Standing on Missing Legs – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Theme Analysis

MGSV-E3-2015-Trailer-Kaz-Sleeve

“All that matters, is that’s the concept that’s taken shape in their heads.”

INTRODUCTION – how we understand the world through language

Language is a lot more important than we often realize. It’s not simply a tool for communication, it is so much more. We understand the world through language, we think in language. And our thinking makes us who we are. This is why language is so closely tied to identity. For example, Skull Face’s identity was ‘stolen from him’ because his language was stolen from him. “With each new post my masters changed, along with the words they made me speak. With each change, I changed too.” We cannot observe and interpret the world in the same way if we change our language. Language is probably the most important part of what makes us humans different from other species. Take the concepts of history and future, for example. We have these because we have language. And now, it’s impossible not to think in these concepts, we live our lives around them. They are as real to us as anything.

The Phantom Pain’s story revolves around the relation between (physical) objects and (abstract) concepts, between signified and signifier – and how language plays a central role.

 

NAMES ARE PERCEPTION

In the same way as language is more than just a tool for communication, a name is more than simply a way to refer to someone. It’s part of someone’s identity, and by giving someone a specific name you can steer the interpretations tied to it – shape the concept. Define it. In the game this idea is reflected in several of the characters as they (or others) talk about their names.

MGSV-Shalashaska

Around the time The Phantom Pain takes place, the Mujahadeen started calling Ocelot ‘Shalashaska’. This name is the result of how they see Ocelot – their concept of Ocelot; a combination of several concepts that in their mind, make up this man. The moniker is more than a tool for reference, it encompasses their way of seeing, and the reason the name came to be in the first place has everything to do with their concept of this man – and of course, the specifics of their language. But as soon as this word existed, the concept – the idea of this man called Shalashaska – existed as well.

Metal-Gear-Solid-V-The-Phantom-Pain-Eli-Name

To Eli, his Kikongo name is who he is, how he sees himself and how he wants others to perceive him. Eli is the clone of another man, the inferior carbon copy, but Nyoka ya Mpembe (White Mamba) is his own person, the leader of a group of child soldiers. “Word of the infamous White Mamba spread fast.” To Eli, calling him by his ‘real’ name is denying him this identity, the one he chose for himself. After arriving on Mother Base, the children are instructed to abandon their ‘noms de guerres’, it’s the first step in removing their ‘child soldier’ identities. But Eli does not comply, if he gives up his name, he’ll lose control. He sees losing his name as a great threat. He is aware of the effect of words, aware of the power of language.

Metal-Gear-Solid-V-The-Phantom-Pain-E3-2015-Screen-Code-Talker

As a child, Code Talker – like many Native Americans – was brought to a Native American Boarding School to be ‘educated’. In an attempt to dissolve his culture, he was forbidden to speak Navajo. “To erase our words was like erasing our people.” But he was also given a new name, George. It was an attempt to turn him into someone else, no longer a Diné boy. The name Code Talker was given by him to Skull Face, and he deliberately keeps using this name. “The name Code Talker is a lesson carved into my being.”

Quiet is another example, but more on that later.

MGSV-Big-Boss-is-watching-you

As for Big Boss, the name itself holds the power of the concept it conveys. Shalashaska explains at the beginning of the game: “Once word of Big Boss’ return starts traveling, that will be our true deterrent against Cipher.” But the concept of Big Boss has another effect, on Diamond Dogs’ soldiers. “Regardless of where they came from or why they’re here, they revere you.” It’s a name with the power to unite and to lead people, because of the concept it represents. Simply put, ‘Big Boss’ is a specific word representing a specific concept. Throughout the game, the protagonist is Big Boss. He’s Big Boss in the mind of those who surround him – and in his own mind. Or, as Ocelot put it: “That’s our reality here, whether it’s real or not. […] All that matters, is that’s the concept that’s taken shape in their heads.” It was up to Venom Snake to live up to the legend, the concept that now existed in people’s heads, and he eventually did. Physically, he wasn’t Big Boss, but conceptually, he was.

The idea of how a word can create an image in our heads, a concept, is something that is not just true for names, but for language as a whole. Simply put, concepts are linguistic constructs.

 

HOW CONCEPTS EXIST THROUGH LANGUAGE 

“It is said that over 2000 languages of the world are facing extinction. This very moment, cultural concepts and forms of expression are disappearing forever.”

And so we have arrived at the most important theme of the game, the one that is central to the story: the importance of language for our understanding of the world, and for the existence of each and every concept.

MGSV-E3-2015-Trailer-Code-Talker

“Man thinks in words. Or rather, words are man’s very means of thinking. If you erase a word representing some concept, the concept itself disappears from the world. ‘Nizhóni’ means ‘beautiful’ in Navajo. But the image that comes to mind when we say ‘nizhóni’ differs from the bla’ghaana’s ‘beautiful’. An azure sky. A rolling landscape. Lush greenery. The meaning we place in nizhóni has its roots in Diné culture. If we lose the word nizhóni, the images of our beautiful homeland would be washed away in oblivion along with it.”

Each word represents a concept, and each concept can exist because of the word that refers to it. That’s how it can exist in our minds. In other words, language and concepts are inextricably connected: these concepts exist and can be understood because they exist in language, and once that language is gone, not only the words but the entire concept itself ceases to exist.

 

PHANTOM PAIN

“Anyone can give up his fight by laying down arms. But the feeling of holding a gun – that, we’ll never forget. Like our lost limbs, the sensation lingers.”

