Portal series
Wheatley, as he appears in Portal 2.
First appearance Portal 2 (2011)
Created by Erik Wolpaw
Designed by Michael Spinx
Jesse Brandt
Voiced by
Stephen Merchant

Wheatley is a fictional artificial character in the 2011 video game Portal 2. He is voiced by British comedian Stephen Merchant and created in part by Portal 2's designer Erik Wolpaw. To date, he only appears in Portal 2.

Since his appearance in Portal 2, he has received overwhelmingly positive reception from critics. Merchant has been praised for his portrayal by critics who cited his fast-talking dialogue and what a journalist for the Daily Mail calls his "West Country burr" (more specifically, his native Bristol accent). Editors for CNET wrote that if Merchant didn't win "every video game voice actor award... there is no justice in either this world or any virtual one". Wheatley has also been described as a contrast to GLaDOS' "slower-speaking and more deliberate" personality.

Concept and creation

Wheatley is voiced by the British comedian Stephen Merchant and created in part by Portal 2 designer Erik Wolpaw. He was first revealed in an ARG released by Valve in a screenshot of Portal 2 before its release showing the player-character Chell holding Wheatley.[citation needed] Wheatley was designed with the purpose of making a character who "you’d be seeing a lot". He added that Wheatley served as an "offset" of GLaDOS; while her voice is "slower-speaking and more deliberate", Wheatley is a "frantic person" which he says is performed well by Merchant due to being able to relay information quickly in his speech.[1] Merchant was chosen for the role both because the designers were a fan of British comedy and because of Merchant's role in the TV series Extras and his podcasts. They sent him a package of Portal 2 material while requesting him to provide the voice of Wheatley and Merchant agreed to do the role.[2] While they were writing Wheatley's dialogue, they had Merchant "in their heads" as a result of Extras though at the time they did not consider pursuing him for the role because they did not think that they would be able to cast him. They were instead considering Richard Ayoade until they went to Merchant's agents. Wheatley's voice design was always designed with a British voice in mind.[3]

Wheatley was also designed with the intention of writing a video game character who spoke informally which Wolpaw stated gave the sensation that the events were really happening and that this was something players do not often see in video games. He also stated that sidekicks in video games have never "sounded as if they were just making things up as you go along".[3] While they later discovered that Merchant was famous in the United Kingdom, they noted that he was not chosen for his fame. Wolpaw noted that Merchant was the most famous actor that they had featured in one of their games.[4] While they wrote a script for Wheatley, Merchant had an "improvisational style" that they let him employ in the dialogue. Merchant also spoke some of the written dialogue in a way that seemed improvisational, such as in the "reading and repetition of words".[5] This style was also one of the qualities of him that made them want to cast him.[3]

Merchant himself has compared Wheatley's personality to characters typically played by Woody Allen, and noted that while initially he didn't know the gravitas of the role, reaction by others made him take the role a lot more seriously.[6] He described the recording sessions as "exhausting", so much so that by the end he was "not looking forward to it", but once the project wrapped, he was overwhelmed with the fan response and would return for a sequel.[6]


To date, Wheatley's only appearance is in Portal 2. He is a "Personality Core" that rides on a rail on the ceiling and first appears to the player-character Chell in an attempt to get out of the deteriorating Aperture Science testing facility with her. He utilizes his abilities to do various things in the system such as opening doors. Wheatley guides Chell to find the first Portal Gun which is utilized to help her get forward through it. Wheatley then detaches from his rail in order for him to progress further with Chell. Chell carries him until she plugs him into a device which inadvertently awakens the insane computer that once operated the facility, GLaDOS. GLaDOS takes Chell to perform tests on while she apparently kills Wheatley and tosses him aside.

Wheatley however, is later shown to have survived somehow, (according to his dialogue, a bird was somehow responsible for his re-activation). He appears throughout the tests in secrecy until he tries to form a plan by speaking in a different accent, which he believes GLaDOS is unable to hear; this fails, and the two of them escape through a hidden panel as GLaDOS attempts to kill them by destroying the catwalk behind them and placing turret guns.

