In a recent interview with Vulture, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser spoke about the development of the soon-to-be-released Red Dead Redemption 2 and a range of other topics, including why the studio doesn’t use name actors in its games anymore.
Back in the early 2000s, Rockstar titles such as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and its sequel San Andreas were filled with famous voices, including the likes of Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper, and Samuel L. Jackson but the studio’s more recent games have relied more on the talents of dedicated voice actors than Hollywood stars. According to Houser, the reason for this all comes down to egos and player immersion.
“We don’t bring in name actors anymore because of their egos and, most important of all, because we believe we get a better sense of immersion using talented actors whose voices you don’t recognize.”
Specifically, Houser highlights a negative experience with Burt Reynolds in GTA: Vice City, in which the late actor apparently shouted “get the limey out of here” after an argument, and another incident with Public Enemy’s Chuck D on GTA: San Andreas in which Houser had to ask another director to take over following a disagreement.
The most famous actor in Red Dead Redemption 2 is arguably Graham Greene, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Dances with Wolves (1990). Houser highlights Greene’s work in the game as a Native American chief “losing his rights as an independent king … a gentle soul in that violent world” is “brilliant”.
In other Red Dead 2 news, a gameindustry.biz report has landed Rockstar in some controversy over Dan Houser’s revelation that his team has been “working 100-hour weeks” at several points in 2018, highlighting the averse working conditions experienced by many game developers working on AAA projects.
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12 Most Surprising Celebrity Cameos In Video Games
From very early on, celebrities and video games have been very happily intertwined. In most cases, this involves making a game based around the celebrity, like the classic Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, or the far-less-classic Michael Jordan: Chaos In The Windy City. But sometimes, a game will put a celebrity into a game that isn’t about them and the results can become all the more baffling..
From wrestlers in non-wrestling games, to beloved 80s sitcom characters going on murderous rampages, and even to US Presidents rolling up their sleeves and violently taking care of business, here are some of the weirdest, most unexpected celebrity appearances in video game history.
12. Ric Flair – Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3
Like most wrestling stars, Ric Flair has made many video game appearances, albeit mostly in wrestling games which is fairly expected. Less expected, however, is his turn as a hard-nosed military dude in Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3.
Flair plays Douglas Hill, a hard-nosed commander coerced out of retirement to help train new Allied recruits and deal with post-World War II Japan and Russia. As an opponent in Commander’s Challenge Mode, Flair roasts your character (the FutureTech Commander) via a series of vignettes where he questions your toughness. He then boasts how he and his squad could destroy you and yours, just like any good wrestling heel should. Each time you beat him though, he does concede defeat, which is very unlike a wrestling heel. And sadly, never once does Commander Hill yell WOOOOOO.
Flair promoted his appearance in the game through a series of YouTube videos where he kept getting attacked by a Russian bear. Ultimately, he beat the bear with the figure-four leglock, a move Commander Hill probably should’ve thought of using on Command and Conquer players if he truly wanted to win.
11. Ariana Grande – Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
Final Fantasy isn’t known for celebrity cameos, but its 2017 free-to-play mobile title, Brave Exvius, bucks that trend in the strangest manner possible. Pop star Ariana Grande appears not just as a character, but a playable one.
Finding the pint-size Grande in-game is actually really easy: fight your way to the Dimensional Vortex, select the Dangerous Woman Tour event, bowl through some easy enemies, and Dangerous Ariana, described in the game as “a beautiful singer from a distant world,” becomes available to add to your party. She’s wearing her bunny mask from the “Dangerous Woman” music video, making it easy to headcanon her as a fictional rabbit-human hybrid creature if you’d prefer not think of her music.
Cutesy pop reputation aside, she’s actually a pretty powerful party member, and her limit break (naturally entitled “Touch It”) can bring down even the strongest of foes. Pair her with Cecil from Final Fantasy IV, he won’t mind. It sure beats slumming it with Edward, the cowardly, spoony bard who isn’t fit to tie Grande’s thigh-high boots.
10. Gary Coleman – Postal 2
Postal 2 is a game where you’re just trying to go about your business, but everybody wants to give you the business until you grab a weapon and start blowing them away. This includes the late Gary Coleman, of all people.
