Metal Gear Solid V is riddled with unsolved mysteries, but to see the bigger picture, you need to understand why Hideo Kojima is making his final Metal Gear game twice (especially now he's disappeared from the credits). Back in 2008, MGS 4 was billed as Kojima’s Metal Gear swan song, as a creaking Solid Snake faced up to his mortality and sins of the past – culminating in the majestic return to Shadow Moses, and (six-year-old spoiler) epic reunion with his ‘father’, Big Boss. So where does MGS V take us after the end of Solid Snake’s tale?
Here are five of the current theories (crazy head transplant one aside) about what's in store for The Phantom Pain...
1. Chico is Quiet theory - Was bikini-clad sniper Quiet once a boy? It’s not entirely insane…
What’s the big idea? - A wild theory is that mute sniper Quiet is Chico after a sex change operation. Amazingly, there is (some) evidence. When Quiet’s overtly sexy outfit outraged internet commenters, Kojima was quick to respond. “You will be ashamed of your words and deeds,” he tweeted, explaining that Quiet was designed as an antithesis to the overexposure of women in fighting games – with a good reason for the way she dresses. Would gamers be ashamed of their reaction if Quiet was once a man? Chico endures unspeakable torture during MGS: GZ and audio diaries reveal that he is forced by Skull Face to perform sexual acts with Paz, who he adores. What if these dark events shatter Chico’s view of sexuality and he becomes someone else to escape his past?
‘Evidence’ includes mug shots of Chico and Quiet where there is a degree of facial likeness, plus a suggestion that Quiet’s breasts must be implants due to their shape (!). The key link is a sketch of Chico’s family from MGS: Peace Walker where his father looks (a bit) like ancient sniper The End from MGS 3. In other words: they’re both old with big beards. Quiet seems to share The End’s photosynthetic abilities.
Does it make sense? - You could imagine Chico being scarred by the events of MGS: GZ or taking a self-imposed vow of silence – due to the guilt of betraying Big Boss under torture. However, it’s a fantastical leap, and Konami employees expressed surprise and laughter at the theory during episode six of the Kojima Station web show. Quiet’s (female) voice actress Stefanie Joosten addressed the issue on a later show, saying “Quiet is definitely a female, while Chico is a male.” That might be an issue of gender address and no one at Konami has outright denied the theory, but… well, we’d be surprised. Quiet could be related to The End without being Chico, of course.
2. New Coke Theory - Is David Hayter, voice of Solid Snake, in on a masterful ruse?
What’s the big idea? - David Hayter hasn’t really been dropped for MGS V and will reprise his role as Solid Snake (who he voiced in MGS, MGS 2, MGS 3 and MGS 4). The reason that he was so vocal (on Twitter) about being replaced by Kiefer Sutherland is because he’s in on the ‘joke’, and knows he’s coming back. It’s all a ruse to make Solid Snake’s reappearance more shocking – even if it’s a logical possibility, given that MGS V (1984) is set before the events of Metal Gear (1995), where a rookie Solid Snake infiltrates Outer Heaven to take down… Big Boss.
Hayter doth protest too much, conspirators claim. “I’m so excited for E3! I just hope I don’t lose my voice,” he tweeted before the unveiling of Kiefer Sutherland as Snake’s new voice. Hayter responded in backhanded fashion to the news: “Ah well, can’t fault (Kiefer). Great actor. Good man. The game will probably be excellent. Like New Coke,” he tweeted. New Coke was a new version of the original Coke recipe, released in the ’80s to widespread complaints – forcing them to re-instate the original formula. The conspiracy theory is that it was all a marketing move to focus attention on Coke, outsell aggressive rival Pepsi and delight fans by acting on complaints.
Does it make sense? - Put it this way: If David Hayter is pretending to be angry about losing the role he defined then he’s a brilliant actor. Seductive as it is to believe this is all Kojima’s master scheme, it’s easier to imagine Hayter as genuinely annoyed at a major snub while trying to retain his dignity. “Guys, for the millionth – and last – time. I am not in Metal Gear Solid V. In any way,” tweeted Hayter in June 2014.
