Konami shocked the gaming community last month when it unveiled that actor Kiefer Sutherland will play Snake (aka Big Boss) in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The news comes after months of speculation when we learned that David Hayter, the actor who has provided the iconic voice of Snake since the original Metal Gear Solid, would not return.
Obviously, fans were shocked by the change and have been sharing their mixed reactions. Some have welcomed it as a new perspective on the character while others are furious and feel that the game has rejected the spirit of Snake. It’s common to find gamers experiencing some doubt that Sutherland could perform the character the same way Hayter did. The fans do have a valid point.
When gamers get the chance to play The Phantom Pain, will it feel like they are taking on the role of Snake or the role of Jack Bauer?
While Hayter is also a respected screenwriter, his performance as Snake has defined him (like Sean Connery as James Bond). Meanwhile, Sutherland is known for his role as Jack Bauer in the acclaimed television series 24, an espionage-themed drama where each season focuses on a 24-hour time period of Agent Bauer and members of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU).
The linguistic dialect and personal traits of a character have always been determined by the actors who portray them. Yet the problem is that the actor who has been synonymous with Snake is being replaced by someone who is synonymous with another iconic character. While they may both be great action heroes, Jack Bauer and Snake are two very different characters.
On the surface, Snake was influenced by the character Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell) from the classic John Carpenter film Escape from New York. After the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Snake becomes a character driven by resentment who at first is trying to find a reason to fight. By the start of the game Peace Walker, Snake has established his own private army to provide much-needed service regardless of nation or ideology. Meanwhile, he seeks to fight for a cause that he believes in, which brings him into conflict with his former colleagues. Hayter’s performance gives Snake the same kind of tone projected by Kurt Russell but with a more dramatic respectability.
Unfortunately, Bauer as a character is nothing like Big Boss.
Jack Bauer is the personification of a hero America needed to look up to in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He is a loyal government agent who has to do what is necessary to protect American citizens from terrorist threats. Like Snake, Bauer shares a similar military background as he is involved in clandestine operations as a member of Delta Force. During the series, he makes countless personal sacrifices while his loyalty is tested by incompetent bureaucrats, trusted colleagues, and crooked men of power. Sutherland’s performance as Bauer creates a character that is guilt-ridden and trying to overcome past regrets.
Therein lies the problem. Sutherland’s performance as Snake may not lead to the character gamers want but instead a projection of Bauer. Longtime fans of the series have grown accustomed to having Hayter as the voice of Snake. But by using Sutherland, we’re going to have a radically different mental projection of Snake. At best, gamers could play a Snake who has become more battle-harden in a way that only Sutherland could depict — or gamers may have a vision of two characters morphed into one.
In the end, our speculation will be put to rest upon the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.