A few hours ago, Kiefer Sutherland was announced as the voice actor the Big Boss in the latest installment of the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Many fans of the series have already begun to voice their own displeasure with the exclusion of the man who voiced Snake for fifteen years from the project, David Hayter. Kojima has addressed his decision during Konami’s pre-E3 showcase:
“…we’re taking on some very heavy subjects such as race and revenge. This makes the tone much darker. As a result, I wanted Snake to have a more subdued performance expressed through subtle facial movements and tone of voice, rather than words.”
Kojima appears to want to abandon the exposition laden and sometimes needlessly circuitous dialogue that the previous games are notorious for in favor of a more understated and nuanced performance. Rather than the gravely monotone that Hayter has become well-known for, the new voice will have to be able to convey a range of emotions. Whether or not Sutherland is the actor for that job is entirely up for debate, but one thing is for certain: the new direction the series is taking means that Snake’s traditional voice has to go.
Snake and Big Boss have always been, under Hayter’s voice, cool, unshakable badasses. Seldom has Hayter altered his modes of speech during his performance (read: Snake and louder Snake). While this has done a great deal in the way of establishing Snake and Big Boss as iconic action heroes (or villains), it does not leave much room for character development or exploration. Kojima has famously expressed his discontent with the way Solid Snake was portrayed throughout the Metal Gear Solid series and the lack of a distinguishable character arc. There was simply not much Kojima could do with a character who created to be more action hero than human.
During the pre-E3 video, Sutherland puts forward his own views on what Kojima expects from his lead character in Metal Gear Solid V: “…what does Snake want for the future and how does the past weigh on him? There is a characters hope for a future, and that rounds out what I term as the human experience.” Kojima is not looking for the gruff machismo that many have come to expect of Metal Gear Solid franchise, but a more human-like, vulnerable character. Snake and Big Boss have not quite been portrayed as human characters in the previous installments. They have been touted as legendary super-soldiers, and while they may claim to be nothing more than hired killers, they continually accomplish increasingly fantastic, world-saving feats.
Kojima does not appear to want to serve the fans as much as he wants to serve the story he wants to tell, which is an incredibly bold move to take especially considering how well received Hayter was, not to mention the image that Snake has established over the course of the last fifteen years. Yes, a lot of people will be upset, and the end product may not entirely resemble the story that most people expect, but that’s not to say it won’t be entertaining or thought provoking. Very few franchises are willing to welcome drastic change. To avoid stagnating, becoming too stale and predictable, developers need to attempt something new, maybe even something that might not seem in the best interest of profit. As someone who grew up with the franchise, I can honestly say that I have never been as excited for any game as I am for Metal Gear Solid V, even if it does have an unfamiliar new voice.