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Andy Serkis sets the digital world in motion in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Michael Plant
motion capture 300x199 Andy Serkis sets the digital world in motion in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Andy Serkis (left) and Ninja Theory's Tameem Antoniades rehearse the game's script

The list of actors and celebrities – from Sir Patrick Stewart in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to Jason Donovan in Buzz! – lending their vocal talent to game-exclusive characters grows ever larger, but seldom do actors get to couple their voice with a physical performance. One such star doing exactly that, however, is Andy Serkis, who not only voices Monkey, the lead of Ninja Theory’s recently released Enslaved: Odyssey to the West but also acts the scripted scenes.

Of course Andy Serkis is no stranger to so-called ‘performance capture’, the process of recording and digitising an actor’s face and body movements before mapping on to that foundation an animated character. Most famous for his mesmerising portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings as well as lending gravitas to the monster ape in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, Serkis is perhaps the most motion captured actor on the planet.

“I would never approach acting any differently if it’s stage work, film or now gaming”, says Serkis. “It’s all about embodying the character and being as truthful emotionally as you can possibly be. The only difference with something like [Enslaved] is that you have the ability to transform, to puppeteer a character to a certain extent.”

27088scr march 004 300x168 Andy Serkis sets the digital world in motion in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Andy Serkis' character, Monkey, gets to grips with one of the game's mechs

His in-game character, Monkey, is the strong and silent type, the brawn of a duo in which Trip, a young woman, provides the brains; as the pair vie against the mechanical monstrosities roaming a post-apocalyptic earth. In order to gain Monkey’s protection Trip subjugates him with a device which inflicts pain unless her orders are followed; however adversity soon breeds a respect between the two.

“Along the route they begin to affect each other; they’re worlds apart at the beginning [of the game] but they go on to form a strong relationship”, he explains. “The challenge of the piece in terms of an acting experience was how to make that work in a game – make it plausible.”

While Ninja Theory’s next game is set to be DMC, a reboot of long-standing franchise Devil May Cry, Serkis is currently concentrating on the final stages of his own performance capture studio he’s dubbed The Imaginarium, as he looks to future of both film and game industries.

“I realise the importance of [games] as an artistic arena and really where it [entertainment] is heading,” he says. “We’re really only at the beginning, but children and young games players will receive stories and morals in gaming and therefore games deserve a certain amount of investment artistically.”

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is available now for PS3 and Xbox 360.

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