Venom Snake
Venom Snake (CGI render)
Venom Snake as he appears in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain]]
Series Metal Gear
First game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
Created by Hideo Kojima
Designed by Yoji Shinkawa
Voiced by (English) Kiefer Sutherland
Voiced by (Japanese) Akio Ōtsuka
Motion capture
  • Kiefer Sutherland (Metal Gear Solid V; facial)
  • Erik Brown (Metal Gear Solid V; body)
Fictional profile
  • Medic
  • V
  • Punished Snake
  • Ahab
  • Big Boss
  • Big Boss's phantom
Nationality American

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 the mercenary unit Diamond Dogs, who returns to the battlefield after waking up from a nine year coma following the end of the stand-alone prologue Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes in an incident that also resulted in the loss of his left arm and a piece of shrapnel embedded into the right side of his forehead. Initially introduced as recurring Metal Gear protagonist/antagonist Big Boss, hints of Venom's true identity gradually emerge throughout the course of the story until it is ultimately revealed that he is not the original Big Boss, but a former combat medic who underwent facial reconstruction and subliminal brainwashing to serve as his body double. The character is voiced by Akio Ōtsuka in the Japanese version and by Kiefer Sutherland in the English version.


Militaires Sans FrontièresEdit

He was always the best man we had.
—Big Boss on Venom Snake during tape "Doublethink", Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Prior to March 16, 1975, Venom Snake was a member of Militaires Sans Frontières, as a combat medic. According to Big Boss, Venom was "always our best man", implying that he was an incredibly capable soldier. Most of Venom Snake's history during MSF is left ambiguous, which is largely to allow the player to create their own Venom Snake story.

XOF Trojan Horse operationEdit

On March 16, 1975, Venom Snake was stationed on board the helicopter sent to extract MSF commander Big Boss and rescued POWs Chico and Paz Ortega Andrade.

During the flight back to Mother Base, Big Boss ordered Venom to look over the unconscious Paz, after Chico had noticed surgical scars on her abdomen. Suspecting that a bomb had been concealed inside her, Venom Snake was forced to operate on her immediately, as there was no time to administer anesthesia. He successfully removed the bomb from her gut.

Although the bomb was quickly disposed of, they had been unaware of the fact that a second bomb had been planted inside Paz's vaginal cavity. After coming to, Paz, aware of the impending detonation, jumped out of the helicopter to prevent the MSF personnel from being killed along with her. As Venom Snake shielded Big Boss while the bomb detonated, his body bore the brunt of the explosion, before the helicopter was sent into a collision with an XOF chopper.

Both men survived the incident and entered into a coma. Venom Snake had suffered specifically extensive injuries. His left hand had to be amputated and 108 foreign agents (shrapnel, human bone and teeth) had been embedded in his body, which, for the most part, could be removed successfully. However, certain pieces of shrapnel, which were located close to his heart and inside his cerebral cortex, were too risky to extract as impairment or even death would have been likely to occur upon removal. Ocelot also implied the injuries were severe enough that he was effectively dead.

The Phantom PainEdit

Vga 11

Venom Snake while escaping the hospital.

On February 26, 1984, Venom Snake was woken up from his induced coma. At the behest of Zero, Venom Snake was given plastic surgery to resemble Big Boss so he could act as a decoy for XOF. In order to ensure the ruse worked, he was also given hypnotherapy to have him possess Big Boss's memories and thus have him believe he was the real Big Boss. On March 11, another patient named Ishmael, who in actuality was the real Big Boss in disguise, managed to successfully get Venom Snake out of the hospital he was in. As the two escaped in an ambulance, the real Big Boss was knocked unconscious after taking a shot from a helicopter. Venom Snake attempted to drive the ambulance, but he crashed into a river bank. When Venom Snake regained consciousness, Ishmael was gone, and he was greeted by Ocelot, who would accompany Venom Snake on a trip to Afghanistan in order to rescue Miller.

After rescuing Miller, the three returned to the newly constructed Mother Base, where Venom Snake took command of Diamond Dogs. Venom Snake performed several missions in order to expand their new Mother Base so that they could fight Cipher. Unbeknownst to Venom Snake until later, Ocelot was aware of Venom Snake's true identity the whole time, and he was monitoring Venom Snake as part of a series of tests to see if the hypnotherapy to turn Venom Snake into Big Boss's body double had truly worked, which it did. Upon confirming the hypnotherapy's success, Ocelot preformed a similar technique on himself, as to trick himself into believing that Venom Snake was indeed the one and only "Big Boss."

Venom Snake and Diamond Dogs rose to huge heights as they collected resources, expanded their facilities, and swelled their ranks with volunteers and "recruits" forcibly extracted from the field. Venom Snake and Miller were eventually able to exact revenge on Skull Face and his XOF unit.

