Best Voice Acting: Portal 2
Quality over quantity would be a fitting description for the winner of our Best Voice Acting award for 2011. There may only be three notable voiced characters throughout the game, but there is absolutely no denying that each one left an indelible mark in their wake. We’re speaking, of course, of Portal 2. Returning is GLaDOS, the rogue A.I. from the original game who is once again voiced by Ellen McLain. With her computerized, pitch-modulated and yet strangely melodious voice, GLaDOS is instantly familiar as the vindictive villain at the start, but the sequel soon imbues her with more of a defensive and humane role than before, making her even more amusing and likeable for the transformation. And once again, players who see the game through to the end are treated to an entertaining musical number by the mechanical songstress (McLain is a trained opera singer, after all) herself.
But this time around, GLaDOS is not alone. Stealing (or at least sharing) her spotlight is a newcomer named Wheatley, one of her own personality cores voiced by Stephen Merchant (The Ricky Gervais Show). His witty dialogue delivered with strong Bristol British accent and stammering idiocy perfectly counterbalances GLaDOS’s cool-minded seriousness. Last but by no means least is the gruff Cave Johnson, performed superbly by the always-wonderful character actor J.K. Simmons, whose dozens of movie and television credits are too numerous to list. Encountered only in pre-recorded messages, Johnson’s impact is every bit the equal of his mechanized counterparts as the sarcastic, sociopathic founder of Aperture Science with no regard for the welfare of his employees. What makes each role even more impressive is that they are “pure” vocal performances, with virtually no distinguishing physical features or animation to support them. It’s remarkable how well this trio delivered such emotionally engaging and strangely believable characters in the least likely of places, beating out some impressive Aggie competition in the process.
Runners-Up: Back to the Future: The Game, L.A. Noire, The Book of Unwritten Tales, The Next BIG Thing
Readers’ Choice: L.A. Noire
What a year for quality voice acting. In a genre known for horrible localizations, it was a treat to hear Mad Men’s Aaron Staton anchoring a diverse and thoroughly rock solid cast of Hollywood (where else?) talent in Team Bondi’s historical mystery adventure. Other challengers had plenty to say about this selection, but no one made the case quite so convincingly as L.A. Noire.
Runners-Up: Portal 2, The Book of Unwritten Tales, Gray Matter, Back to the Future: The Game
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Next up: Best Sound Effects... the envelope, please!