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Microsoft, Epic sued over Gears of War character

Former football player and pro wrestler claims his likeness, voice were stolen for Cole Train

The Gears of War series' Cole Train character has been criticized as a two-dimensional stereotype, but now a Pennsylvania man is alleging the character is essentially him. As reported by TMZ, former pro football player and pro wrestler Lenwood Hamilton has filed suit against Microsoft, Epic Games, and Cole Train voice actor Lester Speight, saying they stole the character's likeness and voice from Hamilton.

In a copy of the suit obtained by GamesIndustry.biz, Hamilton explains that he ran the family-focused Philadelphia wrestling promotion Soul City Wrestling, where he performed as "Hard Rock" Hamilton and hired Speight in mid-1998 to perform as "Rasta the Urban Warrior." Around the same time, the suit says Speight discussed plans for a video game with Hamilton, but Hamilton wasn't interested because it would feature violence.

The suit is unclear about how Speight might have connected with Epic and Microsoft to create a character derived from Hamilton, focusing instead on similarities between the former wrestling promoter and Cole Train.

According to the suit, "The similarities of the avatar 'Cole Train' and Hard Rock Hamilton 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 Philidelphia Eagles - 1983), the derby hat, wristbands, a front gold tooth, and a striking resemblance of both physiognomy and body build."

As for the voice, the suit says Hamilton had a forensics services company perform a voice analysis of Cole Train voice over and compared it to Hamilton's own recording of the same line. The forensic examiner concluded "to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty" that the Cole Train voice and Hamilton's voice are the same. The suit doesn't say exactly how Hamilton's voice might have been stolen for all of Cole Train's lines, but it does note that the Soul City Wrestling ring announcer and AV director "maintained a repository of Hamilton's voice recordings and photographs of Hard Rock Hamilton" throughout the company's existence.

As of this writing, representatives for Speight and Microsoft had not returned requests for comment. Epic Games had no comment.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.