After shooting off Skull Face's right arm and leg, mirroring injuries sustained by Miller when he was originally captured by XOF, Venom Snake and Miller left him to die as Huey Emmerich finished him off. Venom Snake later exiled Huey for his recklessness (more specifically, his collaboration with Eli as well as causing a devastating parasite outbreak and wolbachia mutation on Mother Base that forced Venom Snake to kill many of his own men that were infected). Some time later, Venom Snake would learn from Ishmael that he was a body double and that Ishmael himself was Big Boss. Venom Snake took up the name and kept up the ruse. Diamond Dogs itself was a smoke screen to place all focus on Venom while the real Big Boss could lay the ground work for Outer Heaven.

After Outer Heaven's construction had been completed, Big Boss's reputation as a mercenary had traveled far and wide thanks to the activities of Venom Snake. While he knew that mercenaries around the world would eventually rally to his cause, he knew that it would also bring the attention of government agencies that would grow suspicious of his activities. Needing to draw attention away from Outer Heaven, Big Boss himself decided to return to the U.S. to rejoin FOXHOUND as its commander and left Venom Snake in charge. In 1995, Venom Snake began an uprising within Outer Heaven by the order of Big Boss to bring chaos to the Patriots, who had been growing without control in spite of their leader Zero falling into a vegetative state. Venom Snake managed to capture the first operative sent by Big Boss, codenamed Gray Fox. Big Boss then sent his least experienced agent, a rookie codenamed Solid Snake, who happened to be Big Boss's cloned son, with the objective of rescuing Fox and destroying Metal Gear. He also sent a tape labeled, "Operation Intrude N313," the name of Solid Snake's operation, to Venom Snake to make sure he was prepared. Despite all this, Solid Snake rescued Fox and destroyed the Metal Gear weapon known as TX-55 Metal Gear. Afterwards, Venom Snake intervened and revealed himself. The two fought with Solid Snake being the victor, killing Venom Snake. This led to the real Big Boss setting up the eventual Zanzibar Land Disturbance with the remnants of Outer Heaven.

Personality and traitsEdit

During the medic's days in MSF, Big Boss considered him the group's "best man." While impersonating Big Boss as Venom Snake, he adopted much of his commander's personality and possessed a similar physical appearance, having undergone hypnotherapy and plastic surgery. Following his escape from a Cypriot hospital and recovery from muscle atrophy, Venom Snake gained muscle mass similar to that of Big Boss. Before his operation, Venom Snake had slicked-back brown hair.

As a result of wounds suffered during the destruction of MSF, Venom Snake had a piece of shrapnel embedded in his forehead in the shape of a horn, and had also lost his right eye and left arm, the latter was later replaced with a cybernetic prosthetic.

Like his mental and physical template, Venom Snake did show compassion for his enemies as he chose not to kill Quiet or Huey and instead had the former imprisoned and the latter exiled with food and water.


Snake referencing the role Metal Gear ZEKE had during the Peace Walker Incident.

Venom Snake appeared to suffer from a form of amnesia (or more accurately, the memory transfer was not completed), as both Miller and Ocelot had to remind him of certain events, such as how the real Big Boss had led Militaires Sans Frontières and how Miller helped him lead "his" old unit. He also did not possess Big Boss's fluency in Russian, relying instead on a translator. Despite this, however, he did seem to remember other things, such as the intent of Metal Gear ZEKE during the Peace Walker Incident, as Snake compared it to what Huey wanted to use his prototype Battle Gear for by privately remarking to Miller that the entire thing seemed like he was having "déjà vu."

Creation and designEdit

Physical appearanceEdit

Venom Snake is distinguished from the real Big Boss by his bionic left arm, the numerous facial scars and the shrapnel sticking out from the right side of his forehead. The player is given the option to use the avatar's natural face in place of Snake's after clearing Episode 46.


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, then as the player character throughout The Phantom Pain. In a double role, Sutherland also plays the original Big Boss in both games. The casting was announced by Konami on June 6, 2013, during the annual Konami Pre-E3 show.[1][2][3][4] Kojima's reason for selecting Sutherland rather than usual Snake actor David Hayter 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.[5][6][7] Akio Ōtsuka was unaffected by this casting change and continued to voice Snake in the Japanese version.[8] 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."[9]

Behind the scenesEdit

Punished "Venom" Snake is the main protagonist of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Although he is never called "Punished" in the game, it appears in the opening credits of nearly every main mission in the game. In The Phantom Pain, Venom Snake's name and facial appearance prior to surgery is determined by the player, despite the medic having predetermined, albeit obscured, facial features in Ground Zeroes.

It is heavily implied that Venom Snake himself (and his nondescript identity as a medic) serves as a deliberate player avatar, due to his original appearance being reliant on the player's decisions and how Big Boss addresses him in a manner that breaks the fourth wall.

The unidentified field medic appears during the closing cutscenes of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Because of the cinematic angles during the ending scenes in Ground Zeroes, there is never a clear view of the medic's face. However, the medic's full appearance has been seen in the PC version through the use of mods.[10] A PC user extracted the facial model and textures for the medic and found that he shared identical scars to Big Boss.[11] In The Phantom Pain, in the cutscene with a flashback to the events of Ground Zeroes, the field medic is shown wearing a balaclava.

