Peter Parker's new face in the PS5 Spider-Man remaster might go down as 2020's strangest bit of game casting news, but The Coalition is giving Insomniac a run for its money with an upcoming update to Gears 5. When Gears 5's new update launches alongside the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, players will have the option of subbing in Dave Bautista for the role of Marcus Fenix, replacing Fenix's familiar look and the voice performance from John DiMaggio.
The Coalition gave IGN a preview of the upcoming Gears 5 update timed to the release of the next-gen Xboxes, and the optional Bautista recasting is the oddest part of the package by far. Other additions include new difficulty modes, a New Game+ option, mutators, more achievements, and multiplayer changes—all welcome content, but pretty standard compared to the option of swapping out one of your series' beloved characters with a new performance.
Bautista, or rather his WWE wrestling persona Batista, was first added to Gears 5 last year as a multiplayer skin. Bautista has long said that he would like to play Marcus Fenix in a live action Gears movie, and with roles like Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and Rabban Harkkonen in the upcoming Dune adaptation to his name, it's within the realm of possibility. The point of including Batista in Gears 5's multiplayer was to give a nod to the idea of casting him as Fenix, but now, The Coalition's actually done it a Gears campaign.
Speaking with IGN, Gears 5's principle lead producer Zoë Curnoe says that this was "a natural evolution" of the idea of casting Bautista as Fenix. "He had his fan campaign on Twitter, vying to be the star in the much talked-about movie ideas[...] the fans and him have said they want Batista as Marcus, so let's actually make it happen," Curnoe explains.
Again, this is a purely optional replacement, but I can count the number of similar situations involving big-name casting in games on one hand. DiMaggio, a star in his own right with iconic roles as Futurama's Bender and Jake the Dog in Adventure Time, has played Fenix in the Gears games since the 2006 original. He's not being replaced outright like Peter Dinklage-in-Destiny, but if players choose to equip the Batista skin for Fenix, they'll be hearing (and seeing) Dave Bautista and not DiMaggio.
Bautista's performance in Gears 5's campaign is him playing Fenix, not him inhabiting his wrestling persona. That means this also isn't like Bulletstorm adding the option of swapping out its protagonist for Duke Nukem. Again, if it wasn't for the explanation behind Peter Parker's new Tom Holland-doppelganger look (which Insomniac says better matches Parker's voice and performance capture actor, Yuri Lowenthal), this would be the weirdest bit of game casting I could think of for this year, if not in recent memory.
The New Game+ mode, Bautista performance, and more will be added to Gears 5 on Nov. 10, the same day the new Xboxes launch.