Dissecting The Phantom Pain: An in-depth analysis on Metal Gear Solid V‘s story, themes, and controversies.
Phantom Pain: A pain that feels like it is coming from a body part that is no longer there.
This is a theme that is hammered into you from the moment you start Metal Gear Solid V to the time it ends, and it is far from subtle. The further down the rabbit hole you go, the more it turns from a simple analogy to something that becomes all too real. If you read my review you would know that though I enjoyed the game a great deal, the story itself felt rather lacking to me, and this is where it will be discussed in full detail. That being said, this entire write-up will contain almost nothing but spoilers for the games’ story as well as minor spoilers for some of the other titles in the series (specifically Ground Zeroes, Metal Gear Solid, and the original MSX Metal Gear titles). I would also like to point out that because this is so spoiler heavy, I will be treating the reader as if they themselves have already finished the game and thus know what happened in the plot, so please excuse me if I don’t give an entire summary of everything that happens in the game. This write-up will mostly focus on the phantom pain theme as well as some other controversies and quirks in the game’s story.
The Phantom Pain: Theming and Repetition
As I said earlier, the phantom pain theme is far from subtle. It was harped on so often that I actually felt that it began to wear thin, and wasn’t nearly as effective as it would have been if it was used more sparingly. For a game with such massive pacing issues and plot holes, it made damn sure to remind you that its title had relevance, to the point of almost treating the player like they would be too stupid to figure it out themselves without their noses being rubbed into it. All things considered, however, even though I found it to be heavy-handed I did think that the theme worked for me more than it didn’t, and here are just a few of the examples of the theme being presented within the game. These are not the ONLY examples of the theme throughout the game, as pointing them all out would bloat this rather large analysis even further, but these are the ones I considered most important or most apparent within the story:
1) The game begins with one of the best video game openings I have ever seen; a slow, methodical intro that doesn’t even give the player true control for at least twenty minutes (to be fair, I was too enthralled to actually time it). The opening to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is far from ‘fun’, and it doesn’t intend to be. Along with many other brilliant moments in the game’s intro, it is within these first few minutes where the main theme is introduced, giving a slow pan as the player is forced to look down at what used to be his arm. The phantom pain theme is established quite literally in this very moment but it will definitely not be the last time.
2) Shortly after the first mission you are sent out to rescue your war buddy from the previous game, Kaz Miller, who when you find him is also missing an arm as well as a leg. He throws the theme once more into your face, quoting it by name and refusing artificial legs and arms so that his ‘phantom pain’ may continue, not only for his own body but as a reminder of the home and men they lost.
3) Though the previous mentions were rather blatant attempts at representing the theme, I feel there were a few more subtle variations on it as well. One such way I think this was implemented was by removing David Hayter as the voice of Big Boss. Though this may be a stretch, it never sat right with me that Kojima would switch actors simply because he wanted an older actor for the part. After all, David Hayter voiced Old Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4 and no one seemed to mind. I feel like losing David Hayter was a way of giving the players a small taste of their own phantom pain. Even though he is gone, his presence is still felt and it does truly feel like something, though small, was lost in the transition to this title.
4) The most powerful use of this theme however, comes from a secret mission towards the end of the game and focuses around the controversial character Quiet. There comes a time when she simply leaves your base, never to return. There are important story reasons for this of course, but her reasons aren’t as important as her absence for the purposes of this analysis. This is a character you can potentially recruit early on, and doing so gives you easily the most useful partner on missions that you can have. Being a sniper with the ability to turn invisible and run at unbelievable speeds makes her a very useful asset when it comes to completing missions, but after she leaves, there is no way of getting her back. It doesn’t matter how many missions you have remaining or how much you liked her as a character. The game autosaves and only allows for one save in the first place, meaning you can’t go back. The game goes as far as removing pictures of her from your in-game photo collage inside the helicopter to really drive in the fact that she is gone and she is never coming back. That attention to detail with a character you have grown to sympathize with and rely on not just through story but through gameplay isn’t something new to gaming, but it was still profoundly effective. Kojima said that his goal was to “…depict how you come back from war, and even if you make it back you won’t be able to make it back unscratched…” Once again, this is something that he did in several ways throughout the story, but this is the one time that this really stuck for me as a player. Considering it came from a character that has been lauded as nothing more than a sex symbol, I found it even more surprising. Speaking of which…
The Quiet Controversy: Intent vs Implementation
Ever since the first time Quiet was shown in a trailer for the game, people have been up in arms over her appearance. Kojima was called out for his blatant sexual pandering, and his retort was to say “Once you know the reason for her clothing choice you will be ashamed for feeling that way!” or something very similar to that anyway. Well the reason has been revealed and….. Kojima kinda stepped in it this time.
