There's a secret system in the new 'Metal Gear' that quietly changes your appearance throughout the game

Konami‘Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’ antagonist Big Boss doing some reconnaissance.

The new “Metal Gear” game is a vast, complex game full of hidden mechanical systems. After weeks of it being out, and thousands of hours sunk into it by millions of players the world over, there are still little secrets being discovered every day.

Take, for instance, the “demon system”: a way of visually identifying how you play the game. Do you kill a lot of enemies, or do you knock them out safely? Do you propagate nuclear warfare, or destroy nukes every chance you get? Do you kill wild animals, or adopt them?

What you do in each of these instances (and a variety of others) determines the look of the game’s main character. Here’s how he looks normally:

KonamiClean Big Boss is a slightly less gruff Big Boss.

And here’s how he looks after being a total monster:

KonamiSomeone needs a shower or six.

Pretty big difference, right? Yeah, we had a hard time seeing the horn too. Here’s a slightly brightened close-up:

KonamiYou’ve got a little something…all over your face.

It turns out that, if you play “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” maliciously, eventually you’ll end up permanently covered in blood with a massive horn sticking out of your head. Huh!

The horn is a piece of shrapnel that the game’s main character, known as both “Big Boss” and “Snake,” cannot remove. In “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes” — the short predecessor to “The Phantom Pain” — Big Boss is involved in a massive explosion that both lodges the shrapnel in his head and puts him in a nine-year coma.

Like so many aspects of the “Metal Gear” universe, the shrapnel has a meaning beyond just being a thing lodged in the main character’s head. It’s his “horn,” representative of how good or evil he’s acting in aggregate. And the blood? Well, that’s a pretty direct symbol.

Regardless, it’s a system that you’d never actually realise existed without some direct comparisons between normal Big Boss and the “Demon” version (there’s an in-between look that’s relatively hard to distinguish). It’s yet another component of this incredible game that exists in the background, only recognisable if you’re paying way, way too much attention.

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