Know Metal Gear Solid inside out? Skip to slide number three below.
If you're less intimate with Kojima's complex, philosophical and fascinating series, here's a brief recap of MGSV's plot and themes: MGS: Ground Zeroes (the prologue of MGSV) starts in 1974, almost immediately after the events of MGS: Peace Walker on PSP. Snake infiltrates Camp Omega in Cuba to rescue Chico (the boy in the cage) and Paz (we'll explain) - both key characters in Peace Walker. While he's away, Mother Base (the oil rig-style base you build in MGS: PW) is attacked and destroyed, as seen in the trailers. Snake arrives back in time to see it burn, and fights to rescue his friend Kaz Miller (the dude with shades). All good? Let the slideshow commence...
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1. The Phantom Pain and MGSV Snake escapes the burning Mother Base, but something goes wrong and he enters a nine-year coma. This is where The Phantom Pain trailer comes in, with Snake waking up in 1984 and guided out of a hospital by a mysterious guide (the face-bandaged Ishmael) while tortured by demonic visions.
Snake escapes, likely with help from Ocelot (the long haired guy with cowboy boots), and is told he needs to rescue Kaz, who is being held prisoner in Afghanistan.
Snake rescues Kaz and the pair vow revenge by rebuilding Mother Base and their MSF (Militaires Sans Frontiers) military unit. Their new base is the fabled soldiers' haven, Outer Heaven, and their unit is (probably) Diamond Dogs. So who is MGSV's villain? Let us explain.
2. MGSV's villain and the real story Big Boss vows revenge - but on who? "It will be a great surprise", Kojima told CVG during our exclusive E3 interview.
"It would ruin a lot of people's excitement to the game if we revealed that".
We'll speculate, with evidence, later on, but here's the big picture. MGSV is likely about Big Boss' philosophical dispute with Major Zero, the founder of The Patriots (the shadowy, information-controlling, world rulers from MGS2 and MGS4).
Their argument stems from the Les Enfants Terrible project (1972 in MGS lore) and the 'birth' of Big Boss clones Solid, Liquid and Solidus.
This leads to Big Boss setting up Outer Heaven (in South Africa) and the events of the original Metal Gear on MSX (1990 in the MGS timeline), where you play as rookie Solid Snake on his mission to take down the 'monster'... Big Boss.
3. MGSV's key themes Kojima has confirmed the key themes as 'Revenge' (which we've outlined) and 'Race'. In particular, how racial differences can lead to a 'chain of revenge' between groups; a 'false spiral' passed between generations.
MGS has always dealt with what mankind leaves behind and how information is passed on, with themes of GENE (MGS) - MEME (MGS2) - SCENE (MGS3) - SENSE (MGS4) - PEACE (MGS:PW).
MGSV may deal with 'race' explicitly and a key part of MGS lore takes place in 1980s Africa. Outer Heaven is based in South Africa during the key apartheid era. On a broader level, MGSV is about loss (hence 'The Phantom Pain'), and our attempts to recover, or deal with, the past.
This may have big implications for the 'villain', who is likely a) Well-known b) A fallen hero mired in grey-area complexity. Big Boss is widely known as a 'villain' in MGS lore, so he'd be too obvious a choice.
4. Kaz Miller Kaz is second-in-command of Militaires Sans Frontieres (MSF), Big Boss's military unit in MGS: Peace Walker (1974). At the end of MGS: PW, it's revealed that Kaz collaborated with Big Boss's enemy Cipher (a codename for the Patriots, led by Major Zero), in the hope of securing funds for MSF and leading the emerging mercenary economy.
Kaz confessed his betrayal, claiming it was a business arrangement, and Big Boss forgave him. However, a secret tape in MGS: PW suggests Kaz is aware of Major Zero's Les Enfants Terrible (LET) cloning project, created as an 'insurance policy' against Big Boss.
Kaz seems to place business above all else, despite loyalty to Big Boss. So what does that mean for MGSV?
5. Kaz Miller in MGSV Kaz briefs Big Boss on the Camp Omega infiltration mission in the MGS: Ground Zeroes trailer. We later see him being rescued by Big Boss after Mother Base is attacked (presumably by Cipher). After the incident that leaves Big Boss in a coma, Kaz Miller lies bloodied on the hospital bed, asking about a mysterious third party (possibly bandaged man Ishmael).
Sometime in the next nine years, Kaz Miller is abducted, imprisoned and tortured in Afghanistan - where we see Big Boss rescue him during the MGSV E3 trailer. Miller loses his left leg and right arm during captivity, as we can see in a brief scene where Big Boss dismounts a helicopter. It looks like they're back at Mother Base, but we saw it destroyed nine years earlier.