Metal-Gear-Solid-V-The-Phantom-Pain-Kaz-Chapter-1-Ending

What does it mean to miss something? It’s the feeling that occurs when the thing a concept refers to ceases to exist – but the concept is still there in your head. A feeling of loss, a phantom pain remains. Sometimes, when people lose a limb, they can still feel it, because in their head it’s still there. In The Phantom Pain, the sensation of something that has been lost still being there in your mind (and the feeling of loss that occurs as a result) plays an important role in the story. “The body I’ve lost. The comrades I’ve lost – it’s like they’re all still there.” Kaz says. The empty sleeve from his jacket sliding through his hand is a visual metaphor. The things that are no longer there, that are now missing, have come to define him. And at the end of chapter 1, Skull Face himself becomes their phantom, the object of their revenge even after he’s gone. Because the concept, the idea, still remains, and that’s as strong a force as any. “We hold our rifles in missing hands. We stand tall on missing legs.” It are those things they’ve lost that will now become their focus – the lingering concept of that what’s gone, fortified as an idea in their collective minds. “The secret weapon we wield, out of sight.”

Like Kaz’ empty sleeve, Quiet as a character is also defined by (and even named after) that which isn’t there – in this case: her words. Meanwhile, she can also be seen as an opposite to this idea of ‘phantom pain’ – she is an entity without a concept. Her silence make her hard to read, elusive, and the other characters constantly argue over her motives, trying to fill in the blanks she refuses to fill herself. Until she uses words to rescue Snake, before choosing silence again. And along with her silence, Quiet disappears – dissolves in a cloud of sand. “I am the absence of words.”

Metal-Gear-Solid-V-The-Phantom-Pain-Quiet-Disappears

CONCLUSION – The Power of Language

Objects exist in the physical world. But concepts exist in the mind. And just as we’re only able to perceive objects because of light, we can only imagine concepts because of language.

Each specific word in each specific language brings a specific image to the mind. That’s the power of language – the power to shape something inside our head. Once some concept has taken shape in our heads, it can become a powerful driving force. “Words can kill.” Language is a way to share ideas, to form concepts and shape images in other people’s minds, a way for us to think and to understand. A way for us to be.

“Words are alive. When they are spoken, life is breathed into them. They become a part of the listener.” – Code Talker

  • Full Options

    Very nice article. Thanks !

  • OcelotSilver

    Thanks for writing this great article.

  • grapes9h5

    Great work!!

  • proceeder

    I really have a problem with this idea that we think in words language. I know 3 languages (if you count English) and have learned them throughout the years. My thought process has changed, yes. But, I owe it more to my experiences with mathematical practice rather than language.
    Whether existence precedes consciousness or not, language does not precede consciousness. Awareness is more fundamental than being able to communicate which I think language makes you.

    • We can only have abstract ideas because we have language. Of course, we also have our own personality, which is shaped by many things including culture, but we can create thoughts in our head through language.

      • proceeder

        I have a problem with “only”. But anyway, if we admit that there exist “some” cases that are to the contrary, the point is disproved with a counterexample.

    • Full Options

      Decompose information in two parts. Semantic and support. Maths is the semantic but can only be expressed with a support to be transmitted. Digits, words… Without the support, the semantic can not exist. A bit like wondering if an egg actually needs a shell.

      • proceeder

        Oh but it can. You see from a Platonic point of view we all have the knowledge of mathematics we only recollect them in, let’s say a math class.
        Anyway, that is beside the point it was just an example. I simply meant you can think way before you learn a language.

        • No Place For Hayter

          Can you really think before you learn a language? The best we have are feelings upon which we react, and experiences upon which we build expectations and knowledge from, but the claim we can think before we know language simply can’t be backed and is in fact against what can be assumed and thought of.

          • proceeder

            There are other ways to communicate other than speaking or writing or painting. For instance, kids cry when they are sad.
            The fact that any one who has ever learned a second language has to go through rigorous pedagogical thought and learning process, I think, is proof enough that we can think without knowing a language.
            You point to an object and call it a “Chair”. It is actually advised by language teachers not to translate words and expressions.

          • No Place For Hayter

            There is a difference between thinking and feeling, a kid cries because they feel sad, not because they can understand and express they are sad, they naturally feel an emotion and as a natural response they cry. This isn’t about communication it is about thinking, and without a form of creating and organizing thoughts you cannot think you can only feel and learn to adapt from experience, you can learn and feel, but you cannot think, thought requires a form, and without that form there is no thought, one cannot think emotions or experience, I’m talking pure thought here lets not keep derailing into other territories such as emotion and experience when it has nothing to do with the statement ‘Without a form to express, create, and organize thoughts, one cannot think”. Though please keep in mind that this is all philosophical talk we don’t know this for a fact we cannot ask someone if they think unless they have a form to communicate with us and if they had a form to communicate with us it already means they can develop thought, with this conundrum what we are discussing cannot reach a conclusion and is merely philosophical talk.

          • proceeder

            But there’s where my argument lies. language is a human creation. It mu st have come to existence as a product of thought process. it seems to be a prerequisite.
            When you hear a child cry as his/her only means of communicating and then throughout the years develop the skill to communicate through language, you see the same phenomenon happen in a faster rate because the guidelines have already been established.

          • No Place For Hayter

            Yeah, it needs to be learned and developed, I agree with you. I think I’m derailing us a bit though by getting to far into it lol. We can’t have thought without a form to create the thoughts, and as such we all naturally develop means of creating thoughts and expressing oneself, my main point is the co-existence of thought and language, thought cannot form itself without a language in order to express and organize itself, but thought is naturally apart of who we are and who we become and as such we will always naturally develop a form to communicate with at least ourselves and as such we will always create a vehicle for our thought regardless of outside input, but my main point about that is that our thoughts still need a vehicle, without developing a form of communication we would not have thought, yes thought and communication are natural things and develop by themselves solely for the purpose of expressing ourselves and expressing our consciousness, but due to the co-existing nature one cannot be without the other, we cannot have language without thought, and we cannot have thought without language, hence “I think therefore I am” the natural development of these two things is a product of our consciousness. So I think we agree, we are just misunderstanding each other somewhere >.< or simply disagree on one small point in this whole picture.

