), Mandy Moore, and David Boreanz (of angelic fame). Not bad for a game about some keys and a bunch of outdated caricatures. Oh, and a ton of Disney characters were in it too.
4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Bethesda’s most recent release and candidate for Game of the Year, Fallout 3, could easily have made this list. After all, it did include Liam Neeson, Malcomn McDowell, and Ron Perlman (who admittedly provides a lot of voiceover, including one in True Crime. I decided to go with Oblivion, mainly because Jean-Luc Picard’s opening narration is almost synonymous with that game for me. Sure, Patrick Stewart’s character doesn’t hang around for long, and Sean Bean and Terence Stamp’s performances have a similar brevity. They did stand out, though, and not just because the rest of the NPCs were all sharing a voice box. They were really good performances too.
3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
You knew the GTA games were gonna show up eventually. It was just a question of which ones, and where on the list they would be. Well, San Andreas is coming in at #4. Within seconds of entering the playground of crime that is the city of San Andreas, central character CJ finds himself robbed and thrown out of a moving car by none other than Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson plays corrupt cop Officer Tenpenny, and is just one of a multitude of recognizable names to be found in the cast. San Andreas stars James Woods, Peter Fonda, (appropriately) The Game, David Cross, Ice-T, and Shaun Ryder. Yes, Shaun Ryder, lead singer of the Happy Mondays and renowned drug user.
True to the GTA motto of imitating and mocking reality, Ryder’s character Maccer is the lead singer of British Band The Gurning Chimps. Maccer also has a drug problem, but has another problem involving sexual urges and how to control them, too. I just hope Ryder understood the irony of the role and wasn’t off his tits. I doubt Rockstar North cared too much, but it’s easy not to when your game becomes the best-selling PS2 title ever with an amazing 12 million copies sold worldwide.
2. Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3
This one’s an interesting choice if I do say so myself. So, the cast members involved are not the hugest stars, but they are significant cult names. Savvy EA knew that when they pushed them, and the series trademark FMV cut scenes containing them in full visual glory, to front stage in their relentless marketing campaign. So, who was in it? Well, lucky Soviet commanders got to use their RTS skills to please Tim Curry, playing Premier Cherdenko with a ludicrous accent. Allied players enjoyed performances from Jonathan Pryce as the very British Field Marshal Bingham and JK Simmons of Spiderman and Oz fame as the even more American President of the United States. Indeed, Simmons actually stated that he let a ‘tiny bit of Dubya’ creep into his performance. Perhaps that was in the bit where he told players to send the "Commies back to their mommies." Last but certainly not least, George Takei plays the leader of new faction, Empire of the Rising Sun. They even got the Star Trek legend to say “all your base are belong to us” for one of the game’s trailers. If those names don’t do it for you, then you’ve always got high-profile eye candy to amuse you in the forms of former Playboy girl Jenny McCarthey, former Miss Teen USA Kelly Hu, and of course “[British] TV’s boobiest babe” according to a scholarly magazine by the name of Nuts, Gemma Atkinson.
1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
This year Rockstar North took a different approach with GTA IV’s casting, choosing less well-known names over the usual star-studded roster. That’s all well and good, but we’re here to celebrate games brimming over with celebrity. The cast list from Vice City, the GTA tribute to 80s TV series (not the movie) Miami Vice, must’ve read like a director’s dream. Central character and long-time gangster with a past Tommy Vercetti was played by Emmy Award winning Ray Liotta, who shot to fame in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film Goodfellas as real-life badass mobster Henry Hill. How perfect a union is that? The choice to bring in Philip Michael Thomas, who starred in the original Miami Vice TV series, as drug dealer Lance Vance was positively inspired. I could go on about the rest of the cast list, but you’ve played it and you know all about them. You spotted Danny Trejo (2nd entry on the list), Dennis Hopper, Lee Majors, Gary Busey, and Blondie singer Debbie Harry. You know the world’s most famous porn star, Jenna Jameson, played the brilliantly christened prostitute Candy Suxxx. Sure, San Andreas may have attained the commercial and critical glory, but Vice City’s cast list just resonated that much more with this list, and that’s why it’s #1.