Clive Owen's Embarrassing Video Game Past

British actor Clive Owen is a badass. A man's man. He's got a deep voice, a heavy face, and is usually in movies where he kills things, or is at least around things being killed.

Did you know, however, that between leaving the UK and making it big in Hollywood he appeared in one of the most disappointing video games of the 1990s?

Well, he did. And that game was Privateer 2.

Privateer is one of the greatest video games of all time. Marrying the space trading/combat mechanics of acclaimed PC game Elite with the trappings of the popular Wing Commander universe, it's one of the high water marks of both developers Origin and the space combat genre in general.

In 1996, a sequel was released. It was called Privateer 2: The Darkening. And it was an abomination.

Set in the distant future, far removed from the other games in the Wing Commander franchise, it took everything people liked about the first game and threw it out the window. Everything. The worst offender, though, were the game's full-motion video cutscenes, whose "cheap British sci-fi" aesthetics had absolutely nothing in common with the visual style laid down in Privateer (and the Wing Commander games before it).

Replacing Origin's trademark "talking heads" with actors seemed like a good idea at the time. Privateer 2 was shot in 1995 at Britain's famous Pinewood Studios, where classics like Superman, Aliens and Batman were filmed, not to mention every James Bond and Harry Potter movie ever made.

Rare (though not unheard of) for a video game, it would also boast a respectable cast, including Christopher Walken, John Hurt and Brian Blessed.

Joining that cast would be a young British man by the name of Clive Owen. While a respected actor in the UK, Owen had yet to make his Hollywood debut, making Privateer 2: The Darkening his first truly international gig.

He played Lev Arris, the "star" of the show, and proceeded to spend the entire game baking under extreme lighting, wandering around sparse sets and trying not to look as confused saying his ridiculous lines as he obviously felt.

Granted, Owen's poor performance isn't entirely his fault. He could only work with what he was given, and the game's editing (and obsession with close-ups) didn't help. But still. This is a far cry from the strong, moody work we've come to expect from a man who's made films like Children of Men his own.

Despite some initial positive reviews, Privateer 2 has a lot in common with the second Deus Ex game, in that most people entirely disagreed and consigned the game to the dustbin of history. Which probably suits Owen just fine; unlike Christopher Walken, who filled a career slump by revelling in his hammy video game roles, Owen never returned to gaming, instead focusing on Hollywood.

I guess after starring in King Arthur, Children of Men, Sin City and Elizabeth, emerging as something of a lady's man, he made the right choice.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.


    Wing Commander - a series that should be brought back! Cat aces galore!!!!

      Be careful what you wish for.

    And Christopher Walken

    i almost write 2 paragraphs of argument that privateer 2 if not one of the best game from the spinoff wing commander....

    then i realised its written by whom....

    move along....

      Ding ding ding. You stole my reply.

      Privateer 2 was incredible fun, and was better than most of the WC games as one of the best space combat sims pre-Freespace 2 era.

        Freespace 2, now THAT was how you make a space combat game. I lost so many hours to that. Would love to see it brought back with modern graphics and maybe even modern HOTAS support.

        Either way, never played Privateer 2 but if it got John Hurt, Jurgen Prochnow, David Warner, Christopher Walken and David McCallum involved then it HAS to be awesome.

    Privateer 2 was awesome. The writer doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. Did privateer 1 even have cinematics and narrated dialogue? Pretty sure it was all slide show cutscenes and scrolling text. Hold your tongue Kotaku!

    Despite his best efforts, Luke has convinced me to try and find a copy of Privateer 2... and judging from these comments it sounds like I should try harder haha

    I loved that game.. wish I still had a copy, maybe Luke needs to play it and a bunch of other games from the same period just to get a feel for why we like it.

    Couldn't agree more with the comments above. Fantastic game, and the cut scences were great!

    Myself, my brother, and a good friend of mine probably finished the game through about 5 times each, as there was just SO much you could do!

    So many great little bits in the game. Remember the missions where you'd get those ridiculous riddles? I remember there was one flavour of beer in the entire galaxy or something, and one of the questions was along the lines of:

    "A spacer has had 60 bottles of blahblah-beer, and has stumbled out of the bar and fallen upside down in a bin. He's passed out, and is continuing to throw up. His mouth is 30cm above the base of the bin, the bin is circular with a diameter of 90cm, and he has consumed 15 litres of beer, 10 litres of which he will throw up. Will he drown?"

    Or something along those lines, it was brilliant.

    Oh and how the cut-scenes could be played out!? Early on in the game, you needed information or something from some dude, and Clive Owen (who to me and my mates will always be "the privateer 2 guy"), has the option to pay 10,000 credits for the information, or you can select the "lets push this guy" option, where the privateer 2 guy will smack the other guys weapon away, pull out is old gun, and say something perfectly cheesy like "listen here you little space scum".

    Sorry for the long post, but THAT GAME.

    Man I loved that game. Never finished the stupid thing, but always loved it.

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