This whole issue brings on the usual debate of injustices in how women are represented in video games; whether or not it is sexist, and whether or not it was justified by the flimsy plot elements. My goal here is not to pick a side and convert you to it, but it IS important for you to know my stance so that you have a better idea of where my opinion is coming from because context is everything. I am a male in my early twenties, and It would be a lie to say I don’t enjoy seeing attractive characters in skimpy clothing. I enjoy ‘eye candy’, and feel there is a proper time and place for everything. TV isn’t limited to only quality productions, and in that same vein, gaming has the right to be both a place for intellectually stimulating and powerful plots just as often as it should be allowed to be nothing but trashy, disgustingly entertaining schlock. I love the seriousness and uncensored darkness of The Last of Us with its strong female characters and no sex pandering at all. I also love No More Heroes for the ridiculously over-the-top blood and sex filled extravaganza that it is. There is a very important distinction between the two titles I mentioned, however, and that distinction is tone. I don’t automatically see a video game female in a bikini and think ‘That is in bad taste because feminism!’. The tone of Metal Gear Solid V still has its comical and quirky moments, but it is very much a game in which the tone is meant to be dark and make important statements on the tragedies of war, which is not exactly the best time and place for unwarranted panty shots.
Don’t get me wrong, Metal Gear has never been a series to shirk away from sex appeal. In fact, it is rather well used in Metal Gear Solid 3 with Eva as an homage to James Bond films and a means of developing both Eva and Snake’s characters. Sex appeal for women is becoming something so often seen as innately ‘sexist’ that it is almost folding in on itself, and people seem to forget that it is a choice women can and should be able to make and that it can be quite empowering no matter which direction they decide to lean. That being said, Quiet doesn’t fall into either category. The plot relevant reason for her being nearly nude comes down to her being infected with a parasite that makes her breathe through her skin. The story actually takes this to a few interesting places but by viewing the game in its entirety you can tell that the chain of progression went ‘make her naked, than make a reason for it’ and not the other way around. I was rather turned off by her treatment in this setting, and frankly found it so ridiculous that I at first had trouble taking her seriously, which is doubly depressing because she is actually a fairly well written and powerful character. Her motivations aren’t vast, but she believes in them with a conviction so strong that it is infectious. You see this woman tortured and yet she simply takes it despite having done nothing wrong. She is so powerful that she could easily kill every main character in this story, yet shows self restraint by being an obedient prisoner. She is a character that despite my initial disgust completely won me over, to the point where her eventual departure was a rather powerful blow, and I think that speaks volumes about the situation as a whole. I am glad for her inclusion in the title, as the game would have lost some of its best moments without her.
But when the game turns around and shows two minutes of her in suggestive poses in somehow even less clothing than she usually possesses, it doesn’t sit right with me. This is a character who has two unlockable costumes that literally turn her silver and gold. You can make of that what you will. For me it is very much a problem of intention; if the company had just been openly honest about wanting her to be sexual eye candy (see Dead or Alive) I wouldn’t have found it nearly as offensive as their cover-up to try and give it a deeper meaning.
