Metal Gear Solid V- GDC 2013 Analysis
If you don’t care about the preface just search for the dashes (- — — -) for the analysis itself.
Initially this was meant to be a series of videos, because it’s so much easier to just plop yourself in front of the screen and be entertained. I prefer it as much myself, but I went from one toaster to another and this one is even less enthusiastic about my video editing interests and so that route is shut off to me for a time. Maybe I’ll win the lottery or something and get a really good computer and then I can make my dream video. Until then, these will have to do to.
I’ll be making an article for each trailer we’ve received. I have this article complete, and I already have notes lined up from the E3 2013 trailer as well. I’m unsure about the gameplay videos — so far we’ve gotten a few Afghanistan walkthroughs, some Mother Base footage and Africa gameplay but I’m unsure if there’s enough storywise to analyze for each video to get its own article. I’m sure I’ll figure it out by then. Then we get into the mountains of information in Ground Zeroes, I expect that I’ll wait until we get the last scraps of info from E3 before embarking on that task.
My goal here isn’t necessarily to provide all the answers, but to disseminate all the information and half-baked theories and try to get readers to see what the facts are, the kind of questions they SHOULD be asking and the details that are really important, not just sleight of hand from the rusemaster himself.
One last note before we get into things, the thing with the analysis of these games is that it’s a bit like a game of telephone. Fans will discuss things among themselves, and suddenly it’s quite hard to really pinpoint who thought what first, or if someone should even be given ownership of an observation of a property the don’t really own. If you ask per individual point I can tell you if something was something I discovered on my own, or if it was something I saw pointed out by someone else. In general I try to downplay other people’s observations unless it’s something integral to a point I’m trying to make. In this way it’s difficult to try and ‘credit’ things, and even then a good chunk of it is going to be “Anonymous posters on English language 2ch spinoff image boards.”
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The first thing that hits me is that all of the people treating Snake, Kaz and the mysterious third person are all white and they’re all American. This isn’t a complaint, but an observation.
The reason why this stands out is that Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes occurred in Central America. Mother Base was located off the coast of Costa Rica and Camp Omega is a fictitious version of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. In the files for the PC version of Ground Zeroes the files for Camp Omega are even filed under a folder titled ‘guantanamo’. Yet the doctors treating Snake, Kaz and their anonymous friend are all white Americans.
In Snake Eater, characters speak English yet during the first scene with Sokolov the doctor compliments Snake on his Russian which tells the audience that we’re hearing things differently from how they’re really occurring. This contrasts with Peace Walker where everyone speaks English, and foreign characters such as Chico, Amanda and Cecile speak with accents. Given in Ground Zeroes we briefly hear Skull Face speak Hungarian, I believe that it’s more likely that the trailer follows this tradition and the medical staff are indeed Americans. How is this relevant?
At the end of Ground Zeroes we’re treated to a cliffhanger ending that seems to imply that the crash caused by Paz exploding is ultimately what lands Big Boss in the coma. There’s a larger discussion about unused content and in-progress assets that we’ll have later, but for now let’s focus on the location of where these things occur. If the medical staff attending to Big Boss is American, and Big Boss was somewhere out in Costa Rican waters when he went into a coma, something doesn’t quite add up. This means that this crash isn’t what sends Big Boss into the coma but is a red herring, and that something else occurs after this. We may not start off with the hospital in TPP.
The next thing I noticed: where’s the horn? No, seriously, where’s the horn? It’s clear as day that Snake doesn’t have it yet. This raises tons of questions about the horn, which was originally an innocuous piece of shrapnel perhaps added as a stylistic choice explained as a result of the accidental crash, is now an accessory that appears to have been intentionally implanted onto Snake. For what purpose?
“What about him?”
First of all, let’s look at Kojima’s answer for this. He asserts that the third man in the hospital room is himself. This answer seemed dodgy at first, yet when we played Ground Zeroes we found out that Kojima himself is indeed a character in the game. Is this legitimate, or just more smoke and mirrors from the Father of Lies?
Well, without getting too far into conspiracy/ruse territory, let’s try and look at it logically. Really the only people who could be this third person are the people who were with Snake when he went into the coma, and the people who are with him when he wakes up. This is difficult because it’s seems evident that the crash we witness is simply not what sends Snake into the coma, but we’ll work with what we have. Outside of crazy answers like Solidus or Gray Fox, that leaves us with Chico and the mysterious Medic when Snake crashes and Ishmael when he wakes up. The possibility of the crash we witness in Ground Zeroes not being the crash that causes this state does lend credence to Kojima’s explanation, perhaps they get fished out of the sea, start heading north to America and are shot down again?
The appearance of these petals, the same petals we see in Snake Eater, raise a lot of questions for me about the appearance of Volgin, Mantis as well as the nature of Ishmael; everyone asks who he is but I think a more pertinent question is what is he?
