Video Games
Metal Gear Solid V is a Side-Story to Rewrite a 1987 Game

Phil Hornshaw | 8 Dec 2015 15:00
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Nobody would accuse the Metal Gear Solid games of having stories that are easy to follow, but Metal Gear Solid V takes "dense" to a new, decades-spanning high.

That's because MGS V is mired in some of the deepest and densest lore in the entire series. It's a direct prequel to the very first game in the franchise: Metal Gear. The 1987 original set up the story for the entire franchise, but MGS V doesn't just lead up to it-in many ways, it effectively rewrites it.

The Metal Gear Solid series has been reframing the past events in its lore since Metal Gear Solid 3, but far more than the post-credits cutscene of Metal Gear Solid 4, MGS V looks to change everything: especially the plot of the original Metal Gear.

Except it doesn't, because MGS V's story, unfortunately, doesn't make a ton of sense.

The Big Boss Problem

At some point during the course of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, it seems, creator Hideo Kojima decided to pivot the story back toward being about the series' first antagonist: Big Boss, the one-time leader of protagonist Solid Snake's American special operations unit, Foxhound, in 1987's Metal Gear. Big Boss is the evil bad guy of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and he's the most obvious and perfunctory video game villain of possibly all time.

In Metal Gear, Big Boss sends you into Outer Heaven, a sort of soldier-nation that apparently has nuclear capability and is holding the world hostage. There, you discover Metal Gear, a walking tank that can cross basically any terrain, making the entire world a viable target for a clandestine nuclear strike. Then you discover the truth: the guy in charge of Outer Heaven, and the nuke, is Big Boss himself. He sent you in thinking you'd fail, because plot twists.

You kill Big Boss in Metal Gear and stop Metal Gear and everything's good. And then in Metal Gear 2 you do it again, only this time you fight cyborg Big Boss who apparently wasn't dead, and this time Big Boss tells Solid Snake that he's Snake's father. Yeah.

Big Boss went on through the proceeding Metal Gear Solid games as a corpse everyone wanted for cloning reasons, because he was apparently the greatest soldier ever (although, of course, he wasn't actually dead). And it turned out Solid, Liquid, and another Snake bro called Solidus were all clones of the original Big Boss. The guy was a big deal.

But then Metal Gear Solid 3 happened. Kojima went back to the Cold War to tell the backstory of why Big Boss decided to create Outer Heaven in the first place (he wanted to create a nation where soldiers wouldn't be exploited by governments), and why he went all dark side (he was forced to kill his mentor in order to prevent a worldwide nuclear war, thanks to the clownish Cold War escapades of politicians).

Seems like at some point, the character of Big Boss became really important to Kojima. Metal Gear Solid 3 recontextualizes the man. Metal Gear Solid 4's ending is dedicated to making him a good guy from the right point of view. And Metal Gear Solid V straight-up rewrites his story.

Becoming a Demon Apparently

Spoiler alert, because here comes the big twist of MGS V: the Big Boss you play in that game is not the same Big Boss you played in MGS 3 or Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The player character is, in fact, a medic who served under Big Boss during the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Big Boss and the medic both explode in a helicopter crash, and at that point, several other characters decide to use the medic as a Big Boss decoy.

So through absolute miracles of plastic surgery (okay), voice modification (...kay), and hypnotherapy (umm...), the nameless helicopter medic becomes legendary soldier Big Boss. The story of MGS V is about decoy Big Boss attempting to restart Mother Base, simultaneously a private military company and a safe haven for soldiers to live free of ideology or country (although ... hey Big Boss, you know this whole thing is itself an ideology, right).

While the real Big Boss is off doing the whole "not getting killed" thing, decoy Big Boss has some struggles. He deals with being maimed by the attack in Ground Zeroes. He fights and gets revenge on Skull Face. He has to deal with some betrayals (or believed betrayals) and some other heavy encounters, like rebellious child soldiers rescued from Africa and a parasitic outbreak in which he has to shoot a bunch of his men to save the rest. It's safe to say that decoy Big Boss goes through some shit, and you could understand if he comes out of it ruthless, hardened and jaded-you know, on the verge of villainous.

All of which is good, fascinating stuff, especially since MGS V is actually reworking the entire story of the original Metal Gear. Big Boss doesn't send you into Big Boss's base in the original game anymore, now that we know this new information. Big Boss actually sends you to decoy Big Boss's base. And Big Boss doesn't magically revive at the end of Metal Gear to be the big bad guy in Metal Gear 2. Instead, you kill decoy Big Boss in Metal Gear, and fight real Big Boss in Metal Gear 2.

Still with us? Okay, good.

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