Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Song

The latest trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain uses the song “Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield to GREAT effect!


Just wanted to post some quick thoughts on the music choice behind the rad new trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain that was just unveiled at E3 2014.

Here’s the trailer:

The song used for the trailer is “Nuclear” by longtime British prog rocker Mike Oldfield.

Mike Oldfield_ by Ian Witlen -1828-2b_pp.jpg

Oldfield is best known for his 1973 album Tubular Bells which was used as the theme of the classic horror film The Exorcist. This album also inspired a JoJo Stand.

tubular bells jojo's bizarre adventure mike oldfield metal gear solid v phantom pain
Tubular Bells is one of the WEIRDEST stands to ever grace JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (which is truly a feat if you’re familiar with the series)

“Nuclear” is a track from Oldfield’s 25th studio album Man on the Rocks which was released on March 3 2014, only a few months before the Metal Gear E3 2014 trailer. The song fits the trailer in an amazingly layered fashion. Aside from setting the perfect tone, the song’s lyrics very literally describe what’s happening on screen while also emphasizing the themes of MGS V: The Phantom Pain.

“Nuclear” is very clearly a song about war, which has always been one of the main themes of the Metal Gear series. The first stanza goes:

“Standing on the edge of the crater
Like the prophets once said
and the ashes are all cold now
No more bullets and the embers are dead
Whispers in the air tell the tales
Of the brothers gone
Desolation, devastation
What a mess we made, when it all went wrong”


This perfectly describes Big Boss following the destruction of Mother Base in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. His life’s work has been destroyed. His comrades have been slain. Where he once fought for his ideals and the dream of a world where soldiers could determine their own fates, in The Phantom Pain he fights for revenge. The line “the ashes are cold now” has particular significance as it’s revealed that instead of giving his slain comrades a burial at sea (a time honored military tradition), Big Boss has their ashes compressed into diamond knives which are used in cold and violent fashion to avenge their deaths.

"This game will have more stabbings than a violent Korean Thriller" - Weigy Samakoen (follow him on Twitter! @Weigy)
“This game will have more stabbings than a violent Korean Thriller” – Weigy Samakoen (follow him on Twitter! @Weigy)

The song continues:

“Watching from the edge of the circus
For the games to begin
Gladiators draw their swords
form their ranks for armageddon”


This is pretty straight forward. These lyrics describe the apocalyptic mood of The Phantom Pain, with Big Boss rallying his men to increasing heights of violence.

Then the chorus kicks in:

“I’m nuclear
I’m wild
I’m breaking up inside”


The word “nuclear” is very significant since Metal Gear is a story that takes place after the Atomic Age. With the detonation of the first nuclear bomb in 1945, humanity achieved the ability to annihilate itself on a global scale. The title Metal Gear refers to the code name of a walking tank that functions as a mobile nuclear launch platform. Many of the Metal Gear games revolve around the hero attempting to stop the Metal Gear from falling into the wrong hands (they’re about MUCH MORE than this though!).

A shot of what appears to be a Metal Gear from the E3 2014 Phantom Pain trailer
A shot of what appears to be a Metal Gear from the E3 2014 Phantom Pain trailer

“A heart of broken glass
Deep inside
The abandoned child”

These lyrics not only describe Big Boss, the protagonist of The Phantom Pain, they also describe every protagonist of a Metal Gear game.


Big Boss was abandoned by his beloved mentor, the legendary soldier simply known as The Boss (her real name is never revealed) in the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. He inherits his esteemed title from her.

Solid Snake, the original hero of Metal Gear is a black ops soldier who specializes in solo missions that are so secret that the US will disavow any connection to him if he’s ever caught. Following the “Shadow Moses Incident” (the events of the original Metal Gear Solid for PSOne) Snake takes the fall for the disaster and is branded a terrorist. He is abandoned by his country, though he returns to save it (and the world) in subsequent games. Snake is a clone of Big Boss. He never knew his “father” until he was sent to kill him in the events of the original 8-bit Metal Gear game

Raiden, the surprise protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was a child soldier. His parents were murdered shortly after he was born and he was taken in and raised by the man who killed them.

The description of an “abandoned child” could also refer to any number of supporting characters in the Phantom Pain. For instance it’s very likely that a young Liquid Snake is in the game as well as a young Psycho Mantis, two characters with very strong parental abandonment issues.

The description also very aptly describes Kazuhira Miller, Big Boss’ second in command. Miller is the son of a US soldier and a Japanese prostitute struggling to get by in post World War 2 Japan. His father did not stick around. Miller grew up an outsider, abandoned by both cultures of his heritage. It was only until he met Big Boss on the battlefield that he found a place where he felt he truly belonged.

We’ve explored how the trailer reappropriates the lyrics of the song to fit the themes of Metal Gear. To add another layer to the mix, we can look into the original intention of the lyrics to “Nuclear”, which are about the author’s grandfather and his traumatic experiences with World War I. Here are Mike Oldman’s words on the subject:

“I never knew him,” he says, “So I hired a company to find out about him. It turned out he was a great character before the war but came home a very different man. My mum was one of ten or eleven kids and all the children born after the war had problems like hers. I wanted to see if I could spread my senses in the place he was. I travelled around Ypres and the battlefield museums and I saw the graves of his regiment: the Royal Munster Fusiliers. And I could feel it. Still there. It’s a blessing and a curse for those of us who have this extra sensitivity.”