In one of the game’s missions, you have to go to the mall and get an autographed copy of Coleman’s book, What I’m Talkin’ Bout: The Gary Coleman Story, to sell on eBay. Eventually, cops arrive to arrest Coleman for unexplained reasons. Coleman grabs a gun and fires back, with weapons varying from assault rifles to grenades. You have the option to either run off or shoot him, but if you fight, be careful: little Arnold is one of the strongest characters in the game, and since the cops will eventually gun him down anyway, it’s almost not worth fighting him.
Coleman returns in the game’s expansion, Apocalypse Weekend…kind of. Your character suffers hallucinations and imagines himself being attacked by dozens of zombified Gary Coleman clones. Willis never had to put up with this kind of crap.
9. Keith David and Roddy Piper – Saints Row IV (2013)
The Saints Row series has been weird from the start, but Saints Row IV kicks it up several notches with an alien race slapping you into a VR simulation of a recently-destroyed Earth. There, literally anything can happen, including running into a wrestling legend and re-enacting one of the few good movies a wrestler ever made.
Famed actor Keith David had long been a part of Saints Row, but this was the first time he played himself in the series. At some point, your character discovers David betrayed you, due to being under alien mind control. While tracking David down, you run into “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, kilt and all. Once Piper and David meet, they do what they did best as co-stars of the movie They Live: they fight. Much like in their film, Piper knows the truth about the aliens and David is resistant, at least until Piper punches the sense back into him.
Once that’s over, you can call Piper into battle whenever you want. After enough dialogue, Piper will realize if Earth is destroyed and this is just VR, then he’s probably dead too. That’s a decidedly non-rowdy revelation.
8. Phil Collins – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
If you were asked to list celebrities you’d expect to see in Grand Theft Auto, 80s soft-rock icon Phil Collins likely wouldn’t make the Top 1000. And yet, here he is, not just gracing the 80s-centric Vice City Stories, but being the first celebrity to ever play himself in a GTA game.
For the appropriately-named “In The Air Tonight” quest, you have to mow down gangsters out to kill Collins, as payback for Collins’s manager owing them millions. Once you successfully fend them off so Collins can complete his concert, his manager pays the crime boss back his money anyway. Otherwise, he wouldn’t stop trying to kill Collins, and your only mission ever would be protecting the “Sussudio” guy.
Later, for 6,000 in-game bucks, you can purchase a ticket to another Collins show. This lets you watch him sing “In The Air Tonight,” something you could otherwise only do by opening up YouTube or listening to classic rock radio for more than ten minutes.
7. Michael Jackson – Space Channel 5 Part 2
Space Channel and its sequel are Simon Says-style rhythm games set 500 years in the future. Somehow, despite being way past the point where he would’ve died of old age, Michael Jackson appears in the game, not just as himself but as the savior of humanity.
In the story, Jackson saved the planet from aliens half a millenia ago, using nothing but his amazing dance moves. Now, centuries later, he’s Space Michael, the chief of Space Channel 5 and still just as incredible a dancer. He’s one of the characters who helps you fend off an evil dance troupe called the Rhythm Rogues, all with the power of dance. He did the same thing as a lethal-dancing robot-car-transformer guy in Moonwalker back in the 80s, but somehow this makes more sense.
Apparently, Michael wanted to be in Space Channel from the start, but he contacted the developers too late, so they could only squeeze him in as a cameo. By Part II, he was promoted to the co-lead character, because if your dancing game includes Michael Jackson, why wouldn’t you make him anything but The Man?
6. Fred Durst and Abraham Lincoln – Fight Club
As a movie and book, Fight Club is about how violence and toxic masculinity go hand-in-hand, and are to blame for much of the misery in people’s lives. As a game, Fight Club is about…fighting. To further show how much the game missed the point of the story, you could unlock one of the worst singers ever, and one of the greatest Presidents ever, as playable fighters.
After completing Story Mode, you get to play through the game as Fred Durst, leader of nu-metal group Limp Bizkit. His game persona looks pretty spot-on, aside from making him way too lean and muscular, and bafflingly making him a martial arts master. Also, this is the guy most known for screaming lines like “gimme somethin’ to break!” meaning he’s everything the original story mocked.
Then there’s President Abraham Lincoln as a playable character, because in the film Tyler Durden said he wanted to fight the guy. Lincoln had a reputation as a rough-and-tumble tough-guy wrestler in his youth, so he actually makes more sense than Durst. Not much, but a little.
5. Drew Carey – The Sims: House Party
As you may have guessed, your goal in The Sims: House Party is to throw the most happening house party imaginable. If you do, you’ll get an unexpected, but very welcome party guest in the form of comedian and game show host Drew Carey.
