Venom Snake

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Venom Snake
Metal Gear character
Venom Snake from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
First gameMetal Gear (1987)
Created byHideo Kojima
Designed byYoji Shinkawa
Chihoko Uchiyama
Voiced by
Motion capture
  • Kiefer Sutherland (facial)
  • Erik Brown (body)
  • Rudy McCollum (body [Ground Zeroes and Prologue: Awakening])
In-universe information

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 a fictional character from Konami's Metal Gear video game series. Created by Hideo Kojima and designed by Yoji Shinkawa, he is most notably the protagonist in the 2015 game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He is performed via voice acting and performance capture by Akio Ōtsuka in the Japanese version and by Kiefer Sutherland in the English version.

The leader of the Diamond Dogs mercenary unit who returns to the battlefield after waking up from a nine-year coma with his left arm prosthetic and a piece of shrapnel embedded into the right side of his forehead, he is initially introduced in-game as Big Boss but he is actually a former physician and combat medic who underwent facial reconstruction and subliminal brainwashing to serve as a body double and is also revealed (via retcon) to be the man killed by Solid Snake in the original 1987 game.

Venom Snake's role as a doppelgänger for Big Boss in The Phantom Pain received mixed opinions from critics, with some finding the decision fitting in the context of the series, while others thought it negated the emotional crux of the game's story or failed to provide closure. Sutherland's performance garnered praise from critics, although some were bemused by his relative lack of dialogue.


Metal Gear Solid V[edit]

Venom Snake (ヴェノム・スネーク, Venomu Sunēku) 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 also known as Punished Snake (パニッシュド・スネーク, Panishudo Sunēku). In the 1970s, his original identity (whose face is partially obscured when he's on-screen) was employed by the Militaires Sans Frontières private forces. He accompanies Big Boss in the helicopter extraction of Ricardo "Chico" Valenciano Libre and Pacifica Ocean from a U.S. Naval prison facility in Cuba in 1975. The medic successfully removes a time bomb implanted inside Pacifica's abdomen but fails to notice another bomb within Pacifica which goes off, causing their helicopter to crash in the process. The medic shields Big Boss from the blast and 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.[MGSV 1] Both him and Big Boss fall into a coma for the next nine years. During his coma, he is transferred to a hospital in Cyprus and is subjected to Zero's process of subconscious brainwashing and facial reconstruction in order to be a mental doppelgänger (now dubbed "Snake") to draw attention away from his mental template.[MGSV 2] In 1984, Snake awakens and escapes from an assassination attempt.[MGSV 3] He takes command of the Diamond Dogs mercenary unit as revenge towards their fallen comrades with a "Mother Base" near Seychelles while having Kazuhira Miller and Revolver Ocelot as advisers. Snake then engages in a series of missions in Afghanistan and Central Africa as he recruits several companions (such as the sniper Quiet and the canine D-Dog). Snake deals with the Cipher organization's remnants, ultimately coming face to face with the XOF strike force's leader Skull Face, the traitorous Huey Emmerich and the child mercenary White Mamba. During an unspecified time period, he is shown receiving a cassette tape, with one side labelled "Operation Intrude N313" which he plays on a Sony BitCorder device connected to a HiTBiT MSX2 computer; the timeline establishes that he would die fighting in Outer Heaven.[MGSV 4][1]

After Metal Gear Solid V[edit]

Big Boss debuted in the original Metal Gear game as the commanding officer of FOXHOUND and main radio contact while also serving as the leader of Outer Heaven's forces.[MGSV 5] Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had an in-game rumor about Big Boss rebuilt with cybernetic parts after being mortally wounded during the previous game's final encounter.[MGSV 6][MGSV 7] Metal Gear Solid V has since retconned various events with Venom Snake as Outer Heaven's leader who dies fighting Solid Snake in the original game instead of Big Boss.[MGSV 4][1]

Creation and design[edit]

Physical appearance[edit]

Concept art of Venom Snake standing next to an early design of his canine companion [a Rhodesian Ridgeback in this artwork] (left) and a finalized version of Venom Snake drawn by assistant designer Chihoko Uchiyama (right).

