With the reveal that Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes together will comprise Metal Gear Solid 5, excitement is all over the place. I know I was excited when I saw the reveal trailer. But after watching the trailer and reading Kojima’s tweets about the game, things didn’t sound right about where MGSV would fit in the series continuity.
We all know how out there Kojima’s storytelling can get; the trailer did have a flying flaming whale after all. Regardless of that, the events in the MGSV trailer and the additional information given by Kojima on twitter do not line up with the establish lore of the series.
Since I will be discussing major plot points and key events from the games and the series canon here is your SPOILER ALERT. These points and events will spoiler the story for those who haven’t played the games yet. If you don’t want the story and the canon of the series to be spoiled for you then do not continue.
In the beginning of the trailer, we see an injured Kaz Miller and Big Boss being rushed to an operating room. Kaz looks to be badly hurt but fine, while it’s not looking too good for Big Boss. He stops breathing and the medical staff rushes to get his heartbeat started again using a defibrillator and CPR. It works but due to his heart stopping for a few minutes has put him into a coma.
We then are flashed back to a previous scene that alludes to how he got into the coma in the first place: A battle between the Militaires Sans Frontières and a military force who we only know as XOF so far. The XOF was featured in the Ground Zeroes trailer last year that shows they had captured Chico and recovered the body of Paz. It is also here where Big Boss infiltrates.
Kojima has stated on twitter that these sections of the game are from Ground Zeroes and take place before Big Boss wakes up from his coma and transitions to the Phantom Pain section of the game. It is here where the main discrepancies between the trailer and the establish canon of the series are made.
Before the reveal of Metal Gear Solid V, series timeline was complete and established. Now according to the official Metal Gear Solid Database (which can be downloaded from the PSN store), information from Metal Gear Solid 3, Portable Ops, Peace Walker and the Metal Gear Wiki the following years are confirmed to be canon within the story timeline:
- August 24th, 1964: MGS3 Snake Eater - Big Boss takes part in Virtuous Mission, mission ends up as a failure as his mentor The Boss defects to the Soviet Union
- August 30th, 1964: MGS3 Snake Eater - Big Boss takes part in Operation Snake Eater, mission is a success as Big Boss kills The Boss, Volgin, and Cobra Unit. Leaves FOX.
- 1966: Several events occur - Big Boss encounters a young Frank Jaeger in the Mozambican War of Independence as a child soldier. He saves Jager and places him in a care facility. Jager is then later taken away to be experimented on. In that same year FOX operative codenamed Viper kidnaps a woman with ESP and has split personality disorder
- 1970: MGS Portal Ops - start of the San Hieronymo Takeover
- November 2nd, 1970: MGSPO - Big Boss is captured by the now rouge FOX unit. Encounters Roy Campbell for the first time. They both escape and learn that leader of the rogue FOX is Gene aka Viper. Gene plans to use attach a nuclear warhead on to the stolen quadrupedal prototype Metal Gear RAXA. For the rest of the year, Big Boss and Campbell recruit disgruntled soldiers and noncombatants to help bring down Gene. Big Boss succeeds in defeating RAXA and Gene. Before Gene dies, he hands Big Boss the funds he amassed to create Army’s Heaven. At the end of the year, Big Boss disbands FOX
- 1971: Pre-Peace Walker- Big Boss forms FOXHOUND
1972: Pre-Peace Walker - Several events occur. During a mission in Vietnam Big Boss is wounded and rendered into a coma. Les Enfants Terribles project starts and nine months later produces the three Snakes: Solid, Liquid and Solidus. He learns of this and leaves the US and FOXHOUND and becomes a mercenary. He uses funds from Gene to form Militaires Sans Frontières, Military Without Borders. During a mission in Colombia as MSF, Big Boss encounters Kazuhria Miller unit and wipes them out leaving Miller left. He threatens to kill him and Big Boss with a grenade. Impressed with his fighting spirit, Big Boss spares Miller and convinces him to join MSF as his second in command.
