Dissected: The Phantom Pain trailer - and its 21 significant Metal Gear ties
12th Dec 2012 | 11:00
The Phantom Pain is a Metal Gear Solid game. That's beyond debate.
There are myriad reasons why - from the negative space on The Phantom Pain logo spelling 'Metal Gear Solid V', to the presence of Kyle Cooper, a Hollywood title sequence designer who worked on MGS2 and MGS3, wearing a Moby Dick Studio T-shirt at the VGA awards.
Official PlayStation Magazine, blogger DivineDiablo and NeoGAF's incredible investigation thread provide solid background to the theory of where
1. The Doctor is Kio Marv... or is he?
Visually, the doctor looks a fair bit like Kio Marv, the Czech scientist who invents Oilix from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Marv dies during the Zanzibar Land Disturbance (outlined in MG2: Solid Snake) in 1999 - so this loosely fits with the anticipated early 70 to late 90s setting of MGS: Ground Zeroes / The Phantom Pain.
However, Marv isn't a medical doctor (he's a scientist) and - critically - speaks no English, only Czech and Slovak. It's possible that the central character (assumed to be Big Boss) is in a coma, and *imagines* he is speaking English, but this is tenuous.
Dr Madnar, a Russian robotics engineer, is less of a visual match, but makes (slightly) more sense. There's a rumour that Madnar performs emergency surgery on Big Boss somewhere during the MGS timeline, replacing his limbs and major organs - as mentioned in the MGS4 database, an official downloadable application for PS3. In the trailer's final words, a female voice says "V has come to" - in (what sounds like) a Russian accent.
2. The bandaged man isn't the burnt man from MGS Ground Zeroes in disguise
Speculation suggested the burnt man was hiding under the bandages, but when you see the bandaged man face on, he looks younger - and there's no visible scarring on the sides of the mouth. It's quite possible that he suffers the burning during the events of The Phantom Pain, since the chronology of events is hugely up for debate, but this is speculation.
3. The car crash takes place after the events of the trailer
In the car crash scene, the bandaged man is driving, while Big Boss sits in the passenger seat. Big Boss has a prosthetic arm, so it isn't the crash that causes him to lose the limb. The car is full of pills, tablets and pens (all hospital equipment), and the bandaged man is holding a clipboard (likely a patient roster).
It's unknown why he's taken it, and the text isn't clear enough to see if it's one of the clipboards visible elsewhere in the trailer. It's likely they're driving an ambulance and escaping the events of the trailer. It's unclear whether this is a *literal*, failed escape attempt, or Big Boss thwarted in his attempt to wake up by his own subconscious / his captor.
4. The car dashboard looks early 1970s
There are no digital readouts, and the speedometer is a giveaway - in the style of US classic cars like the 1970 Ford Torino. If you glimpse to the far left in the trailer's climatic scene, before Big Boss sees the flaming whale, you can glimpse the front end of an ambulance - likely the escape vehicle.
Earlier in the year, Kojima tweeted FoxEngine test images showing - what looks like - two texture-less 3D ambulance models. The ambulance resembles a 1972 Chevrolet Vanguard. The year is significant. 1972 is when the Les Enfants Terrible project takes place... while Big Boss is in a coma.
We couldn't find a picture of a Chevrolet Vanguard ambulance dashboard, but the picture of a 1972 Chevrolet Concourse Wagon above is very similar - note the speedometer.
Earlier in the same session, Kojima tweeted images of a car crash, with actors in mo-cap balls dangling upside down. This was followed by images of surgical instruments, and it seems fair to assume these are all related.
5. The car is right-hand drive, so likely of British origin
There's a British flag in the hospital, next to a map, and the car is right-hand drive - signifying a country that drives on the left. A number of countries drive on the left that hold significance for the MGS canon, including Mozambique, South Africa, UK and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia, affiliated with Britain until 1979).
In Kojima Productions GDC recruitment adverts, there was an image of a 'Rhodesian Ridgeback' dog, and a figure who looked like Big Boss sported a 'Diamond Dogs' logo, similar to Fox Hound.
In my previous article, What Next for Metal Gear Solid, from March 2012, I'd speculated on the potential importance of Africa/Rhodesia to the game's canon.
Rhodesia is where Frank Jaeger/Cyborg Ninja kills the parents of a little girl, who he adopts... who turns out to be Naomi Hunter. In 1977, Frank fights in Mozambique, but is captured, having his nose and ears cut off, until he's rescued by... Big Boss. Could Frank Jaeger be the bandaged man? It's a leap of faith, but not worth ruling out yet.
