Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Redaction

When I'm wrong about something, I like to admit it. Most of the time. It can be fun to speak in hyperbole, particularly when you're incensed about something like, say, the shitty performance of a voice actor in a well-known and obviously well-funded video game franchise. *cough*Mass Effect*cough* I suppose I should have learned by now not to universally pan anything, because odds are, I'll find something I like about it, but I was fairly sure that my enjoyment of Mass Effect 3's ManShep was only going to be because of the other voice actors and because of the Tali relationship. But I'm going to say it here: Mark Meer does a surprisingly good job. I mean, he's nowhere near Jennifer Hale's quality, which is hard to beat, but I'm just thrilled to actually hear him use some type of emotion. It's nice, and it also means that he is not, in fact, a robot as I had previously suspected.
Me, whenever ManShep's voice had emotion: Mark? Is that you??
This is not to say that I rescind on my criticism of his Kristen-Stewart-esque delivery of lines in the previous two installments. I fully stand behind those statements. He was awful. The sheer rigid speech patterns just made me cringe, and I made a game for myself while he was talking to count the number of times he said something that proved he was Canadian. I lost count at about 30. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that I nearly just stopped playing so I could go back to Jennifer Hale's FemShep.
And to the Garrus romance subplot. 
But I trudged through, thankful for the adorableness that was Liz Sroka's Tali'Zorah. I actually squealed aloud, scaring my dog and apparently calling one of my cats at the same time, as Tali got excited that ManShep was interested in her. The subsequent conversations between Tali and ManShep were cute in their own rights, but the actually final romance scene just took the cake. I could describe it, but honestly, you should just see it for yourself. It just gives me happy butterflies.
She's so fucking cute. But GAH, Mark, your voice acting. "Come here." Blech, it sounds like you're auditioning for a 70s porno.

Anyway, after consummating my relationship with Tali and blowing up the Collector base like a motherfucking boss, I decided I should probably just finish up my ManShep's storyline* and begrudgingly imported the character into ME3. After playing for a few minutes, I found myself on Google search, trying to see if they'd replaced his voice actor, like they had with Mordin. But no, Mark Meer was still listed as "John" Shepard**. Three and I figured that Meer probably got a talking to after so many fans complained that even the Reapers, machine overlords who are supposed to speak in monotone, were more emotive than he was. It was kind of refreshing to hear a different take on a line that was still appropriate. In ME2, Tali was put on trial for treason (long story), and Hale delivered this impassioned speech that made you wish that FemShep would be your lawyer for whatever legal troubles you might come across later in life; Meer, on the other hand, basically just upped the decibels ... kinda. He wasn't even really yelling. If I'd been a judge in that courtroom, I would have shrugged and said, "Meh." Delivery, Mark. It's all about the delivery.
ManShep's approach to everything vocal prior to ME3
But in ME3, his approach to some of the lines I actually like better than Hale's. Which I know, shock. I'm even planning on going back and starting an ME3 game where Ashley didn't die on Virmire in ME1. Ostensibly, they probably tried to tone down Ashley's complete bitchiness and xenophobia to match Meer's new-found well of emotion.

All of this does beg the question: how did Mark Meer even get into voice acting if it took two games for him to start to be a decent voice actor? As far as I can tell, Tricia Helfer doesn't have a lot of experience in this arena, but she did an excellent job as EDI. Seth Green shines as Joker. Brandon Keener makes Garrus simultaneously awkward, sarcastic, and sexy. Ali Hillis keeps Liara both sensual and naive, without it seeming forced. All of these people, like Meer, have backgrounds in film/TV acting but were able to transition into these roles with ease. Maybe because they took them seriously? I don't have any answers here, actually.

Do you hear that, Mr. Meer? We should talk. Also, I'd like to get into voice acting, and you seem to have been given the golden spoon. So. Let's chat.

* I may have him control the Reapers instead of the synthesis or destroy options. It's weird; I have a hard time being a renegade or selfish character when I'm playing as FemShep, but as soon as my character supposedly has a penis, I'm like, "Throw all of that into the shitter!" This is true whenever I play any game that allows me to choose my character's gender. I wonder if this is something that happens to a lot of people.
** My name for him is Bail Shepard because I am a Star Wars nerd.
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