Because of the controversy regarding David Hayter being replaced and Ishmael utilizing Kiefer Sutherland’s voice, a lot of people are convinced that Ishmael is someone like Solidus Snake or Gray Fox and some kind of decoy Snake. I myself had him pegged for Decoy Octopus, which explained the voice mimicry. Along with the earlier line of thinking that he could only be someone involved in the helicopter crashes and Konami authored (but not Kojima approved; it’s a minor detail so nothing has come along to contradict it) materials for Metal Gear Solid indicating Decoy Octopus was Mexican, I thought Chico would grow up to become Octopus, watching over Snake as a means of repentance for betraying him and costing him a decade of his life and years of hard work. But even that seems unlikely now.
What if the petals are psychic interference? Let’s operate under the assumption this is the case. CIPHER gets word that Snake has woken up as well as XOF soon after, who then launch their attack. Ocelot and Mantis are dispatched to rescue Snake. XOF have the hospital surrounded, Ocelot can’t get in but Mantis has no difficulty there. Snake’s comatose body is too weak to fight and there’s no one to escort him out. Mantis accesses Snake’s mind, we see feedback from this in the form of the petals suddenly appearing. Mantis takes a portion of Snake’s mind, in this case that natural survival soldier’s sense which makes him such an amazing combatant, and projects it into the body of another comatose patient who has been there for less time hence being much more in shape. Simply being part of Snake’s mind explains why Ishmael shares a voice with Snake and why he seems to struggle with the idea of his own identity being separate from Snake’s.
This also explains the seemingly random inclusion of a demonic Volgin. This probably isn’t the soul of the Russian madman as Mantis never exhibited the qualities of a medium, it was the Sorrow who had this talent and Ocelot’s capabilities with this ability seemed limited to limb based mimicry. Keeping in mind this trend that everything happening is due to Mantis drawing from Snake, it’s more likely this is Snake’s memories and emotions about Volgin put through the lens of Mantis’ ability hence the demonic imagery and fire.
Something which I think supports this observation is Mantis is helping Snake. At one point he’s cornered by an XOF soldier and about to be killed before Mantis appears behind him. We see Volgin during the trailer in a hallway filled with bodies of patients and soldiers. In the shot above, the two of them are riding together.
Yet here, when Snake is shooting, Volgin is by himself. Operating under the assumption Ocelot and Mantis were working together to get Snake out alive and how there’s apparent aggression here, it seems that Mantis loses control of his creation. Which makes sense, Mantis is a child and Snake becomes stronger and more lucid as time goes on, so being an extension of his mind it becomes harder to control this Volgin construct. The other possibility is perhaps Ocelot is playing Snake here. Mantis acts as CIPHER’s delivery boy and intentionally attacks Ocelot to give the illusion that Ocelot is liberating Snake when in reality he’s probably there to feed CIPHER information now that Kaz is no longer playing ball. This is assuming that Ocelot is just doing Ocelot and not acting purely out of his gigantic boner for Big Boss.
These quick flash cards that pop up are pretty vague and could mean anything. FOX could be FOX engine and the ‘Phantoms’ are MGSV and Silent Hills, or the dual MGSV titles. It could also refer to how from the FOX unit came FOXHOUND and XOF, or to Snake and Gene or Zero. One of the recurring themes in the Big Boss run of Metal Gear games is that we tend to see where most of the memes/tropes of the Solid Snake games come from.
For instance, in Metal Gear Solid 1 we see Solid Snake and Liquid Snake, sons of the legendary solider Big Boss. While Liquid Snake is the superior son, he is usurped by an inferior brother and it’s Solid Snake who inherits the legacy of Boss. Snake Eater is a mirror to this. In MGS1, it’s genetic engineering which divides the Snakes by class. In Snake Eater, it’s plain genetics that divide Snake and Ocelot. Ocelot is The Boss’ genetic son, whereas Snake is her adopted son. This plays into a lot of the questions the series presents like how much your genes play into who you are and nature vs nurture and those sorts of things. By all means Ocelot should have been the one to become the hero as he was Boss’ son, but because she hadn’t raised him and imparted her skills and wisdom to him she was doomed. (It’s worth noting that in the Naked era, the ‘Liquid’ role is played by multiple people - Ocelot, Gene and finally Skull Face.) Ultimately it’s a man’s principles and actions that define who he is, shaped by the person who raises him.
In any case, fans of Star Wars might recognize the idea of a rhyming saga as something George Lucas attempted by going back and creating prequels to match and ‘rhyme’ with the original films as well as tell the story of a misunderstood antagonist. Below is a chart created by an Anonymous poster on 4chan which better illustrates this in the context of Metal Gear.
Keep this in mind as an established thematic framing for the series, it becomes important for the final observation I want to make. For now, we move on.
