Voice Makes the Character
*Disclaimer – There are some story spoilers for Splinter Cell: Conviction and Metal Gear Solid 4 in this article*
2013 seems to be the changing of the guard when it comes to video game voice-actors. And why shouldn’t it? As time progresses and the end draws near for our favorite voice-actors, the medium is forever. But that time has not yet come.
One of the first voice-actor changes that struck a nerve was the swap of the Splinter Cell voice from series vet Michael Ironside to relative unknown Eric Johnson.
In case you didn’t watch the video, my main issue with the change in voices is that for the past five games, Sam Fisher has sounded exactly the same. Every word he spoke and gravely phrase was distinctly a product of Michael Ironside’s. And for the sixth game in the series, Ubisoft Toronto decides that they want Sam to have more believable movements and animations so they get a younger actor to perform the moves that a secret spy guy can do.
But why include Sam Fisher at all? Sam Fisher has been approaching Hero Level: Batman in the number of times he has saved the Clancy-verse from near apocalyptic scenarios time and time again. Introduce a new agent with all of the new tech Ubisoft is adding but have Sam Fisher in an overseer role similar to Sam Fisher’s own boss from the first four games, Irving Lambert.
There is no logical reasoning behind keeping the name Sam Fisher with the franchise and have him, as people have coined the term for Splinter Cell, “age backwards” as he moves quicker and is more agile but would rather play backgammon and talk about the good ol’ days from the comfort of his rocking chair.
Especially since Sam and his daughter Sarah have been reunited after Sam’s emotional breakdown once he found out she was hit by a car causing the events of Splinter Cell: Double Agent. To remove Michael Ironside so suddenly after the journey fans have been on is almost disrespectful for the players that invested hours and hours into the franchise.
Speaking of lenghty investments of a stealth-franchise, earlier this year it was reported that David Hayter would not be returning for the role of Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid V.
Hayter said that he wasn’t given an explanation beyond “we won’t be needing you” as to why he wasn’t coming back for MGSV. Again, it has been established for years and years what Snake and Big Boss are supposed to sound like. Solid Snake being a clone of Big Boss, in the lore of the Metal Gear Solid universe, certainly doesn’t help Kojima’s case for replacing Hayter.
In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Richard Doyle voiced Big Boss while Hayter continued voicing Solid Snake during the excellent epilogue scene but it was decades after Metal Gear Solid 3 where Hayter still voiced Naked Snake. With a universe as in-depth as the Metal Gear Solid universe, this oversight in continuity seems careless on the part of Kojima Productions. Metal Gear Solid V will surely be up to the quality and polish of the previous games but without Hayter, the game will be the “black sheep” amongst the hardcore fanbase.
As a hardcore Batman fan, I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to discuss Kevin Conroy’s, veteran voice-actor of Batman from The Animated Series and the Arkham games, omission of the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins. Especially when there is no ill will toward WB Montreal or Conroy for not returning to the cape and cowl.
Batman has existed for 70 years now and has gone through several different interpretations and re-imaginings since his inception. Michael Keaton, Adam West, Christian Bale, George Clooney, and Val Kilmer have each lent their physical and vocal presence to Batman in the live action roles. Whereas Kevin Conroy, Diedrich Bader, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Ben McKenzie, Troy Baker, and Rino Ramano have voiced the caped crusader on the animated and video game front.
If there have been multiple voice-actors for the same character over an extended period of time, then the voice-actor change is business as usual. While Kevin Conroy has voiced Batman since Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel about Batman’s first confrontations with his supervillains and the Gotham Police.
Many will notice how Kevin Conroy still voiced young Bruce in The Animated Series’ flashbacks, my rebuttal is that the Arkham universe creates a blend of comic-book visual tropes with an undercurrent of realism and believability. There will probably be a reason why he adopts a darker sounding tone which will hopefully be explained in the game’s narrative.
Voice-actors are integral to the game experience. How an actor delivers a line, the emphasis on certain words, and the tone they use all affects the player’s play experience. To replace a voice-actor is like driving a different car after you total your car in an accident. The experience is similar but not the same.
Leave a comment below with your thoughts on changing video game voice-actors and follow me on Twitter @MaroonandGamer.