Could this be a glimpse of Outer Heaven? Kaz's role now gets even more complex...
6. Is Kaz the power behind Diamond Dogs? In the E3 trailer, there's a mysterious man in a Diamond Dogs beret who oversees the torture of female sniper Quiet and technocrat Huey Emmerich. Kojima has confirmed he's not Colonel Campbell, and his general appearance / shades suggest this might be a cleaned up Kaz Miller.
It looks like Miller - consumed by vengeance for his captivity and limb loss - is torturing folk to find who betrayed him / Big Boss / MSF.
Miller provides the monologue to the opening two minutes of the MGSV red band trailer, talking about "the body I've lost", and how he wants to "make them give back our past".
At the end of the trailer, Kaz growls "Cipher sent us to hell, but we're going even deeper, take back everything we've lost". Big Boss replies, "Kaz, I'm already a demon", almost like he's trying to mediate.
7. Big Boss The legendary hero, and star of MGS3 (1964) and MGS: Peace Walker (1974), who is later depicted as a series' villain. Big Boss sets up soldier's haven Outer Heaven, and battles rookie soldier Solid Snake during the Outer Heaven Uprising (1995) and Zanzibar Land Disturbance (1999).
MGSV should explain his descent into 'villainy' and the creation of Outer Heaven. He's described as "Punished Snake: A Fallen Legend" in the MGSV trailer. However, it isn't clear whether you'll really play as Big Boss, although it's a conspiracy too big to explain here - we'll revisit this topic in-depth in an upcoming feature.
It's certainly odd why Kiefer Sutherland voices bandaged man Ishmael and Snake, as he's ambiguously referred to in the credits. The cause of Snake's demon horn and robotic arm are also unexplained.
8. Ocelot Another remarkably complicated character, Ocelot is the son of The Boss / The Sorrow (from MGS3) and acts as a triple agent throughout the MGS series, often siding with Ciper / The Patriots, but ultimately loyal to The Boss / Big Boss (as revealed at the end of MGS4).
In MGSV, it appears Ocelot (billed as "A rival living a lie") helps Snake escape from the military hospital, and sets him on his way in Afghanistan. Ocelot is seen torturing Quiet / Emmerich using his favoured electrocution technique (as Miller looks on?), and his sadistic methods earned him the codename 'Shalashaska' among the mujahideen.
In MGS lore, Ocelot worked for the Russians in Afghanistan, plus The Patriots (who he secretly resented) in Africa and the Middle East during the '80s.
9. Paz She looks like a teenager, but Paz (whose name means 'Peace') is 24 years old during MGS: Peace Walker where she acts as a double agent for Cipher in order to infiltrate MSF. Paz lives on Mother Base and works for the MSF during MGS: PW, causing her to doubt her allegiances.
Ultimately, Paz stays true to Cipher and - after failing to get Big Boss to join Cipher - attacks BB using Metal Gear ZEKE. Big Boss defeats her, and Paz's body is thrown into the ocean. She's recovered by Belizean fisherman and taken to Camp Omega, as referenced by Kaz in MGS: Ground Zeroes.
Paz has a bomb removed from her stomach during the grizzly scenes in the MGSV red band trailer.
10. How do we know it is Paz? Easy - it was confirmed on the official KP Alert podcast. In any case, don't be fooled by the cropped hair. In freeze frame, Paz's long eyelashes are clearly visible, as are her breasts. The bomb (also confirmed by KP alert) features a CND symbol, the visual shorthand for peace.
During MGS: Ground Zeroes mystery villain Skull Face, says that the "Trojan horse was in". Could it be that Ciper / Skull Face implanted the bomb in Paz's stomach, knowing full well Big Boss would rescue her? The bomb's CND symbol almost seems like an ironic message, in this context.
It's worth noting that Chico (with his give away dental brace), watches in horror as Paz is operated on. Chico is also a prisoner at Camp Omega, the boy with the surgical chest implant and Walkman.
11. Chico Chico is rescued by Big Boss in MGS: Peace Walker and works for MSF - he also has a crush on Paz. The 12 year-old Chico appears as a Camp Omega prisoner in Ground Zeroes, with a surgical chest implant. It appears that he's been tortured, or mentally conditioned, and has been forced to betray Big Boss by Skull Face - perhaps to give up Mother Base's whereabouts or its security measures.
Chico is seen being choked / restrained by Big Boss in Camp Omega (presumably for the betrayal?), but is alive when Paz is operated on sometime after - perhaps in the chopper escaping the burning Mother Base. Some speculate that Chico has a bigger role to play, and might even be the bandaged man Ishmael (Chico would be 19 years old in 1984 when Big Boss awakes). Again, it's speculation for another day.
