Today, it was announced that Keifer Sutherland was going to be the voice of Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid 5. This excited and disappointed fans in equal amounts because: a) Jack Bauer is now the voice of Snake and b) David Hayter is not. If that last name didn’t mean anything to you, David Hayter has been the voice of Snake in all of the previous Metal Gear Solid games. His voice and portrayal of Snake is part of the iconic nature of the character; and until today, it was hard to imagine Snake without that distinct baritone. Yet, today we are in that place and it interesting to see what the fan reaction is going to be over the coming weeks and at the game’s release. Hayter has been having his fun with Konami via his Twitter account; saying that this will go over as well as “New Coke.” Now, this could be one long con on the part of Kojima and team, and maybe both men are somehow in the game; but as far as the public knows, Hayer is out and Keifer is in.
This begs the question; how much does the man make the game? David Hayter’s Snake will be forever remembered as iconic and we’ll each have our favorite lines, etc., but no one thought he could do this forever. Eventually the change was going to have to be made; so why not now? Keifer Sutherland is a great choice, and he will be able to carry the mantle for the foreseeable future. The fact of the matter is that this was bound to happen; and the only way to gauge the reaction properly will be through sales numbers. If it truly bothers people that much that Hayer isn’t Snake; then they won’t buy it. Yet, I highly doubt that will happen.
The Splinter Cell games are going through similar growing pains. For the last five entries in the series, Michael Ironside has lent his talented voice to Sam Fisher; but in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Ubisoft chose to go with a younger actor. Much like the response to Hayter’s absence, fans took to the internet to voice their displeasure with the decision. There was an uproar, Ubisoft spoke about how they were having Ironside consult, and eventually everything died down. This current situation with Hayter will most likely go the exact same way.
If you talk to any “hardcore” fan of either series, they’ll tell you that they are disappointed in the casting choices; but WILL STILL BUY THE GAME. Why? Because they love those games. As long as the story is good, as long as Sam stays Sam and Snake stays Snake, the mechanics are solid, and the voice-work is good; the actual voice coming out of the character is negligible. It may be disorienting at first; but like all change, the player will get used to it. Splinter Cell fans will not turn down another adventure or round of spys vs. mercs just because Sam sounds a little different. Its a harsh truth, but a truth nonetheless.
What makes this whole situation interesting is the fact that this may be the first time this has cropped up in the industry. Before the PSONE era; voice acting in video games didn’t exist, at least not in the same way it does today. I remember when Final Fantasy X was coming out for the PS2 and the excitement about how it was going to be fully voiced. Voice acting in games is truly a recent development, and so it makes sense that the industry is now having to deal with the same things that long running television or movie series have had to deal with in the past. Sometimes actors and actresses age out of the part; sometimes a reboot is necessary to keep the franchise viable; all these reasons make sense. Dr. Who and James Bond have been doing this for decades; and so it is fun to see how game developers will work around this same problem.
Change is scary; especially when it is a change to a game series that you love; but change can be a good thing. It can bring new life and excitement to a franchise that is loosing steam; it can give a new and exciting take on a beloved character. Then, on occasion, it can be a terrible, horrible, god-forsaken mistake. All that to say, it’ll be exciting to see what happens.
But seriously….Robert Downy Jr. will be Tony Stark forever….or someone’s going to pay…