So that’s that? Probably, but don’t rule out a Solid Snake cameo, Hayter or not… since he exists as a child (12 years-old in 1984) during MGS V. If the game’s timeline extends to 1995, we might glimpse a rookie Solid Snake infiltrating Outer Heaven, closing a loop in MGS history.
3. Decoy Octopus theory - Are we really playing as Big Boss – or a look-alike?
What’s the big idea? - We don’t play MGS V as Big Boss (Naked Snake from MGS 3), but as an impostor – likely Decoy Octopus, Gray Fox (Frank Jaeger) or Solidus Snake. The evidence comes from confusion surrounding the hospital scenes of The Phantom Pain trailer, where we glimpse the bandaged man (Ishmael) alongside Snake. Is Ishmael real – or a mental projection? Or is Ishmael the ‘real’ Snake, assisting the impostor to safety? Before Snake enters the coma (in 1975 after the events of Ground Zeroes), Kaz Miller leans across his hospital bed, looks past Snake’s body and says “What about him?” – perhaps in reference to a third person.
MGS V is supposed to chart Big Boss’ demise from hero to villain (Snake is blinded by revenge, like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick – remember the fake Joakim Mogren/Moby Dick Studios scam and flaming whale in The Phantom Pain trailer), but decoy theorists claim Big Boss’ transformation is too extreme – suggesting he is, literally, someone else. Is the ‘impostor’ Snake part of Big Boss’ plan all along?
Does it make sense? - Decoy Octopus is a much-celebrated, but little seen, FOXHOUND member – famous for impersonating DARPA chief Donald Anderson in MGS (PS1). As a ‘master of disguise’, Decoy Octopus is perpetually linked to any MGS game where a character’s identity is in question – ie all of them. Truthfully, there’s little evidence to suggest he impersonates Snake, bar some discrepancies in Snake’s appearance between trailers. ‘Punished Snake’ from the E3 2013 trailer has a horn in (what appears to be) a slightly different position from ‘Diamond Dogs’ Snake on the bike. Punished Snake also has extensive facial scars and stitching, leading some to suggest the impostor wears a Face Off-style Big Boss mask. Quite.
Gray Fox is a more likely ‘impostor’, but this theory assumes Big Boss doesn’t enter a coma between 1975 and 1984, and is around to rescue Gray Fox (aka Frank Jaeger, or later Cyborg Ninja) from torture in the Mozambique civil war circa 1979. At least, this is what happens based on info in Metal Gear 2, but – stretching to support the theory – could be retconned for MGS V. The best ‘evidence’ comes from Mike Oldfield’s Nuclear song in the E3 2014 trailer, with lines referencing an ‘abandoned child’ (Gray Fox is an orphan child soldier), with a ‘heart of glass’ (if Gray Fox is Snake, we’ve seen an X-ray of Snake with diamonds in his body). More credibly, Kojima tweeted a picture of Mike Oldfield’s Man On The Rocks CD, resting against a Punished Snake figure… with a Cyborg Ninja bust behind it in perfect alignment. Kojima isn’t given to accidents, and Jaeger would match his ‘killed character’ tweet.
On an episode of the Kojima Station show, the hosts debated if Big Boss would win a fight with Batman… concluding only a ninja could beat the Dark Knight. One presenter says, “How about Snake… isn’t he a ninja?” leading to everyone looking flustered. Coincidence? Likely, but it’s worth watching. In an interview, Kiefer Sutherland described his Snake as “edgier” and “more angry about his history.” In MGS lore, Gray Fox murders Naomi Hunter’s parents and adopts her out of guilt. Kiefer also adds, “there’s a secret that is actually very cool,” saying you’ll have to play to find out. Still, it’s all circumstantial evidence, and we’ve no real idea why Snake might be played by an impostor. The best justification is that he’s doomed to relive the life of his mentor, The Boss, who history labelled as a villain; even though she was forced to play that role for the greater good and was in fact her country’s saviour.
