Friday, March 29, 2013

No more David Hayter in Metal Gear?

I've been trying to avoid Metal Gear Solid V previews and trailers until I can get around to playing Peace Walker, but I do want to comment on the news that Kojima Productions has apparently decided to replace David Hayter as the voice of Snake/Big Boss. Both Hideo Kojima and Hayter himself have confirmed that it is true (and the character's voice in the demo footage certainly sounds nothing like Hayter), with Kojima officially responding, “What we’re trying to accomplish here is recreate the Metal Gear series. It’s a new type of Metal Gear game, and we wanted to have this reflected in the voice actor as well.”

Were the new game an actual reboot, set in a different timeline and developed by a different team, I would understand them maybe wanting to go in a different direction. But it is abundantly clear from the latest trailer that, as far as the story and characters, this is the furthest thing from a fresh start. It sounds more like Konami and Kojima mean to refresh Metal Gear's image to potentially reach a new and larger market. They recognize that, even as gaming is becoming bigger, there are fewer and fewer titles able to compete in the triple-A space. Perhaps they figure part of claiming their seat at the table involves hiring a bigger name (or at least a more professional, less hammy performer) to take on their game's lead role.

Is it possible that a different actor could step into Snake's shoes and turn in a better performance? Sure, but that's also so not the point. For anyone who has been a fan of this series outside Japan, David Hayter is Snake, whether Solid or Naked. I remember attending an Anime Expo some years ago, where Hayter participated in a Q&A session as a guest of honor. This was at a time when people still believed that a live-action Metal Gear movie was going to happen, and one audience member asked who Hayter's choice would have been for the role of Solid Snake. The question was met with a loud chorus of boos from the rest of the audience, and rightly so. Don't ask the man to name his own more highly paid replacement. Even if not intended as such, the question was kind of a slap in the face to the actor whose performances had defined the character for most of us, and who was clearly passionate about the work (as evidenced by his mere presence at Anime Expo) and personally attached to the role in a way that few actors in video games would ever deign to be. Likewise, whatever Kojima and Konami's reasons now, to not even have approached Hayter is kind of a jerk move and a slap in the face not only to Hayter but the longtime fans as well.

Unfortunately, I don't get the sense that Kojima really knows or cares that much about the English-language versions of his games, so of course he wouldn't have Hayter's back on this. As a producer, he obviously wants to reach as large a market as possible, while, as a creator, Kojima has his own man in Japan, Akio Otsuka, who is his Snake (and who will return as Snake in the Japanese version, poking further holes in Kojima's stated reason that they're going for something new).

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