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The Admin Speculates – Metal Gear Solid V – Part 2: Making Conclusions and Questioning Mysteries

Last time, on The Admin Speculates, we took a look at the trailers in question, reminisced about the topsy-turvy development process behind the game(s), and broke down both sets of footage moment-by-moment.  Now, for the not-so-epic conclusion that probably could have fit into the original article… Enjoy!

Also, please note: there are many Metal Gear references and possible spoilers here.  If your knowledge of the series is limited, please do not feel you have to keep reading (unless you absolutely want to, or you have a link to the Metal Gear Wiki handy).    

It’s obvious from these trailers (and the link to Part 1’s here, just in case you need a reminder) that Metal Gear Solid V does not intend to be your grandfather’s AAA-game.  Rather, it seems to be aiming for a shakeup the likes of which the franchise hasn’t really experienced before (Guns of the Patriots was more of a easing into finality than a sharp deviation, if you think about).  With that idea in mind, here are the details I have gathered thus far.

The Setting 

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way: Ground Zeroes is set in 1974. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain takes place nine years later, so let’s say it’s an uneasy 1983 setting.

That first date has been fairly clear since the reveal trailer for Ground Zeroes, in which Miller states that Paz’s recovery and capture by the U.S. government occurred a solid ten days before the events of the trailer – ignoring, of course, the implication that the internationally-savvy MSF took their sweet time for ten days just because.   Anyway, given his statement, I was under the impression that Ground Zeroes would therefore kick off a few weeks after Peace Walker, occurring in mid-December of 1974 – after all, Miller’s statement is ambiguous about whether Paz was recovered well after Peace Walker, or if it has been ten days since the events of Peace Walker.   

Regardless, my main two sources – Wikipedia and the Metal Gear Wiki – tell me 1974 is the golden year, so I’m sticking with that.  At least part of Ground Zeroes will be spent in Central America, given the prominence of Big Boss’ mission to Camp Omega in Cuba and the fact that Mother Base wouldn’t have shifted much from the Caribbean coast.   This could result in references to the events of Peace Walker and the discussion of the continuing Cold War-era tension, as well as the newly formed Outer Heaven’s role in it.

Whatever happens in Ground Zeroes‘ conclusion that results in Big Boss doing what comes naturally (besides, you know, fighting the man), it directly leads into The Phantom Pain.  Again, we know that there’s a nine year gap between the two games, so if my guess is correct, then Metal Gear Solid V proper will pick up in 1983.  There’s little hints in the trailers indicating this possibility, the most noticeable of which is the absence of digital interfaces on the radios and dashboards, and a visible payphone in relatively sturdy condition considering the circumstances.

Now where it takes place is a different story altogether.  Based on the presence of a British flag and the right-hand steering, it’s safe to assume The Phantom Pain is set in a British-controlled state.  However, the terrain visible in the main trailer indicates The Phantom Pain may occur in an African state.  Given the United Kingdom’s history of establishing footholds in various African countries, it isn’t a stretch to assume this just happens to be one of those countries – this possibility is especially promising when you consider Outer Heaven’s (fictional) history in African civil wars.

I’m hearing theories that Rhodesia may be the place of choice for The Phantom Pain, considering that the Diamond Dogs logo sports a Rhodesian Ridgeback and Rhodesia happens to be the home of one Naomi Hunter, as well as the proving ground for Frank Jaeger (a.k.a Grey Fox).   I’m not dismissing those theories, and the possibility that we’ll be seeing a young Grey Fox, but it’s best to just take a “wait and see” attitude in this respect.

The Characters

Big Boss is guaranteed a starring role in both Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain – that’s kind of a given.  In terms of the supporting cast, it’s clear that Kazuhira Miller, eventually going by the name “McDonnell Miller”, will appear by Big Boss’ side in Ground Zeroes, working to provide intel and serving as Outer Heaven’s secondary head of operations.  Past trailers have also confirmed the appearance of Chico and hinted at Paz Ortega Andrade’s involvement, both of whom were notable characters in Peace Walker.