In the official The Phantom Pain screenshots, there's an unseen image with a painting on the wall. Nobody has identified it as a real life image yet, but some noted its similarity to the terrain of Zimbabwe.
6. The hospital's portable radio looks too advanced for the 1970s?
At first glance, the radio by Big Boss' bedside appears to have a digital readout with buttons, but if you over expose the image, it reveals a speaker, plus - what looks like - an analogue station tuner complete with dial. This would fit with the early 70s. It's inconclusive, but interesting.
7. The hospital nurses are from Kojima's FoxEngine tests
Kojima tweeted images of nurses with transparent clothing to show off FoxEngine in December 2011. It's not cast iron evidence, but nurses do appear in The Phantom Pain.
8. The petals are similar to those during the final battle with Boss in MGS3
Well, dur. Just look at the comparison images above - it's like Big Boss is having a flashback.
9. One of the petals is on fire - a sign you're being influenced by Psycho Mantis / The Sorrow
We'll talk more about Psycho Mantis later, but fire is one of his trademarks - and The Phantom Pain is full of it. The flaming petal might suggest that Psycho Mantis is behind the manipulation.
10. When Big Boss awakes, the bandaged man is in the corner of the room - why?
Blink and you'll miss it, but when Big Boss comes to, the bandaged man is in his eye line, on the far left. As Big Boss surveys his prosthetic left arm, the bandaged man is raising his own left arm. Hold that thought...
11. The 'What Happened?' text 'blocks in' using negative space
The caption text like 'What happened?' and 'Wake up, already' appears in stages, best viewed using freeze-frame. The letters slowly appear, line-by-line, with certain sections 'lifted out' in white. It's likely this was a deliberate inclusion to steer people toward the negative space in The Phantom Pain logo that neatly fits the words 'Metal Gear Solid V'. I don't think Kojima would have expected this puzzle (if true) to be solved so soon.
I'm yet to test it, but would be interested to know if the stages of caption text (like 'Open your eyes') could be mapped to the The Phantom Pain logo to spell Metal Gear Solid V. For example, by using the white lines as guides, the flipping or mirroring the text. This would be a miracle of design, so maybe not, but it is likely a hint.
12. The banded blue lights look familiar...
The MGS: Ground Zeroes trailer featured a series of orange, banded lights at key moments, marked by a distinct audio signature - the potential significance of which I expanded in the Swoosh code conspiracy. Sorry about the title.
The Phantom Pain features blue, horizontal, banded lights at key moments, usually when direct light is being shone toward the camera, or rather, into Big Boss' eyes. Could it be that the light represents an intrusion of reality, as someone peers a light into Big Boss' eyes as he lies in a coma? Or are they just an elaborate visual effect, like JJ Abrams trademark lens flare.
In the case of Ground Zeroes, I'm certain the orange lights are more significant, and this likely follows for The Phantom Pain. At the very end of the trailer, when Big Boss' face is revealed and a spotlight is shone into his eyes, the shimmering audio effect is nigh-on identical to that which plays during the orange bands in MGS: Ground Zeroes.
13. Psycho Mantis as a child... on the ground floor?
A child-like figure appears in a lift, wearing a gas mask that looks similar to that worn by Psycho Mantis. Is this Psycho Mantis as a child? *May-be*, but Psycho Mantis is born circa 1970 in MGS lore, and if this is 1972, he'd be only two.
The flames, however, are indicative of Psycho Mantis, who uses his telekinetic powers to burn down the village he lived in as a child. He receives severe burns across his body, and especially his face, due to this release of psychic energy.
It's seem more likely that all the trailer scenes featuring flames are induced using Psycho Mantis' powers - or perhaps even by The Sorrow from MGS3, who has similar abilities and better fits the assumed time frame.
A number of flaming, mystery characters make appearances during the trailer, with their faces obscured. Speculation links them to Boss/Raiden/Raikov, Snake in his Peace Walker sneaking suit, Volgin and The Sorrow (this is much less clear) on a flaming horse. If you over expose each image to reveal more detail, you can see that they're all wearing a gas mask, or something very similar - suggesting they're all apparitions of the same origin.
