McGinnis: Silenced Snake: Gaming’s greatest badass getting a new voiceWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In movies and on television, we have a tendency to lionize the actors who embody a character and forget about all those who work with them to bring that role to life. Sure, the performer is the most visible participant in the creation of a persona, but what about the writer who provides the words? The editor who chooses which takes to use? The cinematographer who lights the set and perfects camera angles? The director who supervises the whole production?
In the world of video games, the creation of a character involves even more disparate elements. The myriad programmers, writers, technicians and more who are involved in the process is enough to make your head spin.
In the early days, a gaming icon like Mario or Link didn’t even have a voice, let alone an actor to provide performance input. Even today, when full motion capture gives game creators the chance to utilize whole performances, it is hard to argue that an actor is more than one cog in the vast machine that gives a character life.
I say all this, but in the end, that doesn’t change the fact that to a generation of American gaming fans, David Hayter is Snake.
Though the character had been introduced in the original “Metal Gear” a decade prior, it wasn’t until the arrival of “Metal Gear Solid” in 1998 that its lead, a sneaky soldier named Solid Snake, began to stake his claim as one of the most iconic figures in gaming. An old war horse dragged back into battle, fighting to save the world from terrorists with nuclear weapons, Snake’s badass heroism combined with world-weary cynicism made him identifiable and sympathetic, the kind of hero you wanted to play as.
At the center of it all was voice actor David Hayter. Though the role was created and written by director Hideo Kojima, and given voice in the original Japanese by Akio ?tsuka, Hayter’s gravelly voiced delivery and wry humor made his portrayal of Snake unforgettable to American fans. It became unthinkable to imagine the role played by anyone else stateside.
Hayter became an indispensable part of the “Metal Gear” package. He was there for the inevitable sequel. He played Snake’s sort-of father (long story) Naked Snake in “Metal Gear Solid 3.” When Snake himself returned, aged and dying, in “Metal Gear Solid 4,” Hayter was there to voice him. Even in two portable games focused on Naked Snake, Hayter gave the character life.
So when rumors began to circulate about a “Metal Gear Solid V,” seemingly focused on Naked Snake once again, it was presumed by all that Hayter would be returning to the franchise. The fact that the actor himself was mum on the subject on Twitter was virtually confirmation, right?
Wrong. When Kojima officially confirmed that the previously announced “The Phantom Pain” and “Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes” collectively made up “Metal Gear Solid V,” a major part of the puzzle was missing: Whoever was voicing Snake, it wasn’t Hayter.
Now, if this new installment was seen as a reboot of the franchise, or if the character had aged to the point where Hayter was no longer appropriate, that would be one thing. But the game, by all indications, takes place in the same continuity as before — a continuity where Hayter has always voiced the role.
In an interview with GameTrailers.com, Kojima tried to explain the decision: “What we’re trying to accomplish here is to re-create the Metal Gear Series. It’s a new type of Metal Gear game, and we want to have this reflected in the voice actor as well.”
All well and good, perhaps, but with word that ?tsuka apparently would be returning for “Metal Gear Solid V” — well, the statement that the series is simply moving on doesn’t fly.
It’s clear from his statements that Hayter — who apparently was never even asked to reprise the role — is as disappointed as anyone.
“Well look, At least I had a good run,” he wrote on Twitter, before jokingly adding, “I just caught myself stealthily stalking the mailman. Just out of habit…”
Fans have proceeded to express displeasure as well, voicing their support and starting petitions in an effort to get Hayter reinstated as Snake.
It’s probably too little, too late, though. The game is way too far into its production process to change now. With some of the names rumored to be Snake’s new voice (the name Kiefer Sutherland being heavily mentioned), it may also be prohibitively expensive.
And it’s a shame. Given the many fond memories that fans have of Kojima and Hayter’s collective work — and the work of thousands of other artists who gave Snake life — it would have meant a lot to see it all come together again. And with Kojima claiming this will be his final “MGS” game (and we swear he means it this time), it would have been fitting for Hayter’s iconic performance to have a chance to ride into the sunset, as well.