It’s still not clear who the scarred man in the trailers for Ground Zeroes is, leaving speculation that he is either an unknown character or Metal Gear Solid 3‘s Colonel Volgin to reign supreme.  At any rate, he and the “XOF” group are clearly integral to Ground Zeroes, most likely serving as Big Boss’ direct opposition.  The main trailer for Metal Gear Solid V also gives the impression that “XOF” will play an important role in the story, but we’ll get to that later.

As for any other recognizable characters, it’s pretty much a toss-up right now.   I’m really, really hoping that I’m right about Revolver Ocelot showing up in The Phantom Pain;  after all, the grey-haired man did have the trademark trenchcoat, slicked-back hair, and riding boots that us fans attribute to that lovable jackass.  And I’m almost positive the kid with the gas mask is Psycho Mantis, the amazingly bleak psychically-gifted sociopath from Metal Gear Solid – never mind the obvious “he’s wearing a f**king gas mask like Mantis does” gimmick, the fact that both trailers emphasize disconnection from reality and very theatrical displays of pyrotechnics give the impression that we’ll be dealing with a very particular brand of crazy that only Mantis could deliver.

The Story 

Here’s where I’m stumped: I don’t know where the f**k Kojima’s going with this one.  I’ll save the end of the article for all of my remaining questions, but believe me when I say that even the trailer seems at a loss as to what that devious bastard is up to.

Obviously, the events of Peace Walker‘s finale are going to play a role – they’re just too important to ignore.  To recap, Big Boss had just formally declared to his men, the members of the private military corporation MSF, that they would form a nation of their own, “fighting not for country, not for government”, but for themselves. This serves as the basis for Outer Heaven, the nation built by and for soldiers that Big Boss idealizes later in life.

Given that Ground Zeroes is set just after Peace Walker, it’s a stretch to assume Outer Heaven’s foundation will be ignored.  That means a conflict between the CIA (controlled by Major Zero and the Patriots) and Outer Heaven is inevitable, which gives further ammunition to the “sabotage from within” motif that I’ve gathered from the original Ground Zeroes trailer.  However, what puzzles me is Mother Base’s destruction – why would Kojima build up this idea of a nation without borders, giving Big Boss an impressive base from which to expand across the world, only to have the mysterious “XOF” (presumably) attack and destroy everything he (and anyone who played Peace Walker) had built up?

This leads me to one conclusion – it’s all set-up for a massive change in setting.  The hints that Africa will play a role in Metal Gear Solid V are ever-present, and it’s a logical conclusion given how important the locale’s been to the franchise.  I foresee Big Boss – upon recovering from his coma, and surviving the hospital sequence – will begin to re-evaluate his “army without borders” idea, establishing a more permanent and stable base in an African state (again, Rhodesia’s not out of the question) while he attempts to investigate the attack on Mother Base.

Not that it really needs investigating – “XOF” is tied to the CIA and Cypher. Cypher is Major Zero. Major Zero is Big Boss’ old friend-turned-bitter enemy and leader of the Patriots, an American organization seeking to control the international balance of power by any means necessary.   I’m certain that Big Boss knows or, at least, suspects all of this – what remains a mystery is how he’s going to deal with this knowledge, and where Kojima might take the story thematically.

Speaking of theme, there’s little doubt in my mind that the Patriots connection will somehow play a role in The Phantom Pain.  Thanks to Guns of the Patriots, we now know that Zero and Big Boss became divided over their polar interpretations of the Boss’ will – a fact which ultimately underlines the “freedom vs. control debate” that has driven their decades-long war.  With the knowledge that The Phantom Pain will take place in 1983, it feels almost predictable to me that this conflict between two men of great moral conviction would be explored further, as we’ve never quite seen a post-Portable Ops, pre-Guns of the Patriots Zero in his prime and it would be a shame to miss such an opportunity.

At any rate, there’s a lot of potential directions to take the story and a lot of questions that need answering.  And I’ve got just the inquires to pose to Kojima.

The Questions

What’s XOF? – This has been hanging over me for a while, since that very first trailer.  What is the significance of a “mirror” FOX unit? Is Zero attempting to taunt Big Boss with the idea of replacing their beloved unit with a simple carbon copy, or is there something more symbolic about it? I suspect Kojima, as per usual, is teasing us while also hinting at something more significant – probably the Patriots connection or a key theme – but I haven’t the slightest clue what that something could be.

