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Venom Snake (ヴェノム・スネーク, Venomu Sunēku), also known as Punished Snake (パニッシュド・スネーク, Panishudo Sunēku), is the protagonist in the 2015 video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He is the leader of a mercenary unit who returns to the battlefield after waking up from a nine-year coma in an incident that also resulted in the loss of his left arm and a piece of shrapnel embedded into the left side of his forehead. While initially introduced in-game as long-standing Metal Gear character Big Boss, hints of his true identity gradually emerge throughout the course of the story. It is ultimately revealed that he is actually a former combat medic who underwent facial reconstruction and subliminal brainwashing to serve as Big Boss's body double. The character is voiced by Akio Ōtsuka in the Japanese version and by Kiefer Sutherland in the English version.

Venom Snake
Metal Gear character
Venom Snake (CGI render).png
Promotional CGI of Venom Snake for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
First gameMetal Gear (1987) (retroactive)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014) (cameo)
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015) (official)
Created byHideo Kojima
Designed byYoji Shinkawa
Voiced by
Motion capture
  • Kiefer Sutherland (facial)
  • Erik Brown (body)
  • Rudy McCollum (body: Metal Gear Solid V [Prologue: Awakening])
Fictional profile
Real nameAssigned by the player
AliasesPunished Snake, Ahab, V, Big Boss's phantom
  • Militaires Sans Frontières
  • Diamond Dogs
  • Outer Heaven



Before Metal Gear Solid VEdit

The character of Big Boss debuted in the original Metal Gear game, where he initially serves as Solid Snake's commanding officer and main radio contact while also serving as the leader of Outer Heaven's forces.[1] Despite his apparent defeat, the game ends with a message from Big Boss vowing revenge against Solid Snake following the credits.[2] At the time, there was no indication that the character in the original Metal Gear was a body double. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake has an in-game rumor about Big Boss rebuilt with cybernetic parts after being mortally wounded during the final encounter in the previous game;[3] this explanation was used for Big Boss's survival in the Metal Gear Solid 4 Database.[4]

Metal Gear Solid VEdit

Venom Snake makes a minor appearance in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes as an unnamed combat medic and then throughout Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as the player character.

Under his original identity, he was employed by Big Boss's Militaires Sans Frontières private forces. The medic's face is never fully shown (partially obscured when he is on-screen). He accompanies Big Boss to Mother Base in a helicopter following the extraction of Ricardo Valenciano Libre and Paz Ortega Andrade from a U.S. Naval prison facility in Cuba in 1975. While the medic successfully removes a time bomb that was implanted inside Paz's abdomen, he fails to notice the second bomb within Paz's womb. When the second bomb goes off, the medic shields Big Boss from the blast, causing the helicopter to crash in the process. The two men survive the crash, but the medic ends up losing his left arm while fragments of bones and teeth are buried within his body, including a large piece of shrapnel lodged within his cerebral cortex.[5] Both Big Boss and the medic fall into a coma for the next nine years. During his coma, the medic was transferred to a hospital in Cyprus, where he was subjected to a process of subconscious brainwashing and facial reconstruction in order to be Big Boss's mental doppelganger and draw attention away from his mental template.[6]

After awakening, Snake escapes the hospital following an attack by XOF strike force and is extracted by Revolver Ocelot.[7] He takes command of the Diamond Dogs mercenary unit along with a new Mother Base constructed near Seychelles. Snake then engages in a series of missions in Afghanistan and Central Africa as he and Kazuhira Miller seek revenge for lost comrades and pursues the Cipher organization. Along the way, he recruits several individuals into his army, including companions such as the sniper Quiet and the canine D-Dog. Snake ultimately comes face to face with XOF's leader Skull Face, as well as child mercenary leader Eli. During an unspecified time period, he is shown in Outer Heaven receiving a cassette tape from Big Boss, with one side labelled "Operation Intrude N313" (the mission codename in the original Metal Gear), which he plays on a Sony BitCorder device connected to an MSX2 computer (the platform which the Metal Gear series started on). The timeline shown afterward establishes that Big Boss's phantom would later die fighting against Solid Snake in Outer Heaven.[8][9]

Creation and designEdit

Concept art of Venom Snake standing next to an early design of his canine companion, a Rhodesian Ridgeback in this artwork.