- November 4th to November 23th, 1974: Peace Walker - On November 4th 1974, MSF is hired by Paz Ortega and Ramón Gálvez Mena to help remove the invasion force occupying Costa Rica. As an incentive, MSF receives an offshore research plant to which they form Mother Base out of it. The invasion force is revealed to be Peace Sentinels under the command of the CIA Station Chief of Central America Hot Coldman. The MSF battle several prototype AI weapons over the next few weeks. During the first AI battle, engineer Huey Emmerich is recruited to MSF. It is later discovered that Hot Coldman has stolen Metal Gear Zeke, a bipedal prototype able to launch warheads from any terrain. He plans to launch a nuke from ZEKE to show the CIA the power that having an all-terrain attack platform can be useful. Ramón Gálvez Mena is revealed to be KGB operative Vladimir Zadornov and changes the attack from Mother Base to Cuba with hopes that region would oppose US occupation and shift their allegiance to the Soviets and kills Coldman. MSF with the help of the Sandinistas capture Zadornov and take ZEKE for themselves.
- November 24th, 1974: Peace Walker - Peace Walker is reactivated by Paz who is revealed to be working for Cypher aka Maj. Zero. She tells Big Boss to come back to Cypher, but he refuses. She then plans to launch the nuke that’s on ZEKE toward the US and frame MSF for the attack. Big Boss prevents and destroys ZEKE, which causes Paz to be ejected from the cockpit and into the ocean.
- 1977: Post Peace Walker - Big Boss rescues Frank Jaeger from a FRELIMO prison camp during the Mozambican Civil War.
- 1980: Post Peace Walker, pre-Metal Gear - Big Boss once again meets Frank Jaeger, this time he has adopted a girl whose parents he killed as his sister during the Rhodesian Civil War. She goes by the name Naomi Hunter. Big Boss takes the two to America to live in peace.
- 1989: Pre-Metal Gear - Big Boss secretly retakes command of FOXHOUND. Starts to lay down the foundations of Outer Heaven in South Africa.
- 1990: Pre-Metal Gear - Jager joins FOXHOUND. Receives the title FOX, the highest title in the unit.
- 1995: Metal Gear - Western powers discover that the military nation of Outer Heaven is building a weapon of mass destruction deep in South Africa. Big Boss orders FOXHOUND operative Grey Fox to infiltrate the compound. He is captured. Few days later rookie FOXHOUND operative Solid Snake is sent in to rescue Grey Fox and find out what is going on. Snake discovers that the weapon is Metal Gear TX-55, a bipedal tank that can launch a nuclear warhead from any terrain. He recuses Fox and many other prisoners who are fighting against the leader of Outer Heaven. Snake fights several of Outer Heaven’s mercenaries. After gathering intel about Outer Heaven and the location of the Metal Gear, Snake makes his way to Metal Gear’s hanger. Snake proceeds to plant bombs at the feet of MG and blows it up. This causes Outer Heaven’s self-destruct sequence to activate. While trying to escape, Snake is confronted by Big Boss himself. The two fight and Snake “defeats” Big Boss as he escapes with Outer Heaven exploding behind him. Afterwards, NATO sent in an air raid that completely destroys Outer Heaven and causes massive collateral damage that was deemed acceptable by the organization. Big Boss survives the fight with Snake and starts to evacuate all the refugees and war orphans that were in the area around Outer Heaven.
- December 24th, 1999: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake - Zanzibar Land Disturbance starts. Zanzibar Land military obtains nuclear weapons and plans to hold the world hostage by kidnaping Dr. Kio Marv a Czech scientist. Solid Snake is brought out of retirement and is sent into Zanzibar Land to stop the disturbance. He discovers that Big Boss is behind the disturbance once again and has developed another Metal Gear, Metal Gear D. But this time, longtime friend and fellow FOXHOUND operative Grey Fox has sided with Big Boss. Snake proceeds to defeat Grey Fox after destroying Metal Gear D. Then for the “final” time fights and defeats Big Boss.
If we are too believe the first few minutes of the trailer then the year should be 1972. The reason being is that according to the timeline above, Big Boss is injured after a mission in Vietnam and slips into a coma. This is important because once he is in a coma, a genetic sample is taken from him and the project Les Enfants Terribles is underway. Fans of the franchise will recognize this event as the births of the three Snakes: Solid, Liquid and Solidus. And if we are to believe that Big Boss woke up from his coma nine years later, it would be the year 1981.
This is proved wrong due to the fact that Big Boss is clearly active in 1974, the year that Peace Walker takes place in. In addition to that, it wasn’t until later in 1972 that Big Boss meets Kazuhria Miller and asks him to join MSF. This means that the whole sequence before Big Boss slips into a coma takes place ten days after Peace Walker.
