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The Phantom Pain speculation round-up: Metal Gear?!

Jordan Mallory

The biggest surprise to come from last night's Spike TV Video Game Awards was undoubtedly the announcement of The Phantom Pain, a seemingly new IP from a completely unknown Swedish development house called Moby Dick Studio. The debut trailer showed a hospital under attack from an ominously obscured figure, and ended on a macro shot of an amputee that bore a striking resemblance to Solid Snake of Metal Gear Solid fame.

Wait, Solid Snake? Metal Gear?! But, how could that be possible in a new franchise from a new developer that isn't Konami or Kojima Productions? Hey actually, now that we think about it, why is a brand-new studio getting to premiere a teaser for its first-ever game at an event generally reserved for AAA titles from global publishers?

Perhaps there's more to this than meets the eye. Let's take an in-depth, spoiler filled look at what evidence there is so far, and why all signs point to this being a new entry in the Metal Gear mythos.

Moby Dick Studio and "Joakim Mogren"

The biggest red flag that The Phantom Pain may not be what it seems, apart from the trailer's Solid Snake/Big Boss look-a-like, is the fact that its supposedly being developed by a Swedish studio that didn't even have a website until November 19 of this year, according to international whois listings.

A visit to Moby Dick Studio's official website exposes tremendously little information about the developer, offering nothing more than a welcome page, placeholder image and video galleries, a contact e-mail address and a predictably non-specific About Us page. There's not even anything worth mentioning in the site's source code, and believe us, we looked. Pretty much the only morsel of information acquired from our investigation was the name of the company's CEO: Joakim Mogren.

As many on Twitter and elsewhere were quick to discover, "Joakim" is an anagram for "Kojima," as in Metal Gear mogul Hideo Kojima. Likewise, the middle four letters of "Mogren" spell "ogre," which could be a reference to Kojima's mysterious Project Ogre. "Joakim Mogren" is also an anagram for "Remaking Mojo" and "Moon Jig Maker," but that's likely unrelated.

Deepening the connection between Moby Dick Studio and Hideo Kojima is this picture, which appears to show veteran motion picture title sequence designer Kyle Cooper (right) wearing a Moby Dick Studio/The Phantom Pain t-shirt. Cooper's previous work includes Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

Distinguishing marks and scars

There are also several visual similarities between elements of The Phantom Pain's trailer and characters/events from the history of Metal Gear. First off, a scar on the amputee patient's cheek matches the location of a scar on Big Boss' cheek, as seen in promotional artwork for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and discovered by users on NeoGAF. Additionally, the trailer's mysterious, flame-shrouded figure appears to be wearing a suit similar to one worn by Naked Snake/Big Boss-era baddie Volgin, who wore a special suit to insulate his own electric powers.

A more abstract/symbolic connection between The Phantom Pain and Metal Gear is the appearance of white petals in the new trailer. This may be a reference to Big Boss' climactic battle with The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3, during which white petals trailed The Boss' movements and generally permeated the scene.

The general appearance of the trailer's protagonist, despite his hospital garb and prosthetic limb, is quite "Snake" in nature when considered in the context of the costume design elements that unify the series. While hairstyles and beard/mustache configurations have changed over the years, all Snakes (be them Solid or Naked) have consistently worn a headband and some form of harness/strap system across their chests. While typically military in purpose, both of those elements exist here in the form of a head bandage and the artificial limb's support rigging.

The most literal evidence of all, however, is perhaps the most conclusive: The stylized font used in The Phantom Pain's logo perfectly cradles the phrase "Metal Gear Solid V." Well then.

La-li-lu-le-loaded questions

All the evidence above is fairly damning, as far as The Phantom Pain's secret identity as a Metal Gear title is concerned, so let's assume for a moment that's the case. As with any Metal Gear reveal, more questions are raised by this new addition to the lore than are answered by its existence.

For instance, Big Boss losing his left arm is not part of any previously established Metal Gear history and would be a new development, echoing the amputation of Liquid Snake's right arm after his death at Shadow Moses. If this is the case, it would serve as yet another instance in which the clones produced by Les Enfants Terribles serendipitously acquired physical traits mirroring that of Big Boss', another example being Solid Snake's use of the Solid Eye in Metal Gear Solid 4.

Where The Phantom Pain falls within the chronology of Metal Gear as a whole is also difficult to extrapolate from the information currently available. We feel it's safe to assume that the game takes place after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3, but where it falls in relation to the rest of Big Boss' history is less immediately apparent.

The scar mentioned above could be indicative of the game's position in Metal Gear's canon, but the other injuries sustained by the man in the trailer make it difficult to ascertain whether said injuries are the cause of the scar.

We've previously determined that Ground Zeroes takes place in (or immediately after) 1974, after the events of Peace Walker but before the incident at Outer Heaven. Should the scar in the trailer be a fresh injury, this game would therefore take place before Peace Walker, making it possible that The Phantom Pain occurs in 1972, when Zero obtained Big Boss' DNA and initiated the Les Enfants Terribles project. This amputation could just be how Zero came into possession of Big Boss' genes, but that all hinges on the freshness of that cheek injury.

Of course, none of this is confirmed or verified either way until more information is revealed about the project, but we'd be very surprised if this all ended up being one giant coincidence. For now, all any one of us can do is dream, and hope that mysterious shadow governments don't clone us while we're in a coma.

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