Who’s the scarred man? – Is it Volgin or a new character? I’m worried that Big Boss may be in over his head, but that all depends on who it turns out to be.

What happened to Chico and Paz? – Look, we can take comfort in the fact that Chico is safe (at least in the original trailer), but what does that say about Paz? The scarred man seemed to indicate that Paz was dead, yet we have yet to see any evidence proving his possible claim.  More important of note is how Mother Base’s destruction affects them – are they casualties in the attack, or will they return for The Phantom Pain?

What about that hospital scene? – There’s a lot of unknown variables here: we don’t know how Miller, Big Boss and their observant cohort ended up in an ER,  we don’t know how Big Boss became the most critically wounded of the three, and we certainly don’t know the identity of the third person.   Going by context, the attack on Mother Base and this scene are probably connected, but it just illustrates how little we know about the situation.  What are you telling us, Kojima?

Why is Big Boss getting trippy? – Alright, if Psycho Mantis does show up to the party, this question is moot.  But honestly, there’s enough hints here to indicate that perhaps the elder Snake’s mind isn’t quite as stable as it once was.  Never mind the exploding hallways and flaming whales for a moment – the flower pedals almost certainly allude to Big Boss’ final battle with the Boss, his mentor, in Metal Gear Solid 3.  Additionally, the fact that one key figure in his hallucinations resembles Colonel Volgin doesn’t exactly denounce the Snake Eater connection.  What this means for the story is anyone’s guess, but a mentally unstable Big Boss certainly sounds interesting if nothing else.

Will we see more popular characters? – This includes Miller, Ocelot and Mantis, but it extends to every character alive at this time: Who’s showing up for Metal Gear Solid 5?  I’ve yet to rule out Zero’s appearance, and the early 80s time period allows for other popular characters like Frank Jaeger, Naomi Hunter or Sniper Wolf to make an appearance.  Really, if it’s still such a toss-up, I’d even wager Solid Snake making an appearance – granted, he’d be 11 years old, but Kojima has said that the motif of family will play a role in the story, so it’s not out of the question.  Perhaps we might see Big Boss coming to terms with his cloned offspring.

Who is Ishmael? – I’m think the Internet’s rubbing its forehead right now.  Some say he’s a figment of Big Boss’ imagination, possibly a part of his damaged psyche guiding him to safety.  Me, I think discounting the possibility that he is actually an old aquiantance of Big Boss’, or that he is the observer in the hospital scene,  seems rather foolish right now.  For now, it seems as though this mysterious individual – voiced by Kiefer Sutherland, no less – will have some significance in The Phantom Pain.

What are the Diamond Dogs? – It’s seems clear that Big Boss is dead set on retribution, and the Diamond Dogs organization that he and Miller apparently begin operating is his ticket to success.  But what exactly are the Diamond Dogs? Seems like it’s either a sect of MSF, formed to combat the XOF threat head-on, or the remnants of MSF re-organized into a new land-bound group.  Regardless, it introduces an unknown variable in the “FOX vs. XOF” conflict.

Is that Zadornov’s hand? – Yes, I noticed the Peace Walker nod right away.  It seemed like Big Boss liked the deceased professor’s red cigar-lighting prosthetic hand back in that game, but seeing it here makes me think there’s going to more nods to the continuity, possibly in the form of Easter eggs.   At any rate, it’s interesting that he chose that as his replacement for his missing hand.

What’s on BB’s head? – Kojima’s said that the sharp object protruding from Big Boss’ forehead is “bone and shrapnel”, but I just think of it as a horn.  It’s just less gruesome and horrid to think about it this way.  Still, the presence of such a deformity does raise some questions about exactly how badly Big Boss’ escape from the hospital went.

Who’s voicing Big Boss? – This is a rather shallow question, but it’s timely given that David Hayter has said he won’t be returning to voice Big Boss.  Who, then, has taken on the mantle? Is it Kiefer Sutherland, or are the rumours of Nolan North’s involvement well-founded? What does Kojima have in mind here?

Well, that’s all the speculation I have in me.  Feel free to sound off below – what do you think Kojima’s up to?

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