David Hayter Takes Us Behind the Scenes of ‘Phantom: Covert Ops’

Oculus Blog
May 21, 2020

Update May 21, 2020: You asked, David Hayter answered. We crowd-sourced some great questions for the voice actor over Instagram. See below for the full Q&A!

Earlier this month, nDreams announced that stealth legend David Hayter has joined the cast of Phantom: Covert Ops, voicing lead antagonist General Nikolai Zhurov. Today, the renowned voice actor perhaps best known for his portrayal of the iconic Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series takes us behind the scenes of Phantom: Covert Ops—the award-winning VR stealth game coming to Oculus Quest and the Rift Platform on June 25.

“Playing a stealth game in VR is different from just seeing it on a flat screen,” says Hayter. “You have to be aware of where all the non-player characters are in relationship to you, to the lights, to the sounds that you’re making. You have elements of that in 2D games, but it’s so immersive—it’s one of the finest stealth games I’ve ever seen.”

We took to Instagram so we could get answers to the community’s burning questions from the man himself. Here’s what Hayter had to say:

What inspired you to take on the character?

David Hayter: Well, first of all the producers did the most compelling thing I can imagine: They asked me if I’d play the character. That’s always a strong enticement. Second, it was clear from the start that this was going to be a ground-breaking stealth game, with incredible, new VR game mechanics, and I figured that was right in my wheelhouse. Finally, my character, General Zhurov, is Russian, and I got my start in V/O playing a Russian character on Captain Planet back in the ’90s. So it really felt like coming home.

What’s the funniest sentence you’ve had to record?

DH: In my life? I guess it would be when Solid Snake found out that one of the characters in Super Smash Bros. was able to fly around “by farting,” to which I had to reply, “By... farting.” In Phantom: Covert Ops, I think I was most excited to play an unhinged psychopath who would constantly rank out his troops in Russian-accented English.

What was the hardest part about this role?

DH: It got pretty tough on my voice. Zhurov is a deep voiced character, prone to fits of screaming outrage and fury. So it was a very physically demanding role, and it did get tough on my vocal chords toward the end. Even so, it was still enormous fun.

What made you want to get into voice acting?

DH: I had worked as a stage actor since I was nine years old. All those years of voice training, and doing accents, just sort of leant itself to voice-over. Plus, I have always loved animation, and the limitless possibilities for adventure it allows. So it was always a natural fit for me.

What was it like working on a VR game?

DH: The actual work of recording it was pretty much the same as you’d do for a console game or an animated show. You go into the booth and you rock and roll. But playing the game in VR? Mind-blowing. This game is so fully immersive in a way that a non-VR game can’t match. You feel the need to remain stealthy in your bones, because if you’re discovered, the entire world around will come alive and try to kill you. So I found the gameplay to be really amazing. I can’t wait to hear my voice with the game.

What kind of game is Phantom: Covert Ops?

DH: Phantom: Covert Ops is a stealth incursion into a flooded, ex-Soviet base. You play a Special Forces soldier, sent into the flooded base in a tactical kayak—which sounds strange, but it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever played in my life. You really row the kayak and it moves through the water in real time. You feel like you can actually reach down and feel the water flowing over your fingers. Having been in a number of Metal Gear stealth games, this is the next step. In this, you are in this world, and surrounded by it. It is fully immersive, stealth action.

What does your real voice sound like?

DH: My real voice sounds like a fairly young, cocky fighter pilot (I may have watched Top Gun too many times as a kid). I'd like to think that when you speak to me in person I am a lot lighter in tone, and attitude, than General Zhurov (unless you attempt to blow up my base).

How do you feel getting back to stealth and action games? Your role will be a bad guy?

DH: I love this genre, so it’s fantastic to be working in a new iteration of the stealth genre. As for playing a bad guy? Well, bad guys are enormously fun to play, and Zhurov was no different. Plus, this gives the players a chance to enter into a stealth game and finally kick Solid Snake’s ass. If you can...

Are there more VR games to come for you?

DH: I hope so. I love my Oculus Quest, and the only way I can imagine it being any better is if I was in more of the games in my library. My agent’s phone lines are open now.

What are you most looking forward to about playing Phantom: Covert Ops on Quest and the Rift Platform when it launches June 25? Let us know in the comments!