In the fallout of Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 update and Phantom Liberty’s release, Bloomberg revealed that CD Projekt used AI technology to reproduce the voice of famous Polish actor Miłogost Reczek, who passed away in 2021.
Reczek played the character Viktor Vektor in the original release, and the developer was looking to bring him back. His character played a role in the recently released expansion, but CD Projekt also wanted to add some new lines to the base game as a part of the 2.0 update. This didn’t happen, as the actor passed away at 60, a little over a year after Cyberpunk 2077’s original release. With CD Projekt’s focus on fixing the game at the time, the real work on the expansion’s development probably started after Reczek’s passing.
This left the developer with a tough decision; they could recast the role altogether, but CD Projekt localization director Mikołaj Szwed revealed to Bloomberg that they “didn’t like this approach.” Reczek’s performance “was stellar” as he was “one of the best Polish voice talent” that it would be hard for another actor to replicate.
“Replicate” is a good word, a keyword, some might say, as the company had an idea of using Reczek’s talent even after his death through AI technology but knew they had to do it the right way. Before going forward, the move was thankfully done with the family’s permission. Bloomberg adds that Reczek “was very supportive” of the plan, possibly as a way for their father’s Cyberpunk 2077 performance to live on even after his passing.
CD Projekt got a new actor for the role to perform the new lines anyway, but their performance was layered on with Reczek’s voice through using the voice cloning software called Respeecher. This tool helps change the actor’s voice to make it sound like Reczek is back in the studio in another session with CD Projekt.
This is one of the better stories of AI, as it doesn’t sound like technology wasn’t used to cut the cost of not paying Cyberpunk 2077 actors. Instead, CD Projekt came off more as a fan and possibly friend of Reczek and didn’t want to overwrite Miłogost Reczek’s Cyberpunk 2077 work. So this approach isn’t that bad as a new actor got brought in to play the role under the voice mask of Reczek to give a performance that adds further context to the world of Cyberpunk 2077’s narrative while sounding similar to what came before in the former actor’s character thanks to AI.
The AI conversation has come up a lot lately this year, especially with voice actors dealing with “fans” reproducing their performance of famous characters to say things they never read in the initial script. It’s also a central talking point in the current SAG-AFTRA actor strike, which only recently voted in favour of the move to go forward with a video game strike in this sector of actors.