Assassin's Creed's most beloved hero makes a welcome cameo in this week's Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, but a change in voice casting has him sounding like a different person.
Early on in the game, an elderly Ezio Auditore appears in a flashback/tutorial to train the game's protagonist, the assassin Shao Jun. Here's what he sounds like:
If you've played the Assassin's Creed games as much as I have, that might sound off to you! But, yes, that's him.
Ezio was the star of Assassin's Creed II (2009), Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (2010) and Assassin's Creed Revelations (2011), though fans likely last heard him in Assassin's Creed Embers (2011), the computer-animated movie in which an elderly Ezio meets a young Shao Jun.
Here's Ezio in Brotherhood:
And here he is, in his final moments (try not to cry!), in Embers:
Notice the difference between that first clip and the latter two? It's not clear who provided the Ezio voice in ACC: China. The game's credits list actors but doesn't specify roles.
It's just certain that Ezio was not played by the man who gave Ezio his signature voice in those earlier, now-classic AC games and movie, Roger Craig Smith. It sounds like he wasn't asked to reprise the role for the new game's short sequence.
"I'm finding out about the character of Ezio having a different voice actor for this project at the same time as everyone else," Smith told Kotaku over email in a statement provided by his rep. "I'm flattered by fans that have been reaching out to voice their disappointment at my not voicing Ezio for what appears to be a brief cameo."
Smith didn't appear to have hard feelings about it. "ACC: China looks amazing!" he said. " I hope it continues to strengthen the Assassins Creed franchise and I wish nothing but massive success to the folks at Ubisoft. They make incredible games and I'm grateful for having been involved."
It's possible the folks making the new game didn't think they could get him or that it'd be worth it. Smith keeps busy doing voice work for games, cartoons and more, after all. He is reprising his role as Batman in the upcoming animated movie Batman Unlimited Animal Instincts and roles in the Cartoon Network's Transformers: Robots in Disguise show. Also, Ezio's role doesn't appear to be significant in the game. Ubisoft hasn't replied to my request for comment about the casting change, but if they chime in, I'll note what they have to say.
Gaming is still a young enough medium that we haven't experienced many changes in the actors behind iconic gaming heroes. Ubisoft did recast their super-spy Sam Fisher for the last Splinter Cell game, politely displacing Michael Ironside from that signature role. Konami and Hideo Kojima appeared to be doing something similar with the next Metal Gear, swapping out longtime Solid Snake/Big Boss actor David Hayter for Kiefer Sutherland, though there are some who still think that might be a fake-out.
Unless or until there's a major new Ezio Assassin's Creed game, this might have simply been a little change for a relatively little game. Still, it's nice when you hear an actor who defined a role reprise it, no?
For now, here's a video from 2010 of Roger Craig Smith as Ezio:
We'll have more on Assassin's Creed Chronicles China in the coming days.