They then escape into the turret construction facility, where they eventually form a plan to replace a good template of a turret which is used for all turrets with a defective turret (voiced by Nolan North), ensuring that the turrets are no longer deadly. They also succeed in disabling GLaDOS' neurotoxin emitters and eventually return to her lair where she discovers that both of her methods of killing have been disabled. A computer voice informs the three of them that GLaDOS has become corrupted, and that they may replace her with Wheatley. After much protest from GLaDOS and encouragement from Wheatley, Chell pushes a button that causes the change to happen, putting Wheatley in charge of the whole facility. However, Wheatley soon becomes corrupted with power and begins acting arrogantly, believing that he did all of the work and Chell was being selfish (this might be a result of GLaDOS' attack, Wheatley shows signs of damage after his reappearance). He decides to keep Chell in the facility and transfer GLaDOS into a potato battery. GLaDOS angers him by revealing that he is actually an Intelligence Dampening sphere designed by Aperture scientists in an attempt to render her too stupid to kill them saying, "You're not just a regular moron; you were designed to be a moron." Enraged, Wheatley crushes the elevator Chell is in and inadvertently causes GLaDOS and Chell to fall down into a chasm. During the fall GLaDOS explains that Wheatley is "The product of the greatest minds of a generation with the explicit purpose of creating the dumbest moron who ever lived." The two of them later reunite and form an alliance in order to stop Wheatley, who GLaDOS says is causing the destruction of the lab by neglecting to repair its failing systems.

Wheatley is later seen testing on turrets merged with Weighted storage cubes to make up for test subjects. He has Chell do increasingly difficult tests, starting off with tests that are very easy (he made them). He later finds tests that GLaDOS had saved from previous test subjects. Throughout the testing, Wheatley goes from gaining a strong sense of euphoria from testing to becoming disappointed with the test results, which requires him to do more tests. (GLaDOS explains to Chell that the euphoria is a reward system intended to encourage the AI in charge to continue testing, and that Wheatley has apparently built up a tolerance for the reward faster than expected.) He attempts to make himself seem intelligent to Chell and GLaDOS by playing classical music and "reading" advanced literature. Eventually Chell and GLaDOS fall into a massive sequence of death traps that he sets up after finding robotic test subjects, which are P-Body and Atlas from the co-op story, only to have them escape before he could kill them. Chell and GLaDOS eventually find their way to Wheatley's location, and the two of them attempt to make him corrupt by adding defective core modules to him as he tries to kill them. After installing all of them, Chell attempts to push the button to initiate the transfer but is blown away by an explosive trap Wheatley set up. She survives, and upon seeing the roof collapse, shoots a portal at the moon (after learning that the white 'portal' gel is made of moon rocks), causing her and Wheatley to be sucked into space. She hangs onto him, and GLaDOS reaches through the portal to save her and leave Wheatley stranded in space. He is later seen after the credits floating through space and expressing his deepest regrets for betraying Chell.


[[File:StephenMerchantAltNov09.jpg|right|thumb|[[Stephen Merchant]] received significant praise for his portrayal of Wheatley.]] Edge staff wrote that Merchant's portrayal of Wheatley was "neurotically stuttering and blubbering" and that his "idiosyncratic staccato Bristolian burr" was a "fascinating choice".[1] Edge staff also wrote that he served as the game's "comic relief" and called him "alternately hapless and sinister, the mesmerizing animations of his ‘eye light’ and a changing role throughout make him an unforgettable presence".[1] GameSpy's Will Tuttle wrote that Merchant's portrayal of Wheatley was "pitch perfect" and is "sure to be a fan favorite".[7] The Telegraph's Tom Hoggins wrote that the "delightfully skittish" Wheatley's "casual, nervous patter reacting naturally to the events unfolding around you" was performed well by Merchant.[8] He later wrote that the dialogue of Portal 2 was funny due in part to "the way that the frantic, nervous babble of Wheatley contrasts so effectively with the clinical, sinister goading from GLaDOS" and that neither are overbearing.[9] The Guardian's Nick Cowen wrote that Wheatley was a "stammering, motor-mouthed droid" and at times "funny and monstrous and spine chilling".[10] The Guardian's Will Freeman wrote that the "apparently sentient computers" in Portal 2 are "outstanding" though players may have a "divided opinion" on Wheatley.[11]