          • proceeder

            I agree that we agree:D. But, I still think our view points diverge when it comes to the act of contemplation and expression. Note that if a being contemplates but is incapable of expression, we would have no evidence of its capability unless each of us is studying itself.
            And, that is where my argument lies. It is rather subjective in that I can claim to have evaluated myself and you, I assume, are able to do the same. But, the moment we would try to convey these findings, we would have to express ourselves and hence language comes into play. The two are really intertwined and thought relies heavily on its coexistence with communication for development. That does not mean that existence of consciousness is completely dependent on forms of expression, not necessarily.

          • No Place For Hayter

            Yeah, agreed 🙂 it is kind of a concept which cannot be proven or unproven as the only way it ever happens or not happens is in a mind which cannot tell us, and we cannot observe thought. My thoughts are that forms of expression are a product of consciousness but yeah it isn’t dependent upon them. Lol, now I’m all interested in proto-thought, if only we could study and observe the development of thought in an individual, the development of thought itself, a very interesting concept.

            Well that was interesting, lol, thanks, discussions like these are highly interesting for me, and it is nice to talk about it with someone whom also is interested enough about it to talk into such detail ( ‘ ‘ )7

          • proceeder

            thx, I enjoyed it too.

        • Full Options

          Thanks for your answer. The coolest thing I discovered in maths was its imaginary nature. Even the machine needs support. Of course we all feel the message, but how are you going to teach your feelings about it to your kids ? You may think or feel without the language but can not express anything without.

    • Alex

      This is why growing up bilingual was so confusing for me, and I was forced to pick a “bedrock” language. Everyday I go to school where everyone prioritizes English, than come home where everyone prioritizes Spanish. When one is first growing up, they have to pick one, and the other becomes secondary. After one knows a language, then he can learn another, and another, etc.

      Since passing school became so important, I picked English as my primary, and the family life suffered for it in the beginning years. Boy I’m glad I picked English, as this America runs so heavily on it! Though don’t tell that to my parents, they remain steadfast in their view of Spanish prominence. Sure we are easily the most prominent immigrant/language, but far from English’s league in terms of societal structure and work flow. If all I knew was Spanish, I’d be pretty screwed. If all I knew was English, I be fine. And of course knowing a second language or more is always a bonus. I’ve always wanted to learn Japanese but I can’t even begin to imagine how they “think” and see things based on how drastically different their language is English/Spanish of which use the alphabet and they use something more akin to pictures or drawings.

      • Alex

        I’ve also seen my brother and others who really tried to learn two languages at once, growing up, suffer because of it. The brain can only hold so much when that young, and while they know two languages, they become pretty stupid as a trade off lol. The intellect suffers, until they grow older and smarter.

    • No Place For Hayter

      Read 1984, that book explores it best.

      Put simply if a concept does not exist in language it cannot exist in thought, if the concept does not exist in language it is unthinkable, we think in language and thus our language controls our thoughts. We are not talking about consciousness or anything like that, we are talking about language and thought. For example if the word “Home” did not exist, the concept of a home and the thoughts associated with it would be gone, for example one would not call it “home” they would refer to it by the address and thus would remove any emotional connection with the place, and one wouldn’t be able to easily construct thoughts like “I miss home” as “home” does not exist, they could only say “I miss 203 address road”, the history and family and emotional connections and meanings that the word “home” carries with it wouldn’t exist and as such would could not think about “home” as “home”, without the word the thoughts don’t exist. But seriously read 1984 if you haven’t already, it says it better than I, a really hard hitting book of some seriously hard truths most people don’t want to accept.. Also “I really have a problem with this idea that we think in words language” it is an undeniable fact that we think in language, without language we would only be able to feel and instinctively react upon said feelings.

  • Zven

    amazing article, great work

  • Finally. I wanted something like this for MGSV for a long time. I hope we will ge more articles like ths in the future. MGSV deserves that.
    I really liked the fact that the story in MGSV was driven by it’s themes.

    • PsychoMantis18

      What, like all the MGS’s?

    • No Place For Hayter

      Every MGS is driven by its themes, to an EXTREME extent, TPP is actually one of the worst is conveying and working its themes. we can talk about these themes all day and make the game seem smart and well put together, but this is purely what we are building, the game itself does very little for theme promotion. “I really liked the fact that the story in MGSV was driven by it’s themes.” that is the one thing I wouldn’t say about TPP and themes, TPP has too many themes, and very little room to explore all of them, the theme of language is merely a sub category of the actual theme of the game “RACE” but the theme RACE isn’t explored very well and the game only leaves room for one sub category and that is “language”. Every other MGS (excluding 4) has ONE theme and fully explores and integrates that theme into the games story and game design, and I mean FULLY, literally almost everything in the MGS games is tied back into its theme, but in TPP we have more than one theme battling for control and we have many points which fail to even be good points let alone actually tie into any of the themes of the game, if the game was complete maybe it actually could have explored its themes properly even if I didn’t like it.

      • The examples mentioned in the article are straight from the game. They are not created out of thin air to make the game seem smart and its themes well conveyed. The elements are taken directly from the game, as presented by the game.