This can be proven by looking at the following evidence: In the Ground Zeroes trailer, Kaz informs Big Boss that a Belizean fisherman picked up Paz’s body ten days ago adrift in the Caribbean, to which Big Boss replies in a surprised tone, “She survived?”
On November 24th, 1974, during Peace Walker, Paz was piloting Metal Gear Zeke and was attempting to frame MSF for firing a nuke towards the US from Mother Base. Big Boss stopped her by destroying Zeke, which ejected Paz body into the ocean. With Mother Base located in the Caribbean as well as being surrounded by several other countries and islands whose main way of living is fishing, it isn’t farfetched for Paz to have been picked up after ten days.
We can deduce that GZ takes place ten days after the events of PW, give or take a few days. If we hold this to be true, then the next logical place to place the coma shown in the MGSV trailer would be in 1974. That would place the Phantom Pain section taking place around 1983. It does sound plausible, but due to the fact that it overlaps canonical events from the series it conflicts with the already established canon.
One of these events is meeting Frank Jaeger, aka Grey Fox, during the Mozambican Civil War in 1977 and then again during the Rhodesian Civil War in 1980. This is also the time that he met Jager’s adopted sister Naomi Hunter as well. Then in 1989 Big Boss quietly retakes command of Foxhound while building up Outer Heaven. These two events can contradict the possible setting of the Phantom Pain section if it was decided to place the nine year coma somewhere in the late 70’s to the early 80’s. Also note that during these time periods, Solid is in the Green Berets, Liquid the SAS and Solidus is fighting in the First Liberian Civil War, commanding the Small Boy child soldier unit. I bring this up to debunk any attempt of trying to link Phantom Pain to one of the other Snakes.
The only years that would be left to place the nine year coma would be some time in 90’s. There are many problems with that however. By the time we reach the 90’s, the world is aware of a major military buildup in South Africa and its followers calling their new nation Outer Heaven. By this time, Big Boss is already planning to leave Foxhound to re-create The Boss’ dream of a nation for soldiers built by soldiers. In 1995 a Foxhound operative by the codename Grey Fox infiltrates Outer Heaven to stop the uprising but is captured. A few days later rookie Foxhound operative Solid Snake is sent in to finish the job. Another uprising happens again in 1999 and once again Snake stops and “kills” his former mentor and his comrade Grey Fox . This leaves out the rest of the 90’s and the 00’s out of the question for the nine year coma to take place.
When you look at all of the canon evidence given and put it up against this comment made by Kojima on twitter:
"Ground Zeroes" is a prologue of "MGSV". 9 years after that event will be "The Phantom Pain". MGSV is constructed w/ prologue and main game "TPP"
There is no way this could make canonical sense. Making the Phantom Pain take place nine years after Ground Zeroes makes no sense whatsoever. We can prove that GZ takes place ten days after Peace Walker through dialogue found in GZ’s first trailer and through information found in Peace Walker. And even if Big Boss’ coma happens in 1974 and he wakes up to the events of Phantom Pain in 1983, it still wouldn’t make sense due to the fact that he meets Jager in 1977 and again with Naomi in 1980. Placing the nine year coma anywhere else would contradict the already established and official canon that Kojima has laid down in the Metal Gear series. The trailer even seems to contradict itself as well. Take a look at the new unit image that was shown off at the end of the trailer:
Most of the world’s diamonds are found in central and southern Africa. Now during the Metal Gear timeline, several civil wars and ethnic cleansings were taking place in the southern regions of Africa that include the Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Rhodesia, Malaw, Swaziland, Botswana and Angola. Since the government would control any primary sources, the next best and often most accepted payment was by diamonds. And mercenaries are considered dogs of war. Put the two and you get the new unit Big Boss forms. But Big Boss doesn’t get involved with the Mozambican Civil War until 1977 where he meets Frank Jaeger and then again in 1980. This shows that the Phantom Pain cannot fit anywhere in the canon timeline without overlapping important established events.
There are only three ways out of this that I can think of. One is to shorten the coma time to match the established canon. The second way out is to completely rewrite the story to match the canon. Third and what I think would not only be a cop out but also could damage the legacy of the series is retcon the whole timeline to fit the story. This isn’t like complaining about a lame ending, depending on how Kojima goes with this story, Metal Gear Solid V could completely change 25 years’ worth of establish canon with one single game.