Analyzing the Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain trailer

Promoted from our Community Blogs!

[Here’s the second half of Dtoid community blogger Bory Borham’s two-part analysis of the new Metal Gear Solid trailers. Spoilers for MGS and also Moby Dick abound, so turn back now if that’s not your thing! Click here to check out Part 1 if you missed it! –Mr Andy Dixon]

What lies ahead is a pretty heavy duty analysis of the trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. If haven’t played every Metal Gear game up to this point, then you may find yourself experiencing bouts of extreme spoilage. Bearing witness to such Metal Gear spoilers may in fact rot your eyes, ears, brain, and/or very existence.

You’ve been warned!

In Part 1 of Let us solve a Metal Gears!? we tried to make some sense of the Ground Zeroes trailer. Even though the very thought of trying to figure out what the hell is going on in ANY Metal Gear game should be considered complete lunacy — (Peacewalker‘s “Love Box” still has my head spinning) — for fun, let’s just pretend we are getting somewhere here, OK? 

The Phantom Pain (Whats in a name?) 

Firstly, let’s just put aside any doubt that The Phantom Pain is Metal Gear Solid V and also Project Ogre. That isn’t what this analysis is for. Instead, we are going to put on our crazy goggles and stare deep into the abyss. 

We know that MGSV: The Phantom Pain (aka The PP, har har har!) is “created” by Moby Dick Studios. We also know that Hideo Kojima is the Lord of the Trolls and has dropped us a trail of hints by giving us three titles and a fake development team name. Of course, each of these names will have something to say about the nature of MGSV. Let’s start with Project Ogre. 

Ogres are large, grotesque creatures that possess great power combined with a bad attitude. There’s really not too much to say about ogres; they like to eat kids, and… I don’t know. But you know what? That’s OK, because I believe we have been mislead. Because of similarities in their strength, appearance, and horrifically wicked behaviors, the word Ogre is typically used in place of the word Oni when translating from Japanese to English. I believe this is one of those cases. The problem is that an Oni is not exactly an Ogre. An Oni is more of a phantom-like demon, if you will. They are certainly more stealthy and have close ties to Hell. It is not uncommon to see someone, who was once a human, become an Oni. This transformation is usually driven by dark inner feelings accompanied by intense anger, hatred, or even an unquenchable thirst for vengeance (a very powerful V word). This leads us to our next title… 

In case you haven’t heard, Moby Dick revolves around the travels of Captain Ahab and his crew aboard the Pequod as they attempt to hunt and kill Moby Dick, a massive and infamously destructive sperm whale. A previous encounter with the whale, which saw Ahab lose his ship and one of his legs, has left him with only one purpose in life: revenge. The whale itself bore Ahab no hard feelings; it was just operating as usual, doing what came natural to it. But Ahab fills his own heart with hatred and projects these feelings onto the whale as well. He thinks the whale is his enemy, but Moby Dick operates on his own whims. You could compare him to the ocean itself. A large, formless entity that alters the world not through ill-will, but merely by existing. His crew is loyal to the end. They stay even as he drags them back into the Pacific Ocean and eventually to the depths of hell, giving his own life and all of theirs (save Ishmael) in an effort to destroy the beast. 

Certainly, we can draw parallels between the story of the Captain Ahab and that of Big Boss as he fights against the large shapeless beast that is known as Cipher. If Ground Zeroes sees Big Boss losing Mother Base (Ahab’s first ship) thanks to Cipher (Moby Dick) while he is heading out to Pacific Ocean (the true name of Paz) on a mission, then perhaps Phantom Pain is the beginning of the story of Vengeance that follows. Big Boss’s fate is already sealed by what we have seen in MGS4, but it is possible that we will now witness the events that kick Big Boss’s obsession into full tilt as he and his followers prepare to give their lives to destroy the AI Network. 

So wait a second, that seems to fit; but what about the arm!? Well, he’s still got it in Ground Zeroes, but after that, there’s actually no reason why he should need it. According to the official Metal Gear Solid 4 Database, by the time the events at Outer Heaven are over, Big Boss had lost his right eye, right ear, and all of his limbs. There is no indication of when or where any of these things were lost, so they don’t necessarily have to be lost in Outer Heaven. For all we know, Big Boss is really bad at mowing the lawn. Also, his boy Dr. Madnar can apparently replace almost anything, including organs, with cybernetic prosthetics.

Just when you thought you were safe from the catch all excuse of “it’s nano-machines”, we have entered the slightly less flashy era of “it’s cybernetic”s. Maybe, if we are lucky, there will be a 60 minute cutscene where Big Boss fights off an army of soldiers with nothing but a cyber-ear. 

Mother Base is gone, so where are we now? 

