Breaking down Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

We break down the reveal trailer of The Phantom Pain to see where the Metal Gear Solid franchise is going in its next numbered game.

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As many had suspected, The Phantom Pain was just a ruse. At GDC yesterday, Hideo Kojima revealed Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, accompanied by a lengthy five-minute trailer, one packed with clues as to where the franchise will go. There's the obvious: the game starts in the 1970s, shortly after the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. At least, the portion of the game that's referred to as Ground Zeroes. But what other tidbits are hidden in the game's official debut? The first striking image in the trailer's opening moments is a mysterious figure (presumably Naked Snake) wearing a "FOX" shoulder patch being attended to on a hospital bed, as we see Kaz from Peace Walker imploring him not to die. A running theme throughout the trailer is a burgeoning conflict between two factions: FOX and XOF. Longtime follows of Metal Gear lore will recall that FOX (Force Operation X) was disbanded shortly after the death of The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. What the trailer does not explain is why Snake is suddenly donning this patch again, since he was a founding member of the Militaires Sans Frontières mercenary group at the time of Peace Walker.

Python from Portable Ops?

The scene then shifts at the 1:07 mark to what's presumably a flashback, preceding the events of Snake's sudden hospital visit. We see Snake aboard a helicopter shooting an automatic rifle over Mother Base, before the scene abruptly shifts to the ground. We see the logo "XOF" uncovered before Snake and Kaz come under heavy fire. A charred figure reveals himself, looking similar to Python from Portable Ops and Snake Eater villain Volgin. The fight goes terribly for Snake's crew, as we see a XOF badge fall to the ground and Mother Base go up in flames starting at the 1:54 mark.

Volgin from Snake Eater?

The trailer then returns to the hospital at the 2:13 point, at which point the hospital is under fire. Presumably, the XOF have learned about Snake's location and are looking to finish him off. One of the figures that attacks the hospital is a pyrokinetic, looking similar to the mysterious figure that revealed himself back at Mother Base. He appears to be donning a suit that operates like Python's suit, which is meant to keep temperature-based powers under control.

Revolver Ocelot returns... on horseback

At the 2:56 mark, Snake is rescued by a group led by Revolver Ocelot, who arrives on horseback. The XOF baddie quickly gives chase, atop an evil fiery black unicorn, in one of those visuals that you'll only see in video games. While it may represent something supernatural, it could be a callback to an earlier Phantom Pain trailer. Intrepid viewers may have spotted what appeared to be a young Psycho Mantis in the hospital in an earlier trailer. If it is, in fact, Psycho Mantis, then the fiery individual and flaming Pegasus could all be a result of his burgeoning mental powers at work.

Psycho Mantis illusion?

The Boss' death in MGS3 created a bitter divide between the remnants of FOX, mainly between Snake (her favorite disciple) and FOX co-founder Major Zero. Their conflicting visions of what a soldier is supposed to be appears to be a running theme in MGS5, as evidenced by the words, "From ‘FOX,' Two Phantoms were Born," that appear at the trailer's 4:38 mark. This stems from Peace Walker's ending, which revealed that Zero was the game's true villain, envisioning a world forcibly controlled under one unified intelligence agency. These machinations ran in stark contrast to Snake's vision of an army without borders, bringing him and Zero into a conflict that would carry all the way into the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Ground Zeroes and Phantom Pain will likely continue this narrative, showing what shaped Big Boss' desire to create Outer Heaven, while further exploring the betrayal of Zero that began in Peace Walker.

From FOX: Two Phantom Were Born

The 4:46 mark shows the words, "FOX vs. XOF," followed by the doctor telling Snake that he's been in a coma for nine years. Nine years is more than enough time for Zero to create a rogue organization and further enact his plans from Peace Walker. That graphic is shortly followed by the words, "A Phantom Battled Waged by the Vanished." Those words could represent the conflict of philosophies of those that have fallen over the course of the MGS series, including The Boss. It could also be a hint to the aforementioned Psycho Mantis and the development of his powers, leading to a more literal battle between the vanished.