        • No Place For Hayter

          Never said they weren’t, I was saying there are not many and not everything in the game actually supports the themes. I never implied anything of what you seem to think I said, which I actually don’t like, please don’t colour what I’m saying, I don’t want someone reading your comment and actually assume that’s what I said or meant

          • Hm, but it’s not meant to be a battle between those who like the game and those who didn’t, this analysis is just showing how some elements of the game can be interpreted though the themes. Like we did for MGS2 and MGS4 earlier.

          • No Place For Hayter

            Yeah, no hard feeling 🙂 I just felt the need to talk more about how the themes are used and conveyed because to me TPP is less driven by its themes and such because it is short and unfinished, it was kind of spontaneous and without context, sorry, lol. Though most importantly I wasn’t talking about your article when I was talking about the building the themes off of the game, so sorry if it came across like I was attacking or disagreeing with what you wrote >.<

            It is actually very disappointing that the theme of Race wasn't more explored and tied in for TPP as it is very VERY relevant today in a world of multi-culturalism, with the merging and loss of culture, and ignoring and trying to hide the differences of race and gender, and all of this is considered positively in the global eye and yet only serves to harm those races and their culture, blinding and assimilating cultures and races into one form only serves to harm those people and cultures and robes them of their heritage and history, and TPP has the perfect time to highlight what is wrong with such practices and why, but the themes and story of TPP was cut short and over shadowed by bad story telling and spontaneous twists which have nothing to do with the themes or messages. I was raised and still live in Canada and yet I know nothing of any Canadian culture or history, our schools don't teach us and don't care, our culture and our language isn't important anymore, the immigrants and other races and their cultures drown ours and we are left with a country which has lost its history and culture because the people whom bring their culture and history with them is considered more important than ours and making your culture be forced in your own country is frowned upon, keeping your history and culture strong is suddenly bad, and holding dear family values and culture is bad. I was really looking forward to the theme of Race and the truths it could have talked about which most of the world considers bad because you aren't catering to everyone and actually care about your own country and culture, being multi-cultural is in no way good, how would a place like China feel if I showed up only spoke English and only practiced and flaunted my Canadian culture, if I dressed and acted like I was still in Canada? I would be hated, I would no longer be in Canada, I would be in China, and as such I should adopt there culture and their traditions, I can't and shouldn't jump into someones else's culture and history and force my own, if I wanted to keep my culture and history I would stay in Canada, and If I moved somewhere else I should respect both myself and others and adopt their culture and history, being a parasite living inside another organism is negative for both of us, a melting pot of culture destroys all but a very select few of the majority, you have to know your culture and identity in order to maintain such a thing, and in Canada we don't even try to maintain who we are or were, let alone actually teach our children our history or traditions.

            Long story short I wanted more Race from TPP less BB twists and stupid forced emotions. I wanted to explore the concept of Race, Language, Culture, Literal race, Genders, History, and the elements that make twist and destroy all of these and to highlight what is really important to our Race and what makes us and our history what it really is.

          • Interesting points. If you look at this theme of ‘concept versus objects’ you could see how it ties in with the plot twist. It demonstrates us that Big Boss has become a concept rather than a specific person. If you think about, the same thing happened to other entities in the saga, such as The Patriots and Outer Heaven. The Patriots first referred to six specific individuals, but it would later come to mean a set of rules, a layer of information control that shape the world through context. Outer Heaven started as a specific geographic location but later becomes a term to signify a certain ideology, you can see this happen when Liquid ‘proclaims’ Shadow Moses Outer Heaven, and later ‘Outer Haven’, which he uses to what he believes is Big Boss’s dream.

            Passing things on is an important returning element in the series, and things like these can be passed on in this way and live on through others, when they turn from something specific (‘objects’) into something more abstract (‘concepts’).

          • No Place For Hayter

            Yeah, the game presents the idea that Big Boss is an idea (and that idea is the player), but I personally loath this idea and the messages it conveys, it goes against for me what MGS has always been about, specifically MGS2, on every layer I highly dislike the concept of Big Boss being an idea and that we are Big Boss.

          • ZA다ルﻣ

            “It is no nation we inhabit, but a language. Make no mistake; our native tongue is our true fatherland” –Emil Cioran, Romanian philosopher

            What is the language of Canada? English? French?

            What is the language of the Immigrants into Canada? Foreignesian?

            It could be Kazakh, Malayalam, Punjabi, Gujrati, Hausa, Igbo, Teochew, Karen…

            One more word these immigrants speak in English means one fewer word of their native tongue…one more “nizhóni” overridden by the “global language” English.

            I don’t know about you, but the last time I was in Canada I was speaking English. The people I interacted with spoke English. I didn’t see the Canadians’ “culture” at threat of being erased any time soon…

            (speaking of cultures at threat of being erased…What would the Native Americans of Canada say to that? [“Americans” meaning of the continent(s)]

            I heard a lecture of a president of an international relief/development organization…he said in Africa, you never say “I’m hungry,” you’re supposed to say, “I haven’t had my meal yet.” Because you (the one who flew in with a plane ticket) do not know what hunger is.)

            Though I entirely agree with you when you say that people should speak the language of the land. If I went to China, I would try to learn the culture and the language. But it doesn’t help that travelers there would try to get by (and, to top it off, with some success) by using English. Sure, immigrants to Canada should learn English, but what does that say about all the businessmen in China who do their work entirely in English?

            I could go on and on…funny thing is, I tried to keep it short, and I really agreed with some of your statements. Glad we can have this conversation.