Venom Snake is distinguished from the original 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 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.[2]

The game features a hidden "karma" system which causes Snake's appearance to change based on the player's behavior. Negative actions such as killing people and animals or developing nuclear weapons earn Demon Points. Earning 20,000 Demon Points causes Snake's horn to grow, and reaching 50,000 makes it grow even longer and causes Snake to become permanently soaked in blood. This demonic appearance is accentuated by Snake's belt, which resembles a tail.[3] 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.[4]


Kiefer Sutherland voices Snake in English

In Metal Gear Solid V, Venom Snake is portrayed by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland through voice-over and facial motion capture, briefly as the medic in Ground Zeroes and then as the player character throughout The Phantom Pain. Sutherland also plays Big Boss, but the official credits make no distinction between either character, with the role simply billed as "Snake". The casting was announced by Konami on 6 June 2013, during the annual Konami Pre-E3 show.[5][6][7][8] Kojima's reason for selecting Sutherland rather than David Hayter—who had voiced Big Boss previously—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 these requirements.[9][10][11] Akio Ōtsuka was unaffected by this casting change and continued to voice the character in the Japanese version, dubbing over Sutherland's facial capture performance (a first for the series).[12] On 4 March 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."[13]


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, "Punished Snake" is never spoken by anyone, while "Venom Snake" is only spoken once in the actual game.[MGSV 3] In all other instances, the character is simply referred to as "Snake" or "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 in bandages) assumes the name Ishmael while helping the player thwart off the XOF forces pursuing them in the hospital. These are the names of the protagonist and the narrator 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 Big Boss takes a supporting role in the story.[14]


The character of Venom Snake and his role in The Phantom Pain received a mixed reception. Asserting that Metal Gear has always been a primarily metafictional series, Dave Thier of Forbes praised the game's substitution of a player-created avatar for Big Boss. He felt that the twist acted as an ending to both the game and the series, rather than the plot, and wrote, "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."[15][self-published source] 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 was disappointed that the game's ending was not a remake of the original Metal Gear, featuring Sutherland as Venom Snake and Hayter as Solid Snake.[16] PC Gamer's Samuel Roberts called the revelation of Snake's identity "one perfect moment in a bad story", and thought that the twist worked on a literal level, making the medic a "tragic and unsettling" figure whose only meaningful relationship is with a woman (Quiet) who thinks he is Big Boss. Roberts complimented that in removing the character's identity of Big Boss, the epilogue left the player with "no backstory other than the one [they]'ve just created", reflecting the player's own unique experience and being "a perfect thematic match for [the] game".[17]

Conversely, David Roberts from GamesRadar+ wrote that the reveal was a "strange" ending and "a bizarre bit of fridge logic that makes less and less sense the more I think about it". He further felt that the twist caused the story to become "hollow" and lacking in closure as a result of the "rehash[ing]" of missions during the game's second half and its "slapped in" ending. However, he thought a player-created avatar for Big Boss was "purely and distinctly Metal Gear" and a humorous way for Kojima to show his appreciation towards the series' long-term fans.[18] Kotaku's Jason Schreier similarly wrote that while the twist was "neat", it raised more questions under scrutiny, and felt that being misled into experiencing Big Boss' character arc when it was actually someone else cheapened the rationale behind key plot events. Schreier also disliked that The Phantom Pain failed to provide any explanation or context for both Venom Snake's and Big Boss' change of character and motivations for their villainous portrayals in Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, respectively.[19]

Kiefer Sutherland received praise for his performance as Venom Snake,[18][20][21] although some critics were bemused by the minimal dialogue spoken by the character throughout the game, calling it "strange",[22] "suspicious",[23] and "positively jarring".[24]

