Monday, February 21, 2011

Buon Giorno, Guten Tag, Здравствуйте

More Cyrillic means I'm talking about Metro 2033 again. Specifically, Metro 2033 as the latest in a particular method of play I've been embracing lately. If a game is set in a specific real-world location, and the language track for that place is available, I'll switch the dialog and play with English subtitles. Most recently it was playing Metro 2033 in gravelly, pack-a-day Russian. But for the last several months, it's also been Assassin's Creed II and AC: Brotherhood in Italian.

Not only does this provide a more immersive experience, but it spares one from the still too-common misery of sub-par voice acting. Not dissimilar from preferring to watch a film in its native language rather than dubbed.

This preference isn't without shortcomings, though. I don't think I've ever seen a game subtitle its ambient chatter. It's unfortunate, as those brief overheard conversations often contribute far more to world building than some named NPC spouting exposition. And of course, this is really only purposeful if the game is meant to be immersive. Switching the voiceover in an RTS is probably going to be little more than annoyance.

Far Cry 2 splits the difference in an interesting way. Some of the enemies barks are delivered in English, but just as many are in Afrikaans, Swahili and maybe a few other languages. This does well to convey the multicultural cavalcade of horrible mercenaries that make up Far Cry 2's cast. It also provides gameplay information by letting you know where enemies are, but not necessarily exactly what they're thinking and planning. And it prevents the endless torrent of barks from becoming recited truly ad nauseum ("FISHER!").

If you're playing Metro 2033, Assassin's Creed or another game with a particularly strong non-Anglophone sense of place, I highly encourage you to at least try switching the voice track. Soon, you won't even notice and hearing English will begin to sound bizarre. Are you aware of any other good candidates for "native" language switching? S.T.A.L.K.E.R. seems obvious, but I'm not sure if it shipped with a Russian voice track.

Oh, and if the next Assassin's Creed is set in Revolution-era France (please, let it be so), there's no way I won't be playing it in French. Vive la révolution!

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Blogger Michel said...

I wish Prince of Persia had a Persian or Arabic voice track. And, you know, Arab characters.

February 21, 2011 at 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Witcher; Polish audio tracks.

February 21, 2011 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger FelixIncauto said...

Does Starfox Adventures "Dino" lenguage count?

Sorry I can't be of much help, not sure if it counts, but I remember that The graveyard has a really intresting song in a native lenguage (not sure what lenguage it is).

February 21, 2011 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Dilyan Damyanov said...

What a fantastic idea! I didn't even know Italian was an option in ACII. I so much hate actors speaking English with Italian (or whatever) accents to imply they are not actually speaking English. I'm going to be looking for a "native" audio option in every game from now on.
Incidentally, don't most Japanese games allow that? I haven't played that many myself but it seems logical. (And by the way, now that I'm thinking of it, why don't English voiceover actors in Japanese games/anime speak with a Japanese accent? A welcome difference, to be sure, but how come?)

February 22, 2011 at 4:42 AM  
Blogger Jacob Clark said...

Lately I have been playing Tatsunuko Vs. Capcom and the majority of lines are spit out in Japanese except for Frank West from Dead Rising. Even though I am frustrated that they didn't add the one Tatsunuko character I know (Speed Racer) the game still feels incredibly Japanese through and through.

Yeah i had no idea ACII could be played in Italian tired of the forced accent in the english dialogue.

February 22, 2011 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger Brendan Keogh said...

I tried playing ACII in Italian, but sadly I could not find an option to have Italian inside the animus and English outside the animus. To me, that would have made the most sense. Though, that said, there is no reason from what I've played that the current day bits are in an English speaking country.

I also tried playing a second game of Metro 2033 in English to get all the backchatter. It was frustrating to realise just how much I was missing when I first played the game in Russian. However, it didn't take long before I returned to Russian. Ultimately, the 'vibe' of everyone speaking Russian added far more to my experience than actually knowing what everyone was saying.

Though both would certainly still be optimal.

February 22, 2011 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Nels Anderson said...

@Michel Ah yeah. It's a little trickier with the languages that aren't normally localized (i.e. not EFIGS), but yeah, if Ubi were brazen enough to do a Farsi (or ancient Persian?) track, that would have been excellent.

@ManaTree Ah ha, totally didn't think of that. Good call.

@RASS Heh, made up langauges maybe a little less. Although all that Simlish in The Sims is pretty great. And yeah, I believe the some in The Graveyard was in Dutch.

@Dilyan Yeah, you can only switch the language all the way out from the main menu, so it's a little obtuse but possible. I don't know how prolific dual Japanese/English tracks are (I know there are a dust up about Yakuza 3 not having the Japanese language track in the NA version).

@Gaming in Public Aye, having games for the dialog is basically just flavour, having it in a foreign language can be a good touch of character.

@Brendan Heh, yeah I felt the same way. I would have liked to have period stuff in Italian and modern stuff in English (since their VO is actually not bad). Sadly, such granularity does not exist, so I just pretend Abstergo is based out of Rome ;)

What's doubly amusing is that if the game is set to be in Italian, even all the voice over status messages for the multiplayer are in Italian and unsubtitled. So should I ever find myself in Florence and need to tell someone I'm "Searching for other Abstergo agents," I could probably do it.

February 22, 2011 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I seem to recall that Crysis sets the AI barks to Korean when you're on the hardest difficulty. I don't know if you can choose that on easier levels (I think you can, though).

March 9, 2011 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Nels Anderson said...

@Clayton Yeah, I was playing Crysis: Warhead a few weeks ago and noticed the same thing.

March 9, 2011 at 8:56 PM  

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