          • No Place For Hayter

            Yeah, interesting stuff lol >.< for Canada it is more of a culture being forgotten instead of erased, give it one or two generations and our history will be lost, if our parents and our schools don't teach culture or history how do we preserve it? Tourists and immigrants see more culture and history in Canada than I do because that is why some of the are interested and why some of them are there. The forgetting and erosion of culture or history is a slow process and takes generations, all you need is one generation to not be taught and then the won't be able to teach it to the next and as a major force will be lost, of course it will still exist and some will know but it will no longer be a driving force and instead will be forgotten in lieu of a more common culture or language.

            And that's another thing about globalization is that you need a lingua franca in order to communicate and do business with each other, so that is why the business world is the way it is. But this social global connection isn't all it is cracked up to be, while it is amazing and important we should not forget who we are amongst the crowd, it also easily allows people to control and direct countries, people, and businesses if it is all under one language (like Cipher in TPP). The scariest part about the negative side of globalization and multi-culturalism is how it is posed by the world as something amazing and positive, while there are plenty of positives and great things to come from it there are also heavy negative side effects which if are not kept in mind will erode and hurt your culture and identity, but the world at large is embracing these things which can do more harm than good, one needs to know where to draw the line and let other people and other culture and other countries be themselves and solve or create their own problems, we will only lose ourselves in trying to cater to everyone and trying to please and help everyone and everything, as nice as it sounds to be multi-cultural and let everyone into your country and help them, one needs to accept the reality of both who these people are and what culture them come from as well as what you can do about it and how to keep yourself strong while helping others. It is a balancing act which history and the people of today never even think they are getting wrong, and in this world of political correctness and catering to every small crowd there is results in the destruction of what we should really be protecting and results in a farce which no one is willing to admit the reality of, and like culture it only takes a few generations for people to actually accept what we currently consider absurd.

            Lol, more people should play and think about MGS2, a lot can be learned from the game for the current and future generations.

      • John Dixon

        I don’t get how it’s about race, clearly equating language to identity not skin colour

        • No Place For Hayter

          You are simplifying the term to much, “Race” does not mean skin colour, your Race is you are culturally as well as physically are, where you live in the world, your skin colour, your language, your culture, your traditions and customs all make up your “Race”, language is a huge factor of your Race, The theme of Race for TPP is the fully realized sense of the word. Race is your identity, who you are physically and your beliefs and culture and language is your Race. Your physical attributes are only one portion of the term Race.

  • Amrit

    FUCKING YES! Persistence pays off eh Nyxus :P. Great article dude. Looking forward to more in the future as I’m sure there’s so much more to talk about.

  • WaterFaster2012

    Quiet became my everything in this game. As far as I’m concerned, she’s all that really mattered.

    • PsychoMantis18

      Wank, wank.

    • Greyfox98

      I’m right there with ya, man. I’m still upset about her ending

    • ADAMJENSEN13

      Fight with Quiet is the best! Quiet is great character and its kinda funny She is only female in the game(there are other women of course like soldiers You can fulton to mother base but I dont think that counts).

  • Alex

    Great job of breaking it down for those it might’ve went over. This is just one theme though.

  • great article Nyx, a bit off topic but i wanted to say that i was really impressed by Robin Atkin Downes, i always liked Miller and his acting was already good an had a lots of charisma on PW, but he was even better on TPP, my favourite character on the game, by far.

    • Alex

      His performance was definitely up there, but was always losing his moral composure. It was as if he was the demon on Snake’s left shoulder and Ocelot the angel on Snakes right shoulder lol.

      • yeah there are some situations where they come out exactly like that, though trough his reactions to the world is where we can see how he evolves as a character IMO he shows more depth than other characters in the game

        • Kaz is my absolute favorite in V. The Huey exile scene was fucking awesome.

          • isn’t it? the only downside is that after TPP i felt even worse about what happens with him before shadow moses

          • Yeah, he really gets the short end of all this 🙁

          • deadpool4ever

            I guess we cant blame ocelot . I wont say he deserved it but how he was obsessed with killing big boss was wrong imo

          • No Place For Hayter

            That is the only scene in the game I loved Kaz and his anger, in the rest of the game Kaz was angry and stupid, but in this scene he is angry and smart, could’ve used more intelligence from Kaz in TPP.

          • Janeo

            I have watched that scene over and over on YouTube and I get goosebumps every time I see it, the delivery and the facial capture are just so perfect, it’s some of the best acting you will see in games TV or movies in my opinion.

          • Plissken

            I wish there was a way to rewatch cutscenes in the game instead of having to go on YouTube

          • Yeah they really should’ve included a theatre mode.

          • Agree.

          • deadpool4ever

            I WOULD LIKE TO KICK HUEY IN HIS BALLS THOUGH.A PHANTOM DICK!

          • Yeah haha, Huey is cruising for a bruising.

        • Sonja Morath

          There is one thing I didn`t get tho, what exactly is the story about his eyes? Code Talker said, it was a present from the skulls, but nothing more, or am I missing something?

          • yeah i think none of us got that, looks to me like he is blind though at the same time the skulls seem to have the same eyes, and regarding what code talker said i guess it was just cut because they never go at it again on the rest of the chapter. not even on a tape

    • Tong Ninja

      😉 Kaz’s Hamburger tapes were awesome. haha!

      https://twitter.com/Conesama/status/656480322310246400

      • Full Options

        Loved Volgin handlin BBQ stuff… xD

    • glitchbomb

      I was never a huge fan if Kaz until after he became a broken man.

      • His transformation since Peace Walker is really something. In PW he was more practical, trying to run a business, but in TPP he seems to be driven by nothing but anger and he’s a pretty unpleasant person in general.

        • decoyF0XX

          But Big Boss left him. I can relate to Kaz totally despising Big Boss, even I do now.