An editor for The Province wrote that Merchant's portrayal of Wheatley "really adds to the personality and character of the game".[12] Official Xbox Magazine's Jon Hicks praised the narrative of Portal 2 and cited Wheatley's "chirpy idiocy" as a contributing factor to its quality.[13] OXM's Ryan McCaffrey wrote that Wheatley was "played to perfection" by Merchant.[14] Computer and Video Games' Andy Robinson wrote that Wheatley's personality was "equally loud" to GLaDOS and "brilliant".[15] GameZone's Ben PerLee wrote that Wheatley was "cute but stupid" and called him "adorable and bumbling, a lovable little guy who is much more involved than you might expect".[16] The Escapist's Russ Pitts wrote that Wheatley was "a helpful - if dumb - robot companion with a chipper English accent".[17] The Globe and Mail's Chad Sapieha wrote that Merchant was "enormously entertaining as a slow-witted sphere".[18] Ars Technica's Ben Kuchera wrote that "the casting [of Merchant] was a brilliant choice". He also wrote that "there is something about his delivery that works wonderfully, and it seems like he was having a good time recording his lines".[19]

PC Gamer's Dan Stapleton praised Wheatley as "fantastically voiced" by Merchant and wrote that he was "basically playing the same mind-bogglingly stupid character from the Ricky Gervais comedy Extras".[20] PC Gamer's Craig Pearson wrote that "his nervous English voice ... is another indicator that while Valve might not have known what they had with the original Portal, this time around they’re a lot more confident".[21] Giant Bomb's Ryan Davis wrote that Merchant voiced Wheatley with "terrific nervous energy”.[22] Wired's Chris Kohler wrote that "you’ll fall in love with Wheatley, a friendly robot with a heart of gold and the charming voice of actor Stephen Merchant".[23] IGN's Charles Onyett wrote that it's "difficult to overstate how Merchant's obvious enthusiasm for the role benefits the game" and that "no word Wheatley speaks is without witty inflection, and the consistently clever writing perfectly complements the onscreen action". He also wrote that Wheatley Merchant "steals the show" while GLaDOS and Cave Johnson's voice actors Ellen McLain and J.K. Simmons turn in solid performances.[24] PALGN's Adam Ghiggino wrote that Merchant's performance was "brilliant" and that he has "a lot of emotion to [his] movement".[25] Video Gamer's Jamin Smith wrote that Merchant's voice was familiar and wrote that Wheatley "possesses more personality than the cast of most other games put together" despite "a lack of any distinguishing features at all" in its appearance.[26]

GamesRadar's Tyler Wilde wrote that Wheatley was "surprisingly expressive" and called it "bumbling".[27] CNN's Larry Frum called Wheatley "silly, frantic and almost childlike".[28] ABC News' Lou Kesten called it "equally memorable" to GLaDOS and a "chatty, nervous A.I."[29] Entertainment Weekly's John Young described its eyeball's appearance as a "giant blue eyeball resembles a HAL 9000 computer with an Apple makeover". He also wrote that he was the "most delightful artificial-intelligence program one could hope to meet, and his witty quips and general clumsiness are a frequent source of amusement" and that he is "splendidly voiced" by Merchant.[30] Editors for CNET wrote that "if Stephen Merchant doesn't win every video game voice actor award for his portrayal of the protagonist's wacky robot sidekick, there is no justice in either this world or any virtual one".[2] An editor for CBS News wrote that Wheatley was "a chirpy and well-intentioned" but also "dim-witted". The editor added that the "interactions between the player, GLaDOS and Wheatley are what give "Portal 2" its charm and provide much of the humor that keeps the game captivating puzzle after puzzle".[31] The Daily Mail's James O'Brien called Wheatley a "loquacious metal ball whose distinctly limited intelligence is rendered even more amusing by Merchant’s distinctive West Country burr".[32]