Physical appearanceEdit

Venom Snake is distinguished from the real Big Boss by his bionic left arm, the numerous facial scars and the shrapnel "horn" protruding from the right side of his forehead. His eye-patch also differs from the one usually worn by Big Boss, as it has three straps instead of just two. The player is given the option to use the avatar's natural face in place of Snake's after clearing Episode 46, although the avatar's face can be seen prior to that on Snake's reflection in the aerial command center. The decision to have Snake lose his left arm was made early during the development of Metal Gear Solid V, although originally he was supposed to wear a regular prosthetic rather than a bionic arm.[10]

The game features a hidden "karma" system which causes Venom Snake's appearance to change based on the player's behaviour. Negative actions such as killing people and animals or developing nuclear weapons earn Demon Points. Earning 20,000 causes Snake's horn to grow, and reaching 50,000 makes it grow even longer, with Snake becoming permanently soaked in blood. This demonic appearance is accentuated by Snake's belt, which resembles a tail.[11] Positive actions such as extracting animals and child soldiers, earning certain achievements, or visiting Mother Base's zoo will eventually reverse these changes, which are purely aesthetic.[12]


In Metal Gear Solid V, Venom Snake is portrayed by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland through voice-over and facial motion capture, briefly appearing as the medic in Ground Zeroes and then as the player character throughout The Phantom Pain. Sutherland plays both Venom Snake and Big Boss but the official credits makes no distinction between either character, with the role simply billed as "Snake". The casting was announced by Konami on June 6, 2013, during the annual Konami Pre-E3 show.[13][14][15][16] Kojima's reason for selecting Sutherland rather than Snake's usual voice actor was to "have a more subdued performance expressed through subtle facial movements and tone of voice rather than words", and that he "needed someone who could genuinely convey both the facial and vocal qualities of a man in his late 40s". Hollywood producer and director Avi Arad suggested to Kojima that Sutherland could fulfill his requirements.[17][18][19] Akio Ōtsuka was unaffected by this casting change and continued to voice Snake in the Japanese version.[20] On March 4, 2015, Kojima said that Snake would have less dialogue in The Phantom Pain than in previous installments, explaining that this would make Snake more an extension of the player, and that he would act based on the player's actions "rather than doing things like making spontaneous comments or flirting with women."[21]


The character was initially introduced as "Punished Snake" in the E3 2013 trailer for Metal Gear Solid V, but this moniker would fall into disuse in favor of "Venom Snake", which is the name that was used in most of the promotional imagery and merchandising since E3 2014. Although the final game bills him as "Punished 'Venom' Snake" in the opening sequence of every mission, the codename "Punished Snake" is never spoken by anyone, while the name "Venom Snake" is only mentioned once in the actual script[7] - otherwise the character is simply referred to as "Snake" or "Big Boss".

During the prologue sequence of the game, the player character is briefly given the name Ahab (エイハブ, Eihabu) by the medical staff protecting him in Cyprus, while Big Boss (whose face is covered bandages) assumes the identity of Ishmael when helping the player thwart off the enemy forces pursuing them in the hospital. These are the names of the protagonist and the narrator respectively in Moby-Dick. According to Kenji Yano, who wrote the novelization of The Phantom Pain under the pen name Hitori Nojima, these names were chosen to symbolize Big Boss handing down the role of protagonist to Venom Snake while he takes a supporting role in the story.[22]


Asserting that Metal Gear Solid has always been a primarily metafictional series, Dave Thier of Forbes praised the game's substitution of a player-created avatar for Big Boss: "It's not ending the actual plot – lord knows how anyone would actually go about doing that – it's ending the game, and the series as well. You’ve made it through every mission, you've backtracked, perfected, gotten your S ratings and employed perfect stealth. That's it, you're Big Boss, you're Snake, You're 'you.' And you're done."[23] Chris Carter of Destructoid said that Venom Snake made sense within the context of the series, as the games have "always dabbled in the concept of 'the legend' being stronger than the actual person", but suggested that a depiction of his death at the hands of Solid Snake (recreating the original Metal Gear from the villain's perspective) would have been a stronger ending.[24]

