Dead Island 2 - Sam B

I would argue that none of the characters from the original Dead Island were all that memorable. And although Sam B did seem to rise to the surface as the highlight of the character roster (though, for my money, he was possibly the most cringe), I think a lot of that was due to the popularity of his kind-of-sort-of viral song, “Who Do You Voodoo.”

A decade later, I don’t think Sam B is recognized as an iconic landmark of gaming. I imagine that few people playing Dead Island 2 even remember who Sam B is, if not for the fact that he makes sure we know about this when we first meet him in the early portion of the game.

To be fair, I have yet to complete the main campaign or interact with him much beyond the first half of the game. So it’s possible that he rallies and becomes one of the greatest gaming characters of all time — or at least marginally less annoying and overtly tiresome. I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but it is possible.

Barring some incredible about-face, I just do not like Sam B. Or more specifically, I do not like this version of Sam B, the Sam B of Dead Island 2.  He just kind of sucks.

Dead Island 2 - Sam B and Emma

The original Sam B was voiced by actor Phil Lamar, though he wasn’t on the mic for “Who Do You Voodoo.” And even though Sam B was never all that great of a character, hardly anything more than a European approximation of what a black American male might be like, he was at least someone I could stomach. This was mostly due to the talents of Phil Lamar though. (I will always be a Xian Mei fan personally.)

Fast-forward to Dead Island 2, and Sam B is now voiced by Cavin Cornwall, who sounds like he was told to do his worst approximation of Phil Lamar’s take on the character, then ramp that up to 10. It’s the sort of performance where your brain automatically goes: “Yeah, I’m not buying it for a second.” Considering it is somehow more derivative and corny than the original — which was already kind of garbage — that doesn’t bode well for old Sammy B. 

And here’s the thing: Sam B never even needed to be in Dead Island 2. I mean, he seems to have been shoehorned into the story as the ex-love interest of Emma Jaunt for no reason other than as a call back to the original game, which feels cheap and pointless. The voice actor for Emma, Hannah Steele, is giving a pretty realistic and nuanced performance, so when you see her interacting with a cartoon tough guy, it can be a little jarring.

Dead Island 2 - Sam B

And look, if Phil Lamar wasn’t available, or otherwise decided against reprising the role, I would’ve personally said to just not use Sam B. I mean, Sam B is so throwaway I would’ve voted against using him at all, let alone as the sole returning character. I mean, what about my girl Xian Mei? Throw her a freakin’ bone here.

I never thought I would feel the absence of Phil Lamar from a project so profoundly. But when you have such a nothing caricature masquerading as a pivotal character in the first place, it helps to at least have a vocal pro at the reins. I don’t mean this as disrespect towards Cavin Cornwall, but his Sam B performance in Dead Island 2 is just not it.

So yeah, the new Sam B in Dead Island 2 kind of sucks.

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