Is Psycho Mantis/The Sorrow probing Big Boss while he's in a coma? Psycho Mantis doesn't die until 2005 in MGS lore (during the events of Shadow Moses/MGS on PSone), and Big Boss enter his 15-year-coma after the Zanzibar Land disturbance in 1997 (after he's badly burnt by his 'son' Solid Snake). The timeline fits, but this is highly speculative.
It's also worth noting that the lift is in on the ground floor - a link to Ground Zeroes?
14. The patients are being systematically murdered - but do they all look the same?
The hospital patients are picked off one-by-one, but share similar characteristics: shaven-headed, relatively lean, in their mid/late 20s. It wouldn't be too great a leap to suggest they all look like soldiers. We'd be surprised if they were IT technicians, anyway.
The first few to get shot look identical, but other patients have slightly different hair, and facial hair - one has a goatee/chin strap (in the crowd scene), another dense stubble. However, broadly they look similar. Could they be clones? It could be that someone is testing the basis of the Les Enfants Terrible project (although Snake/Liquid are born as children via a surrogate birth, not emerging fully grown, so this is a stretch).
During his 15 year coma (1997-ish to 2010s, before his body is recovered by Eva), Big Boss' genome is used to create Next-Generation Special Forces via gene therapy, so this *could* be a link. One patient has a bandaged left eye, evoking similarities to Big Boss (although he has a missing right eye).
It's entirely possible that they're all real people, and might even be grown up soldiers, as alluded to by Chico's appearance in Ground Zeroes.
Pushing the theory to extremes, are the patients an extension of Big Boss psyche during a coma? Is someone trying to wipe out strands of his personality/memories by executing 'clones' of him? If so, it'd be interesting that the bandaged patient is the one who always survives - as if hiding his identity (via the face bandages) is the only way to survive?
It's a big leap of faith, but fun to consider, at least.
15. The bandaged man drags you under the bed... but no one sees him
The bandaged man is in every scene with Big Boss. That's likely no co-incidence. He's holding his arm as you awake to survey your prosthetic, and 'drags' you under the bed when the guard appears. When you're in the packed corridor and peppered with gunfire, everyone gets shot apart from Big Boss - who turns his head to see... the bandaged man hiding safely in a side corridor.
Are Big Boss and bandaged man one and the same person - like Edward Norton/Brad Pitt in Fight Club? It's possible that Big Boss has split his psyche during his coma, with one part retaining the 'soldier' status. The bandaged man is certainly the dominant partner, always leading the way, or helping you out.
16. Is that Snake's sneaking suit from Peace Walker?
Another figure emerges from the flames wearing, what looks like, Snake's sneaking suit from MGS Peace Walker. It could be Snake/Big Boss, but the flames suggest it is a vision. Over expose the image, and the face looks more like a mask, with some spiky protrusions - is it another Psycho Mantis manifestation of your inner turmoil?
17. The soldiers suits say 'Combat Body Armour', just like they do in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes
This is the cast-iron proof that both trailers exist in the same universe. The Phantom Pain soldiers' with masks have 'Combat Body Armour' written on their suits, just like the guards who sit in the chopper with the burnt man in MGS Ground Zeroes.
18. That's Volgin in the flames, except...
That's Volgin from MGS3 - the rubber suit with its orange leg bands is unmistakable - but he's also wearing some kind of mask, with glowing eyes. Just like previous apparitions.
19. The character on the flaming horse is...
Once again, if we overexpose the image, the shrouded character wears a mask - with a central circle, sunken eyes and protrusions; like a gas mask. The person's identity is unclear, but the horse could belong to the Boss from MGS3. The character is either holding reigns, or a lasso, with some speculating it's the Sorrow from MGS3. We're unsure, but the mask theme can't be ignored.
20. Is the horse statue outside the hospital significant?
Ramp up the exposure, and the horse statue looks similar to the statue of Saladin in Kerak, Jordan. It might be mere similarity, but if correct it's unlikely to be there by accident.
21. Big Boss is wearing a harness that looks familiar
Now, who else wears a harness like that? Take a look at the image below - if you can take your eyes away from the gas mask. Big Boss might just be wearing a harness for his prosthetic arm, but the similarity is uncanny.
Phantom pain is often associated with the loss of a limb, and if Psycho Mantis harness is attached to Big Boss' lost limb, well... before we all go mad, it *could* just be a harness.
So what does it all mean? I'll combine all the evidence into a master theory - or theories - in an upcoming article. Despite all the evidence, a lot is open to interpretation, and I'd love to hear your theories below.