Ryan Gilliam of Polygon included Venom Snake as one of the best video game characters of the 2010s, writing he was "one of the more complex characters in all of Metal Gear [...] The Big Boss character lost a lot with the switch from series regular David Hayter to celebrity voice talent Kiefer Sutherland. But Venom Snake makes the list because he isn't the hero. He's masquerading as the real Big Boss, unknowingly, and represents what a person can be if they're told exactly who they are."[25]



  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – The Complete Official Guide (Collector's ed.). Piggyback Interactive Limited. 1 September 2015. ISBN 978-1-908172-76-1.


  1. ^ 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...
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b 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' phantom.
  5. ^ 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!
  6. ^ 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' 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  1. ^ a b Bailey, Kat (9 September 2015). "Metal Gear Solid V Story Guide: What Happened and How it Connects to the Rest of the Series". US Gamer. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  2. ^ Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – The Complete Official Guide. pp. 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 him with a powerful prosthetic arm.
  3. ^ Kojima, Hideo [@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN] (14 June 2014). "There's a horn on V Snake but in fact he also has a tail. Instead of a physical tail, the belt looks like the tail" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  4. ^ Kelly, Andy (22 September 2015). "Metal Gear Solid 5's hidden karma system". PC Gamer. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  5. ^ Romano, Sal (30 May 2013). "Metal Gear Solid V clip teases Snake's new voice actor". Gematsu. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  6. ^ Brian. "Snake's voice actor in Metal Gear Solid V to be revealed during Konami's pre-E3 show". GamingEverything. Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Konami's pre-E3 stream: Kiefer Sutherland Playing Snake in Metal Gear Solid 5". VG24/7. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Goldfarb, Andrew (6 June 2013). "Kiefer Sutherland Playing Snake in Metal Gear Solid V". IGN. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  10. ^ Metal Gear Solid 5 – Behind The Scenes. GamesHQMedia (video). 6 June 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2014 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ Metal Gear Solid 5: Kiefer Sutherland = More Cutscenes – IGN Conversation. IGN (video). Retrieved 23 June 2014 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ "ヒデラジE3スペシャル(後篇) 【通算第315回】" (in Japanese). 21 June 2013. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  13. ^ Albert, Brian (4 March 2015). "Snake 'Won't Really Speak Much at All' in Metal Gear Solid 5". IGN. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  14. ^ "How should we interpret the story of MGSV? The expert speaks!". Famitsu. Kadokawa Dwango Corporation.
  15. ^ Thier, Dave (8 September 2015). "The Real Meaning Of 'Metal Gear Solid V's' 'True' Ending". Forbes. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  16. ^ Carter, Chris (18 September 2015). "SO, LET'S TALK ABOUT METAL GEAR SOLID V'S ENDING". Destructoid. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  17. ^ Roberts, Samuel (26 November 2015). "Why MGS5's ending is one perfect moment in a bad story". PC Gamer. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  18. ^ a b Roberts, David (9 September 2015). "Metal Gear Solid 5 is the best and most disappointing game of the year". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  19. ^ Schreier, Jason (10 September 2015). "Why Metal Gear Solid V's Ending Is So Disappointing". Kotaku. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  20. ^ Juba, Joe (23 August 2015). "A Legend Worth Waiting For – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – PlayStation 4". Game Informer. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  21. ^ "Why Kiefer Sutherland is the Snake Metal Gear Solid V deserves". The AV Club. 25 September 2015.
  22. ^ "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: The Kotaku Review". Kotaku. 4 September 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  23. ^ McWhertor, Michael (27 August 2015). "Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain review". Polygon. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  24. ^ Ingenito, Vince (23 August 2015). "Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Review". IGN. Retrieved 23 August 2015.
  25. ^ Polygon Staff (27 November 2019). "The 70 best video game characters of the decade". Polygon. Retrieved 30 December 2019.