The Metal Gear Solid series has always straddled the realms of the strange and complex. Its confusing ramble of plots, ridiculous characters and crazy mixtures of melodramatic pseudoscience have been utilised once more in what may be the final trailer before the launch of The Phantom Pain. The trailer’s cryptic nature may lead to confusion amongst the masses, but hopefully this visual breakdown shed some light on its mysterious minutiae:
The logo for Big Boss’s military group, Diamond Dogs, splattered in the blood of his comrades. The mercenary organisation formed after the devastation of their previous military company, MSF. The name is a reference to “the dogs of war,” harkening towards their willingness to undertake immoral actions in order to complete a mission. It also shares the name of the 1974 David Bowie album, Diamond Dogs. The Metal Gear Solid series has been paying homage to the artist since Major Zero’s use of Major Tom as a codename in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
After the logo, a number of the Diamond Dogs are seen dead, strewn along a corridor as Big Boss walks fearlessly away from them. It is heavily implied that he has killed his own men. The narration mentions a change in thoughts, personality and morality; a fitting theme for Snake, as this is the game that will close the loop on his transformation from hero to villain.
That change is very much in evidence here as Big Boss’s face becomes covered in blood and a large piece of shrapnel is now lodged within his forehead. This startling injury had been received during the events of Ground Zeroes, as his helicopter was destroyed during a bombing attack. Big Boss was placed into a coma as a result, but nine years later, in 1984, he awoke. He has been told that hallucinations may occur due to his severe head trauma.
Once again, a reference to the David Bowie song From the Man Who Sold the World. It is more than likely a playable cassette that can be used within the game during missions.
A view of Skullface seen boarding his XOF chopper from Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. The narration refers to the villain’s upbringing, as his country, family and even his face were taken away from him during the bombing of his childhood Hungarian village. This description also presents a fitting characterisation of Big Boss, as his mistrust of the United States government, after Operation Snake Eater, led to the loss of his home and patriotic values.
Big Boss is being treated for his injuries after the helicopter incident of Ground Zeroes in 1975.
Big Boss and his brethren before his helicopter explodes during the attack of Mother Base in 1975.
Kazuhira Miller in 1984, after being tortured in Afghanistan by the Soviets. He was left disabled with two missing limbs. Here, the title of the game, The Phantom Pain, is very much in effect, as Miller nurses his missing arm. He then clenches his remaining hand into a fist, indicating Miller’s change into a man hell-bent on revenge for what has been done to him and his men.
A view of Mother Base during the attack in 1975. After Big Boss awakes from his coma in 1984, the facility is rebuilt and given the name Outer Heaven.
In 1984, Big Boss helps a crippled Kaz Miller onto a helicopter pad at Outer Heaven after his rescue from Afghanistan. Ocelot, usually an antagonist within Metal Gear lore, is now working with Big Boss and Miller after helping the former escape from the hospital in which he was in a coma.
Big Boss conversing with Code Talker, an ancient described in the E3 2013 trailer as “A Wise Man denied his homeland.” This description may point towards Code Talker being a member of The Wise Man’s Committee. More commonly known as The Philosophers, they were a powerful group that undermined governments, controlled vast sums of wealth and dominated world events for years during the early 20th century. Not much is known about Code Talker, but the room in which he is situated indicates a spiritual, or even supernatural, characterisation.
Kaz Miller in 1984 conducting torture upon a female character known as Quiet. She had been ordered to neutralise Diamond Dogs, and was incarcerated as a result.
Dr Huey Emmerich also being tortured, but this time by Ocleot, for his suspected involvement in the attack on Mother Base in 1975.
Miller and Snake walking together after the former has addressed his troops aboard Outer Heaven. The narration mentions rulers using language in order preside over their subjects. This is a fitting description of the situation, as Miller’s lack of physical efficiency, due to his disabilities, has left him with only his words as a form of control and leadership. His altered appearance, as well as his now less than capable stance in battle, coincides with the game’s themes of change.
A funeral for a group of Diamond Dogs. Big Boss will then spread the ash from their incinerated bodies across his face before going into battle. This ritual is seen as a morbid form of camaraderie amongst the members of his company.
The mammal pod that housed the AI of Snake’s former mentor, The Boss, from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The narration states that The Boss’s vision for the world will become a reality and that it will “make mankind whole again.” This indicates that Big Boss has somehow procured her artificial intelligence from Lake Nicaragua in order to complete her last rites: attempting to create a world with no higher form of government, a world with no need for war or separation.
Here we get a shot of Paz Ortega, a character that had been killed by a bomb implanted in her womb during the events of Ground Zeroes. While it may be confusing as to why she is alive in The Phantom Pain, the succeeding shots of cyborg-like creations suggests that she is in fact a clone, or an incredibly life-like artificial intelligence.
