Dissecting Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

by Ben Hanson on Mar 28, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Hideo Kojima's recent panel at GDC 2013 has released a deluge of information on the next Metal Gear Solid. The director of the series finally connected the worlds and trailers from Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain to unveil both a new trailer and gameplay footage from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. We've combed through the footage and have assembled some key still images to keep in mind as you wait for Snake's next adventure.

The new trailer for Metal Gear Solid V jumps around in time, but in this feature we try to piece things together chronologically. Described by Hideo Kojima as a "prologue" to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, it appears as though Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes ends with Snake (Big Boss) rescuing his old partner Kaz (McDonell) Miller from an exploding facility.

The way that the trailer is cut implies that the horribly burned/disfigured man from Ground Zeroes is connected to the explosive events that endanger Snake and Miller, although they appear to take place in different locations. While we don't see the actual injury, this rescue or some other event incapacitates Snake to the point that he enters a coma at a nearby hospital.

After Snake enters the coma, it's revealed that the viewer is seeing these events through the eyes of an unknown but seemingly also injured person as Miller looks directly at the camera and asks, "What about him?"

In what is said to be nine years later, Snake wakes up in a hospital (it's unclear if this is the same medical facility) to see a British flag and an indiscernable map.

Both in the original trailer for The Phantom Pain and in the new trailer for Metal Gear Solid V, you can hear a Russian woman say the words "V has come to". This could be a codename and reference to Snake waking up (or "coming to") from his coma or it could be referring to Volgin from Metal Gear Solid 3, more on him later. It is also worth nothing that the logo for the new game breaks tradition from past entries in the series and uses the Roman numeral "V" rather than the number "5", possibly hinting at a greater significance for the letter.

While these could be two different events, the hospital containing the freshly-awakened Snake comes under attack. The original Phantom Pain trailer shows military figures assassinating patients, while the gameplay for Metal Gear Solid V focuses on the supernatural invasion from both a flaming man and a Psycho Mantis-esque redhead. Guided by a bandaged man (believed to be voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) that tells Snake to call him "Ishmael" (a reference to the book Moby Dick, which was also the name of the fake studio developing The Phantom Pain),  Snake's first question is about a woman. "We gave her a light, she took the short way down", says Ishmael.

Click on the second page to learn about some of the villains and other heroes in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

The gameplay footage for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain shows a masked figure floating through the roof of an elevator. A later shot within the trailer shows a cleaner image of this character, one that is clearly inspired by Psycho Mantis from the original Metal Gear Solid. Due to the character's feminine features, it's possible that this is a female psychic. It is also possible that this is a younger version of Psycho Mantis himself, back when he had flowing red hair. Some have speculated that a lot of the supernatural imagery (giant flaming whales, etc.) featured in these videos is a result of hallucinations from this psychic character.

Also invading the hospital is a mysterious, muscular figure that (due to the pattern of his pants) some have connected with the villain named Volgin from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Since we never see his face, he may also be connected to the burned man seen in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.

The image above shows a car accident with Snake and Ishmael that presumably happens after they escape the hospital. While Snake is the only character we see crawl out of the ambulance (to be greeted by the Psycho Mantis-figure above), it is after this event that Snake is rescued by a strange man with a horse.

Riding a white horse similar to The Boss' from Metal Gear Solid 3, this stranger could be Ishmael with the bandages removed. A more likely theory, however, is that this is Revolver Ocelot. Wearing a similar scarf to his appearance in Snake Eater and lining up with this post-Peace Walker time-frame, odds are that this is the son of The Boss.

Snake and this mysterious man are soon chased by a figure on a flaming unicorn/pegasus. With the flame connection, it makes sense that this would be the Volgin-related figure from the hospital.

This still shows what looks to be a metallic mask over the man, matching up with the glowing eyes from the halls of the hospital and possibly obscuring a connection to the XOF villain from Ground Zeroes.

This is where things get strange. The final scene from the latest trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain shows a fully-healed Snake/Big Boss wearing a patch labeled "Diamond Dogs" and calling this faction his "new home". The jarring aspect of this scene is that there is some large object jutting out of Snake's skull. Appearing like a rock or some sort of demonic horn, this object is not from his previous injuries sustained during the Ground Zeroes incident and it is not referenced in any later representation of Big Boss. I wish we had an answer.

At this point, all signs are pointing to a new voice for Big Boss. David Hayter confirmed on Twitter that he had not been contacted to reprise the role and the brief lines of dialogue that we hear from Snake in the videos sounds like a new actor. There is also a rumor that Kiefer Sutherland is voicing both Ishmael and Big Boss, since they do sound similar, but nothing has been confirmed. It is worth noting that an actor named Richard Doyle voiced the elderly character of Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid 4, but since that actor is approaching seventy years old it is unlikely that he is voicing a middle-aged Snake. 

Take everything we've said with a grain of salt. We are attempting to stitch together a heavily cut and rearranged series of videos, and the trailer itself warns us that this is a "phantom battle". Any images that seem too surreal for even the Metal Gear Solid universe might be just that; the psychic character or Hideo Kojima could just be messing with our minds.

Have an explanation for these images or videos that we haven't thought of? Feel free to keep the speculation going in the comments below.