As yesterday’s trailer revealed, there’ll be no more Stephen Russell in Thief: and there was much anti-rejoicing. While the Thief/Looking Glass community is predictably and somewhat understandably up in arms about Garrett’s larynx replacement operation (the inevitable petition is here, if you want to fruitlessly sign it), I imagine the game’s sailed too far across the development ocean for Eidos Montreal to want to turn their ship around at this point. They have at least attempted to justify their ditching of the guy who’s stoutly been with us for three Thief games previously, arguing that it’s because they wanted to mo-cap and voice record one actor simultaneously.
While I imagine Russell perhaps isn’t the right age or physique to be the body as well as voice of the lithe Garrett (indeed, Eidos Montreal offer that “the actor playing Garrett needed to be able to perform his own stunts”, though politely and understandably don’t explicitly state why Russell can’t do this) I sincerely doubt this explanation will be enough to sate fans’ disappointment.
“Being able to capture the voice at the same time as the actors’ movements and facial expressions, all while the actors play off each other, delivers a much more convincing experience than traditional techniques of recording each characters’ dialogue separately and then animating everything by hand afterwards,” claimed Thief audio director Jean-Christophe Verbert in a community ‘interview’.
Added narrative director Steven Gallagher, “With the new visual of Garrett we’d created, we found that there was a disconnect that we couldn’t ignore between the concepted character and Stephen’s voice today.” The new visual being Gothy Garrett, another source of community discontent.
Verbert again: “We could have pasted Stephen’s voice on top of the actions and stunts of someone else, but this wouldn’t appear natural. It really wouldn’t make any sense to capture the full performance for our other characters, but not for our star.”
If it’s any slim consolation, they did at least try out Russell before making their decision to go with whoever the (as-yet unnamed) new guy is. “Stephen was considered quite heavily,” claims Gallagher. “We actually had him in for some preliminary vocal recordings in fact… But when it came down to it, we ultimately realized that holding onto Steven as the voice of Garrett just for the sake of our nostalgia would be like wanting to cast Sean Connery again in the new 007 movies… It’s a nice thought, but honestly, it wouldn’t make sense for anything else other than nostalgia.”
Uh. They’re making a sequel to a series which began in 1998, after having already made a sequel to Deus Ex. Their current employment exists purely because of nostalgia. Poor reasoning, I call it. The mo-cap justification, perhaps less so – but we’ll just have to see whether or not Nu-Garrett really is any more convincing because of it.