During the recent VGA’s, amidst the usual gamut of reveal trailers, a mysterious little video was shown introducing a brand new IP. Under the working title ‘The Phantom Pain’, and allegedly hailing from unheard-of Swedish developer Moby Dick Studios, it depicts a man with a prosthetic limb apparently waking up from a coma. Before he even has time to mourn the loss of his beloved appendage, it appears the hospital gets overrun by soldiers, and a massacre takes place. Then a flaming whale eats a helicopter…?

Yeah, us too.

The trailer has kicked up a hornet’s nest of Internet speculation. See, there is a distinct possibility that this trailer is not introducing an entirely brand new franchise, and that Moby Dick Studios doesn’t even exist at all…


It seems, on a closer inspection of the facts, that ‘The Phantom Pain’ is almost definitely a teaser trailer for a new Metal Gear game. What remains to be seen is what form this will take – are we talking a current-gen or next-gen title? What does this mean for MGS: Ground Zeroes? Who’s the guy with the arm? Was that a goddamn unicorn at the 2:28 minute mark?


We’ll take a closer look at all the best theories after the jump, and see if we can make sense of some of this.

Okay – firstly, here’s why it’s definitely a Metal Gear game:

  • The protagonist looks a hell of a lot like Big Boss. Like pretty much identical, right down to the eye patch and signature mullet. ‘Ah!’, you say – ‘but Big Boss did not have a missing arm!’ The only answer I can give to that is…can we be sure? At no point during MGS1 or MGS4 do we see him without long sleeves and gloves. Given Kojima-sans unhealthy obsession with missing limbs, it wouldn’t be insane to believe he may have afflicted yet another character with his favourite medical condition.
  • Moby Dick Studios doesn’t really exist. That’s right, it’s a classic red herring. A quick Internet search reveals that their website has only been up for 7 days, and no-one has ever heard of them. And look at those graphics – would a small indie studio really be able to bust out something like that for their first game? Unlikely. Oh, and their CEO is a certain ‘Joakim Mogren’. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Joakim is an anagram for Kojima, and Mogren may be a reference to Project: OGRE, the mooted codename for the Metal Gear Solid 5 project.
  • About those graphics…They look extremely similar to what we’ve seen the FOX engine producing (Konami’s new weapon in the console wars). From the distinctive lens flare, to the animation, it all just screams FOX. Not to mention the fact that Kojima tweeted about mo-capping an escape sequence from a submerged vehicle – something we glimpse briefly in the trailer. Also, remember those FOX demo stills of a horse from a while back? Looked an awful lot like the horse in the trailer, eh? Curiouser and curiouser…..(note: Could the horse be a reference to one The Boss rides in MGS3?)
Still from car crash

The FOX engine in action

  • Links to the Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes trailer. For example, the tagline that appears briefly, stating ‘From FOX, two Phantoms were born’. This could be a reference to the games themselves, what with them both using the same engine. Or it could possibly reference in-game characters. For example, is that man with the burnt face in Ground Zeroes the guy we see with the face bandages in the Phantom Pain trailer?
  • Metal Gear cameos in the trailer. It appears that a whole host of the old Metal Gear cast members have been brought back to terrifying life for another go. Volgin, Psycho Mantis, maybe even Raiden or Meryl….It’s hard to tell in the brief glimpses we get of them in the trailer, but they could all be there. Also, notice at the start of the video, the white feathers falling towards the unnamed patient? That has to be a nod to The Boss’ death in the meadow at the end of MGS3. Either that, or the hospital is going to dramatically fail their next hygiene inspection. The question remains to be seen, however, whether any of the characters seen in the video exist in real-life or are just hallucinations. In a Kojima game, both are equally plausible.
  • Links to Konami. A tweeter by the name of Alex Rubens reported that he saw people wearing Moby Dick Studios / Phantom Pain T-shirts in the Konami VIP area at the VGA’s. Hmmm.
  • Most conclusive fact of all – The Phantom Pain logo hides the words Metal Gear Solid V.  Eagle-eyed fans over at Neogaf showed how the title logo concealed a hidden message, as shown here:

The Phantom Pain original logo

Metal Gear Solid V negative space

Pretty much indisputable evidence here


Ah, I see. So now we know it’s a Metal Gear game, what else can we decipher?

If anything, there are more questions than ever. I suppose the biggest one on everyone’s lips is, which generation of consoles will it be released on?

That question is not as easy to answer as one would hope. Judging purely by the quality of the visuals, and the timescale we’re working on, you would be tempted to plump for a next-gen release. I did a bit of snooping on the Moby Dick website source code, and found references in the HTML of the website to the in-game stills as ‘nextgen images’.However, the next-gen theory is contradicted by a number of factors. The biggest one is that Kojima has categorically stated that MGS: Ground Zeroes is definitely a current-gen game. This would then mean Phantom Pain / Metal Gear Solid V is a totally separate product (some commenters have mooted that the pair could be just one game, with one serving as a prologue similar to the tanker episode in Sons Of Liberty). This is fine, until you consider that it means Kojima is currently developing three entirely separate Metal Gear games at once, if you include Rising. Even by his standards, that’s nuts. Financially, at least, it’s hard to see how it would be viable.

