May 6, 2011

Not Bad For a Non-Player Character: Lance Henriksen and Video Games, Pt 2 (2009-Present)

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (2009)

Lance found himself, at first, on the fringes of video game history, slowly creeping up the trail towards 0s and 1s immortality, but then was involved in some of the most landmark franchises known to the video game market.

In 2009, Lance found himself in two well known franchises, the second being one of the most successful titles in video game history. But first came The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, where Lance provided, once again, supporting work behind film star Vin Diesel and fellow genre actress Michelle Forbes.

All the Riddick games have been well-received, despite the troubled movie franchise it’s based on, mainly because the film series’ star, Vin Diesel, is, for lack of a better word, geeky and appreciates the gaming market (both board and video).

But game players were also pleased with the fact that the games focused on less mythological aspects of the Riddick franchise that the first film, Pitch Black, didn’t have and The Chronicles of Riddick, to some, was bogged down with. Dark Athena is a first person shooter/puncher that is more black and white then grey: escape a prison, kill some drones, defeat evil, go off and do something else later.

Lance is once again on the side of the good as a helpful (and strange) prisoner named Dacher, helping Vin Diesel’s Riddick escape the prison they both share. His role isn’t immense but it is, at times, essential to the storyline.

Like the first game in the series, Escape from Butcher Bay, Assault on Dark Athena was well liked by fans and critics. It sold close to half a million copies in it’s initial release for the XBox 360 and PS3 and, above all else, like most games Lance is involved in, the voice work was cited as excellent.

Chris Park from CPU Gamer said ‘without hyperbole: Assault has some of the best voice acting I’ve heard in any medium’, while Chris Taylor of Console Monster mentioned that Assault’s voice acting was a ‘stand out feature’. Multiple review sites, both good and bad, mentioned the voice work as a positive.

And while Assault on Dark Athena is considered a solid success, Lance’s 2009 was just getting started.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)

Between 12:01 on November 10th, 2009 and midnight a second before Novemeber 11th, 2009, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare sold 4.7 million copies. Out grossing films such as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Up, The Hangover, and Star Trek in 24 meager hours, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 became a world wide sensation.

And at the heart, quite literally, of this massive video game event was none other then Lance Henriksen as the soothing general cum villain General Shepard (I would warn of spoilers but I kind of blew that with the opening video in Part 1).

Clearly the most profitable of Lance's video game works and one of the most decorated, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 joined rare company with the Halo video games as a product that transcended the target audience. Modern Warfare 2 was on the news and even parents of parents of your kids knew what it was.

Every single type of medium encounters this success. There is the rap /hip-hop record that white 50 year olds buy because society dictates it. There is the home appliance that is clearly not needed but everyone needs it regardless. There is the movie that people of all ages come to despite the fact that 30 films before have come and gone without a single interest from the majority packing the seats.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was that kind of cultural icon in the video game world surpassed in newsworthy, culture-bending popularity by, perhaps, the Halo games and the original Super Mario games. Modern Warfare 2 sold more copies then Halo and it's sequels simply because it was released on ALL platforms, while Halo is relegated to the XBox 360 and the PC.

For the second straight time, Lance was involved in a massive product that had produced game after game and was, sequel after sequel, gaining more and more popularity. Being a dependable and talented voice actor has it's benefits and while all of Lance's games have been successful (if they were released anyways), this was a whole new level of success.

The first day of release for COD:MW2 basically outsold the entire catalogue of Lance's voice acting career resume in the video game market.

The numbers are quite staggering really. Super Mario Bros., on the original Nintendo, sold a remarkable 40.24 million units. But the majority of this is due to the fact that every Nintendo console CAME with the game. However, Super Mario Bros. basically founded the company. . .one couldn't exist without the other. . .so that holy number is not only reverential in the video game world but practically insurmountable. Only Wii Sports, another packaged game with the Wii, has surpassed it at a mind-bogglingly 76 million plus.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is about as close as you can get, in the 'modern' era of non-package games, anyways, of approaching the record. The XBox 360 version alone sold 12.4 million copies. The PS3 version sold 9.1 million while the PC version is slowly approaching the million sold mark (amazing considering the PC is a virtually 'dead' market for gamers). Overall, Lance found himself the main antagonist in a video game that has sold 22.2 million copies.

The game itself does not disappoint those who hyped it up. Gifted with the best graphics the systems could produce, amazing voice acting, an incredible film score, and truly unseen realism, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is one of the most legendary games ever released. . .both in terms of technology and economics.

Now it was time for Lance to take it to the next level and actual get his face, relatively speaking, shown.

Alien vs. Predator (2010)

Even though Lance is reading this, I have to say that the Alien vs. Predator movies are pretty much the bane of my existence. I wish they didn't exist. They are just dreadful pieces of dreck that sully everything the amazing Aliens series built. Sure, the Predator movies are pretty solid but nothing ruins the beauty of the aliens more then making them lame animals in a hunt. And that's what AVP and it's sequel did.

Lance was great, of course, when is he not. . .but yeah. . .those movies hurt my soul.