The Ground Zeroes Controversy: The Brutality of War
Quiet is far from Metal Gear Solid V’s most controversial element however, and things get quite a bit more sensitive when we add Ground Zeros to the mix. I want to put a bit of a disclaimer here because I am going to be talking about the very sensitive topic of rape. If this is something that upsets you then you may want to skip this section of the article. While I plan to make it as tasteful a discussion as possible, it is one of those things that some people want to avoid out right, and I can respect that. This is your warning to stop before I fully enter the discussion.
The most controversial topic of Metal Gear Solid V comes in the form of an unlockable audio tape in Ground Zeroes where it is made very clear that Chico, an underage male, is forced to have sex with a girl in her twenties named Paz. It is not a pleasant listening experience, filled with verbal assault, the sound of characters being beaten and finally being punctuated with the threat of death if Chico doesn’t comply with the villains demands to help with the interrogation and torture of Paz who is actually a secret agent who has been trained to resist torture and who is adamant in Chico going through with the act for his own safety. While both characters are victims in this extremely dark situation, most of the attention has been placed on Paz, while I would argue the character who should be most profoundly affected by this disgusting act is in fact Chico. However, putting a measurement on who should be more psychologically scarred by the event becomes irrelevant when both characters are almost immediately killed off. As I have already made very clear, context is everything, and in terms of Ground Zeroes as a standalone experience, it is left really vague as to whether or not pushing the boundaries this far was actually beneficial or even necessary in the game’s narrative. Given the fact that the entire point of Metal Gear Solid V is to show the horrors of war, pushing this element even further in the main game with topics such as child soldiers and the oh so prevalent ‘phantom pain” theme, I wasn’t ready to hop on board with everyone else as calling this out as distasteful from the outset.
The controversy in itself seemed to stem mostly from the argument of whether or not this type of content should be allowed to be in video games at all, and this is where I have a very firm stance that apparently goes against the norm. I feel no topic should be taboo, and in fact the very act of making such a sensitive topic taboo can be more damaging to the sufferers than helpful. Any medium should be allowed to discuss these topics as long as it is done in a mature fashion and has a point to make.
The Phantom Pain fails to do this, and whether or not that just demonstrates how distasteful its implementation was in Ground Zeroes, or if the backlash towards Ground Zeroes is what made the Phantom Pain so much less grotesque, is very hard to say. The Phantom Pain toned itself down in a lot of ways compared to its predecessor; there was a scene where intestines were shown in the first title and violence of that caliber is never seen in The Phantom Pain either. Regardless of the reasoning and whether or not Kojima backing down from his ‘harsh realities of war’ angle was justified, the direction taken destroyed the good faith I had in the idea. The ramifications of this deplorable act are never shown. Paz is killed in Ground Zeroes in an arguably heroic fashion as she tries (but fails) to jump out of a helicopter so that the bombs implanted in her won’t blow up her friends. Chico, on the other hand, is a topic the second game nearly refuses to talk about outright, and I feel that is the most telling fact of all. There is a single audio tape discussing the fact that he died in that fateful helicopter bombing, but he is never focused on after that moment. They never discuss the torture and they never even reflect on Chico again as part of the phantom pain theme, despite him being one of the most important elements of it. The more I think about it, the more it seems clear that the backlash of Ground Zeroes caused a lot of the more potentially dark moments to be removed from The Phantom Pain, and while it didn’t hurt the game overall It does leave Ground Zeroes looking even worse in retrospect, making it so that the use of rape was nothing more than the cheapest and most pathetic attempt at making the villain seem completely and unabashedly evil. It took what could have been a great and brave platform for discussing a serious and sensitive topic, and instead used it as a throw away token in the same way kids films use kicking puppies as a means of establishing true deplorability, and that is the most depressing thing of all.
