Spoiler Warning: If you have not finished Ground Zeroes and don't want to know key plot details, please stop reading. For the rest of you nerds, here we go...
Hideo Kojima is notorious for his bizarre humor and deceptive marketing campaigns. Since Metal Gear Solid, Kojima has, for lack of a better term, fucked with his fan base. When Metal Gear Solid 2 was being advertised, every video depicted the series protagonist Solid Snake in every scene as the main character but when the game was released, you instead played as a new character Raiden. Then when Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was being advertised, everyone thought you would be playing as Solid Snake in the jungle. But instead, it was slowly released through hints and mysterious messaging that you would in fact be playing as Big Boss in a prequel game.
With Metal Gear Solid 5 came the most bizarre marketing campaign to date. At first, the Phantom Pain trailer was released as a new game. There was a new (fake) video game company called Moby Dick Studios headed by a new (also fake) CEO Joakim Mogren. It was impossible to not notice the similarities in character and level design. The main character looked like Big Boss, a flaming image of Volgin showed up and there was an undeniable siting of Psycho Mantis as a young kid. There are literally hundreds more references that undeniably linked it to Metal Gear but I've omitted them so I can get to my point. Shortly thereafter it was announced through another trailer that Phantom Pain was in fact a MGS game and that there was actually two being released:Ground Zeroes and the Phantom Pain.
Now that Ground Zeroes has been released and a host of new trailers for The Phantom Pain has debuted, there has been a ground swell of theories about what is in store for this franchise in the next installment. If there is one thing that Kojima does best, it is that he gets us to delve so deep into his marketing and games, that it's hard to sort through what is real and what is not. But in the end, that is one of the many themes of the Metal Gear Solid series, which is a fascinating takeaway from the theories below.
The Body Double Theories:
The video above sums up most of this theory in great detail. The theory presented by many is that Big Boss is replaced by a body double who is in fact Gray Fox for most of the game. It is a known fact that Big Boss ends up in a 9 year coma at some point during the Phantom Pain. When he awakes there is a bandaged man with him that is oddly enough also voiced by Kiefer Sutherland. He helps Big Boss to escape the all to eery hospital that he finds himself in. Either there wasn't the budget for two voice actors, the bandage man is a projection of Big Boss' psyche, or it is in fact another person who could be a body double for Big Boss. I doubt that there wasn't enough budget for another voice actor as MGS is a cash cow for Kojima. And for a man so committed to detail, I doubt this was just a throw away casting choice for the bandage man, Kojima does EVERYTHING seemingly on purpose. The man could be a projection which would explain why he doesn't help Big Boss to his feet or really do anything throughout the trailer, but that would open up a whole new host of theories. But if it is a body double, what does that mean for the time line of the game?
At the end of Ground Zeroes, Big Boss, Paz, Chico, and a mysteriously hidden medic escape in a helicopter. The medic's face is never really shown but his voice is oddly deep. In the video above someone took the audio from the scene and changed the pitch of the medic's voice to a few octaves higher. The end result? It is unmistakeably Kiefer Sutherland's voice. But why? In a glimpse of the medic, right as Paz jumps out of the helicopter, you see his profile that looks similar to young Snake from Snake Eater. Could this soldier/medic be someone we know? Gray Fox? Solidus? Neither really match up with the timeline but that has never stopped Kojima from retconning his own series. If it is somehow Gray Fox perhaps when Big Boss is in a coma, we play as him as he was made to look like the real Big Boss, only to protect the real one's existence. Gray Fox fought in Rhodesia and Mozambique according to MGS lore, which is presumably where the game takes place. There is even a scene depicting Big Boss killing child soldiers which is what Gray Fox was said to have done right before he met Naomi. If Gray Fox is impersonating Big Boss for the "greater good", this would all conveniently line up.
Perhaps when Big Boss comes to in the hospital, Gray Fox has already undergone the surgery to change his appearance back to normal which is why he is bandaged up. He even says, in Sutherland's voice, "I've been watching over you for the past 9 years." Watching over your body? Ideals? Legacy? He tells Big Boss to call him Ishmael. Ishmael references Moby Dick that harkens back to the fake production studio that was headed by bandaged Mogren. Clearly, this bandaged man is important to the story. Even though David Hayter has gone on record to say how upset he was that he wasn't in Phantom Pain to reprise his role as Snake. Could this be another Kojima fake outs where Sutherland is voicing the body double while Hayter will actually voice Big Boss? Unlikely, but fun to think about nonetheless.
Perhaps even, during there escape, the bandaged man/Gray Fox's face is injured more leading him to become the scarred XOF man from the trailers and Ground Zeroes. Or perhaps, the impersonator is even Decoy Octopus?! The body double theory is an intriguing one, albeit very far fetched. But the clues are there that support it.
Eli is Liquid Theory:
This one is sort of a no brainer. We have been introduced to Eli "A youth who curses his fate" through recent trailers. He has slick back blonde hair, an open shirt, a necklace with teeth hanging from it, and a jacket that says NEVER GAME OVER. First off, Liquid was a child soldier in Africa when he was younger. The necklace he wears is similar to other child soldier's necklaces shown in the trailer. They also happen to look like jackal teeth which is what Liquid says he hunted as a child in the end of Metal Gear Solid. His open jacket surely reflects the way Liquid wore his long trench coats and the slick blonde hair is a dead giveaway. Even the name Eli suggests that he is Liquid since Eli and David were brothers in the bible. David is the name of Solid Snake as we learn from Metal Gear Solid. And even the boy who is voicing him has a British accent.
Though this all seems a little to plain and clear for Metal Gear. Usually when something is so obvious, it turns out to be something completely different. Just like how we thought Eva would end up being Sniper Wolf when Snake Eater was coming out since they both unzipped their tops to the belly button. I digress but this timeline also lines up to Liquid being 12 or 13 years old at the time which Eli looks to be.
The Abstract VR Theory:
It wouldn't be the first time that a game in the series' story ends up being one giant VR Training mission. Metal Gear Solid 2 was about this very same concept so it is a little redundant, but the fact remains that there are a lot of time jumps, strange phenomena, and spiritual manifestations throughout the trailers that have been released. Could this be some sort of Assassins Creed style memory based mission to extract info from Big Boss' memories for the Les Enfants Terribles project? There is a good chance Liquid is Eli which means Solid would be around the same age and could show up. Perhaps this is all wrapped up into a larger plot to provide the sons of Big Boss the means necessary to become his heirs. This one is probably the hardest to believe, but the inconsistencies and bizarre details seem to point to something like this being in the realm of possibilities.
These are just a few of the theories that are more popular out there. The further you dig the weirder they get, which seemingly reflects the very nature of the Metal Gear Solid series. The deeper you get into the story the stranger it is. But this is why we have loved the series for so long. Even after 25 years, Kojima is still surprising, thrilling, and making us laugh with the characters we have grown to love. One thing is for sure, this is going to be one hell of a game!
What are you theories?