    • decoyF0XX

      Robin Atkin Downes, Troy Baker and…James Horan, were absolutely fantastic for me.

      • Don’t forget Time Winters!

    • ADAMJENSEN13

      Yeah. Kaz is Amazing character. I really like him. But I always liked the evil guys so my favorite is Skull Face.
      All characters are great in Phantom Pain. I like them all. And I think that is the most important thing in story. Characters that You will like and remember for years.

  • Greyfox98

    there should be an article like this for all the games.

  • Alex

    There should be an article on the many, many concepts of phantom pain, how the lingering sensation is just the start, all but one concept of phantom pain. A life long lost, a lifestyle forever gone, a relationship, etc. all forms of phantom pain as well. Psychological guilt as well (Paz).

  • Gatsu

    Excellent article Nyxus, you always write so well :D. Hopefully you do more of MGSV :).

    You should release all this kind of articles worldwide put together in one book, “MGS Analysis”. I’m sure it’d become a bestseller book.

  • Darby Crash

    Well written article!

    I’ll copy-paste a comment I posted on Neverbegameover sub-reddit:
    -Kojima has gone deep with psychology in this title. I think he studied Jacques Lacan ’cause his work ties with many themes shown in the game. The Mirror Stage concept it’s represented in the “truth” ending while the use of language to explain the subconscious and their divergence plays the main role in the game. No wonder if some people find “clues to solve the puzzle” everywhere, it was Kojima intention to let everyone interpret the whole meaning by themselves. What we desire now is his interpretation. Maybe we’ll get it disarming nukes or through a massive psychological war on him. SPIT IT OUT!-

    For the nuke disarming thing check this out:http://m.imgur.com/3jqKMV4

  • BurntFM

    Great post. It goes to show the complexity of the MGS Saga in general and how it conveys it’s themes in a straightforward way and at the same time the delivery is anything but straightforward. That’s what makes a good Kojima game.

    On a side. It maybe an unpopular opinion but I Skull Face’s sudden demise after all the buildup it’s sort of genius. We were presented with a by the numbers mysterious character who was obviously the antagonist of the story. It was given a cliche plan for a villain(spread a biological weapon onto the world) and a clear conflict with our main character. Because of own preconception of game mechanics, we would think this will eventually lead to a climatic boss battle, but it didn’t lead to that. His death was out of our control and the satisfaction of his death was not ours. That broke a bunch of video game rules and stereotypes in a sort of meta dark humor at the player’s expense. Boom

    • FoxTamerMGO

      This is what desperation does to people guys.. lol jk, actually you have a point

    • Tong Ninja

      Here is Kojima’s commentary on why Skull Face wasn’t a boss battle from the TPP strategy guide:

      “We often see good versus evil encounters in the closing scenes of Hollywood movies, which are meant to satisfy their audience. But this game’s theme is the chain of revenge, the phantom pain – the continuous chain that you experience when the target of your vengeance is gone. It is not possible to convey the subtleties of this theme in a standard boss battle”

      So yes, what you said above was on the right track with what Kojima’s said. haha

      • Janeo

        Skull face not being a boss battle is a weird thing to be upset over, skullface was never a fighter and venom would have taken him down pretty easily. Sure they could have thrown skullface in the metal gear or something but that just wasn’t necessary.

        • Tong Ninja

          I think people were upset that there were not many boss battles in TPP. I thought Quiet, Man on Fire and ST-84 were the only boss battles in the game until I read the strategy guide after finishing the game. Turns out Eli and all of the Skulls unit were boss battles as well! haha

          The Skulls unit felt like those group encounters (Ocelot unit, Frogs, etc) in past MGS games but harder. Eli didn’t feel like a boss battle either. The rest were really fun though especially the ST-84 battle, but pale in comparison to past games. I want more boss battles! haha
          To be fair though, past MGS bosses were crazy good in terms of creativity.

          But on topic with your comment, yeah Skull Face is not Liquid, Solidus, Volgin or Liquid-Ocelot who are all exceptional fighters. Hot Coldman wasn’t a boss battle either and he was the main villain in Peace Walker.

  • RoderickThe13

    Great article. The themes of the game are treated in a much more subtle way than we can see at first glance.

    By the way, have you guys read this essay? https://vs642.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/critical-analysis-of-metal-gear-solid-v-the-boldfaced-lie/ I think every fan should read this, specially those who are pissed at the story of the game. It adds a lot to the vision one could have of the ending and the character of Venom Snake.

    • JJBYACH

      Complex, yes – subtle, no.

      I wouldn’t class vocal cord parasites that kill anyone who talks; subtle – literally words that kill. Even though Kojima’s main strength and idiosyncrasy is exploring thematics through overt symbolism, I believe some of the impact of the themes where lost on me due to how blatant the message was.

      • Sting’s Dad

        x2

        I actually don’t mind the ending revelation about Venom Snake but the execution left so much to be desired. I am a believer that this game was cut short and that the delivery would have been executed much better, if the game was actually completed the way that Kojima originally intended.

    • Plissken

      I never thought about Venom being the good, pacifist version of Big Boss, while the real Big Boss is the demon. Interesting. As for the whole twist at the end, the problem was how everyone was already wise to Kojima’s tricks and suspected we weren’t playing as THE Big Boss.

      • No Place For Hayter

        Kojima can’t keep a secret, he tried WAY to hard to foreshadow it, I mean for god sakes that is like one of the first theories about TPP and was literally forms years before the game released, lol.

