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You Don’t Play As Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid V

The entire marketing campaign for Metal Gear Solid V has been about changing or hiding an identity, and so its clear – you don’t play as Big Boss in The Phantom Pain.

Even the announcement of MGS V was smoke and mirrors. It was announced as Ground Zeroes at the Penny Arcade Expo way back in 2012. It was clear that it would be a prologue to Metal Gear Solid V, but it was never shown to be less than an hour long or set in a single location. Konami and Kojima spoke about shorter cutscenes, an open world, travelling between countries and the worry that Ground Zeroes might just be too violent for release. 


Obviously, most of those things were directly from The Phantom Pain, not Ground Zeroes, but we wouldn’t know that for quite some time.

When horror game The Phantom Pain came along, developer Moby Dick Studios took the world by storm. The mysterious Joakim Mogren made an equally sudden splash, his face covered in bandages. Hideo Kojima said he was impressed by the same, and how it was influenced by Metal Gear Solid. It was here that people began to notice the inclusion of Kiefer Sutherland, not as Snake but seemingly as a guide leading Boss through a hospital.

The Phantom Pain wasn’t a random horror game, it was Metal Gear Solid V. It took fans seconds to spot the connection and minutes to prove it, but it wasn’t until four months later, in March, that it was confirmed as a Metal Gear Solid title. David Hayter – Solid Snake and Big Boss for almost two decade – was out, and Kiefer Sutherland was back. The announcement was a cluster of disappointment and confusion. Hayter ranted on twitter, angry and upset at how he’d been treated, while Konami refused to give any real reason outside of wanting someone who could add another level to the production.

Again, expectation and reveal – there had been a real life plot twist concerning a well-loved part of the franchise, but how real was it? People have been expecting Hayter to pop up, despite Solid Snake being far too young to be voiced in the same grizzly cigarette-damaged manner as he has been since Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation.


Dr Sergio Canavero isn’t an easy man to find information on from before 2012. His Twitter account goes back to the day that screenshots were released of the camp in Ground Zeroes, and mentions elsewhere are few and far between. Since announcing he’d be trying a full head and spinal cord transplant, he has become international news, and he just happens to look like the doctor from the reveal trailer of The Phantom Pain. His life and work seems littered with references to The Phantom Pain, but it’s such an unbelievable coincidence, with such dedication, that it’s to mind-blowing to comprehend that this could be a Kojima marketing ploy.

The internet has been going mad this week concerning who this doctor is and whether it’s possible he’s just a creation for the game. That’s not the most interesting part of it. Rather, it’s Kojima’s reaction.

When you are sued or threatened with a law suit – as Konami have been by Sergio Canavero – it’s generally advised to keep quiet, or at least say or do nothing that will negatively affect you in court. Kojima tweeted a picture showing a row of headless Bosses just as the controversy was reaching its peak. That was a deliberate act to fan the flames and incite speculation.

Who IS Dr Sergio Canavero really? For that matter, who is Big Boss?

There’s one final case of mistaken identity that its worth pointing out. A few months ago, Kojima was removed from all the advertising materials for every game he’s been involved with. At the time it was posted as a rumour, an unconfirmed snapshot of a company getting rid of its most popular creator. 


Konami said they would continue work on Silent Hills and other properties without Kojima – a publishing body without its creative head. Was the drama inside Konami part of the narrative? Only time will tell.

With all this being subtly sown into the marketing of The Phantom Pain, it seems inevitable that one of the major themes will be identity, of thinking someone is who they aren’t. Could their be a clearer message that you’re not playing as Big Boss?

Add that to earlier hints – his eyes being the wrong colour for one – and it’s easy to suspect that we’re being toyed with. When it comes to Metal Gear Solid and Hideo Kojima, however, when are we not?



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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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