Carey shows up if you throw a party that lasts longer than 135 minutes and scores at least a 55 on the “party score” scale. Once that happens, Carey will arrive via limo, having decided your party is worth a celebrity of his stature being seen at. You can’t control him, but you can certainly watch him interact with all the guests, who grow starstruck and pine for him long after he leaves. Even the pets have Drew on the brain, at least until they learn he wants them spayed or neutered.
Amusingly, Carey’s sprite is pretty thin, even though his real-life weight loss didn’t happen until almost ten years after the game’s release. What was once Drew’s wishful thinking became life-extending reality.
4. Snoop Dogg – True Crime: Streets of LA
With his laid-back demeanor and knack for wacky comedy and hosting game shows, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Snoop Dogg started out as a hardcore gangsta rapper who at one point was charged with (and later acquitted of) real-life murder. His appearance in True Crime: Streets of LA acts as a good reminder of Snoop’s troubled past, however.
You can unlock Snoop by, appropriately enough, collecting 30 Dogg Bones hidden throughout the game. Doing so will trigger Snoop’s minigame, “Dogg Patrol,” where you control the Doggfather as he goes around LA solving crimes by shooting all the bad guys. You have one real-time hour to solve as many crimes as possible — if you can solve at least 55, you earn “Top Dogg” status and the right to bragizzle to all your friendizzles in the hizzle. If you somehow don’t solve any, you “earn” the status “Lap Poodle,” a wimp even Dogg’s peaceful, rastafarian alter-ego, Snoop Lion, wouldn’t feel bad about slapping around.
3. Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy Kilmister – Brutal Legend
With Brutal Legend being about a fantasy world dominated by heavy metal, it makes sense that plenty of metal legends would make appearances. Many, like Lita Ford and Rob Halford, merely provide voices for completely independent characters, but a couple appear as themselves in everything but name.
Black Sabbath (and MTV reality) legend Ozzy Osbourne voices a character called the Guardian of Metal, who looks and sounds exactly like Ozzy. He even has Ozzy’s trademark profanity, which apparently wasn’t in the original script (like anyone was going to stop Ozzy F’n Osbourne from swearing as much as he f’n likes). He also plays a character called Dadbat: a giant bat with Ozzy’s head, which the Guardian of Metal shockingly does not bite off.
Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, meanwhile, plays a bass-playing demon called Kill Master, who looks exactly like Lemmy right down to the face-warts. As it turns out, Kill Master is actually a pacifist, and you wind up drinking beer and listening to music with him later on. We should expect nothing less from good ol’ Lemmy (RIP).
2. Shaquille O’Neal – UFC Undisputed 2010
An athlete appearing in a sports game makes sense, except when it isn’t their sport. It’s even weirder when, in cases like NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal appearing in UFC Undisputed 2010, the athlete is someone who, even in their prime, wouldn’t have fared well in their new sport at all.
Shaq can be unlocked in Undisputed via cheat code, and is available for Exhibition mode play in the Heavyweight division. At 7’1″, he’s taller than virtually every UFC fighter in history, and at 38 among the oldest as well. He’s introduced by Bruce Buffer as a generic “MMA fighter,” as opposed to a wrestler or judo fighter. Apparently calling him a “master of Shaq-Fu” would’ve been too on-the-nose.
Perhaps most hilariously of all, his official Undisputed stats paint Shaq at a spry 265 pounds. Anyone who’s seen Shaq knows that’s impossible, as he was at least 300 pounds even in his prime. Who knew the video game camera subtracts 50 pounds?
1. JFK, Nixon, and Castro – Call of Duty Black Ops: Zombies
Like many Call of Duty games, Black Ops: Zombies lets you fight zombies. Unlike other games, however, this game lets you do so as two former Presidents and a ruthless dictator, just like you read in the history books.
Once you complete the main story, you unlock a new map called “Five.” The intro shows then-President John Kennedy and future President Richard Nixon at a secret meeting with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, when zombies break in and prepare to attack. The trio of politicians do what they do best: grab heavy-duty weaponry and begin opening fire. You can play as any of the three, wandering the Pentagon and shooting down zombies like the weirdest fanfiction imaginable.
Along the way, they’ll shout adrenaline-pumping quotes your way and though they’re obviously not voiced by the actual politicians, their voices are accurate enough to make you feel like a prominent ’60s bureaucrat with brain-eating baddies in your sights.