I love Metal Gear Solid. I have since I discovered the first MGS over a decade ago. In America, Metal Gear Solid's gruff heroes Solid Snake and Big Boss have been voiced by David Hayter since the original game came out in 1998 on Sony's Playstation, the first Metal Gear to be in full 3D and have voice acting.
Since then, Hayter has voiced the character in nearly every iteration of the the stealthy soldier, even Super Smash Bros Brawl. David Hayter's signature voice has become synonymous with the quirky franchise. Whether his performance is seen as good or bad, fans expect him, and his presence complements the often insane series perfectly. It's only fair to assume he'd be playing him in any future entries into the series. Wrong. It looks like he won't be returning to the next part of the Metal Gear saga. Hayter's absence is like if Charles Martinet didn't voice Mario and Luigi.
Hideo Kojima announced a new project last year — Ground Zeroes. Its trailer flaunts a shiny, brand new engine made in-house by Kojima's team and stars one of the series' tragic main characters Big Boss. The Phantom Pain was revealed at GDC a few weeks back... seemingly a separate project, but apparently not.
Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain are a part of the same game: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. In a trailer that seems like quite a different approach compared to Ground Zeroes. This may be an older, grayer, beat-up version of Big Boss, but he was still definitely "Snake," and any dialog coming from him felt odd without David Hayter's signature way-too-raspy voice.
Where was David Hayter? In a tweet that shed some light (but offered little resolution) on the situation, on April 1st (of all days), David Hayter remarked openly that he was not invited to return to the role due to a creative refresh in the series by the designer Kojima, who said in an interview:
What we're trying to accomplish is [to] 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.
He's right; even the thematic disparity between the two trailers lends itself very strongly to the idea that this next Metal Gear game will be a different direction for Kojima. It seems poised to mark Big Boss’ turn from tragic hero to twisted villain. That is a decent reason for the voice to change, at least.
But Snake's Japanese voice actor, Akio Otsuka, is still completely on board, as evident from the recent trailer. So, Kojima's reasoning seems incredibly suspicious, or at least dishonest. Add to that the fact Hayter's post was made on April Fools' Day, and we have either a poorly executed ruse or a game designer who's forgotten his fans.
This news is heartbreaking. Seeing a new Metal Gear on a brand spanking new engine for the upcoming console generation is extremely exciting, but hearing that the beloved David Hayter won't return is both a weird and sorrowful decision on Kojima’s part. Fans created a petition (of course) in an attempt to get the classic voice actor back.
In Metal Gear Solid 4, Solid Snake and Big Boss appear for the first time together in a 3D game, necessitating vocal distinction. Solid Snake is thus voiced by Hayter and Big Boss is voiced by Richard Doyle, but the new actor in the trailer sounds like neither Hayter nor Doyle. He's not yet been named.
With Kojima's track record, it's not hard to imagine some strange twist or easter egg that provides at least a minor role for Hayter. Maybe he'll "pull a Raiden" and Solid Snake (voiced by Hayter) will be the surprise main character. Maybe he's trying to distinguish Big Boss from a Solid Snake starring in future games alongside Big Boss, and doesn't trust Hayter's vocal "range" as much as he does Otsuka's. The game's setting in the Metal Gear timeline would allow a young Solid Snake to make a cameo. Or, this whole situation is a poor, extended April Fools' thing. This certainly isn't the first time Kojima's tried to fool us.