*SPOILER ALERT* Spoilers for the entire Metal Gear Solid series follow. Read at your own risk!
Naked Snake, now known as Big Boss, was a growing legend in the black ops world after his exploits in Russia in 1964. After killing his mentor, The Boss, Naked Snake ended up fighting in various regional conflicts around the world, including Mozambique in 1966. Sometime in 1970, Big Boss was captured by his former unit, FOX. The unit had gone rogue, and was looking for the Philosopher’s Legacy.
The San Hieronymo Incident – 1970
FOX imprisoned Big Boss on the San Hieronymo Peninsula where a Soviet base was secretly located. Big Boss escapes prison, meets up with a young Roy Campbell, future leader of the Special Forces Unit: Foxhound, and finds out he’s wanted for treason by the Department of Defense due to his supposed involvement with the rogue FOX unit’s uprising and betrayal. To clear his name, Big Boss builds his own military unit, defeats Gene, the current leader of the FOX unit, and destroys a prototype Metal Gear, RAXA.
A very large theme of Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is loyalty. Big Boss tries to remain loyal to himself, as a soldier and loyal to those who follow him. He is successful in building a small army of Soviet and rebel FOX unit soldiers, who follow Big Boss without question. He shows his incredible charisma and talent for leadership by easily converting these soldiers to his cause. The main takeaway from Big Boss as a character in Portable Ops is that he is a competent and inspiring leader. These soldiers are willing to fight and die for Big Boss and his ideals: to fight for yourself and not a nation who would use you to it’s own ends. While Big Boss has not yet accepted the title of “Boss” for himself, he certainly shows that he is deserving of the role.
Portable Ops is also the first glimpse we see of Big Boss’s feelings on child soldiers. After fighting a young Frank Jaeger (who is later known as Gray Fox), Big Boss takes him back to the United States to a rehabilitation clinic to hopefully integrate him back into society. Unfortunately, the United States government has other ideas, and perform experiments on Frank, turning him into the super soldier, Null. When Big Boss faces Frank in 1970, he comes to realize that child soldiers will only ever know to fight, and the government can’t be trusted with those children’s rehabilitation.
Foxhound, Les Enfants Terribles, Cipher, and Kazuhira Miller – 1970-74
After Big Boss finishes off Gene and ends the threat of nuclear disaster by Metal Gear, Ocelot kills the director of the CIA who is in league with the American Philosophers, under the orders of Major Zero. Zero requests Ocelot to help him reform the American branch of the Philosophers as “Cipher.” Ocelot joins under the pretense that Big Boss is also extended an invitation. While working behind the scenes with Cipher, Big Boss establishes Foxhound in the United States as a top secret solo operations successor to the former FOX unit.
Big Boss becomes the symbol of the future that Zero envisions, a unified world under the control of Cipher. Zero’s “Les Enfants Terribles” project clones Big Boss without his permission. Disgusted, Big Boss leaves Cipher to fight in regional conflicts throughout the world. In Colombia, Big Boss destroys Kazuhira Miller’s guerrilla group and befriends the Japanese-American. The two start a mercenary unit named “Militares Sans Frontieres” or “Soldiers without Borders” to try and pursue Big Boss’s idea of The Boss’s vision of a world where governments don’t have ultimate control over the lives of soldiers.
The Peace Walker Incident – 1974
By 1974, Big Boss and Kazuhira Miller are leading the Militares Sans Frontieres mercenary group, and hiding out in Colombia. The two are approached by an undercover KGB Agent and his “student”, Paz Ortega Andrade, about forcing out an American CIA unit that has occupied their Army-less country of Costa Rica. Big Boss is hesitant about taking the job until the KGB Agent, Vladimir Zadornov, plays him a recording that contains the supposed voice of his former mentor, The Boss. Big Boss takes the mission, claiming the reason is to help Paz achieve her goal of peace in her country.
During the events of the game, Big Boss comes into contact with the local Sandinista group, a guerrilla military force that has been expelled from their homeland of Nicaragua. He convinces the group to fight with him, bringing large numbers of them into his mercenary group. Among these soldiers is the child soldier, Chico, the brother of the groups leader, Amanda. Chico is still young, but because of his strong will, Big Boss decides to treat him as a man and a soldier.
He finds that The Boss’s voice was a recording of an AI super-weapon designed as a nuclear deterrent that makes decisions based on the predicted thought processes of The Boss. The AI super-weapon is a Metal Gear designated the “Peace Walker”, which is misused by CIA Station Chief, Hot Coldman, to induce a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Big Boss attempts to stop the conflict, but is unsuccessful. The Boss AI instead decides to stop the conflict and pursue peace by submerging the Peace Walker it is controlling into Lake Nicaragua. Big Boss resents this decision, and he throws the bandanna he has been wearing for a decade, a memento of his slain mentor, into the lake after the drowned Peace Walker. After the battle, Paz is revealed to be an agent of Cipher, working for Major Zero. She battles Big Boss while piloting the mercenary group’s own Metal Gear ZEKE. Big Boss defeats her and she plummets into the ocean.
Big Boss is obviously still hung up on The Boss and finding out what her final words actually meant. The fact that he took on this dangerous mission after hearing The Boss’s voice is evidence enough of Big Boss’s continued loyalty. Big Boss had interpreted The Boss’s last will up until the events of Peace Walker as having a place for soldiers where the governments of the world cannot unethically control them. When The Boss AI decides to lay down her arms and become an agent of peace, Big Boss sees this as a rejection of his way of life, a rejection of the only thing he’s ever been good at: fighting.
After this rejection, Big Boss now fully embraces his title of “Boss”, and continues to lead his men into the future as a fighting force that isn’t tied to the whims of old politicians. The symbols of the butterfly that constantly show up in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, signify the change that several characters go through during the course of the story. For Big Boss, this means a revelation: that he is his own man. As a butterfly morphs from a caterpillar to a winged insect, he morphs from a leader following The Boss’s will to a man with his own ideals. He is free of The Boss.
Ground Zeroes – 1975
In 1975, Big Boss and Miller discover that Paz is still alive and being held at an American POW camp in Cuba. Chico, who has fallen in love with Paz, charges off to rescue her and is subsequently captured. Big Boss, afraid that Paz might spill the Militaires Sans Frontieres’s secrets to the United States, infiltrates the POW camp and brings back both the young captives. During his mission, Cipher’s rogue XOF unit disguises as a nuclear inspection team and attacks the offshore facility that the mercenary unit calls it’s Mother Base. Big Boss, Miller, Chico, and Paz are seemingly blown up by a bomb in the helicopter as they escape the carnage.
The only character development worth noting in Big Boss during the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is that he seems to be completely over The Boss. He no longer wears her bandanna, and he no longer keeps her as a motivation to complete his vision. Big Boss’s character remains static in this mission, and does not change. Other than the very obvious switch in voice actors from David Hayter to Kiefer Sutherland, the game feels like nothing more than a short side story to lead up to the next game, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This voice actor change could be seen as a symbol in and of itself. Big Boss is a changed man, quite literally, after the events of Peace Walker.
In Part 3, we will examine the events of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and the small appearances by Big Boss in the games that follow chronologically.