Personally, my gut feeling is that calling Ground Zeroes current-gen is a bit of a ruse. I think when the new consoles get officially announced Kojima Productions will change their tune, and it will be revealed that both products are aimed at the next-gen market. The graphics are just a wee bit too good for current hardware, in my opinion. It still doesn’t answer the question of whether they are one or two games, though.

The next biggest question, and probably the hardest one to answer is, who is the main character in the trailer?

 There are three main theories floating around the web. The general consensus is that he’s either Big Boss, Frank Jaeger (AKA Gray Fox AKA the Ninja), or an entirely new character to the series. At this stage, it’s almost impossible to answer. I mean, a lot of clues point to it being Big Boss, but given previous games in the franchise, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kojima-san pulled the old switcheroo on us again (let’s just hope whoever it turns out to be isn’t as much of a disappointment as that little wet rag, Raiden!). What’s indisputable is that the developers have a lot of room to manoeuvre here. There is much of Big Boss’ past that has yet to be explored, and even re-telling some of the story from his perspective is an option. Perhaps we’ll get the chance to fight a young Snake? And there are legions of fans that would love to see more of ol’ Frank Jaeger and Liquid Snake. One suspects Kojima may not be done with them yet…

Protagonist looking like Big Boss

I’d recognise that mullet anywhere


What on Earth’s going on in the video? Is it a dream? Is it real? Seriously, what the hell is up with that whale?!

Again, this is hard to answer. It wouldn’t be stupid to assume that not all the events in the video are factual. It has been established that Big Boss is an extremely damaged character, and the events could just be the tortured coma dreams of a guilty soldier. But, on the other hand, Kojima’s fictional world is a crazy place, with more than it’s fair share of supernatural characters, so there’s a chance it could all be happening for real. As for the whale….who even knows? It could be the next in a long line of anthropomorphic Metal gears – after all, we had the dinosaur like Metal gear REX, and the aquatic Metal Gear RAY. Or perhaps it’s an allusion to the Moby Dick theme…a tale about an amputee, blind obsession, and fate. Sound familiar?

Here’s my no doubt absolutely miles off-the-mark personal prediction:

I think what we are looking at here is the first glimpse of the next full installment of the series. I believe it will be a next-gen game, and that  it will be a part of a single entity comprised of what we’ve seen in this trailer, and  Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes footage we’ve seen so far. I don’t know how that would work, specifically, but it’s just the feeling I get. Personally, I think the character in the video is Big Boss, missing hand and all. I think the story is going to focus on the aftermath of MGS3 and the death of The Boss, and explore Big Boss’ descent into tyranny. Judging by the darker tone, I think it’s going to explore the trauma of war, and the guilt experienced by it’s combatants – personified by Big Boss himself. I think the whole Moby Dick / whale thing is an homage by Kojima to Melvilles story. After all, could we not see parallels in the story of Big Boss’ doomed obsession with molding the world the Boss wanted, with the tale of Captain Ahab and the whale that brings his downfall?

In the end, only time will tell. When we finally get our hands on it, remember to come back here and mock me for my terribly inaccurate predictions! Also, give us your theories in the comments below. 

About The Author

Writer, musician, programmer and gamer.... .....Of course, he's not actually any good at any of those things. Based in the English countryside, Dan spends the majority of his time reading horror novels and refining his already frankly bullet-proof zombie apocalypse survival plan. Follow him on Twitter @TheGamePunk

3 Responses

  1. DrawingOfThree

    It could be the same game and ground zeroes maybe the man with burnt face was once a friend but now an enemy and it flashes back to when he saved you. But i dont think it could be the same game, the feel of it just seems to different i mean the trailer looks dark and grimy but with the fact that GZ is meant to be “Open World” it just doesent seem possible, especially when players can choose what song the helicopter plays when landing for extraction, that just seems too jolly.

    • DanielChamberlain

      There’s just so many possibilities, and with Kojima, it’s almost impossible to speculate. I think it has to be the same game as GZ just because I find it difficult to believe that there could be 3 MGS games in development at once. And two Big Boss games being released back-to-back? It just seems far-fetched. I wonder if the hospital sequence serves as a prologue, a kind of tutorial section on the sneaking mechanics etc. Hideo sure does love his prologues! And I’m inclined to think the bandage guy has nothing to do with burnt face man…it just stinks of misdirection. I’m wondering if he’s an important character at all, or a Johnny Sasaki like bit of comic relief, what with his naked butt being on show and all. Hahaha.

      • DanielChamberlain

        (Saying that, a lotta folks think he could be Gray Fox, because it’s known that at some point they become close comrades. That would be super cool if that’s right)

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