If you played Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (MGSV) and felt like there was something missing, well then you weren’t alone. And you weren’t wrong either. Once the game reaches its climax and Snake defeats Sahelanthropus, pieces of the story are tied up neatly. Quiet reveals her story and vanishes, Huey is banished from the Diamond Dogs, Paz’s storyline is concluded, and the truth of Venom Snake is revealed to the player and Kazuhira Miller, who upon learning it swears vengeance on Big Boss — thus setting up the story of Solid Snake. But did you know of the game’s secret ending?
At this point, you’d be right to ask: but what of Sahelanthropus? After Eli (aka Liquid Snake) and his merry band of troublemakers swipe the 70-foot-mech from Mother Base with an assist from Psycho Mantis, the game sort of just forgets about them. While you say goodbye to the Big Boss-era slew of characters, the Metal Gear’s absence is conspicuous. There isn’t even a mention of it anywhere in the game after that happens.
So what gives? In case you didn’t know, MGSV’s development story is fraught with disaster. Kojima, legendary in the industry for taking his sweet time for finishing his games, was unceremoniously kicked out of Konami and the game was rushed to release before it was even finished. As such, MGSV’s “Chapter 51” was never completed and Sahelanthropus’ story never saw the conclusion it warranted. Fortunately for you and me, concept art of the mission exists, as well as some in-game footage. Let’s break it down to see what we missed out on.
Chapter 51 was meant to be the end to Eli’s story, as the kid soldiers create their own kingdom akin to that of Lord of the Flies in a jungle island. Armed with the English strain of the vocal cord parasites, the children create a buffer zone for themselves. Meanwhile, XOF are sent into the island to retrieve the parasites and, while they’re at it, recover Sahelanthropus too. Of course, Snake is sent in at the same time and he is tasked with covertly destroying the parasites, recovering Eli, and then getting the hell out of there before they bomb the island with napalm.
The jungle setting would have been a nice change of pace for the game, veering from the drab wastelands of Afghanistan and the uniform colors of West Africa. Given that Snake can’t hurt children in the game (otherwise the Mission immediately fails), the opposition being child soldiers would have added a new element to the game, probably forcing players to find ways around hurting the children.
In the recovered files for the chapter, Snake manages to make his way to Sahelanthropus, only to find XOF already there and opening fire. The Metal Gear makes short work of them, and Eli targets Snake and initiates what would have been the game’s final Boss Fight. Here’s where things get interesting: during this battle, Snake wouldn’t have fought alone, but instead was to be aided by the entirety of the Diamond Dogs forces.
The staff management and Mother Base aspects of the game often feel like a side-game of sorts: something that is there but you don’t necessarily have to do unless you want access to the end-game weapons and gear. Presumably, during this final encounter with Sahelanthropus and Eli, the strength of Mother Base and Diamond Dogs would have come into play. According to the files found in the collector’s edition, the lengthy battle would have seen Snake fighting alongside his compatriots, with Helicopter and other vehicle support arriving. This would have added another dimension to the game, especially given that its main focus is on the strength of the bonds formed by soldiers.
Once the fight is over, Snake approaches Eli in an attempt to extract him, but the XOF forces made it before him. As Snake proceeds to take them out, a blast from an enemy grenade triggers Snake’s head injury, rendering unable to differentiate between the white-suited XOF forces and the red-suited Eli. In a battle haze Snake accidentally shoots Eli, forever fomenting the rivalry between the two and setting the boy on the path of Liquid Snake. The rest of the Diamond Dogs arrive and realize that Eli has indeed been contaminated by the parasites, meaning he has to be left to die. Big Boss provides him with a gun, leaving the kid’s fate on his own terms and the rest of the military forces retreat as the island is bombed with napalm. Psycho Mantis, as he often does, appears out of nowhere and carries Eli to safety.
In all, Chapter 51 would have been a nice addition to the game, but most importantly to the franchise. It sets up Liquid Snake as a villain who is hell-bent on taking revenge on Big Boss, and provides Big Boss with even further guilt to be wracked with. And though I am of the mind that the ending to MGSV was perfect because it was principally Venom Snake’s story, this would have been a nice way to wrap up this final, loose end. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it and may never see it, especially now that Kojima has departed Konami and set up his own studio. It’s a bummer that Metal Gear went out with a fizzle and not a bang — but at least we get this sweet, sweet concept art.
If you want to check out the full Chapter 51, you can do so here: