Metal Gear Solid V – The Phantom Pain

“Out of FOX, two phantoms were born”

The MGS V trailer starts with Big Boss undergoing emergency CPR. The next part of the trailer expands on what put him in this unusual predicament: returning from a solo mission, Big Boss finds his headquarters under attack by the mysterious XOF Unit. Big Boss is presumably injured in the failed defence and Mother Base is destroyed. Big Boss is saved from his imminent death but unfortunately slips into a coma before he can be fully revived. On a second gurney (also the first person POV in the scene) lies an unseen man.

“What about him?”
-Kazuhira Miller

The ‘second half’ of The Phantom Pain trailer (and the footage seen in the game-play release) see’s Big Boss wake inside a hospital to find that things have drastically changed in his world. Watched over by a man wrapped in bandages who tells Big Boss to call him “Ishmael” (and in turn, refers to Boss as “Ahab”. That’s just the tip of the iceberg). The Greatest Soldier of the 20th Century finds his muscles atrophied from disuse and his mercenary company and fortune annihilated. He’s also missing his left arm, which has been replaced with a prosthetic.

With Big Boss just a few notches from total paralysis, he is completely helpless and relies on Ishmael to protect him. This would be bad enough for the Legendary Mercenary but there’s also a legion of heavily armed soldier’s bearing down to clear the hospital. Which they do in brutal fashion, firing into crowds of helpless patients and nurses. Ishmael also tells Big Boss that they are coming for him.

“Good news? You’re in the land of the living. Bad news? The world wants you dead”

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It seems that the more things change the more they stay the same.

As Ishmael and Big Boss attempt to escape they see a child wearing a gas-mask. The child floats up through the ceiling as an elevator arrives and the intrepid duo are engulfed in a massive fireball. With Big Boss watching in bemusement and horror, a strange man walks through the fire. With glowing red eyes and an eerie assortment of background sounds and music, the scene resembles something out of a nightmare. Or a Silent Hill game, which is pretty much the same thing.

Even more worrying for Boss, the apparition bears a striking resemblance to Colonel Volgin, a long dead adversary of Big Boss from Operation: Snake Eater. It also emits what sounds like “THE PAIN!”, the name of another dead Snake Eater alumnus. The apparition disappears before it reaches the pair.

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Managing to evade his would be assassins and fiery ghosts long enough to escape outside, Big Boss finds himself in a car crash. Not one of his luckiest days.

With a helicopter gunship bearing down on him Big Boss crawls out the wreckage and looks up to the somewhat bizarre sight of being watched by a child wearing a very familiar gas-mask for anyone who has played Metal Gear Solid (or was paying attention in the game-play trailer).

The child then raises his or her hand towards the helicopter, and a gigantic flaming whale erupts out of the mountains and swallows the helicopter whole

And then a duster wearing Revolver Ocelot rides in on a horse to rescue Big Boss.

Yes. Really. Hideo Kojima appears to have stopped drinking the Western ‘everything must be simple’ Kool-Aid he’s been drinking since 2001 and is back on the insanity grade sake.

The trailer follows Big Boss and Revolver Ocelot as they attempt to escape on Ocelot’s horse. As they speed away a massive fiery unicorn appears with a rider on top. The trailer seamlessly switches to game-play at this point as Big Boss fires a shotgun into the pursuer. Unfortunately at this point the new duo are undone when the road explodes.

After this the trailer drops it’s final bombshell. From the first person perspective, someone, presumably Big Boss, wakes up in a hospital to a doctor who explains that 9 years have passed since the patient fell into his coma. And it’s not entirely clear where his awakening happens in the self contained trailer time-line. Or if it’s even Big Boss who has just woken up.

We’re then treated to a glimpse of a seemingly restored Big Boss. He sits on a motorcycle, has a new prosthetic hand (that will look very familiar to players of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker) and wears a pretty swanky leather jacket emblazoned with a ‘Diamond Dogs’ patch. He’s also got a piece of shrapnel sticking out of his head, which looks freakishly like a horn. And not the brass kind. I personally feel the is a red herring, but the ‘horn’ has lit up the MGS fan community.

“Diamond Dogs, our new home”


The trailer ends with the Diamond Dogs logo and and a cryptic “V has come to”.


As a long time MGS fan the announcement of The Phantom Pain and trailer excites me in a way that I haven’t felt since MGS2. While Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots are both classic games, I prefer the first two Solid games because of the somewhat ‘hands off’ approach to the gamer with the plot. The first two games took concepts and threw them at the player and largely left the gamer to draw their own conclusions. By comparison (and in my opinion: in response to Western criticism of Sons of Liberty‘s ending) the following games basically held the hand of the player through the story and even the game-play itself. For the James Bond pastiche Snake Eater  this is fine and works remarkably well (Snake Eater evolves later on into one of the most emotional games I’ve ever played) however this was not exactly what I was  expecting nor looking for from the long awaited sequel to Sons of Liberty, a game that ultimately asked more questions than it answered while introducing many concepts to the blockbuster video-game genre and also (at least in my case) player them-self. By comparison Guns of the Patriots went out of it’s way to make sure the player completely understood what was happening in each scene and tried to tie every possible story thread into each other, leaving almost nothing for discussion. For players new to series I’m sure this was a welcome change, but for a long time fan it felt very patronizing.

With Phantom Pain I see Kojima Productions somewhat getting ‘back in the swing of things’ and picking the best of both worlds. With an intensely personal story (clearly inspired by the classic Moby Dick) yet backed up by ‘weird’ concepts in both game-play and story. In particular I love the idea of playing as a physically decimated Big Boss. As a game-play mechanic it will present a fresh concept to the series (as until now, every player character has been in peak condition, even MGS4’s Old Snake was fitter than the average person) and I can’t wait to see the affect this will have on Big Boss, a character presented throughout the entire series so far as a near mythical warrior of insane physical determination and conditioning. I’m also experiencing nerd joy at the return of Revolver Ocelot (conspicuously MIA from Peace Walker) and possible sightings of a young Psycho Mantis.

It also boasts the greatest visuals I’ve seen in video-gaming and that even stands up to the CGI of Hollywood films. Powered by the new FOX Engine, The Phantom Pain looks simply breathtaking. On my first (and second and third and….) view I was convinced it was a teaser trailer for the long gestating Metal Gear Solid live action adaptation. It looks that good. The term “photo realistic” is bandied across a lot in video-gaming, especially with the dawn of a new generation upon us, but I honestly feel that both the FOX Engine and The Phantom Pain will live up to the idea. I had to keep reminding myself that I was watching a video-game trailer.

While still retaining the classic MGS ‘look’, no other video-game that I have seen can even approach the intricate detail and mind blowing lighting seen in both the trailer and the game-play footage. The Metal Gear Solid series has never disappointed graphically, with each game in the series setting a new standard that is rarely matched and almost never topped, such as the historic Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and The Phantom Pain looks set to add to that legacy. I’d go as far to suggest that in Hideo Kojima, Yoji Shinkawa and Hideki Sasaki’s dreams, this is what Metal Gear Solid was always meant to look like. It has to be seen to be believed.


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