Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain has been available for a while now and although it’s one of the best games of the year, I am not a big fan of its story and the ending. Unless Konami has a DLC incoming that will expand on the story, nothing will change my opinion on it. However that is how the ending is and nothing is going to change it, so we all have to accept it and move on. Before I move ahead into this article, let me warn you there are spoilers. So get out of here if you haven’t completed the True Ending.
Without that out of the way, the ending of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is absolutely bizarre. In order to understand it further, I played Mission 46 a number of times and the things that I have found out blows away my mind. But before I moved ahead, let us jump right at the beginning of The Phantom Pain…Venom Snake’s Awakening. After playing through 3/4th of the prologue section, Ishmael a.k.a. Big Boss becomes unconscious as Venom Snake takes control of the ambulance. However he manages to crash right on an enemy patrol resulting into an accident, only to be saved by Ocelot who appears literally out of nowhere. This event happens on March 11th, 1984. 3: 07. Keep this in mind, specially the timing.
Moving ahead. Ocelot and Venom Snake then fight off the Man on Fire and manage to escape. All of this might have take an hour or so, but before sunrise both of them make their way to the whaling ship. This is clearly evident in the image below. So essentially, both Ocelot and Big Medic have managed to reach the ship before sunrise so there is potentially no way that Ocelot can come back to Cyprus. Keep this in mind too.
Fast forward…Mission 46. In this episode you play the entire prologue again and when the ambulance crashes the game reveals that you are nothing but a random MSF medic, Big Boss’ body double and best man. Now pay close attention. Ocelot helps Big Boss a.k.a. Ishmael out of the crashed hospital on March 11th, 1984. 2: 32, a full 35 minutes before Venom Snake gains consciousness as mentioned above. The related image is below.
Moving ahead, it’s already close to sunrise on March 11th, 1984. 5:59 and Ocelot is with Big Boss who lights his cigar and they both go their separate ways.
How the hell can Ocelot be with Venom Snake at 3:07 on the same day and then escape with him via the whaling ship and almost 3 hours later be with Big Boss? I possibly have no realistic explanation regarding this but there are 4 possible reasons:
1. It’s a mistake and it’s meant to be night and the development team did not had enough time to care about this detail. But isn’t Kojima a perfectionist and a completionist? But I suppose that argument is out of place given the source.
2. Ocelot is a time traveler: I know this sounds stupid but this is Metal Gear, you know. Insert nanomachines or in this case, time travelling parasites.
3. Venom Snake i.e. the player was hallucinating, seeing day as night or vice versa.
4. Or the image below, which shows up before the Mission 46 begins.
Facts do not exist, there are only interpretations is a quote from German Philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. I read a bit about what this quote means. It essentially means that whatever you are observing, say for example a book, its interpretation is up to the reader. In short, there is no correct interpretation since each of us will have a different subjective opinion on the matter at hand. Furthermore, it also means that we as individuals can select and chose the interpretation according to what works for us. In short, Chapter 46 The Truth has no truth whatsoever. This is kind of what Solid Snake said to Raiden during the MGS2 epilogue…What you think you see is only as real as your brains tells you it is. But that is where the similarity between MGS2’s ending and The Phantom Pain’s ending ends...something I have covered in my previous article here.
Moving ahead. The Mirror scene.
So now we know the truth. We are not Big Boss. Venom Snake than listens to cassette tape number 46 as the real Big Boss reveals his plan…they are both Big Boss and they both need to keep the legend alive. However there are a few interesting things going around here other than the monologue.
During the monologue, you can clearly see Diamond Dogs’ insignia in the back door through the mirror.
The monologue ends and then Big Medic turns over the cassette tape, only to find Operation Intrude N313 written. He inserts it into what seems like MSX which is placed besides MSX 2, the original platforms on which Metal Gear  and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake were released on.
The tape plays but it seems like that the message is decoded [for the player], something that only Big Boss and Venom Snake can understand. My assumption here is that there was a time skip of 11 years. How? See the image below. The Diamond insignia has changed into Outer Heaven’s.
Another point to note is that Venom is apparently not happy with whatever Big Boss told him in that decoded message which makes him a demon [big horn indicates that] as he smashes the mirror only to reveal the real Big Boss on the other side in a metaphoric sense. See how the mirror reflection does not have the horn and bionic arm. That tape had something on it which completely annoyed the hell out of Big Medic. My assumption here is that Big Boss has revealed to him that he will die at the hands of Solid Snake during the Outer Heaven events of 1995.
His smashing of mirror indicates a couple of things:
He IS Big Boss now. The mirror shows that there are actually 2 persons standing on the opposite sides and Venom feels cheated after whatever he heard in that decoded message.
There is smoke and mirrors, which is is a metaphor for a deception, lies and even in some cases inadequate explanation. The funny thing is all of these three words apply to the ending of The Phantom Pain. Maybe Venom was lied by Big Boss leading him to unleash his inner demon or maybe all of The Phantom Pain was a deception plan by Big Boss…to deceive the player a.k.a. Venom Snake…or perhaps there is no explanation at all and the smoke and mirror scene is left to the imagination of the player. Things become more interesting when we consider the 4th ending of the game, where Venom Snake delivers a monologue speech to Big Boss, expressing his agreement to Big Boss’ vision. However it’s safe to assume that the 4th ending takes place in the same time setting i.e. 1984 and the mirror smashing scene takes place in 1995.
The big question though, what was that decoded message?
Truth be told, I don’t know. However in Ground Zeroes, the player finds a cassette tape titled Classified Intel Data with an instruction that states: Do Not Play In Music Player. Do you know what it contains? It contains the same sound file that Venom plays in the ending. Some users at MSX forums tried to decode the tape found in Ground Zeroes and have managed to find CLOAD header and filename out of it: “VOL2”. If am not wrong, VOL2 indicates Volume 2, which possibly means there is a Volume 1 possibly floating around in The Phantom Pain or Ground Zeroes. If this is really a thing, it could possibly decode that message.
Perhaps there is a secret message in there. Who knows really and we may never know.