A Phantom Battle Waged by the Vanished

The trailer ends with an ambiguous look at the mysterious Diamond Dogs logo that Hideo Kojima has been teasing through his Twitter account. Kaz refers to Diamond Dogs as "our new home," meaning it could be a new organization--a spiritual successor to FOX. This is followed by the words "V has come to" splashed in front of the Diamond Dogs logo. "V" could be a codename for Snake or could represent a different patient at the hospital. This was not made entirely clear and more clues will obviously pop up before MGS5's final release.

Metal Gear Solid V is the first game to use a roman numeral. The V must serve a dual purpose

Finally, there's the curious case of Snake's voice. Snake did not have a speaking part at all during this trailer or any of the preceding trailers. David Hayter has already spoken out on Twitter, saying that he has not been approached to reprise his iconic role as Snake for MGS5. This is a major stab in the dark, but what if Snake doesn't have a speaking role in the game at all? What if the attack on Mother Base damaged him more than anyone at Kojima Productions is letting on? Perhaps the experience at the hospital has left him in a strange psychological state that will prevent him from speaking. It's an admittedly absurd notion to think of a Metal Gear Solid game without any voice for Snake, but part of me wonders if there isn't some sinister reason for keeping the character silent through all of the trailer? Then again, maybe Kojima and Hayter are just toying with everyone on the internet. Perhaps Hayter will be revealed as Snake's voice later down the line after giving everyone a good scare and having a laugh at everyone's expense. Either way, it's strange to go this long without hearing Snake's voice, period, much less without Hayter's recognizable growl behind it.
Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty

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    March 28, 2013 12:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Breaking down Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.

    We break down the reveal trailer of The Phantom Pain to see where the Metal Gear Solid franchise is going in its next numbered game.

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      March 28, 2013 12:40 PM

      Interesting read, can't wait for it!

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      March 28, 2013 12:50 PM

      Hopefully by the time Kojima grows old we'll have discovered immortality so all this awesomeness that is Metal Gear will continue on forever.

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      March 28, 2013 12:55 PM

      Snake did talk during the gameplay demo that followed the trailer reveal and it was clear it wasn't David Hayter's voice.

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        March 28, 2013 2:04 PM

        was it clear it was solid snake?

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          March 28, 2013 3:57 PM

          My thoughts exactly. Possibly another Snake. Hmmmmm

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        March 28, 2013 9:50 PM

        Seen a few people theorizing that they're not using David Hayter because they'll begin using Richard Doyle (Big Boss's voice in MGS4) to voice Naked Snake. The reasoning behind that being that we're going to start seeing a young Solid Snake and it will help to make a distinction between the two characters.

        I don't know how that theory will pan out but it seems pretty plausible to me given the other clues in the trailer that seem to hint at them starting to bridge the gap between the modern and cold war era.

        Final thought: Am I the only person that noticed that there is a horn growing out of Big Boss's head at the end of the trailer when he's on the motorcycle?

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          March 28, 2013 9:54 PM

          I thought it was a piece of shrapnel stuck in his head. I also thought there was no Hayter because Snake can't speak after his injury.

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            March 31, 2013 11:21 AM

            Maybe the Coma turned him some kind of autistic ^^

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            April 1, 2013 6:47 AM

            During the gameplay demonstration, which isn't embeded here but is available, Snake/Big Boss can be heard responding to a couple of the things that Ismael says. His voice is weak though so you can't get much of a feel for the characteristics of his voice.

            It does seem pretty clear though based on the gameplay presentation that Ismael, whom I suspect will turn out to be Gray Fox, is voiced by Kieffer Sutherland.

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      March 29, 2013 7:30 AM

      Snake Plissken?

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      March 29, 2013 11:33 AM

      Why does Kojima keep calling him Snake? Its Big Boss by now.
      The tech and graphics are great, but why more Bigg Boss? We know how his tale ends. I just hope this game sets up for something that's relevant to the near-future story line the way 3 ended up doing. Something post Patriots.

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      March 29, 2013 3:14 PM

      I thought I knew something about MGS.....I don't know anything about MGS

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      March 29, 2013 9:19 PM

      There never was a voice actor for BIG BOSS. Only and ONLY Snake had a voice actor of the same name as his true first name. Travel back in memory lane.

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        April 1, 2013 6:50 AM

        Perhaps you should travel back in memory lane to the end of MGS 4. You might be surprised at what you remember.

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      March 30, 2013 8:22 AM

      I didn't understand a single word of this. Code words, names, what a mess of a storyline!