Allow me to indulge in my madness for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Now, I’d never actually played a Metal Gear game outside of Ground Zeroes before the Phantom Pain arrived back in September, but I’d managed to do enough research that I knew of the events leading into Ground Zeroes.
Naturally, after experiencing “the end” of Phantom Pain, I felt it necessary to go and do research on the events that directly followed on from this entry. That mainly included the original Metal Gear Solid.
And through doing my own research, as well as going back and combing through lines of dialogue and different scenes in the Phantom Pain, I was able to deduce a true meaning for the end of the final game focussing on Big Boss.
Firstly, let’s start with what we know: we’re actually playing as an unnamed character from Mother Base, now known as Venom Snake, instead of Big Boss. This is all while the real Big Boss has fled the public spotlight to build Outer Heaven, his new military force.
As this unknown character, we’ve forged our own path through the Phantom Pain in pursuit of our revenge on Skull Face, either becoming a hero or a demon in the process. And that’s where things get interesting.
Venom Snake often sees himself as the “demon” character throughout the game, seeing himself covered in blood in reflections, such as the mirror at the very end of the game, as well as the cut “Mission 51” (although we’re discounting this as canon, since Kojima chose to remove it from the finished product).
However, it doesn’t actually matter whether the Snake the player creates becomes a demon or a hero, because both fit in the context of the story.
Say for example, you play Venom as a hero. That’s all and well, because when he dies at the hands of Solid Snake at the end of the original Metal Gear, he’s merely following orders from the real Big Boss, as he has done for most of his life.
Now, say you play Venom as a demon. This can also be canonical, as the very ending of the Phantom Pain (which I’ll get onto in a second) can be construed to show him effectively going insane at having to live and die for someone else, someone that used him.
Now, onto the scene that gives me reason to believe that Metal Gear Solid V is in fact a finished product.
In the very final scene of the game, Venom Snake receives a tape recording from “the man who sold the world”, in other words, the real Big Boss. Real Big Boss tells him that they are both Big Boss, and that Venom has helped him solidify his own legacy.
However at the very end of the tape recording, Venom smirks, sees himself once more as the demon figure in the reflection of a mirror, and then punches said mirror, before walking off into the background noise of gunfire.
Now everyone seems to have missed one very crucial detail in this scene. When Venom punches the mirror and it cracks, look to the bottom left of the mirror. You see that? That’s the Outer Heaven symbol.
This gives me reason to believe that Venom receives this tape recording while at the Outer Heaven base in the original Metal Gear, and when he walks off at the very end, it’s to fight Solid Snake in the climactic battle of the game, in which Venom perishes.
Therefore, the Phantom Pain actually shows us the exact end of the story of Venom Snake, not leaving the game as wide open as people first thought.
This scene can also be interpreted in one of two ways, both of which tie in to my aforementioned point about the ability of either “hero” or “demon” Venom to both fit canonically into the Metal Gear lore.
In version one: Venom punches the mirror in defiance of his death sentence from Big Boss, eventually having become fed up of being used for someone else’s personal gain, and refusing to lay down and die to Solid Snake.
In version two: Venom punches the mirror still, but the smirk he gives before doing so can be interpreted as him finally coming to terms with the fact that he can truly be Big Boss, for one last time.
Now, I’m not actually entirely sure which version fits the hero version of Venom, or which fits the demon version. But that’s where, for me, the genius of the ending comes into full effect.
I truly believe Metal Gear Solid V has been left open-ended in this very way in order for both the hero and demon versions of Venom Snake to fit into the lore of the Metal Gear universe.
The Phantom Pain is about your journey, moulding this pretender Big Boss character into the character you want, be that a demon or a hero. In this respect, the ending is genius, allowing for either versions of Venom to fit seamlessly into the original Metal Gear game.
The Phantom Pain is not a perfect game by any means, because it does have very real flaws, and they’re noticeable. But the ending being left open in this way adds a huge emotional punch to the entire thing, as our hero or demon, which ever one we chose to create, can both fit into the overall Metal Gear story.
Now I know the audience for the Phantom Pain were told to expect a revenge tale, all about how Big Boss turned from a hero into a villain, and I would argue that if you look close enough, you can still see this tale in the background of the entire game.
Think about it this way: the real Big Boss has left everyone he ever knew, everyone he was ever friends with. In his stead, he’s left a pretender, a man who had his own life taken away to serve the purpose of another.
In this way, he’s betrayed everything he ever stood for, leaving everything and everyone he had in order to go and start anew elsewhere. And as the very end of the game shows, he still uses Venom Snake for his own gain right up until the very moment of his death.
Therefore, although this wasn’t the direct story we were expecting, it’s still the story we got, albeit in a different manner. And the villainy and treachery of Big Boss can be revealed with one simple, but very telling line.
As Kaz, one of his closest friends puts it: “Big Boss can go to hell.”