“Master of unlocking.”
If you played video games in the 90s, you’re probably intimately familiar with these phrases, which both come from the original Resident Evil game. They’re possibly two of the most oft-quoted examples of bad voice acting from the early PlayStation era.
The obvious question has always been, “How on Earth did this end up being so damn bad?” At least, it has been for those of us who don’t have careers in video game voice acting.
At AniMinneapolis 2014, I sat in on a panel called “Behind the Voices of Capcom Games,” hosted by David Vincent (the voice of T. Hawk in Super Street Fighter IV), Jonathan Klein (English-language producer on Street Fighter IV), Caitlin Glass (the voice of Cammy in Street Fighter IV), and D.C. Douglas (the voice of Albert Wesker in Resident Evil 5). These folks were kind enough to explain the story behind Resident Evil‘s classically bad voice acting, and it puts the terrible dialogue into a very different perspective.
D.C. Douglas explained:
Think about Resident Evil 1… Think of Sergio Jones playing Albert Wesker in that one, and how everyone talks about how his performance was so horrible.
You know what? He’s a good actor. It sounds horrible because they probably had 300 lines on an Excel sheet, and you have no idea [about the context of the scene, so you] just keep repeating the line.
So it’s like, “Open the door.”
“Let’s just do three different takes on that.”
“Open the door. OPEN the door. Open the DOOR.”
And then some Japanese engineer goes, “I like the rhythm of that last one.”
Jonathan Klein clarified Douglas’ last statement a bit:
The Japanese will always pick what they think sounds good in their minds, not necessarily what sounds good to an English-speaking audience… But they started learning… They realized that, yes, people want good actors in their video games.
So, when there are context-less bits of dialogue with multiple takes, and when the person choosing the audio doesn’t speak English as a native language, it makes sense that some really bad bits can get chosen for the final cut. And, from one Albert Wesker to another, poor Sergio Jones gets way more crap than he deserves.
The old lines are certainly funny in retrospect, but thankfully the industry started moving on so video games could start being taken more seriously as a creative medium.
And, for a point of reference, here’s the infamous “master of unlocking” scene from Resident Evil. You’ve probably seen it before, but it never gets old.