        • Diego Guedes

          The change in personality, the name and birth date at the beginning and Bowie’s song (many people interpret the lyrics as a dialog between a man and his doppelganger) all gave away. I didn’t believe it because I didn’t want it to end like that, but it was relatively clear from the beginning.

    • Diego Guedes

      This article is amazing, dude. This guy really has a point. He made me hate the plot a lot less haha. Every fan should, indeed, read it. It’s great but it doesn’t redeem it. The plot is stil bad and underdeveloped.

    • decoyF0XX

      So I just finished the game about thirty minutes ago.

      I loved the game up until Mission 46. Everything I worked for just seemed useless. It’s like I can feel a deep phantom pain in me right now. Everything about the game was great, especially the theme of language and the vocal cord parasites which was a very unique concept, but the ending, no just no. Kojima didn’t need to go that way.

      As for those asking for a Chapter 3, what else do you need resolved? The game feels totally complete, in fact it gave us more than we needed. A bit too much even. I can’t even figure out what the cut content is, apart from maybe a scene in Africa from the nuclear trailer, which was probably shifted to mother base.

  • PsychoMantis18

    Good job, as always.

  • FoxTamerMGO

    Kaz holding a grudge against skull face for nine years.. that’s beyond human capacity. Great article nyxus ;’D

    • deadpool4ever

      Read your comment on the ac syndicate vid.

      • FoxTamerMGO

        lol when desmond died.. I stopped buying AC games, i just check the ending when someone uploads it on youtube and check if Desmond is gonna be revived.

        • Cobra Commander

          I really stopped playing AC because each game wasn’t much different from the last and the buggyness of the games.
          I did however buy Black Flag about 3 months ago and loved it!
          I think I really enjoyed the pirate aspect of it mostly, I didn’t care that it was an Assasin’s Creed game. It was just a great pirate game!

          You may not like what I’m abot to say FoxTamer, but I always thought the 2 different storylines were trying too much.
          I feel the AC games would be better off if they never had the modern day Animus/Abstergo stuff. Just stick to the old-time Assasin/Templar stuff and I think it would be an overall better experience. They just try to jampack too much stuff in the AC series.
          Just my opinion.

        • deadpool4ever

          when i played ac 3 iwas always waiting for the desmond missions

    • hunner

      …Kaz had no idea Skull Face even existed until mgs v tpp tho…

      • FoxTamerMGO

        Whoever Kaz hold grudge against.. i mean.. after 9 years the hate seems so fresh judging his tone of voice and facial expressions.

        • Tong Ninja

          Cipher? haha 🙂

    • No Place For Hayter

      You’d be surprised.

    • Azarul Nazim Abdullah

      he lost mother base and his limbs what do you think…

  • Cobra Commander

    I spotted a tiny misconception in your overall great article Nyx.
    Let us not forget that Eli was not the inferior clone, but actually the superior one.
    (Reminds me of the South Park episode where Bono has to be #1 at evererything because he was actually #2. He was someone’s largest world record turd that was nursed into a person. That’s why no matter how great something Bono does, he always comes off really douchey) lol!
    Alex, loved what you said about having to pick a ‘Bedrock’ language, and then how every other language learned afterwards was somewhat coerced by that imbedded first language.
    Being just an average english speaking guy, that really blew my mind!

    • You are right, but Liquid thinks he is the inferior one, even if it isn’t true. Even in MGS1 he still thinks he is, which adds greatly to his anger and antagonism towards Snake, who he believes is the superior clone.

      • Yeah well solid beats

      • Full Options

        I thought I was inferior, but I am not a kid anymore, and my sunglasses are top cool OK ?

        • FoxTamerMGO

          Sorry to interrupt but.. that’s ocelot not liquid.. just sayin xD

          • Full Options

            Oh, Come on, that’s Liquid-Ocelot, I can still feel his uppercuts in what’s left of my tooths… xD

          • He has Liquid’s personality though.

          • Full Options

            Sorry I was too heavily impregnated with the first plot. I did not even noticed that the story made Adamska just finally troll the AI system ! ;D Good to know !

      • Cobra Commander

        Most definitely!
        Ponder this if you will, what would Eli/Liquids character be like if he always knew he was the superior one. That is one small piece of knowledge that could have very well lead Liquid down a completely different path.
        Who knows, maybe he wouldn’t have been such a dick, lol!

        Just some food for thought.

  • hunner
  • N-Shifter

    Great article, I enjoyed that 🙂

  • SNKtheStampede

    Thanks for the time and effort you put in these articles Nyxus, they are always punctual and interesting 🙂

  • JoJo

    Thanks for reminding me of one of the things I really loved about this game, Nyxus. Now that the dust has settled there has been a lot of focus on the negative aspects of TPP and it’s good to view it on what it DOES have instead of what is missing.
    Execution still left something to be desired, but The Phantom Pain’s story was awesome. I had forgotten that. So, thanks.

  • Tong Ninja

    Cool analysis! 😀
    Some pretty deep stuff …

    Yeah I really liked that tape involving Skull Face and Code Talker. 🙂

  • Raven_Sorrow

    Guys help!!! Im missing ziang tan and hideo Kojima from my staff list!!! What the hell?! Did they remove them?! Do you guys still have them?

    • M.Silva

      Well, I still have them in my staff.

    • Aleezy

      Yep, I have em

      • Raven_Sorrow

        Why me ???.. :'(

  • FoxTamerMGO

    This whole theme of Language is interesting and original.. I loved it!

  • glitchbomb

    Great read. I can’t wait for more articles like this one.

  • Venom_Sina

    Great article.Thanks,Boss.