I think it is important to note that it is extremely unlikely that Kojima put this controversial scene in the game to hurt people on a personal level. The sad truth is, things like this happen every day, especially in areas of war, and while it is extremely unpleasant it is not something that should always be shied away from. Kojima tried to set out and do something bold and important, and it completely backfired because it wasn’t handled with as much care as it should have been. Just behind context in level of importance to me is intent. Unlike the Quiet controversy, this was not an intentional and unnecessary aspect thrown in to sell more copies of the game, it was an intentional statement with very, VERY poor execution that sadly happens to be about a painful topic that is far too common in the world. In the end, it is undoubtedly in bad taste, but was never meant to be malevolent. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to talking about the villain himself.
Skull Face: Thinly Veiled Evil And Parasites
Is there an easier way to label a character as villainous than to actually deform his face to make it look like a skull? Well, yes, and we just discussed it in the last section. My point here is that there is a very disproportionate amount of attention put towards the development of Skull Face as a villain without any attempts to make the character sympathetic or even rational, despite Kojima’s claims to the opposite.
Though it is more detailed in the game, the basic summary of Skull Face’s plan is that he wants to use a vocal parasite to cleanse the world of the English language. This parasite works by only spreading and becoming infectious when it detects the use of a certain language per strain of parasite, so several exist, but the English strain is the one he most intends to use. This motivation comes from a tragic event in his childhood when his family was killed and he was forced to be indoctrinated into the English language himself; thus, all people speaking English deserve to be killed. Most of the physical damage done to him in his life came from an attack on a factory that was building military grade weapons, and from an accident with boiling oil that left him deformed.
According to his own backstory, he should be more inclined to go after the Germans who invaded his home country as a child. Even with his twisted logic, the primary language you think he would be going after is German, not English. It is stated that he had to learn several languages as he grew up because of numerous invasions to his home country, but for some reason English is what sticks out in his mind and he has gone as far as calling it a ‘parasite’ on he planet (yay! More blatant theming and repetition!). It is very likely that I missed something here and that my logic could be wrong on this point, but whether the details are correct or not means very little when his basic motivations come down to ‘I am doing this because revenge!’.
This is yet another reoccurring theme in The Phantom Pain, but one which I find quite boring compared to the others. Revenge is nothing new as a tool in fiction, and is often a great and easy means of giving a character motivation. Don’t misunderstand, I see nothing wrong with using revenge as the focal point of a character arc. However, given the more idealistic motivations of the villains in the past games and the marketing hype surrounding Skull Face and how he would be seen as sympathetic, frankly, Kojima failed on both fronts, and that means that Skull Face himself fails as a character.
The character arc plays out basically as you’d expect, showing one scene after another to detail how evil the enemy is. It then wrapped it up right just before the climax with the “We aren’t so different, you and I” speech that doesn’t hold nearly the weight I think that it was meant too. Despite the game’s theme of revenge for both the heroes and the villains, the game makes a clear distinction between the two. Big Boss ends up saving and raising child soldiers, while Skull Face herds them up and experiments on them like lab rats. Skull Face is building up his weapons as a means of eradicating a large chunk of the human race while Big Boss is building his own army as a means of creating freedom from a powerful secret society. The juxtaposition is far too large for me to believe than anyone could look at these two characters and hold them as equally ambiguous which really hurts the game’s themes once more, and I find that disappointing because this would have been the perfect place in the timeline to question Big Boss’s true intentions and how far he was willing to go to reach his goal. Instead, they took the easy way out, making sure that everything Skull Face did was at least five steps more corrupted than anything Big Boss could possibly be seen doing, and the story definitely suffers because of it.
It Is rather fitting that such an anti-climactic and uncreative villain would have an equally anti-climactic and uncreative demise. There is no boss battle with Skull Face and that in itself didn’t bother me; he is a character who is rather intelligent and tactically minded. It wouldn’t make sense to have a straight-out fight with him. Instead, he is killed via cutscene by a rather insignificant character, and that is the end of that.
