Back in 2015, Hideo Kojima's final effort on the Metal Gear Solid franchise finally released to eager fans. Once again, the Metal Gear Solid franchise had reinvented itself as one of the most systemically impressive open world military action games of all time. Completing story missions, taking down whole enemy outposts, breaking down the enemies through stealth and sabotage, Metal Gear Solid 5's gameplay loop still makes it one of the best games to play in the whole franchise. However, there was one aspect for hardcore fans that was severely lacking: the story. Many attributed this to Kojima's sudden departure from Konami, but the issues spread further than that.
Even outside of the controversy with Hideo Kojima's departure from Konami, Metal Gear Solid 5's ending is still largely unsatisfying outside of that context. Hardcore Metal Gear Solid fans are aware of the cut chapter that many have touted as the "true" ending to the fifth game, despite Konami confirming it as simply cut content. However, it's hard to argue whether including that cut content would really even make Metal Gear Solid 5's ending that much better. Compared to nearly every Metal Gear Solid game before it, the fifth game's conclusion (and to some extent the story in-between) is far more underwhelming compared to previous games.
Just in case, for those that are unaware, Episode 46 (the last story-centric mission) is the final act of the game's narrative. Titled "Truth: The Man Who Sold the World," this is where the player's character learns that they weren't actually Big Boss, but rather the Medic from MSF who was one of Big Boss' most trusted lieutenants. The big ending twist is that players were never in control of the true Big Boss, but Venom Snake, who would later become the Big Boss seen in the very first Metal Gear game on the MSX2 and NES. However, the collector's edition of Metal Gear Solid 5 showcased an unused chapter (Episode 51) that was cut from the game prior to release.
By now, many fans have considered this final episode to be a more fitting end to the game. The events of Episode 51 give characters like Eli (Liquid Snake) some closure and lead-in to the events that would occur in numerous other Metal Gear Solid games like the Shadow Moses Incident. Players would've had to endure one final, climactic battle against the new Metal Gear called Sahelanthropus and Eli, without the revelation of knowing players are embodying Snake's body double.
Conceptually, this ending would've tied together themes of identity and individuality in a subtle but relatively effective manner. The original ending just assumes Venom Snake "realizes" he's officially personified Big Boss, and then seemingly breaks the mirror without any discernible reason or narrative pay off.
However, even if the events of Episode 51 were to replace or be added alongside the game's original ending, these themes of individuality still aren't introduced and capitalized on tactfully. Venom Snake just kind of vaguely learns he's meant to replace Big Boss, based on what Eli says to him. To be fair, in the original Metal Gear Solid 5 ending, Big Boss just ends up being telling Venom Snake via a tape recording, resulting in an empty twist with little impact. Pairing that with the Episode 51 ending does help to reinforce Venom Snake's true transformation into Big Boss, but even that still really isn't enough to make Metal Gear Solid 5's ending any more impactful.
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