Like the last card this one is pretty vague. On a surface level this seems to be a poetic way of referring to black-ops missions in the real world, how they’re “phantom battles” we don’t see or hear of. Further in Metal Gear this can be seen with people like Snake and Ocelot who aren’t legally people anymore, but just tools of the the government or CIPHER like a tank or a gun. I think it’s also a tongue in cheek reference to the way you recruit solders, the fulton system ‘vanishes’ soldiers from the battlefield. It’s also foreshadowing to the way Big Boss gets his soldiers in the future, breeding wars and taking the orphaned offspring under his wing just to feed them into more wars.
So playing back into that discussion about red herring endings and in-progress assets we come to this. The first image is a shot we see of Big Boss in a helicopter all bloodied up. The problem is we don’t see this scene in Ground Zeroes. At all. Not even in side-ops. Yet the blood and injuries match how Big Boss looks at the start screen after completing the main mission of Ground Zeroes. Not only that, but it appears to be dawn and on the start screen it’s broad daylight. I believe this plays into my theory that the helicopter crash we witness is not what sends Snake into the coma.
Then, the second image. Here we see Big Boss post-coma with the prosthetic similar to Zadornov’s. Yet he has the Ground Zeroes mullet and eyepatch, the horn placement is off and he has no scars. This was what I was referring to earlier with the horn being missing from the shot of Snake on the operating table — a simple oversight from the trailer being built from work in progress assets, or part of a ruse?
This is the final spiel for this trailer. This line became less mysterious but more interesting in 2014. Originally we were lead to believe that Snake’s codename for MGSV would be ‘Punished Snake’. For a yet unexplained reason we were later told this would be ‘Venom Snake’ in 2014. ‘V’ aligns both with the numeral for the game and Snake’s new codename but could it go deeper than that?
This is where the conversation about a rhyming saga comes back into play. Do you remember what Skull Face said to Chico? “Me and your Boss go way back.” His trailer tagline was ‘a ghost without a past’ which may be a roundabout way of confirming he’s a new character and one we haven’t seen before, perhaps active during WWII. Now consider that the woman’s voice seems to be Russian. Yet the hospital Snake wakes up is in a county called Cyprus, at a military base controlled by the British government.
Let’s go back to Snake Eater a moment, the conversation between President Johnson and Khrushchev.
JOHNSON: I should have contacted you myself. Did you know that one of our soldiers defected to your country a week ago?
JOHNSON: So you haven’t heard then… The man who arranged the defection was a GRU colonel by the name of Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin.
KHRUSHCHEV: Volgin? Of the extremist faction? Go on. Who was this soldier?
JOHNSON: Her name is The Boss. She’s a living legend. During World War II, she was the one who led us to victory in that war. In Russia, you know her as Voyevoda.
“In Russia, you know her as Voyevoda.”
“V has come to.”
Why is this significant? Snake’s life seems to be heading for a crash course for a disaster to follow the same tracks as that of his predecessor. Phantom Pain seems to be echoing Snake Eater for Snake in many ways. This is significant due to the way Snake’s thematic role in the games are destined to change. He’s going from the hero to the villain, and “shedding” the skin of Snake and fully embracing the role of Boss which seems doomed to villainy. MGSV is similar to MGS4 in how it’s a slightly jumbled mess of all the memes of that Snake’s previous adventures because of some form of closure. In the case of MGS4, we were lead to believe Snake was going to die at the end and the series was over. In the case of MGSV it’s about what I mentioned before, Snake becoming Big Boss, becoming the villain.
BOSS: Now that the five of us are together, it’s time we go to the depths of
MILLER: Cipher sent us to hell but we’re going even deeper — take back everything that we’ve lost!
In Snake Eater, The Boss and her allies reunite for one last mission with a singular purpose in mind. This is similar to the way Snake and Miller rebuild their army for their single-minded revenge mission. Furthermore there’s the issue of the horn once again. In Peace Walker players are introduced to the character of Dr. Strangelove, who had a very one-sided romantic infatuation with The Boss. While testing for the United State’s space program, it’s revealed that The Boss suffered a brain injury on a mission. Shot in the head, she found herself in a coma for quite some time. When she awoke, she was a different person. Due to the injury, the left lobe of her brain had to begin compensating for the function lost and those around her commented on how she seemed more determined and iron willed than before.
This is where the idea of a third memetic cycle comes into play, because Naked Snake is obviously reliving portions of his mentor’s life much like all three of his sons will do. Although this is pretty much where the observations end, mostly because of how little we really know about the game. Comparisons can be drawn between Quiet and The End and The Fear, the appearance of Volgin and Ocelot also act as Snake Eater callbacks. But at this point it’s a lot of similarities that seem too perfect to just be coincidences and many unanswered questions.
Next: The E3 2013 trailer which famously debuted the song ‘Sins of the Father’.