The British flag whizzes out at most people towards the beginning of the PP trailer, but there are a few other identifiers too. Firstly, there is a map of the country Cyprus located right next to said British flag. The electrical sockets in the building appear to be the standard British sockets, so we can assume that even if the map is trying to tell us we are in Cyprus, we are still in a British-made building. The final, tell all clue is actually offered in an easy to spot screen capture on The Phantom Pain website:

The painting pictured above the couch here is of Princess Mary’s Hospital at the Royal Air Force station Akrotiri in Cyprus. This base is owned by England. And, well, that’s enough to go on, isn’t it? We can’t really get more specific than that and it doesn’t really require much more analysis if you ask me. Unless we try to use the history of that hospital to match date to a reason for Big Boss’s stay. Perhaps the fact that RAF Akrotiri was actually attacked by terrorists in August of 1986 could end up being important; Kojima could have a field day with that. 

So who are all these other people!? 

Well, everything so far lines up with Dr. Madnar being the doctor we see at the beginning of the trailer, as our protagonist first opens his eyes. He has a history with Big Boss and his accent would match up with Madnar’s Russian heritage. It’s true that his appearance is closer to that of Dr. Kio Marv, another old-school Metal Gear doctor, but Marv does not speak English. It was a point well made in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. So unless they are just gonna throw continuity to the wind, which would make predicting anything at all useless, let’s just ignore the length of the man’s hair and mustache. And really, who cares who they are, just as long as they can pop a few prosthetics on Big Boss. One of these prosthetics might be something similar to the Solid Eye in MGS4


I find that, with so little text actually in the trailer, that outright repeating something has to be begging for attention. Also, Big Boss hasn’t had a right eye since 1964, so why would he need to bandage it now? The most likely story is that Madnar has given him a replacement eye to go with that shiny new arm. 

Psycho Mantis. Yeah, he’s here too. Inexplicably supernatural beings and happenings, fire everywhere, and some kid lurking around in a gas mask who has the ability to levitate (check for his feet to float off the ground after Big Boss winces at a flashlight at the end of the video). From looking at Mantis, Big Boss, and the general aesthetics of everything else in the video together, you can deduce a time frame that is somewhere between the late 70s and mid 80s. Also, as per what little backstory exists for Psycho Mantis, you can definitely place him in the KGB at this time.

This is the first big boy job that Mantis got, unless you count burning down your entire village like a total d-bag or straight up murdering your dad as jobs. Either way, Mantis should be with the KGB until the collapse of the USSR. Odd thing about the troops following him, is that they look a lot like the SAS. Is it merely a coincidence, or is this a sign of cooperation from the East and West against Big Boss? Whatever the case, it looks like our main man Big Boss has himself stuck in the middle of another Cold War mess. 

So, as far as I know, Big Boss isn’t a wuss. But he does look horribly weakened right now (just look at those twiggy legs!) and it would still take a pretty slick dude to get him out of a mess like this in one piece. That’s were Mr. Bandage Face comes to the rescue. He clearly isn’t some run-of-the-mill soldier. The man is helping with purpose. I don’t care if they are bumbling around in the shadows like a couple of drunks: it is still a Big Boss rescue mission. And Bandage Face is still the man. Did you see him calmly hide in the adjacent doorway as people were getting showered with bullets in the hallway? Or how about the short peek 10 seconds into the trailer of Big Boss playing bumper cards with this dude, AFTER he has already been identified by the soldier in company of Psycho Mantis? Surely King Tut had to come save his butt, because Big Boss can barely walk on his own. 

I can only venture one guess at a man who fits that bill. In the story of Moby Dick, there is another character that is just as famously important as Ahab. His name is Ishmael. While Ahab is the Captain that guides your voyage through the tale of Moby Dick, the story is mostly told through firsthand accounts by Ishmael. Ishmael is new to the ship’s crew and in Metal Gear terms, that means he would probably have missed Mother Base and maybe Ground Zeroes. Ishmael’s Biblical namesake is symbolic of his status as an orphan and an outcast. He shows up right in time for the revenge hunt on Moby Dick. 

In this analogy, Ishmael should be none other than Gray Fox. Sure there are lots of orphans and outcasts in Metal Gear, but none so extremely appropriate as Gray Fox. In his entire existence, there was nowhere that he could call home, except maybe the battlefield. Late 70s/early 80s is right around when Big Boss started to get more involved with Gray Fox, aka Null (another zero). And somewhere around this time, probably before The Phantom Pain, Gray Fox was captured while fighting in the Mozambique Civil War. In this instance, it was Big Boss who rescued him, and perhaps Gray Fox is now paying back the favor. During Gray Fox’s capture, he was severely tortured, they cut off both his ears and his nose. That would explain the bandages wrapped around the character’s head, if it happened recently. 

Can we learn anything else from the attacks of Psycho Mantis? 

You better believe it! This kid is ripe. Mantis has a signature style. Not only does he attack physically using psychokinesis and pyrokinesis, but he also dives deep into the minds of his opponents using their own pasts and memories against them. It certainly is not beyond his abilities to manifest your worst fears right before your eyes. Therefor, it would seem logical that Mantis is haunting Big Boss with his own past. 