Big Boss removes an earphone-like device from the neck of a supposedly synthetic man. This man, plus the double of Paz, could potentially be a weapon of Cipher: the group that Snake and Miller want to take down for revengeful purposes, as well as to destroy their newly created weapon. It is seemingly more powerful than Metal Gear itself.
A number of strange women, complete with sneaking suits and electronic headsets, materialise while walking through a heavily fogged area. Again, these cyborgs may be a weapon created by Cipher.
After the cyborgs, zombies make an appearance to attack Snake after a helicopter crash. Their flesh and ribs are exposed. In typical Metal Gear fashion, why not?
A metal fist appears to then click a device that piques the zombies’ interest in human flesh: their shambling nature subsides, their eyes glow green and they move at an unsettlingly fast pace. If they are attacking Snake, then it is safe to assume that Cipher is involved in the creation of these monsters. They are more than likely controlled by an archaic form of nanomachines. Similar zombie-like beings have also been utilised in Metal Gear Solid 4.
Snake drives furiously away from shards coming out of the earth that are strikingly similar to the shard implanted within his own skull. As a result, one can assume that this scene is a violent hallucination.
This could be part of another hallucination that will be seen later, or perhaps it is simply a man on fire.
“America is a country of liberty, a meeting of immigrants.” The two men, Big Boss and Skullface, come together despite their different ideologies as they both wish to destroy Cipher. Cipher have killed Big Boss’s comrades, created a weapon to surpass the destructive capabilities of Metal Gear and had also orchestrated the Peace Walker Incident in 1974. Skullface’s motive seems to involve hatred for both Cipher and its leader, Zero, because he wishes to be free from their far-reaching methods of control.
This young boy is either Solid or Liquid Snake (codenamed Eli), characters that both received leading roles in the original Metal Gear Solid as adults. Imagery from the William Golding novel, Lord of the Flies, is in evidence within this scene. A conch shell, as well as a rotting pig head on a stick are present. They are symbolic images that refer to the key themes of both this game and the book: the use of words and order to keep civilisation alive, and an emphasis on the futility of survival and government. The latter tenet would coincide perfectly with the ideals of The Boss.
Quiet is shown once again as her eyes become swathed in the patterns of a Rorschach test. This may have some involvement in her supernatural abilities.
Code Talker, taking the edge off in a difficult situation.
The possible hallucinogenic culprit of the man on fire from an earlier screenshot. This appears to be Colonel Volgin, the primary antagonist of Metal Gear Solid 3, who was killed by a lightning bolt in 1964. His fiery clothing, as well as his undead materialisation, indicates one of Big Boss’s hallucinations.
A man in a gas mask that could possibly be Psycho Mantis, a villain from the original Metal Gear Solid. We may then get to see his telekinetic origin within The Phantom Pain.
“Free world not by taking men’s lives, but by taking their tongues” This narration is highly ironic as Quiet cocks her rifle to kill someone. Big Boss and his allies are then presented in a paradoxical light; they may not operate through a totalitarian regime of forced quietude, but still remain a group that relies on taking of lives to achieve their goal.
Eli, or one of the little Snakes, pilots a Metal Gear that resembles Metal Gear Rex.
Big Boss runs furiously away from the large Metal Gear.
“Rid the world of infestation, sans lingua franca.” Skullface and Big Boss are heavily contrasted in a moment that solidifies their differences: Big Boss wishes to use force, whereas Skullface wants to use psychological methods of control. This cruel regime is something that we had seen previously with Skullface’s torture of Paz and Chico in Ground Zeroes.
Big Boss once again surrounded by dead bodies, most likely killed by his hand. We are now seeing his transformation from the hero of Metal Gear Solid 3, to the despicable villain seen in Metal Gear.
Big Boss and Skullface attempted to steal a Metal Gear in the E3 2014 trailer. They are now apparently going to use it to their advantage in the war against Cipher.
A shocking view of Big Boss as he looks at what he has become: a blood soaked monster.
“Les Enfants Terribles.” This gives us a view of both Solid and Liquid Snake together. The twins were created through the Les Enfants Terribles project; a scheme that was to produce clones of Big Boss in the early 1970s. It was instigated by Zero, indicating that these young super soldiers may be another weapon in Cipher’s already growing arsenal.
The breadth of Metal Gear Solid’s facets of complication and lore are unsurpassed by any other gaming franchise. Detail may be rife within this expertly crafted trailer, but it is only just a glimpse into a game that will span hundreds of hours. Its intricacies may be a turn off for some whilst blocking out potential newcomers to the series, but its direction, formation and creation are thoroughly in the mad, hectic spirit of Metal Gear.