Epic Games, Microsoft, and voice actor Lester Speight are facing a lawsuit filed by a man named Lenwood Hamilton, a former football player and professional wrestler, who claims that the Gears of War character August "Cole Train" Cole is based on him. The suit, available from Courthouse News, claims that Hamilton is filing suit now because he only became aware of the character in January 2015, when a friend of his son showed him the game.
"The similarities of the avatar 'Cole Train' and Hard Rock Hamilton [Hamilton's pro wrestling alter-ego] include that both are black (and 'Cole Train' is the only black avatar in the Gears of War series), they both played professional football (although in Gears of War the game is called 'thrashball'), Cole Train's number is 83 (same year that Hamilton played for the Philadelphia Eagles—1983), the derby hat, wristbands, a front gold tooth, and a striking resemblance of both physiognomy and body build," the lawsuit states. An image of Hamilton as described in the suit is available at the MMG photo archives.
The filing also alleges that while Speight is credited as the Cole Train voice actor, the character's voice is Hamilton's as well. The suit claims that a voice analysis and comparison of his voice and Cole's conducted by a forensics services company he hired in April 2016 determined "to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty" that "the Cole Train voiceover used in the Gears of War videogames and the voice of Hamilton are the same voice."
That part is a bit tricky to explain, and the suit doesn't attempt to do so. Instead, it merely notes that Soul City ring announcer Robert Geary "had maintained a repository of Hamilton's voice recordings and photographs," presumably to imply that Epic could have spliced together Cole's lines using Hamilton's voice. It also claims that Speight worked with Hamilton in 1998 as "Rasta the Urban Warrior," during which time Speight told him about his idea for a videogame. Hamilton declined to become involved, however, because the game "would feature violence."
How Speight eventually ended up bringing his idea to Epic isn't made clear, nor is there any explanation of why the studio would opt to create Cole's voice from Hamilton's, rather than simply using a voice actor. Those two unfilled blanks alone make the suit seem like a stretch, at least at a casual glance, but given the success of the series, Hamilton likely stands to enjoy a major payday if he comes out on top: He's seeking "a proportional percentage of the profits" earned on the Gears of War series, plus punitive damages, legal fees, and whatever else the court feels like piling on.
Epic and Microsoft both declined to comment on the matter.