Only hours after Hideo Kojima unveiled MGS: Ground Zeroes (an open-world Metal Gear stealth/action game, as long rumoured by CVG) the internet is already rife with rumours and speculation.
When is it set? Who's the hero? What platform is it on? How does it fit with the MGS storyline? How will the open world setting change the gameplay? In typical Kojima fashion, much of the information is laced with ambiguity, but by cross-referencing data we have so far to the established MGS timeline, plus Hideo Kojima's deliberately cryptic Tweets, a clearer picture emerges.
1) It is Big Boss. However...
The official image on the Japanese MGS 25th anniversary website looks like 'classic' Solid Snake from MGS2, with his swarthy black beard and hair - but it's far more likely to be Big Boss, star of MGS3 and Peace Walker. The outfit, with its distinctive yellow thigh bands, resembles Big Boss's Sneaking Suit from Peace Walker (see screenshots). The night vision goggles hide Big Boss' distinctive eye-patch, but only slightly - you can still see the band across his hair. It's even clearer on the second front-facing 'Snake' image taken from posters displayed at the event, and runs over the injured right eye.
The key giveaway is the Militaires Sans Frontières (soldiers without borders) yellow / black logo on his shoulder, the organisation led by Big Boss in PSP's MGS Peace Walker (set in 1974).
Big Boss's gun looks like a variant of the FN FNC (Fabrique Nationale Carabine, a 5.56mm assault rifle) first commissioned in 1976 - again, hinting at a '70s setting, following the events of Peace Walker.
Big Boss is born in 1935, so this timing would make the Big Boss in the image in his early 40s. Arguably, the dark beard makes this character look younger, especially than some of the Peace Walker art (set in 1974), where his beard is lighter and greying. It's an inconsistency, but could be explained away with artistic license / lighting. The lines on his face do appear more consistent of a man in his early 40s, however.
This is where it gets interesting. The front-facing image of 'Snake' for the MGS 25th party appears to show a different logo on his shoulder - the FOXHOUND logo, another military unit started by Big Boss in 1970. Big Boss left FOXHOUND in 1972 to form MSF, but later resumed command of FOXHOUND in the early '90s.
It's quite possible that *both* logos appear on the suit, one of each shoulder, since the official image on the MGS 25th website is 'flipped'. Even the words 'Click Here' are flipped on the MGS 25th homepage, that reveal the flipped image - which can't be accidental. Neither image shows *both* shoulders, so this can't be ruled out.
However, this being MGS, it's possible there's two 'Snakes', one working for FOXHOUND, the other MSF. Is one an image of Big Boss, the other Solid Snake - perhaps taken from different time frames? They're clones after all. For that matter, it could be one of the other Snake clones, Liquid, or Solidus. Look, no one ever said Kojima makes this easy, but if pushed, we'd say it's Big Boss. After all, Big Boss was on the GDC recruitment ads for Kojima Productions, and all our previous speculation suggests the same.
UPDATE: The logo is more likely to be the FOX logo, representing the CIA-affiliated Cold War unit led by Major Zero in the 1960s, whose key operative was Big Boss. The FOX unit act as your superiors in PS2's MGS3, but command is assumed by Gene (Viper) in 1970 and the group goes rogue, leading to the events of PSP's MGS Portable Ops. Although FOX was officially disbanded in the early 70s, the MSF continue to sports its logo on their outfit with the FOX logo on the right shoulder, in addition to the MSF logo on the left shoulder. Konami are releasing a special MGS HD PAX bundle with a Snake figure from Peace Walker which corroborates this.