The ‘Twist’: Retcons and Character Devaluation
One of the biggest criticisms I see people having with The Phantom Pain is that it it promises a story that it never really delivers on. Fans of Kojima should not find this new. He developed an entire game about subverting expectations and kicked fans in the teeth in the process, but here it is different. This story isn’t supposed to be a final entry that leaves interpretation up to the players like it was in Metal Gear Solid 2; this is an interquel that was meant to fill in the last bit of lore in the Metal Gear universe, and the game instead tells a parallel story that is focused solely on the series’ more enigmatic and arguably less important background players as opposed to Big Boss himself.
Those who have played the game will be instantly familiar with what I am talking about, and that is ‘the twist’. The twist that this game presents comes in the form of the very last story mission. While I won’t waste time explaining how the twist is revealed, I’d like to comment that I thought it worked very well, was well alluded too, and I didn’t feel ripped off or cheated by it in any way. After spending what could literally be hundreds of hours with the main character, you find out that you were never playing Big Boss to begin with, but his best soldier/medic who was in the helicopter with him when it went down. The entire game that was sold purposefully under the guise of showing Big Boss’s descent into madness was all a farce. Big Boss only makes an appearance twice in the entire game and you have been playing as his ‘phantom’ all along. This in itself has a dual purpose, not only rewriting a previous retcon to make it factually canon once more, but also giving the player a really interesting set of mixed emotions. You are not playing as Big Boss, instead you were given the ultimate power fantasy of BECOMING Big Boss, or at least, a Big Boss. Your character was playing a part, but really, it is you. You became the legendary soldier, but have gained absolutely no insight into the true actions of the real Big Boss in this timespan that was said to be filled. This ending has a rather profound effect on the series continuity as a whole, explaining how Big Boss could be killed in the original Metal Gear only to be brought back once more in Metal Gear 2. This is the revelation the twist provides at the most basic level, and people don’t tend to look past it before letting themselves become offended.
The twist explains a lot, and I feel it runs deeper than most people realize. A lot of the things happening in the game (especially when it came to Big Boss’s character) just weren’t sitting right with me, and it makes perfect sense once the ending is revealed. The fake Big Boss very rarely speaks, while all the games with the real Big Boss have him being rather talkative. This was a subtle but very important part of the illusion, and was covered up rather well by simply using a new voice actor, leaving people to think (rather often from what I’ve seen) that Sutherland was simply really expensive so they made him speak as little as possible. It also explains the actions of both Ocelot and Kaz, as they are the ones who really run the show at your base, while they send you out on errand after errand. They say they are giving you the choice, but the player is very rarely given any freedom in that regard. Your character is following orders while two conflicting personalities argue above him. The now paranoid and vengeful Kaz poisoning your logic, while Ocelot remains more logical and collected. Your Big Boss ends up being more of a figurehead than anything, and honestly I think that all just adds to the illusion. The phantom doesn’t really begin making his own decisions until after Skull Face is defeated, and that is only shortly before the revelation Is made to the player. He truly becomes his own person the moment the player realizes he was never Big Boss to begin with, and it is rather brilliant.
I’ve done a bit of research and seen a lot of complaints about this ending that don’t make sense to me, but perhaps it is because I actually sat and listened to every single cassette tape while a lot of players and other reviewers did not. I have pointed out the plot holes that I found important in this write-up and everything I left out… I left out because frankly it felt like the complaints were coming from people who weren’t really paying attention, For example:
Q: If they used Hypno-therapy to create a new Big Boss, why didn’t Zero do this on other test subjects? Why do they look the same? Why do they have the same abilities?
A: Hypno-therapy has in fact been used in this series previously, with Ocelot and with Raiden if not others, this is not a new concept in the series. Why didn’t Zero use it on others? Zero didn’t have 9 years of someone being in a coma to influence them, not to mention the medic that becomes the new ‘Big Boss’ is stated to be the REAL Big Boss’s best soldier and perhaps most loyal, which leads him to continue the charade even after the truth is revealed to him. Why are their bodies magically the same? They were in a coma for 9 years, I highly doubt people have a photographic memory of what Big Boss’s chest looks like… besides, the only members of the original base who are SURE to recognize snake are already in on the charade themselves. Their bodies aren’t necessarily the same, in fact you never see the real Big Boss shirtless in this title. They are of similar age and similar builds and were given the same muscle treatments while in their coma…. seems pretty self-explanatory to me. That only leaves his voice (which was also voiced by Sutherland in Ground Zeroes, so that adds up) and the blatantly shown facial reconstruction surgery..