Solidus Snake could also be the ‘impostor’ since, well, he looks like Solid/Liquid Snake, and is born shortly after the original LET project. Truthfully, the speculation makes us tired, but there is something in the notion that Big Boss isn’t who he seems – and his downfall is a meticulously orchestrated plan.
4. Timeline trickery coma theory - What if the entire game takes place in Big Boss’ coma?
What’s the big idea? - In MGS lore, Big Boss potentially endures three comas: one during the LET project (1972, although some think this is a mistranslation from a Japanese game manual), another during the events of MGS V (1975 to 1984), and from 1999 to 2014, after he is defeated during the events of Metal Gear 2 at the hands of ‘son’ Solid Snake. Kojima was asked to clarify this absurd trio of comas during a Game Informer interview. “There’s only once he’s in a coma, and to explain that you need to play towards the end of The Phantom Pain. There it will come together,” Kojima answered, cryptically. It isn’t clear whether Kojima means Snake suffers one coma in
MGS V, or during his life, but the Game Informer article does state that Kojima recognises the series’ wild complexity and might consider re-writing elements for better continuity. What if Big Boss only suffers one coma – and the events of MGS V take place within his unconscious state?
Does it make sense? - A coma is a wonderful device for skipping between time periods and diverse geography – almost a natural hub for missions. MGS V’s hub is Mother Base, but it could be a physical manifestation of Snake’s mid-coma psyche. Weirder, the trailers feature a bizarre ‘swoosh’ noise whenever the camera looks at bright lights, or at incongruous technology for the time period (like the iDroid device). Could this be someone shining a light into the comatose Big Boss’ eyes?
Is Big Boss unconscious as someone (likely Major Zero and The Patriots) attempts to decode his life, and use it to create an AI soldier program – like the S3 Plan in MGS 2? (Originally thought to be ‘Solid Snake Simulation’, but actually The Patriot’s ‘Selection for Societal Sanity’.) It would also fit into Kojima’s theme of revenge, and how enmity is passed between generations. MGS V does hint that something bigger is at play, with the odd ‘V has come to’ reference (almost like a test subject), and the spooky super soldiers with numerical tattoos.
5. Skull Face duplicity theory - What links Skull Face to Psycho Mantis… and Big Boss?
What’s the big idea? - Without the gas mask, MGS’s Psycho Mantis figure looks eerily similar to Skull Face – hollow eyes, Chelsea smile scar. It’s likely coincidence, but they also share uncanny origin stories. Psycho Mantis burns down his Russian village as a child. Skull Face is ‘born’ after his village is burnt to the ground in an air raid, before being reprogrammed through torture and forgetting his mother tongue. We see a ‘child’ Psycho Mantis in The Phantom Pain trailer and Snake is tortured by images of flames. Unconnected? Maybe. Odd? Sure.
Does it make sense? - Curious similarities aside, it doesn’t make sense for Skull Face (who looks and sounds 30 or older in 1975) to be Psycho Mantis (born 1966 – 1975 in MGS lore). Could he be Psycho Mantis’ father? It’d be some leap. What is weird is that Skull Face tells Chico (via an audio diary in MGS: GZ): “Growing up means choosing how you’re going to live your life.” These are the first words Big Boss says to Chico when they meet in a locked room in MGS: Peace Walker years earlier. How could Skull Face know that? Masterful research, psychic powers (he is an unnaturally skilled interrogator, but…) or he literally is Big Boss. Or rather, Skull Face is the evil side of Big Boss like Fight Club’s Tyler Durden – which makes Ishmael his, equally imaginary, good side. It’s a theory riddled with implausibility, but ties into the FOX/XOF duality and ‘From FOX, two phantoms were born’ trailer slogan.