Uncharted 3 and celebrities in videogames
As the drama of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception unfolds, Ryan ponders the unexpected appearance of Jason Statham and Helen Mirren…
Along with many, many other gamers, I suspect, I spent much of last night excitedly playing through Uncharted 3. The Uncharted series has always delighted in the spectacle of adventure cinema, but more than any other game in the series, Drake’s Deception feels like an interactive movie.
This is partially because the transitions between cutscenes and independent gameplay are better integrated, with QTE-style fight sequences that blur the lines still further, but it’s also because Uncharted 3 doesn’t throw the player straight into an all-guns-blazing shoot-out as previous games did.
The first Uncharted, Drake’s Fortune, opened with a violent gun-battle on a boat. The second, Among Thieves, was quite different, with an opening that was literally cliff-hanging, followed by a tense sneak around a heavily-guarded museum. With so much of Uncharted 3’s pre-release footage showing Nathan Drake in the middle of a desert, it was rather jarring to see the game open up in a dingy London pub (the city outside is a quaint, seemingly empty version of London, too, it has to be said), but I thoroughly appreciated the way Naughty Dog gradually ramps up the action.
Without spoiling things by revealing specific plot details, there are fist fights, platforming and light puzzle-solving moments, and an exciting chase, as you might expect, but the game’s in no rush to plunge the player into the kind of grinding shoot-outs that Drake’s Fortune introduced almost right away. As a result, the game possesses a greater sense of rising tension than any other Uncharted so far.
There’s another reason why Uncharted 3 feels so cinematic: the unexpected appearance of Jason Statham and Helen Mirren. Okay, so they aren’t actually in the game, but the characters Charlie Cutter (voiced by Graham McTavish) and Katherine Marlowe (Rosalind Ayres) look so remarkably like those immediately recognisable actors that I had to do a double take. If you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself:
And if their physical resemblance wasn’t enough, they even sound markedly similar, with Cutter talking with a London accent and Marlowe enunciating her sentences with crisp, Queen’s English.
These characters’ resemblances to Mirren and the mighty Statham were pointed out some time ago, but my desire to play Uncharted 3 without preconceptions has meant that I was unaware of all this until now.
And what a resemblance it is – Marlowe, with her frosty demeanour and brutally straight blonde hair. Cutter, with his smooth pate and belligerent jaw. It seems impossible that Naughty Dog would have designed the look and sound of these characters without consciously referencing the actors they so closely resemble.
Using real-life actors as a basis for videogame characters is, of course, nothing new. Back when the industry was much, much smaller, it wasn’t uncommon to see characters that looked uncannily like a famous actor or celebrity turn up in a videogame – and more often than not, the permission of the original celeb wasn’t even sought.
I wonder if Sean Connery realises that he made a cameo appearance in 80s NES classic Metal Gear 2? Creator Hideo Kojima may have slapped an eyepatch on the ex-Bond veteran, but he’s not fooling anybody:
In fact, Metal Gear 2 featured more unofficial cameo appearances than any other game I can think of. A quick scan of the image below reveals just how many there were – variously, we appear to have the legendary Richard Crenna (Colonel Trautman out of the Rambo movies), Chow Yun Fat, Dolph Lundgren, Tom Berenger, Danny De Vito, and Albert Einstein, of all people:
In the original Metal Gear, the likeness and stance of actor Michael Biehn was used as the inspiration, shall we say, for the chap on the game’s box:
And it wasn’t merely the Metal Gear series that borrowed celebrity faces. A few years later, a shooter called Carrier Airwing (a sequel to UN Squadron, fact fans) showed up in arcades, and once again featured a character that looked remarkably like Sean Connery:
One of the most well known instances of a celebrity appearing in unofficial pixellated form came in 1991, with Capcom’s Street Fighter II. In the Japanese version, the character Mike Bison was so obviously modelled on boxer Mike Tyson that, for the US version, Capcom renamed him Balrog. Even with the name change, the similarity between the character and Tyson, as he looked at the time, was quite obvious.
So while it was a little surprising to turn on Uncharted 3 and see two familiar faces staring out of the screen, we can at least be content in the knowledge that Naughty Dog is merely reviving a longstanding industry tradition. Mind you, games like Uncharted 3 make glad we're not celebrities ourselves – how perplexing would it be to turn on your console, and discover that you've been turned into the villain one of the year's biggest videogames?
You can read our review of Uncharted 3 here.