Writing for PC Gamer, Samuel Roberts called the revelation of Venom Snake's identity "one perfect moment in a bad story". The reviewer elaborated: "The epilogue takes away the pillar of his identity as Big Boss, and all you're left with is every unscripted experience you've had in the battlefield, no backstory other than the one you’ve just created. The ending is about what MGSV 'the game' is ... a freeform experience shaped by your intent – and such an ending is a perfect thematic match for this game Kojima Productions has created, a true military action sandbox where few situations ever play out the same way." Roberts also noted that the twist worked on a literal level, making the medic a "tragic and unsettling" figure whose only meaningful relationship is with a woman who thinks he is someone else.[25]

Writing for Kotaku, Jason Schreier said: "Scrutinized in a vacuum, this twist is kind of neat – turns out the 'legend' of Big Boss had always trumped the man himself – but the harder you think, the more it unravels, leading to all sorts of questions with no clear answers ... Turns out that while we thought we were experiencing Big Boss's revenge-driven evolution from noble soldier to misguided villain, we were actually watching someone else entirely, which seriously cheapens the emotional effects of Mission 43 and just about everything else you do in The Phantom Pain." Schreier also disliked that the game failed to provide any explanation or context for both Venom Snake and Big Boss' change of character portrayed in Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, respectively, writing "it’s never made clear just how or why [Venom Snake] became that villain, building weapons of mass destruction in hopes of dominating the world ... In the second Metal Gear, the bad guy was Real Big Boss. Also evil. And because we know nothing about where he went or what he did while Venom was building Mother Base, his motivations also remain unclear."[26]



  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - The Complete Official Guide (Collector's ed.). Piggyback Interactive Limited. ISBN 978-1-908172-76-1.


