The Phantom Pain was announced at the 2012 Spike’s Video Game Awards. Not much is known about the game outside of the trailer and an official site for Moby Dick Studios (more on that later). At the 2012 VGAs while plenty of exciting trailers and announcements occurred, none was more puzzling or interesting than the trailer that Adam Scott introduced to the world. Before the trailer, Scott mentioned plenty about surprises, and he was right. He also made mention that all the footage for the upcoming trailer was running in real-time. This real-time gameplay footage is an important detail to the puzzle that is The Phantom Pain. While the trailer does reveal some information, it does a great job at raising plenty of questions that set the internet ablaze.
The trailer opens up with a bald doctor with a white beard talking to a patient in bed while a nurse looks on from afar. The doctor tells the patient to relax and that he needs to tell him something. After imparting that information, there is a scene of a car crash.
In the car are two hospital patients, both with bandages on their face, one is wearing only blue pants and has a prosthetic limb, while the other is wearing a green hospital gown with full facial bandages. In the foreground of the scene is a sea of pills spilled about the car as it tosses back and forth. When it cuts back to the doctor, he tells the patient that he has been in a coma for a while. Presumably because of the car crash, but is that really the case?
Where am I? The one-armed man struggles to get up grabbing hold of a medical cart, but falls to the ground while gunfire is heard from somewhere else in the hospital. After failing to stand up, he crawls over to Cheeks. Why can’t I move my body? The two men creep down a hallway, the one-armed man still crawling around, Cheeks motions for him to stop when they notice a shadowed figure hanging out in an elevator at the end of the hallway. Am I in a dream?
Now the two men are in another hallway and the building is on fire, the one-armed man is still crawling on the floor, but struggles to get on his feet while the smoke thickens. Is this real? The two men find a less firey L-shaped hallway junction and now the one-armed man is on his feet. He is still not 100 percent, but he is moving with more fluidity. They crouch under a window, the one-armed man tries to look outside when a helicopter passes by and Cheeks forces him down. Something is coming! There is an invasion of this hospital happening hence the fire and gunshots. Cheeks sees flashlights at the end of hallway, using the smoke cover, he motions for the one-armed man to follow him into a room to their right. What is going on?
A solider drags a struggling hospital patient away by the leg while blood smears the floor. The patient claws at the floor and motions for help. Then, the soldier shoots him. Do they want me dead? Struggling on the floor, the one-armed man watches another patient get shot while Cheeks rushes to hide him under a hospital bed. What are they after? They watch from under the bed as the soldier puts a bullet in the middle of that patient’s head. Do they want us all dead?
The two men end up in another hallway when an exploding door sends the men flying away in a similar fashion to the car crash. Why is this happening to me? The one-armed man finds himself crammed in a hallway when soldiers enter and open fire. Struggling to exit the other end, the one-armed man notices that it is locked and more soldiers are coming. Shots pour in from both directions. No escape? In presumably the same hallway with the dead patients, the one-armed man and Cheeks get to their feet and run when they notice a man in a flame-retardant suit and mask with glowing eyes in front of them. Have I gone to hell?
Next, the one-armed man is running through a flaming hospital hallway by himself. There is a close-up of soldiers in full gear firing at something. Open your eyes. Then, the man in the flame-retardant suit and mask is in a hallway full of dead bodies as fire spreads heavily. The trailer cuts to a woman in a black leather suit in a hospital room on fire writhing in pain. Next, a flying, flaming horse carrying the man in the flame-retardant suit and mask with a flaming bow speeds towards something. Open your eyes, already.
The one-armed man exists the hospital noticing it is in shambles and sees a flaming whale spring from the Earth to swallow a helicopter in its mouth. It is the same helicopter from before. Playing dead in a hallway full of dead patients, a soldier kicks over the one-armed man and flashes a light in his face. He grimaces while staring at the barrel of the gun while a figure in black slowly rises unbeknownst to the two men. During this scene, a heart-rate monitor can be heard in the background.
There is plenty to analyze in the trailer. In noticing plenty of the smaller, odd details, the question has to be asked whether this is real or some drugged up fantasy due to the pills presence in the car crash. The trailer twice says, “Open your eyes.” While it is in the one-armed man’s psyche, it is also imploring the audience to notice the details.
The car crash has both the one-armed man and Cheeks before the audience ever sees them with the pills flying, so is that how they happened to be in the hospital or another bizarre surreality like the flaming whale. Is Cheeks even real? Because the one-armed man is often seen alone in the trailer near the end. Was Cheeks his scarred psyche creating another hallucination to help him? Why are the most visceral scenes in the same hallway among dead bodies? Are the weird people and figures in this hospital actually there or are they drug hallucination? Has the one-armed man actually awakened from his coma or is this hospital invasion a metaphor for the one-armed man fighting for consciousness?
While there are plenty of questions to ask about the Phantom Pain, maybe it is better to focus on some answers. The internet has essentially decided that The Phantom Pain is Metal Gear Solid 5 due to the one-armed man have some resemblance to Big Boss and the weird figures appearing over The Phantom Pain’s logo in the trailer. While that is purely speculative at this point, what is true is that the developer supposedly behind The Phantom Pain, Moby Dick Studios does not exist (despite a clever fake website, which has a good alternative version of the trailer with more audio and dubstep). The CEO Joakim Mogren is an anagram of Kojima. Then there is the suspicious act of Konami employees at the VGA wearing shirts that say The Phantom Pain and Moby Dick Studios. More importantly, the Moby Dick Studios site states that they are not on social media sites except for YouTube, which for a game today is weird.
In addition, Moby Dick Studios labels The Phantom Pain as a game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. However, watching the trailer in 1080p reveals a level of detail that is not possible on current-gen consoles, especially running in real-time (which the trailer is, but on a high-end PC). The Phantom Pain will likely be a next-gen console title. Thus, Moby Dick Studios and Joakim Mogren, or more likely Kojima Productions and Hideo Kojima, should reveal more news and information about the game at E3. If it is Metal Gear Solid 5, it is another example of the power of the Fox Engine and how quick a turnaround Kojima Productions can have when not developing an engine and a game simultaneously. Whatever the case may be with The Phantom Pain, it is hugely exciting and looks amazing.