Q: What was the point of having the ‘Phantom’ Big Boss in the first place?
A: This one was more blatantly stated, but people still seem to have an issue with it. The fake Big Boss was meant to be a decoy, to the point where his success and failure didn’t at all matter. They just got lucky that he turned out to be not only a great soldier and leader, but good enough that he could rival Big Boss himself. He was set up as nothing more than a means for the real Big Boss to hide while he created his own nation/army without borders, which has always been his goal; he just needed to get far enough off the ground to pursue his own path. There are actually some rather interesting nature vs. nurture undertones to this side of the story that I’d love to explore, but I’ve been rambling enough as it is.
Q: If this is the real story, then when did Big Boss turn evil!?
A: He didn’t… and this shouldn’t be a surprise to any Metal Gear series veteran. The series has always painted all of its characters, villains and heroes alike, with a certain amount of ambiguity and grayness. In Metal Gear 2 on the MSX, you fight and defeat the real Big Boss, and later find out that you have been fighting on the wrong side all along. Anyone who expected a true turning point of trauma that made Big Boss go ‘Grrr! I am evil man now!’ must have not been paying much attention to the series up to this point. Besides that, there is the argument that he already IS evil, depending on your interpretation. This is a man who stole away his best soldier’s life so that he could use him as a literal puppet. Think of that what you will, but either way, this series has always been filled with characters who, with some sort of twisted logic, always think they are fighting for something ‘good’. Except Skull Face, who just wanted revenge… but we already talked about him.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plot holes that I missed; after all, I am just one person who played this game once, and these are the conclusions that I came too. I am by no means a genius, and I’d happily entertain a conversation about these things with other people. That being said, I still found the previous criticisms rather ill-informed, and I wanted to clear those things up because If you are going to hate something, I at least believe that you should hate it for the right reasons. I don’t think it is particularly important for us to see what the real Big Boss was doing during this time period, because we know how it all ends up in the end. The ‘Phantom’ and the real Big Boss were essentially doing the same things but in different parts of the world.
Loyalty to a Fault: The Most Powerful Moments
Perhaps the most extreme example of loyalty in The Phantom Pain comes from the previously mentioned twist. Despite the Phantom’s frustration, he agrees to continue with the plan, showing his undying loyalty to the true Big Boss. This is not, however, the only time that this theme is presented, and there was one moment in particular that I feel I have to mention because it provides the most powerful moment in the game, and perhaps the most powerful moment in the whole series.
After you have entered chapter two of the game and defeated Skull Face, your base will be infected for a second time, with an advanced version of the vocal parasite. With no other options, the Phantom is forced to go into the quarantine zone and contain the infestation by any means necessary. This event has you walking through bloody halls to morose music, blood splattered everywhere in a way that purposefully reflects the carnage from the hospital you escaped from in the game’s opening. You are given a pair of modified goggles that help you determine who is infected in the hopes that you can save someone; anyone. But you can’t. Everyone is beyond saving, and when it comes down to it, you, the player, are forced to kill each and every soldier in the area, watching as your staff number actually dwindles and your ‘heroism’ rank goes down.
The capstone of this event comes when you enter a room filled with a large group of soldiers. They turn to you and salute, saying out loud that whether they live or die, they believe in you and your decision. They remain standing and saluting as you are forced to pick them off one by one, and it is gut wrenching.