  1. ^ Konami. Metal Gear. PS2. Level/area: Final boss dialogue. Big Boss:"Solid Snake! I've been expecting you... ...I am the supreme commander of the FOXHOUND unit... And... The leader of the fortress of Outer Heaven, Big Boss!"
  2. ^ Konami. Metal Gear. PS2. Level/area: post-credits message. ...can you hear me? Solid Snake... I'm not dead... Someday, I'll get even with you. Someday... We will meet again
  3. ^ Konami. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. PS2. George Kasler: "Three years ago, when Outer Heaven fell, Big Boss was seriously wounded. He almost died... He lost both hands, both feet, his right eye, and his right ear. But somehow... he survived. Then an Eastern bloc despot took an interest in him. Probably couldn't resist getting his hands on a soldier of Big Boss's caliber. They decided to use Big Boss as a guinea pig in Madnar's Snatcher project. I don't know the details, but apparently it involved turning him into a cyborg. Now he's half man and half machine. Hard to believe, I know."
  4. ^ Kojima Productions. Metal Gear Solid 4 Database. PS3. Level/area: Snatcher Project. After his death at the hands of Solid Snake, Big Boss became the first test subject [of the Snatcher Project]. When he was found after his battle with Solid Snake, Big Boss had lost both arms, both legs, his right eye, and his right ear. The Snatcher Project brought him back from the dead.
  5. ^ Kojima Productions. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Level/area: Episode 46. Miller: "How he's doing?" Doctor: "He's stabilized, but we took too long. He's in a coma." Miller: "What about him?" (nods towards the viewer) Doctor: "He took some shrapnel... to the head..."
  6. ^ Kojima Productions. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Level/area: Truth Records - Doublethink. Ocelot: We've been busy over the last nine years. His altered state of consciousness has helped us implant powerful suggestions through induced hypnogogia. He's experienced all your missions on record, and shares all your knowledge and experience. To make him believe that he is the one true Big Boss. No one around him will doubt that he's the Big Boss they know. So is he the real Big Boss or a stand-in? What does that mean to him? Nothing. The human brain is capable of many illusions. Of pain, of the future. What happens from here depends on his skill. But you can vouch for that. / Big Boss: "He was always the best man we had. But..."/Ocelot: "Nine years ago in that helicopter, he threw himself between you and the blast. In that moment, the man you knew died. He died protecting you. And now, by becoming you, he protects you again. This is just a detour in his journey to Hell. And don't forget it's what he wanted. He's in his Dog Days now. It's not just him. We'll be putting the people in this hospital in the line of fire. They'll be your shield, and a necessary diversion. To buy us some time."
  7. ^ a b Kojima Productions. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Level/area: Ocelot's Briefing [1] - The Strike Force: After the Attack. Ocelot: The days of Naked Snake are long gone. Welcome back, Venom Snake.
  8. ^ Kojima Productions. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Level/area: Episode 46. 1995 - While commanding special forces unit FOXHOUND from a position in the U.S. military, Big Boss establishes the fortified military nation 'Outer Heaven' in South Africa. The Outer Heaven Uprising occurs, but it is quashed by Solid Snake, who kills Big Boss's phantom.
  9. ^ Bailey, Kat (September 9, 2015). "Metal Gear Solid V Story Guide: What Happened and How it Connects to the Rest of the Series". US Gamer. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  10. ^ Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - The Complete Official Guide. p. 370-371. We decided early on in the project that Snake was to lose his left arm and two fingers from his right hand. Technically he could still wield weapons, but this would have made it difficult for the player to appreciate the full intended experience; that's why we opted to equip with a powerful prosthetic arm.
  11. ^ @HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN (June 14, 2014). "There's a horn on V Snake but in fact he also has a tail. Instead of physical tail, the belt looks like the tail" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  12. ^ Kelly, Andy (September 22, 2015). "Metal Gear Solid 5's hidden karma system". PC Gamer. Retrieved April 11, 2016.
  13. ^ Romano, Sal. "Metal Gear Solid V clip teases Snake's new voice actor". Gematsu. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  14. ^ Brian. "Snake's voice actor in Metal Gear Solid V to be revealed during Konami's pre-E3 show". GamingEverything. Retrieved 3 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Staff. "Konami's pre-E3 stream: Kiefer Sutherland Playing Snake in Metal Gear Solid 5". VG24/7. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  16. ^ Narcisse, Evan (27 March 2013). "Beloved Solid Snake Voice Actor Says He Wasn't Asked to Be in Metal Gear Solid V". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  17. ^ Goldfarb, Andrew. "Kiefer Sutherland Playing Snake in Metal Gear Solid V". IGN. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  18. ^ "Metal Gear Solid 5 - Behind The Scenes". YouTube. GamesHQMedia. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  19. ^ "Metal Gear Solid 5: Kiefer Sutherland = More Cutscenes - IGN Conversation". YouTube. IGN. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  20. ^ "ヒデラジE3スペシャル(後篇) 【通算第315回】 (13.06.21)" (in Japanese).
  21. ^ Albert, Brian. "SNAKE 'WON'T REALLY SPEAK MUCH AT ALL' IN METAL GEAR SOLID 5". IGN. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  22. ^ "How should we interpret the story of MGSV? The expert speaks!". Kadokawa Dwango Corporation.
  23. ^ Thier, Dave (September 8, 2015). "The Real Meaning Of 'Metal Gear Solid V's' 'True' Ending". Forbes. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  24. ^ Carter, Chris (September 18, 2015). "SO, LET'S TALK ABOUT METAL GEAR SOLID V'S ENDING". Destructoid. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  25. ^ Roberts, Samuel (November 26, 2015). "Why MGS5's ending is one perfect moment in a bad story". PC Gamer. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  26. ^ Schreler, Jason (September 10, 2015). "Why Metal Gear Solid V's Ending Is So Disappointing". Kotaku. Retrieved March 16, 2016.