Hmm… There’s the whale, we covered that. If you ask me, its flaming manifestation signifies the inclusion of Cipher on this attack. You know how they just love to stir the pot with their unending wars and all. So cute. What I can’t figure out is their angle. East vs. West with Big Boss caught in the middle or East and West together at least, with Big Boss on the crap end of the stick. 

For a moment, we also see somebody that looks a whole lot like The Boss running around like, well, like somebody that is on fire. The interesting thing is if you notice that there are white flower pedals swirling around her body as she runs. 

That’s great and all, but the most prevalent psycho-entity in this trailer would have to be this guy: 

For many of those that have played Snake Eater, his body is instantly recognizable through the fire. Big and tall. Signature red rubber suit. Short sleeves over big ol’ beefcake arms. That is unmistakably the muscle hunk of thunder known as Volgin. Burning up something awful, just how we left him near Groznyj Grad. And as if his appearance wasn’t enough, at one point he comes riding in on the winged bringer of thunder himself, Pegasus, servant of Zeus. Volgin embodies thunder, without a doubt. 

I would even say that he is basically the Zeus of Metal Gear. A nearly invincible old guy with white hair and huge muscles that throws lightening at everyone he doesn’t like and tries to make a baby with everyone he does. He may have just been a Colonel in the GRU, but his lineage, underground networking, and possession of the philosophers legacy in Snake Eater put him in a godlike position.

Why would Big Boss suddenly be worried about Volgin, though? Shouldn’t Volgin be dead? Maybe. Maybe not. It was a nasty fire, that’s for sure. But nobody ever checked his body. 

Maybe Big Boss even had a recent run in with Volgin that he still can’t come to terms with. Or maybe he heard that the word on the street is “V has come to”. This line, delivered at the end of the new Phantom Pain trailer with alternate audio, is very intriguing. Note the Russian accent, too. It’s as if they have been waiting for him to wake back up. And why is the psycho-entity Volgin’s face always covered in dark shadow? Is it perhaps a metaphorical link to the mysterious, melty-faced man of the Ground Zeroes trailer? The one that is barked at by dogs and followed by rats, as if he were symbolically undead? Not only did the Mystery Man hide his face from us as viewers, but what about that big hat? It’s not for keeping him dry in the rain, that’s for sure. He doesn’t bother putting it on until right before he boards the helicopter for departure. That dirty jerk is planning on hiding his identity from outsiders. I mean, if I was Volgin, I wouldn’t want the world to know I was back, either. That’s probably why the man is dressed more incognito, just like the equally resilient Russian comrade Vladimir Zadornov from Peacewalker

It was Volgin’s launching of the miniature Davy Crocket nuke that started the events that led up to the entire Metal Gear saga and ultimately killed The Boss. He is also, to my knowledge, the ONLY antagonist to ever successfully launch any type of nuclear attack during any Metal Gear game. That’s a pretty big deal, considering the series’ anti-nuke stance. If he is creeping in the shadows and continuing to wreak havoc on Big Boss even after his death/removal from the world of Metal Gear, then wouldn’t that make our Volgin The Phantom Pain

Where does this story go next? 

Why not Sweden? There are two flags on the Moby Dick Studios website to choose your language. One is the British flag, which is represented in Cyprus. Considering that our protagonists are on the run, they need to act quickly, and are currently at an airfield base. I would say their methods of escape are pretty limited. You could get in a plane or chopper but you would probably be pursued in the air, just the same. Their best chance may be to fly into Sweden as quickly as possible. Sweden was officially neutral during the cold war and would not care what about whose side Big Boss was or wasn’t on. For kicks, he may even be able to help them out as a mercenary, to do things that Sweden can not officially do. I’m sure a place like Sweden would not sit well with Cipher. 

Somehow, I don’t think we end there, though. The inclusion of Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs in the Ground Zeroes trailer may hint at Big Boss and Gray Fox’s stint in Africa. It would all be around the same time frame. If MGSV is to be an open-world game (as hinted previously) that is broken up into separate giant stages, these stages could easily be placed in locations all around the globe. At this point in Big Boss’s life, that may be the most appropriate course of action. Especially if Kojima doesn’t want to be the Metal Gear guy anymore. I can’t think of a better way to fill plot gaps than to cover a wide variety of dates and locations all in one game. To top it off, what would be better than experiencing this particular part of Big Boss’s tale, Moby Dick-style, than by playing through as various members of Big Boss’s crew (a la Peacewalker) but hopefully with more special characters this time? Like Gray Fox, for starters. 

What do you think? Are we getting close to solving a Metal Gears!? I know I’m feelin’ pretty good about my theories.

Unless, of course, somebody is Decoy Octopus. Or EVERYBODY IS DECOY OCTOPUS!

Bory Borham