However, not all of Wheatley's reception has been positive; in an Ars Technica article explaining why Portal 2 wasn't as great as its predecessor, Peter Bright said that the character's role in the game's plot was predictable and that "his tireless, relentlessly stupid schtick" quickly got old, with the character's jokes being recycled and reused throughout the whole game. Bright also said that Wheatley's "inane babble served only to disrupt the mood."[33]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Portal 2 Preview | Edge Magazine". 2011-03-18. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bakalar, Jeff (2011-04-22). "Portal 2: For fun, for everyone, for science | Crave - CNET". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Brown, David (2011-03-04). "Portal 2 developer interview: Chet Falisek and Erik Wolpaw". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  4. "Portal 2 interview and hands-on preview". Den of Geek. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  5. "Portal 2 – Interview « Gaming Lives - Online gaming community with videogame articles, video game reviews, previews and gaming news". 2011-03-14. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  6. 6.0 6.1
  7. "GameSpy: Portal 2 Review - Page 1". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  8. Hoggins, Tom (2011-04-08). "Portal 2 hands-on preview". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  9. Hoggins, Tom (2011-04-19). "Portal 2 review". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  10. Nick Cowen. "Portal 2 – review | Technology |". Guardian. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  11. Will Freeman. "Portal 2 – review | Technology | The Observer". Guardian. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  12. The Province April 25, 2011. "Power Play: Another Portal to puzzling bliss". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  13. "Portal 2 review - Xbox 360 - Official Xbox 360 Magazine". 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  14. "Portal 2". Oxm Online. 2011-04-21. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  15. "Review: Portal 2". 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  16. "Portal 2 Review |". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  17. "The Escapist : Portal 2 Review". 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  18. Canada (2011-04-19). "Top five GLaDOS insults in Portal 2". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  19. Kuchera, Ben (2011-04-19). "Portal 2: Ars shares the correct way to do science". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  20. "Portal 2 review". PC Gamer. 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  21. "Portal 2 preview". PC Gamer. 2011-03-29. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  22. "Portal 2 Review". Giant Bomb. 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  23. Previous post Next post. "Review: Portal 2 Marries Indie Design, Blockbuster Budget | GameLife". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  24. var authorId = "49025041" by Charles Onyett (2011-04-18). "Portal 2 Review - PlayStation 3 Review at IGN". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  25. Adam Ghiggino21 Apr, 2011 (2011-04-21). "Portal 2 Review - PlayStation 3 Video Game Review - PAL Gaming Network". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  26. "Portal 2 Review for PS3". 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  27. "Portal 2 super review, Portal 2 Review, PS3 Reviews". Games Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  28. "'Portal 2' is a dark, humorous joy (and that's no lie) - Page 2 - CNN". 2011-04-19. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  29. Kesten, Lou - Associated Press (2011-04-20). "Review: 'Portal 2' a Blast for the Thinking Gamer - ABC News". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  30. Young, John (2011-04-20). "'Portal 2' videogame review: Physics is phunny | PopWatch |". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  31. Font size Print E-mail Share 0 Comments (2011-04-19). "Portal 2 review: A hilarious sci-fi puzzle game". CBS News. Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  32. O'Brien, James (2011-04-22). "Portal 2 review: Now that's what I call an entrance! | Mail Online". Retrieved 2011-04-26. 
  33. Bright, Peter (2011-05-03). "Thinking on rails: why Portal 2 isn't as good as the original". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2011-05-05. 

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