Why The Hayte(r)

Why The Hayte(r)

David Hayter is doing fine. The man with the vocal chords made of gravel is mostly known for voice acting Snake (and all other clones, descendants, progenitors, etc.) in the Metal Gear Solid series. He defines what it means to be a lone wolf action hero whose philosophical quandaries outmatch his ability to kill a man to many people, perhaps even an entire generation of gamers, developers, and writers.

Hayter has plenty of other things on his plate, though. Aside from a few one-off live action acting gigs and a plethora of other voice acting roles, Hayter is primarily known for his screenwriting. He wrote the 2009 adaptation of Watchmen, X-Men and X2: X-Men United, and The Scorpion King and will make his directorial debut soon with Wolves. What I’m saying is that Hayter is going to be fine not being Snake anymore (if lacking in a few Twitter lessons).

The question, though, is whether everyone else will be.

Late last month, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes) was officially announced. It featured a lot of what we already knew about the game due to either sloppy secret-keeping, a desire to avoid another Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty switcheroo fiasco, or some combination of the two. It had Snake, stealth, and narrative nonsense translated into visual nonsense—the Kojima mirepoix, as it were.

What it didn’t have, however, was Hayter’s signature voice backing the grizzled war veteran. It’s a testament to how much Hayter has done for the character and the franchise in how quickly and ubiquitously fans were able to point out the fact that it was not him voicing the sneaky, I’m-too-old-for-this-shit commando. Fans were understandably upset.

So imagine how they took it when they found out Hayter wasn’t even approached to voice Snake. Issued through a *shudder* TwitLonger statement—perhaps the most telling sign of the times—Hayter set the record straight: he’d come back from Canada to LA after working on Wolves to find out that voice recording for the new Metal Gear Solid titles had already started. So he talked with someone involved in the production and found out he wouldn’t be needed.

Handled with aplomb and like a consummate professional, Hayter told fans he valued his time as Snake and, given the chance, would keep doing it. “It’s been fifteen years, nine games, and an enormous blast to undertake,” he wrote. “If it were my choice, I would do this role forever.” Of course, that decision lies with Kojima, but Hayter does take time out to thank his fans for sticking by him.

And I’ll admit that I was a bit sad, as well. Metal Gear Solid was actually one of the first non-arcade games I ever went back to beat multiple times, and ever since then, I’ve always gone back for more on every other (console) release. So the nostalgia weights heavy on me, too, but does the voice necessarily make the character?

To an extent, the answer is obviously yes. Even casual observers were quick to notice that Snake simply did not sound like Snake, let alone the sort of folk that have FOXHOUND tattoos. I remember I used to be a huge fan of the Pokémon animated series. I remember I wormed my way out of a day at the mall with my parents just to watch the US premiere episode (which was, oddly enough, not the first episode of the season and really threw me for a loop).

After eight seasons of hearing Eric Stuart and Veronica Taylor do bang-up jobs as Brock/James and Ash respectively, it was shocking to hear them change. They were swapped out after Pokémon USA took over the rights to the anime and aimed to keep production costs low with simple sound-alike voice actors. I was, as much as you can in such nascent years, livid. How dare they tinker with such a perfect show. I couldn’t believe it.

One week later, it never came up again. Unless some friends and I were shooting the breeze over old episodes, it didn’t even bother me. Ash, as much as I loved the character, had changed. He had been shaped, obviously, by the talents and inflections and personal touches of Taylor to become the personality, but the type of character had changed that a new voice actor seemed natural. The Advanced trilogy was over and Ketchum and the game were off to the Battle Frontier; it kind of made sense that this would be the time to recast.

The same goes for Snake and Hayter. The character was obviously cultivated by influences and knowledge and quirks of Hayter’s that no one else could have brought to the table, but Snake is hardly the same person as before. Hell, he literally is not the same person in some cases. I’d like to think of it as if the original voice actor created and crafted and honed the template, and now someone else can fill it and make it their own as well. Narratively, now is the time; Big Boss has been in a coma for nine years (and in Ground Zeroes‘ case, will be right after the aspirations for Outer Heaven come to light), so why not a new voice?

Changing a voice actor is much simpler than changing a live action actor. It takes fans to notice when a voice changes, but it only takes eyes to notice they’ve swapped out Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal. And the change itself may not be necessary, but it’s usually more beneficial than diehard enthusiasts are willing to admit. The originals lay the groundwork, the foundation of a character, and those that follow can then build in their stead and create new characters. Don’t get me wrong; I would love to see Hayter return for this and all other Metal Gear Solid games, but war has changed, and so have voice actors.

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  • Massacred

    Fun fact: David Hayter gave up half his paycheck merely to get the original voice
    cast for Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes. He was that dedicated to bringing the fans the authentic metal gear experience. He is too nice to ask us, but how could we possibly turn our back on him in his time of need? I will fight for David Hayter any day.

    • Hellspwan

      Damn. . . alright you convinced me, I’ll go sign the petition.

    • Absolutely fight for him. I hope he comes back for these two Metal Gears and all of the ones that follow. I’m just saying that if he doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world.

      • Godfred

        Maybe not to you…

      • Jimmied

        Not the end of the world, but doesn’t mean I will buy it either.

  • Jen

    No Hayter, No Buy. Period. Absolutely no exceptions.

  • Godfred

    Listen everyone take to this petition let’s see if we can’t get this injustice
    righted. To (the author) please put a website link of the petition up so it
    will get more traffic, Thank You.