On the Command Center menu, if the player looks closely at Venom Snake's reflection, it shows the avatar the player created, hinting at the plot-twist of Venom Snake not being Big Boss. In addition, a leaked Italian version of the Piggyback game guide for The Phantom Pain strongly implied Venom Snake's true identity is separate from Big Boss, although they never explicitly confirmed it due to Konami and at that time Kojima Productions specifically forbade them from giving any statements about Ishmael's identity. The GDC 2013 reveal trailer for The Phantom Pain had first hinted at his existence when Kazuhira Miller, after learning about Big Boss falling into a coma, asks "What about him?" before the scene cut away.

The plot twist of Snake not truly being Big Boss is hinted when he meets The Boss AI and Huey, as the AI states, "You're not Snake, are you?", and Huey notices a difference between the two. It was also hinted at when Ocelot explained that Eli was not Venom Snake's clone, and that the genetic examination of the two had resulted negative.

Fulfilling his role as a "phantom" of Big Boss, he returns as the final boss of the original Metal Gear via a retcon established in the ending timeline though the shrapnel in his head was removed and his prosthetic left arm was replaced by the game's events.

Venom Snake's alias as Ahab is a reference to the central character from the novel Moby-Dick; the same way that Big Boss's adopted identity as Ishmael is also derived from the main character of the novel.

Venom Snake being made to believe he is Big Boss via hypnotherapy is similar to Ocelot being led to believe he was Liquid.

According to Hideo Kojima's notes in the Piggyback Collector's Edition Guide's art gallery, Venom Snake (or rather, Big Boss as he is identified in the notes) losing his arm was decided early on in the project, and also implied that he was supposed to lose two fingers from his right hand as well. He also mentioned that the powerful prosthetic arm was implemented to allow players to appreciate the full intended experience, as while Snake could technically still wield weapons, it would have made it difficult to appreciate such.

Although the Truth ending reveals that Venom Snake is not Big Boss, his exact reaction to learning of this revelation is left ambiguous, as he briefly demonstrates a smirk as if accepting and embracing the role. After he flips the tape "From Man Who Sold the World", he sees Operation Intrude N313, which is the name of the mission in the original Metal Gear. In the next scene, Venom sees himself in the mirror with a bloody face and larger horn, before punching the mirror.

A hidden fourth ending of The Phantom Pain, which is unlocked if all worldwide FOB nukes are destroyed, addresses The Boss as he states the similar phrase from Snake Eater: "We have no tomorrow, but there is still hope for the future." Having all the memories and experiences of Big Boss, this suggests a interpretation of The Boss's will.[12]


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."[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

Writing for Kotaku, Jason Scherler 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."[16]




  1. Romano, Sal. "Metal Gear Solid V clip teases Snake's new voice actor". Gematsu. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  2. Brian. "Snake’s voice actor in Metal Gear Solid V to be revealed during Konami’s pre-E3 show". GamingEverything. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  3. Staff. "Konami’s pre-E3 stream: Kiefer Sutherland Playing Snake in Metal Gear Solid 5". VG24/7. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  4. 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. 
  5. Goldfarb, Andrew. "Kiefer Sutherland Playing Snake in Metal Gear Solid V". IGN. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  6. "Metal Gear Solid 5 - Behind The Scenes". YouTube. GamesHQMedia. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  7. "Metal Gear Solid 5: Kiefer Sutherland = More Cutscenes - IGN Conversation". IGN. Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  8. "ヒデラジE3スペシャル(後篇) 【通算第315回】 (13.06.21)" (in Japanese). 
  9. Albert, Brian. "SNAKE 'WON'T REALLY SPEAK MUCH AT ALL' IN METAL GEAR SOLID 5". Retrieved 20 December 2015. 
  10. "David Hayter Sound Files Found In Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, Medic’s Face Finally Uncovered". 2014-12-25. Retrieved 2015-01-17. 
  11. "Metal Gear Solid 5’s Mystery Continues: The Medic Shares The Same Scars As Big Boss". 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2015-01-17. 
    "I haven't forgotten what you told me Boss. We have no tomorrow, but there is still hope for the future. In our struggle to survive the present, we push the future further away. Will I see it in my lifetime? Probably not. Which means there is no time to waste. Some day the world will no longer need us, no need for the gun or the hand to pull the trigger. I have to drag out this demon inside me and build a better future. That's what I...heh...what we will leave as our legacy. Another mission, right Boss?"
  13. Thier, Dave (September 8, 2015). "The Real Meaning Of 'Metal Gear Solid V's' 'True' Ending". Forbes. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  14. Carter, Chris (September 18, 2015). "SO, LET'S TALK ABOUT METAL GEAR SOLID V'S ENDING". Destructoid. Retrieved March 16, 2016. 
  15. Roberts, Samuel (November 26, 2015). "Why MGS5's ending is one perfect moment in a bad story". PC Gamer. Retrieved March 16, 2016. 
  16. Schreler, Jason (September 10, 2015). "Why Metal Gear Solid V's Ending Is So Disappointing". Kotaku. Retrieved March 16, 2016. 


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