But the games are kick ass! The Aliens vs. Predator idea had been around in the video game world long before those. . .movies. . .were and the popularity and general awesomeness of them is what led to all the hype that eventually got the films made. CURSE YOU VIDEO GAME GEEKS.

But despite the films, the most recent incarnation of the video game series, this time based on the films, was an astounding piece of work for multiple reasons. Besides the picture perfect design, the incredibly terrifying atmosphere, and the great sound effects (plenty of James Cameron era machine guns, Predator snarls, and aliens screeches to make the fanboys squeeee), we got to see Lance in human form, basically.

Though not original to the game Aliens vs. Predator itself, the unique game play was a definite plus. In order to maximize playability, the game offers up three different playable perspectives. Feel like screaming GAME OVER MAN while packing heat as a Colonial Marine, there is a storyline for you. Want to spray gunk in a Marine's face and bitchslap a Predator, be an alien. You can also be one of those cheapshotting, invisible predators too.

The game design can be nauseating, in a good way, if playing the Aliens. Fitting to a creature that can scale walls and crawl upside down, the control of the Aliens allows you to be one with every dimension. You can stick to ground transport and sneak up on Marines or you can creep along the walls or ceiling and stalk at will. It takes some getting used to as the controls literally switch directions in a second (up becomes down, right becomes left, etc) but once handled, you feel at one with your inner alien.

Lance plays Karl Bishop Weyland (how many Bishops as of 2010 has Lance played now?) which makes sense since you can't have Aliens without a Bishop. There was the nasty bit of business of CHARLES Bishop Weyland being killed in AVP 1 but. . .it's fiction!).

Weyland is not a playable character but it is neat to see Lance's likeness be used in a video game for the first time. So gamers are not only gifted with the voice talent but the iconic visage as well. And seeing the character, albeit somewhat far removed from the original Bishop we saw in Aliens, in the game lends it some cinematic umpf.

While there was no way Aliens vs. Predator could match Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in terms of sales or hype, Aliens vs. Predator still sold an impressive 1.96 million copies across three total platforms and counting. And Lance basically became not just the voice of a character but a living, breathing, animated character we could all see. A whole new generation of fans now know who Lance Henriksen is.

The Future

You're going to have to allow me a lack of integrity in this article because I find myself at a crossroads. Do I review Lance's most recent work and thus spoil the fun for myself or do I hold off. Well, being a selfish creature, I'm going to hold off.

When Lance was not invited to Mass Effect 2, I was mad! Admiral Hackett was one of the coolest characters in the game even though you didn't see him. Mass Effect 2 was still an epic and groundbreaking game and, in many ways, surpassed the original by leaps and bounds. But not having Lance was kind of a bummer.

However, in March of 2011, a new downloadable addition was added to Mass Effect 2 (for the uninitiated, big games that are on systems with Internet access usually come out with supplements to the main game called Downloadable Content (DLC). In many cases they are just extra missions that don't influence the story but aid in the building of a character. . .but sometimes they are extra chapters, meant as mini-sequels to the previous game and mini-prequels for the next game, that expand the mythology and the gameplay).

Mass Effect 2 already had two irrelevant side mission DLCs but 'The Arrival' was not only an 'inbetweener' story and mission, one that essentially takes place after the events of Mass Effect 2 and before the unreleased Mass Effect 3, but it marked the return of Lance as Admiral Hackett. And this time we get to meet the man behind the voice.

I've attached a video below of Lance's work in 'The Arrival'. I've yet to watch it because I want to play the expansion and have not done so yet. I want to be surprised. But I couldn't leave out a Lance performance out of this discussion regardless of it's youth or the consequences to my surprise.

Lastly, before I leave, Lance has recorded voice work for another epic franchise, the Star Wars universe. It's hard to believe Lance had never starred in a version of Star Trek or Star Wars in any capacity before 2011 but finally, on a yet unreleased date, Lance will make an appearance as Jedi Master Gnost-Dural.

Video of Lance describing the events in the prequel films and beyond exists. I've posted it below. Enjoy.

So there you have it. Eleven titles, 10 of which were released, and millions upon millions of copies sold. Lance is, essentially, everywhere. And maybe we'll be lucky enough to keep hearing him on both playable and non-playable characters a like for many more years to come.


  1. What an excellent compendium of LH's voice work in the game world, Will. What a career! Thanks.

  2. Thank you good sir.

    Do you ever get a chance to play video games? They're like movies now a days.

  3. I haven't played a video in oh so long. This will date me. My fave memories go back to Donkey Kong in the 80s and A-10 Tank Killer in the early 90's. I guess I should give the current games a try, though.

    Now, as a gamer, I have a book recommendation for you to try. Read the techno-thriller DAEMON by Daniel Suarez. Online gaming and A.I. is an underlying premise for a tale of social upheaval.

    Thanks, Will.

  4. Will,

    I think my last comment might have gotten eaten, but I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading the conclusion to your survey of Mr. Henriksen's work in video games. This is a subject I didn't know nearly enough about before reading this. I seriously think you should submit this survey to a gaming magazine or journal. It would make a great piece in print as well. Thank you so much for a wonderful two-part contribution to the blogathon.


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