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How Bruce Willis Made Video Game History In Two Days

In today's gaming landscape, celebrity appearances are quite common. Gamers have seen Keanu Reeves in a major role in Cyberpunk 2077 and games like Death Stranding have delivered a roster full of recognizable names and voices. However, there must be a first for everything. The first celebrity to provide both their likeness and voice in video gaming appeared on the first PlayStation: Bruce Willis in Apocalypse.

Back in January 1996, developer Neversoft finished the game engine for Apocalypse, a 3D multidirectional shooter which utilized the PlayStation's new analog control scheme. The game is centered around a conflict with an evil scientist known as the Reverend, who acts as a cult leader centered around the impending apocalypse. He creates the game's version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to aid him in the destruction of humanity.

Bruce Willis is one of the most recognizable names in Hollywood, with a career full of ups and downs. While most fans will remember him as John McClane in the Die Hard franchise, Bruce Willis comes in as hero Trey Kincaid, a former colleague of the Reverend who is tasked with escaping jail and saving the world before its seemingly imminent destruction.

Not the original plan

Earning the distinction of being the first celebrity to star in a video game was not Willis' original intent. Originally, Willis was supposed to play an AI-controlled partner to the player-controlled protagonist. During production, this role was changed to Willis being the player-character, which reduced his spoken dialogue to one-liners and quips, as well as several lines for in-game cutscenes.

The motion capture work was done at the House of Moves in California in January, 1997 and lasted only two days. The "behind the scenes" video is well worth watching, as it shows how Neversoft was able to get Willis into the game through the motion capture, and it illustrates just how far the industry has come in that regard. Additionally, Willis had input on the games spoken dialogue and worked with Neversoft to fine tune Kincaid's character.

Upon release, Apocalypse received "average" reviews, with some criticism coming at Willis for his voice performance. GameSpot's review noted thatthe voice work was uninspired, citing the change of Willis character from sidekick to main character as a misstep.

The original PlayStation is full of classics and hidden gems, and even if Apocalypse may not be amongst those other standout titles, it will always hold a special place in gaming history.