Why it matters: If you played Cyberpunk 2077, the name Viktor Vektor is most assuredly familiar to you. Vektor was V's main ripperdoc throughout the game. He was an NPC involved in several campaign and side quests, so he's unmissable. Ignoring all the AI controversy involving actors and writers, CD Projekt Red cloned his voice for the DLC expansion.
Sadly, the voice actor who portrayed Vektor in the Polish localization of the game, Milogost Reczek, died in 2021. Reczek was a well-known and respected voice actor for Polish localizations in various media. He was Vesemir and Thaler in The Witcher series. He also dubbed the voice of Homer Simpson in the Polish release of The Simpsons Movie.
His death was a blow for CDPR, which planned to have him reprise his role as Vektor in the Phantom Liberty DLC. The studio first considered replacing him with a different actor but decided that would be like subbing in Denzel Washington for Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction. No disrespect to Denzel, but having him play Jules Winnfield just wouldn't be the same.
"We didn't like this approach [replacing Reczek], as Milek was one of the best Polish voice talents, and his performance as Viktor was stellar," localization director Mikolaj Szwed told Bloomberg.
With permission from his family, CDPR used AI to copy Reczek's voice with a voice cloning technology called "Respeecher." A different actor portrayed Victor Vektor, and then the AI altered his lines to sound like Reczek.
"This way, we could keep his performance in the game and pay tribute to his wonderful performance as Viktor Vektor," Szwed said. "Milek's sons were very supportive and gave us their permission to move forward with the project."
The process was not as easy as it sounds. Respeecher does not just overdub lines of dialog. It changes the speaker's voice. So the actor playing Vektor in Phantom Liberty, Janusz Zadura, had to do his best to mimic Reczek's acting style while Respeecher took care of the rest. For a quick demo, check out the videos above.
So far, fans have not seemed to notice, but now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag, it will be interesting to see reactions. Disney has received much flak for using AI to replicate actors posthumously. However, I suspect there to be a big difference between cloning a voice versus cloning an entire actor, like Carrie Fisher or Peter Cushing. At least with Respeecher, you don't have to worry about the uncanny valley effect.
Although CDPR's spokesperson did not mention compensation for the family, it's relatively safe to assume that the studio that worked so hard to pull CP 2077 out of a dumpster fire would not risk what's left of its reputation by not paying Reczek's family for using his voice in a paid DLC.