  • Jimmy

    no! What a disaster. Well looks like MGS4 is the last Metal Gear I’ll be
    buying. No Hayter, No Buy.

  • Yela

    Oh I see Kojima, lets reinvent the series . . . but instead of reinventing,
    actually lets just fire one guy. NO HAYTER, NO BUY.

  • Nutunes1

    why is the JP voice
    actor who played Naked Snake returning and David Hayter is not. The only
    conclusion I can draw from this is a great man in being unjustly fired.
    Logic Fail

  • Johnanthan Trust

    No offense, but this is an utterly
    reprehensible argument. What you are talking about being is a casual fan
    of the story and admirer of the gameplay, NOT a fan of the series. Please
    don’t confuse the two. Logically this makes no sense. But by all
    means go ahead and buy the game, however those of us not buying it, this is our
    way of protest this perceived illogicality.

  • Katie

    Guys, tweet at @KonamiSupport

  • NastyMclover

    I don’t really understand how this
    could make any sense, story wise. If we are to take what Konami has stated at
    face value, the game is broken in to two parts; the first (Ground Zeros) takes
    place directly after Peace Walker. The second (The Phantom Pain) takes place 9
    years after the coma at the end of Ground Zeros. Keeping in mind that David
    Hayter did in fact voice Big Boss or Naked Snake as he is called in PW, in
    Peace Walker (as well as Portable Ops and MGS3), then it only would make sense
    for him to at the very least continue to voice Big Boss in the Ground Zeros
    section of the game. I not even sure Big Bosses voice would have changed that
    much during the Coma since its only the 80’s when he awakens and his is voiced
    by Richard Doyle in the 2010’s. So any way you look at it, this really makes no

  • Ziggy

    1. Keep in mind that Metal Gear Solid V is a direct sequel to Peace Walker
    and who voiced Snake in Peace Walker?, none other than David Hayter. So no,
    story wise this does not makes sense

    2. If Kojima is truly reinventing the series, why is the Japanese voice
    actor for Snake staying the same? Either Kojima is stupid, lying or trolling
    us, but either way his reasoning makes no sense. What I see is one man, who has
    come to define a role, unjustly being fired.

    Additionally, if presuming this is in cannon with the series, no it is not a
    reinvention. (according to Konami its a squeal to Peace Walker) If Kojima
    really wanted to reinvent the series he would start from scratch. Established
    lore would not come into play.

    3. Max Payne, Raiden, and Hitman were all suppose to have voice actors
    replacing them, but due to fan outcry the publishers reconsidered. Not to
    mention in Peace Walker, Snake was supposed to be voiced by Richard Doyle but
    fans made themselves heard and David Hayter was brought back on board. Who’s to
    say the same thing could happen with MGSV?

    4. That’s fine that you don’t care but you have about 20,000 people (at the
    moment) who disagree with you. So go ahead and buy the game, buy don’t asked to
    be considered by the hardcore fans; a hardcore fan. As any way you look at this
    (story wise), it makes no sense.

    5. So no, we will not stop and we will not buy the game. Why? Because we can
    take it. Because its what needs to happen. Because sometimes Daivd Hayter
    deserves to have his faith in the fan community rewarded.

  • Unfined

    Sorry, sir, no offense, but you have bad logic. Might I ask you what your reaction would be if WB suddenly fired Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamil from their respective positions as the Joker and Batman?

    • Probably something similar: upset at first and then understanding. But those two have precedent; there have been other voice actors for Batman and the Joker before. And Mark Hamill actually wants out since doing the Joker is actually damaging his voice.

      • Napped

        Yeah but guess what? THAT WAS HIS CHOICE. David Hayter very much is willing and wants to return to play Snake. . .

        And arguing simply that Big Boss is getting older means that his voice should change too makes no sense either. You Know why? Guess who else is getting older? DAVID HAYTER

  • Mandifred

    . . . You do realize that TPP is splint into two chapters 1. THAT IS BEFORE THE FREAKING COMA. So please, explain to me how changing the voice from Peace Walker to ground zeros makes any sense story wise. . .

  • Jax

    You know, this wouldn’t bother me that much, if the game was simply titles “METAL GEAR SOLID” and marketed as a brand new take on the series. But its not; its a game in canon with 7 (or more) games that have existing lore and actors.

    • Agreed! But then I wonder how many people would be willing to stick around for a new Snake and how many people would want to jump on the train with some preconceived notion of what the series is. Maybe that influenced Kojima’s decision?

      • Jax

        Well I belive it will make a difference in sales and here is why: Part of the reason that MGS1-4 got such good sales figures were that the fan base sung the praises on top of mountains for those games. The problem is that if you have a whole ton of people hating the game. The casual gamer might not be as compelled to peak in and see what Metal Gear is all about. You see what I am saying?

        Many of my friends often look to me to know what game to buy next. (If I am exuberant about a game they will go check it out and if I am angry or pissed they will stay away)

        At this point, honestly, because there has been so much noise and fanfare made about David leaving, they should bring him back if only because it would seem to be a profit deal

  • Lasser

    Yeah OK, thats fine, but lets take a moment a look at a few games sales figures to see what happens when you piss of your existing fan base: (Look at DmC: Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Soul Calibur V and Resident Evil 6)

    • Neff

      Good point actually. . .

    • And I never said this wouldn’t hurt sales or piss people off. It will, in all likelihood, absolutely do both (having already started on the latter), but I personally think I might be coming around on the idea of not having Hayter around. It still irks me, but not as much as before.

      • Jaxter

        Why? it still makes no sense story wise?