    The only defend-able part of MGSV’s story is this Language theme,but it’s not really well developed in the plot IMO (like the rest of the story).The main problem is that we have to look for external sources to find out about “the great story of MGSV”,lol.I was talking with one of the bros here about Skullface and his weak character development and he referred me to the official guide,where there is good explanations about the character.My question is why they didn’t include that explanation in the actual game?

    One other thing is they didn’t work on the other themes as good as this one.Race theme got lost in the plot and in some ways it merged into the Language theme(and I still don’t know why the name of Ch.2 is Race.Replay is a better name IMO,lol).Also Revenge is (in some ways) meaningless if you consider the ending.

    • hunner

      I can actually relate to the language theme sorta. I’m Hawaiian and are language was banned from Hawaii for a while. I’m an adult now and i still don’t even speak my own language.

    • Themes are always more below the surface, and the guide does have some notes by Kojima on what he wanted to do with it, but that’s not unique for MGSV. If you look at the director’s commentary for older Metal Gear games, you can also find a lot of background information that isn’t explicitly in the game but have to be read between the lines.

      • hunner

        Took people years to find out mgs 2’s theme

      • Venom_Sina

        You’re right,but in other MGS games,the story was complete and those notes by Kojima and the team was cool to watch/read.They should’ve worked more on the story aspect,cause V’s story lacks in some parts,especially when you compare it to the older games.If they did it like that,it would’ve been way better IMO.

        • Maybe so, but still it’s interesting to think about what’s there in MGSV, and there’s of course a lot more to say and other ways to look at things than in this one article.

        • Cobra Commander

          One of the new things I think many hated (such as myself), was the episodic playstyle.
          Especially having the opening credits ruin some cool upcoming stuff.
          Took the ‘piss your pants’ anticipation of not knowing when The Skulls or something were going to show up and ruined the vibe.

          If anything those kinda names should have only appeared in the closing credits if anything.

    • Little john

      I believe that ch.2 race doesn’t mean race as in human races, but as arms race between pfs

      • Venom_Sina

        Yeah,that’s a possibility,but I remember they said something about human races.

    • just to build a bit on what you say. i agree on the commentary about external sources, it’s always good when a story has a background to be discovered by fans on an external source but it should never be necessary to have an external source explain key items that the main source lacked.

      I was reading a few days ago an article about Blade Runner and the different versions of that film, many people where discussing about this same thing, external sources should add up information of the fictional world/characters but never critical stuff for the story.

  • Danny Patten
  • echolution

    Great article brother! Very thorough analysis and details of V’s story and its theme. Never imagined that even a languange can be turned to a weapon against humanity. Besides, what’s humanity without languange?

    • deadpool4ever

      A bunch of mindless anthropoids who will turn to war. Remember t=what skull face said! The language of nukes.

  • deadpool4ever

    Guys, Im gonna add my touch in an old theory. The cut content was intentional.We are Venom and apparently he holds grudge against John. Maybe he has no hand in the construction of outer heaven and zanzibar. Maybe BB invited him to his death. Sorry for writing in a simple language though.Episode 19 was the easiest mission i played in a game!WHAT DUMB BODYGUARDS!

  • Venom_Sina

    Kojima’s thoughts about the novelization and the MGS series – translated

    https://www.reddit.com/r/NeverBeGameOver/comments/3q4ghm/kojimas_thoughts_about_the_novelization_and_the/

  • Pingback: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain | ericdanhoff()

  • Bishop

    Thanks, a good read.
    Just have to say that ‘Shalashaska’ has no slightest meaning in Russian, and the very idea of combination of “sharashka” (a “GULAG”, as (incorrectly) explained by Ocelot) and a “shashka” (cavalry sabre) sounds a bit ridiculous.
    A… GULAG? And… a sabre? ShaRashaSHka => ShaLashaSka? Well… a bit silly, if you ask me.

  • ADAMJENSEN13

    Great article.
    I still cant understand people who says that MGSV is incomplete game. Everyone says there should be more story. But They should understand one thing before talking like this. This is a game. Game! Gameplay is the most important thing and Gameplay in Phantom Pain is the best. Its not incomplete. Its genius, cool, fresh and give You freedom to play the way You want. Perfect Stealth or Total massacre. You can fight the way You want. Use gadgets You want and have fun, fun and one more time fun.
    There are three things I kinda dont like or would change or would delete.
    1. Im kinda sad we didnt have a chance to fight with floating boy. I really wanted to fight with Him since seeing Him in the begining in hospital.
    2. We are not playing the real Big Boss in the game and He dont have problems beating all bosses. Think how real Big Boss would fight with them. With bandana on His eyes and not using His hands.
    3. Quiet mission was to spread english strain virus in mother base. When She talked at the end of game nothing happened. Why?

    • Little john

      I agree with you about Mgsv being a complete game (exept mission 51 would have been nice). Just about your 2nd point: the player/medic was the best soldier on old MB, who could potentially have better stats than Big Boss. And one of the snakes (can’t remember who) said that a hero is made by his/hers circumstances.

      • ADAMJENSEN13

        Thanks man. Its good to know that there are people thinking the same thing as me about Phantom Pain.
        I played it for more than 200 hours and I love it!

        Maybe Youre right. But You know. Its Big Boss we are talking about. I know that I didnt played the other MGS titles only GZ and TPP but I think Big Boss should be the best soldier in the MGS saga. So I dont think any soldier would surpass Him.

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  • Rene Peña

    no matter how many time you guys put this article in the top spot, it wont change my mind about the game, no matter how good you think the themes were or the hidden thing in the plot and tapes, the game still sucks.

  • CharlieWhistle

    Wonderful analysis.

  • Ricardo Coelho

    Great article, well done. Love this game.

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