The Ending (Or Lack Thereof): Konami vs Kojima
There has been controversy for months over the fallout between Kojima and Konami, and though we have never been given a definite answer from the company itself, there are a myriad of rumors and hypotheses for why things went the way they did. The point of this section is not to discuss why or what happened in that feud, but to talk about how it affected the game itself. While there may have been many points that were affected by this, the most obvious hit the game took was having its true ending completely cut from the final product, leaving a rather large hole in the game’s storytelling. As I mentioned in my review of the game, a modified version of this ending (known as ‘Mission 51’) can be easily found on Youtube (and will be embeded below for your viewing convenience), and if you have beaten the game, I highly suggest you watch it; it left me feeling more fulfilled, at least. Either way, I will be summarizing it here as well as giving my sort of examination of the ‘true’ ending.
The true ending involves finding ‘Eli’ (later in the series known as Liquid Snake) on an island he had claimed for himself through the use of other child soldiers and the language parasite previously mentioned. This ending primarily resolves the issue of tying up the massive loose end of this evil character and his telekinetic partner having access to not only a giant mechanized weapon but also a potentially world ending parasite. That is kind of an important story element to close, especially since series fans already know the eventual fate of these characters as Liquid Snake becomes the main antatgonist of Metal Gear Solid and half of the main antagonist for the rest of the timeline. Him having access to this level of power and not using it would have made absolutely no sense, so I am very glad the ending was released online, with a rather obvious climax (which was also sorely lacking from the released games’ ending) where you fight the Metal Gear wannabe once more, and then deploy napalm over the entire island to purge the parasite.
There is quite a bit more to the near 20 minute ending, and as I said before, I highly suggest you watch it and see it play out for yourself, but the point is that leaving this big of a plot point completely unresolved is unacceptable. The released game sets up all of these details, shows what a threat this demented child is, and then leaves it hanging completely, which is damaging because the way it was left would have had serious ramifications for the entire pre-established Metal Gear timeline. There is no reason that Eli wouldn’t have used those weapons for his own gain, and there would have also been a large gap not explaining why he had to essentially start from scratch once Metal Gear Solid finally takes place. Not only without the deadly parasite, but also without the somehow more technologically advanced, though made in the past, Metal Gear Sahelanthropus as opposed to Metal Gear Rex.
I know this was a rather sour and perhaps anti-climactic note for me to end on, but in a way I find that to be rather fitting. There are many things I left out of this write up because I feel they were covered well enough in the main story or almost completely unimportant; for example, I felt that having Volgin return as the Man on Fire brought absolutely nothing to the story besides a nod and a wink to fans, and the continued repetition of the game’s theme of revenge. Metal Gear has always been a series that somehow mixed both silliness and seriousness in ways that should never successfully mesh. People with a critical eye would know that Metal Gear has never been perfect, and in many ways is actually an antithesis to what we expect from video games as a whole.
Most fans, myself included, don’t love the series or Kojima’s works as a whole because we see them as some kind of monolith of perfection. Instead, we relish in the quirks and imperfections of his titles in the same way Kojima relishes in the quirks that make up humanity. His games are so beloved because they break the mold, not perfect it, and that is something that the players can really take to heart and use in their own life. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain kind of broke the mold of his own visions, making a game that honestly feels far more like a generic AAA title than anything else he has ever produced, and yet it still manages to stand out from the pack because of his usual directorial strangeness. In a sick way, Metal Gear Solid V kind of feels like Kojima giving up; he has wanted the series to end since Metal Gear Solid 2, but was too afraid to see someone else ruin his creation. His leaving Konami, however, meant he no longer had a choice in the matter. As a long time fan, I am happy to see the series end here, both for the sake of the series’ quality, and also for the sake of Kojima’s own sanity. Metal Gear has had a magnificent 28 year run, and now perhaps Kojima can finally spread his wings and work on a new idea that he has been mulling over for who knows how long, or perhaps it is time that he, like Metal Gear, gets to take this time and have a well deserved rest.
Here is the ‘Mission 51’ ending for those that would like to view it in its entirety
Written by: Nathan Stiles
Edited by Charlotte Buckingham
Note: This article was originally written for charlottebuckingham.net