The song is about how the trauma of one life can reverberate across many generations. This has always been a core message of Metal Gear, which spans many generations from the past into the future. This is especially relevant to the themes of The Phantom Pain, which Hideo Kojima has described as “race and revenge.”

The opening message to the trailer reads:

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured”

This quote is from Mark Twain, famed American novelist and in the age of social media, even more famous as a satirist, with many splashy quotes popping up in feeds across the world. Lesser known is Mark Twain, the member of the American Anti-Imperialist League, founded in 1898 to fight against America’s annexation of the Philippines. Twain abhorred Imperialism and its cruel exploitation of people across the globe, justified by a sense of racial and national superiority. The scars of this era still pock mark our world today. And in many places these wounds have are still open and have only gotten worse.

Metal Gear may just be a videogame to most people, but it touches on some of the most important topics of our times in a way that resonates very deeply with me. I can’t wait to see how the next chapter unfolds.

Bonus Musings:

“Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield sounds a whole lot like the classic King Crimson song “Epitaph”

Which is coincidentally also the name of another really rad stand from JoJo (the main guy is "King Crimson" while the little guy on his forehead is named "Epitaph")
Which is coincidentally also the name of another really rad stand from JoJo (the main guy is “King Crimson” while the little guy on his forehead is named “Epitaph”)

Epitaph is another classic song that ponders the concept of war and its aftermath. I think there’s a very good chance that “Nuclear” is based on “Epitaph” as you can practically overlay the songs on top of one another. Also the first line of Nuclear; “Standing on the edge of the crater, Like the prophets once said;” could be a reference to the first line of Epitaph; “The wall on which the prophets wrote Is cracking at the seams.”

Speaking of crimson things, the color red features prominently in this trailer. Obviously this is inevitable with so much bloodshed. But I think it also relates to the classic Japanese folk tale of the Red Ogre and the Blue Ogre.

The story goes that there once was a Red Ogre and a Blue Ogre who were friends. The Red Ogre desperately wanted to befriend some human villagers, but they were terrified of him. The Blue Ogre came up with a plan. He would pretend to attack the village and the Red Ogre would fight him off and save the day. The plan works marvelously and the villagers accept the Red Ogre as their friend and savior. Later the Red Ogre receives a message from his friend. The Blue Ogre tells him that he must say goodbye. They can never be seen together again as their plan might be found out, and the Red Ogre would lose his new human friends. It’s a very bittersweet story.


I believe this might be the basic plot outline to The Phantom Pain. The game was originally codenamed “Project Ogre.” The main characters are Big Boss (Red Ogre) and Kazuhira Miller (Blue Ogre). Big Boss (who now has a horn and a red prosthetic arm) is the longstanding antagonist of the Metal Gear series. However, in the very first Metal Gear, which chronologically takes place after The Phantom Pain, Big Boss is introduced as an ally and mentor to Solid Snake, guiding him on his mission. At some point during The Phantom Pain, I believe that Big Boss and Miller will orchestrate some kind of falling out in order to plant Big Boss back into the good graces of the United States. I can’t wait to see how this plays out!

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Apologies for the slipshod nature of this post. I just wanted to get my thoughts out in a timely manner. I might update this post in the future to clean it up and punch it up with more visuals. Until then, take care!

Update; 06/10/2014:
One more clue about the ogre imagery was just pointed out to me by a friend. In the trailer Eli (who is likely Liquid Snake) is wearing a shirt that says “Never be Game Over.” Under that image is an ogre with an eyepatch!


This is the strongest indication of the Ogre allegory yet!

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Author: Richmond

I am a professional game artist who wants everyone to love art as much as I do!

13 thoughts on “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Song”

  1. you have your ogres mixed up. it was the Red ogre to befriend the villagers not the Blue one. great observation though.

    1. Doh! I got it backwards! I think the symbolism is still intentional, I’ll just have to wait and see how things play out when the game comes out. Thanks for the correction!

      1. Alright, finally got around to updating the article so that the story of the Red Ogre now has a correct synopsis. Also revised my interpretation of how that may fit into The Phantom Pain. Thanks again!

    2. Alright, finally got around to updating the article so that the story of the Red Ogre now has a correct synopsis. Also revised my interpretation of how that may fit into The Phantom Pain. Thanks again!

  2. the strongest indication of the ogre allegory was the fact that the game was codenamed project ogre, but yes, the jacket clues does complement it nicely.

    interesting take on miller’s motivations. that sounds more clever than the common interpretation that they have some form of falling out.

  3. …Now you make me crave for a Metal Gear x Jojo game. Yoshikawa drawing Araki’s characters would be AMAZING.
    (sorry for going way off topic haha)

  4. Yea definitely had that King Crimson song coming right into my mind while watching it.

    Interesting write-up!

  5. Great article – the ogre connection really surprised me. I wish I could see things analytically; How does the world look through your eyes?

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