In a strange case of life imitating art, the latest Metal Gear Solid game is at the center of a growing conspiracy revolving around one character’s likeness to a mad – and completely real – scientist.
The discussion started when a user on NeoGaf, a video game forum, realized that a doctor who appears in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain’s first trailer looks exactly like the Italian neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero, who recently made headlines when he announced that he’s ready to perform the world’s first human head transplant.
Canavero claims that the transplant procedure, code named HEAVEN, will take under an hour. He’s already got a patient lined up, too: Russian programmer Valery Spirodonov, who suffers from a rare muscular disease called Werdnig-Hoffmann. All they need is money. Oh, and Canavero’s end goal? Why, immortality, of course.
The whole thing sounds like the kind of crazy science fiction conspiracy theory mash-up that Hideo Kojima’s classic series is known for, and many fans quickly assumed that the head transplant news is viral marketing for the upcoming game.
After all, the hints are everywhere. The first time players met the in-game doctor, he woke Metal Gear hero Snake from a coma; Canavero famously revived a coma patient back in 2008. Canavero’s done lots of work studying the “phantom pain” that amputees occasionally suffer. Spirodonov’s Facebook photo shows him posing with a man who has a prosthetic arm – a prosthetic arm that looks eerily similar to the one that Solid Snake has in Metal Gear Solid 5. And so on.
There’s just one problem: Canavero is a real doctor. He’s published hundreds of papers over the years, and is a respected – if highly controversial – public figure. If this is a marketing scheme, it’s been in play for over a decade, starting before Metal Gear Solid 4 came out. That’s possible, but extremely unlikely.
For his part, Canavero claims that he’s got nothing to do with Kojima or Metal Gear Solid. In an interview with Kotaku, Canavero suggests a much more likely scenario: the Metal Gear Solid team simply ripped off Canavero’s likeness and included it in the game without his permission.
Of course, Canavero has some conspiracy theories of his own. When Kotaku’s reporter suggested that Kojima simply cast a similar looking actor as Metal Gear’s doctor, Canavero proposed an alternate theory. According to Canavero, he attended a conference in Cyprus, where “one of the sponsors was coincidentally a game developer.” Canavero suggests that, just maybe, “they recorded the thing from certain angles, maybe the cameras were set up in the right spots…”
Whether Canavero was secretly filmed or not, he’s planning to sue Konami and Kojima for using his likeness, and he hopes the use any settlement to make HEAVEN a reality. Meanwhile, fans are speculating that what Canavero’s appearance in Metal Gear Solid 5, consensual or otherwise, means that Metal Gear 5 involves Solid Snake receiving a head transplant after suffering a serious injury.
This controversy comes hot on the heels of Kojima’s mysterious departure from Konami, which has led to a number of bizarre theories of its own. Crazy, unethical biogenetic research? A host of wild conspiracy theories? Yup, this is Metal Gear Solid, all right. No doubt about it.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain comes out September 1st for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. It arrives September 15 for PC.