12. Skull Face Once referred to as the "burned man" from the Ground Zeroes trailer and the leader of the mysterious XOF unit. Skull Face is referred to as a "Ghost without a past" in the new MGSV trailer. In previous analysis, I felt Skull Face wasn't a good fit to be Ishmael (as some suggested), and his huge mouth scar more closely resembles an adult Psycho Mantis.
Either way, new character Skull Face can't be the ultimate villain, or it wouldn't be Kojima's "great surprise" - or would it? What if Skull Face was revealed to be a well-known character, albeit deformed? Psycho Mantis is one guess.
Kaz Miller another... though I'll need to explain that in the next feature, before everyone howls at the apparent breakdown in logic and chronology.
Also: are the three keys on his belt all for Camp Omega?
13. Eli MGSV's "Youth who curses his fate" is probably Liquid Snake, Solid Snake's cloned brother and Big Boss's son. Les Enfants Terrible takes place in 1972 and MGSV takes place in 1984 when Liquid would be 12 - so Eli fits the profile, not least physically.
In MGS lore, Liquid Snake is brought up in the UK and becomes the youngest ever member of the SAS (aged 18) - although this would make the year 1990. However, the red beret on Eli's shoulder could belong to the UK Paras, which could be the first step to SAS enrolment.
Liquid Snake speaks fluent Arabic, as a result of extensive time in the Middle East. In MGS on PSone, Liquid laments his "cursed" genes.
Some claim there's a Snake on Eli's leg, but this might be a conch shell - as used to demo FoxEngine texturing at GDC.
14. Quiet She's a sniper with dubiously practical attire for desert combat, and is pictured being electrocuted by Ocelot / Miller. It's worth noting the black tracks (that look like oily tears) that spread and retract from her eyes.
The "Sniper deprived of her words" as MGSV describes her might have acute eyesight to compensate, or photosynthesis-style abilities, like The End in MGS3. Some speculate she's related to Sniper Wolf from MGS, but Sniper Wolf would be four years old in 1984, so it's an odd link.
The fact she's being tortured by Diamond Dogs suggests a link to Cipher and / or MSF.
15. Huey Emmerich Engineer "Huey", a nickname given by Dr Strangelove from MGS PW, was Born a paraplegic and unable to walk. In MGS PW he works for MSF, researching AI and developing Metal Gear ZEKE. Huey is shown being tortured in MGSV, likely on suspicion of being a Cipher informant.
The trailer suggests this "technocrat who stands his ground" later develops a bipedal frame, allowing him to walk unaided. Huey would be 39 in 1984, and is the father of Solid Snake's key Codec advisor Hal "Otacon" Emmerich, who was born in 1980.
Huey is famous for developing electronic cigarettes and, oddly, Snake is puffing on what looks like an electronic cigar in the trailer. At the end of the trailer, Kaz says: "He mentioned something interesting. Cipher is pursuing new research, a weapon to surpass Metal Gear". The 'he' in question might be a tortured Huey.
16. Ghost 02 We don't know their official name, but they do appear when the caption "Those who Don't Exist" appears on screen. We only see them in flashes, but this team of four (as far as we can tell) soldiers seem able to leap - or fly - great distances. They wear facemasks and earphones, with zombie-like glazed eyes and scarring.
They're likely the victims of an (genetic?) experiment, reinforced by the '02' numbering on the head during the close up. Could they be the other patients we see fleeing from the soldiers in The Phantom Pain's hospital?
Could Skull Face be the one that got away - the "ghost without a past"? Are the hospital soldiers not being healed, but left for dead and experimented on? Like phantoms?
17. Code Talker During the GDC reveal of MGSV, Kojima showed a tech demo using an old man's face - now revealed to be Code Talker, a "Wise Man denied his homeland". Kojima claimed the character was over 100 years old and that he wouldn't show his in-game character model for fear of revealing his identity.
The "Code Talker" name and "homeland" link suggests he's a Native American - perhaps a code talker used by the US army to relay encrypted messages in WWII.
There aren't many "famous" MGS characters from the late 1800s, but he could be one of the original "Philosophers", whose legacy (worth around one hundred billion dollars) is partially recovered by The Patriots in MGS Portable Ops. His role is likely as an omen of history repeating, tying directly to Kojima's theme of race. The original Philosophers fell out over an interpretation of will, much like Zero and Big Boss.
[ Further reading: E3 Interview - Kojima on MGSV ]
I'll be back later this week, all being well, with a deeper dissection of MGSV's core themes, plot clues and deliberate misdirection. Yup - this was the easy stuff. As ever, leave your comments below, or get in touch via