Here’s the first thing you need to know: Video games in 2012 aren’t your father’s Nintendo. Video games are now big, big business. As in record-setting. As in blowing away many top-grossing movies. The Call of Duty series, in fact, shot past $6 billion in sales as of November 2011 and is prominent among the top 5 grossing video games ever across their first five days of release. Among these five, the top three games are from the Call of Duty series, with $775 million, $650 million and $550 million in sales, respectively. It’s actually the quickest entertainment property to make $1 billion, as last year’s game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 did it in 16 days, eclipsing Avatar which did $1 billion in sales in 17 days.
The latest iteration of the best selling series is Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which comes out today. One of the main characters is star villain Raul Menendez, played by Kamar de los Reyes, a traditional actor who was previously in One Life to Live. In fact, Menendez comes from a long line of villains written by David Goyer, who wrote the Dark Knight films and the recently iconic Bane.
“He’s fascinating in the way Tony Soprano was — in the way the Joker and Bane were,” Reyes says.
He provided his voice, motion captured movements and his likeness for the game.
“What attracted me to this particular project, aside from it being for the largest video game franchise in the world, is that I would be the first Latino period in the world’s best-selling franchise,” Reyes said before Monday night’s much-anticipated midnight release.
Of his character, Reyes says, “he’s a villain through and through.”
“He’s kind of a cross between the most interesting man in the world and Osama bin Laden,” he says. Menendez is a narco-terrorist from Nicaragua who feels he has been wronged by the American government and the CIA and turns into a sort of Messianic character, Reyes adds.
“One minute you can understand him and his motivations and the next second he’s doing something and you just don’t get how he can do what he does,” Reyes says.
Of the first Call of Duty game set in the future, Reyes says, “The story is more like a film. You feel like you’re immersed in it.”
The game also features Sam Worthington, who starred in Avatar, and Michael Rooker, of The Walking Dead.
Reyes, who is of Puerto Rican and Cuban ancestry, says more and more prominent roles in blockbuster franchises are going to Latinos.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve been wondering to myself, ‘When is it going to be our time?'” Reyes says. “All you have to do is sit down and watch the news to see Latinos making their presence felt,” he said, alluding to the election results.
Reyes says he was lucky to step into “the Rolls Royce of video games” and that he would certainly reprise his role as Raul Menendez if the game developers want him back. He also talked about the passion of the huge gaming community in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. A good friend of his is the head of tourism in Puerto Rico and gave him some insight on what the Call of Duty franchise means on the island.
“He said the release of this game is probably one of the largest events every year,” Reyes says.