So you just woke up from a nine-year coma, you’re missing an arm, and there’s a giant horn implanted in your forehead. Whatcha gonna do?
Whether you’re a series newcomer or an experienced Metal Gear Solid cut-scene watcher, allow us to give you some helpful tips for getting the most out of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which is out today for PC and consoles. Soon you’ll be mowing through helicopters and taking out guards like the genetically modified supersoldier you were always meant to be. Just follow these easy rules. 100% spoiler-free!
Other Metal Gear Solid games, Ground Zeroes included, tend to punish you for not playing stealthily, but The Phantom Pain is pretty good at letting you do what you want, so don’t feel guilty about going in guns blazing. Play around with grenade launchers, C4, sniper rifles, shotguns—it’d be a shame to go the whole game without taking advantage of all your tools, you know?
On the other hand, sneaking owns, so feel free to ignore the above tip and instead try to infiltrate bases without getting caught, exclusively using your tranq gun and sniper rifle (with suppressors, of course) so nobody sees you. That’s what I did.
No matter how you’re playing, the most useful tool in the game is Snake’s set of binoculars, which you can use for reconnaissance just about everywhere. You’ll want to use these as often as possible, not just to scope out paths and bases but also because once you see an enemy, you can tag them with a red arrow that’ll let you keep tabs on them no matter where they go. You’ll want to tag every guard in an outpost before you even think about sneaking through it—there’s nothing worse than getting caught from behind by a soldier you had no idea was there.
Also, fun fact: even if you die, your tags will remain on enemies for the duration of the mission.
MGS veterans might be used to sticking to the tranq gun for just about every situation—and that can still be an effective strategy in The Phantom Pain—but if you use something too much, enemies will adapt. As I played through the game, I got a lot of headshots and used a lot of smoke guns, so after a dozen missions or so, I noticed that enemy guards were equipping helmets and gas masks. Devious motherfuckers.
Once you’ve played through a few missions, you’ll have access to Snake’s HQ, Mother Base, which you can manage through a series of convoluted menus. It’s kind of tempting to ignore these menus, but that’s a bad idea—as you play, be sure to keep managing your staff, expanding your base platforms, and developing new weapons. Once you unlock combat units, be sure to keep them deployed as often as possible, too—the more you participate in the game’s economy, the better off you’ll be.
After you complete side-op 51, go to the Medical Bay and look for a door with a blue light on top. Enter it for a bonus scene, then keep coming back for more.
The best items to upgrade are your Fulton, your binoculars, and your iDroid. Make those your top priorities, even if you have to temporarily move some staff into the R&D department so you can unlock those upgrades. (In general, that’s not a bad idea!)
Seriously. They’re easy to ignore. Don’t support Konami’s nonsense with your hard-earned cash.
There are some enemies you’ll want to make explode, and to do that, you’ll want a rocket launcher. You don’t have to use it until the time is right, but you’ll want to develop it. I won’t go into details and spoil anything here, so just trust me on this one.
The actual area of Mother Base is pretty boring, but you’ll still want to check in every once in a while to see optional cutscenes involving some of the important folks on your team. You can also smack around some of your troops to build their morale—because nothing boosts troop morale than getting beaten up by the boss.
When you’re out in the field, you can send just about anyone back to Mother Base to be brainwashed and recruited into your army. This is a pretty easy process: just knock out an enemy and attach a Fulton balloon, which will send them right back to base, as long as weather conditions are OK and no enemy soldier spots you and shoots down your balloon.
Do this often. Your stock of Fulton balloons is limited, but you can call in supply drops from Mother Base as often as you’d like, so don’t worry about running out. If you use up all your balloons, just hang back and call in some more.
Before you send anyone back to Mother Base, make sure you get some of their sweet, sweet information. Though enemy soldiers will never tell you anything interesting—like what the hell is actually happening in the story—they will mark your map with info about prisoners, weapons, and specialist enemy soldiers (who you can then go and recruit for yourself). In some cases, you may need to go out and look for a language interpreter before you can interrogate anyone. Make that a priority.
One of the first binocular upgrades you can get is a scanner that’ll allow you to evaluate an enemy soldier’s stats and special abilities. You’ll be able to see how they perform in each department, as ranked by a letter grade from E to A++. As you reach the mid- and end-game, you can start ignoring the unremarkable dudes, but do try to snatch up anyone with an A or better ranking in any given skill.
Get into the habit of collecting minerals, unprocessed supplies, and anything else you can get your bionic arm on. It all adds up quickly.
This one’s important. Codecs are gone in Metal Gear Solid V, replaced by cassette tapes that you can play whenever you want. Many of these tapes have important background information and helpful supplements for the plot, especially the ones that are marked yellow. Also, this is where Kiefer Sutherland talks the most. Don’t ignore them!
One very annoying problem is that if you’re out in the field and you hear other people talking—whether it’s an overheard conversation or Ocelot talking to you on the radio—those voices will play over whatever tape you’ve got running. So you may want to listen to tapes while doing side stuff, scouting, or just hanging out in the helicopter.
Enemy bases will often use decoys—blow-up dolls designed to look like soldiers—to screw with your head. You can recognize these by looking closely and seeing that they’re dolls, but also, if you’ve got the scanner upgrade for your binoculars, you’ll notice that they don’t actually have any skills. Because they are blow-up dolls.
Like Ground Zeroes before it, The Phantom Pain has an optional toggle called Reflex that will give you a few seconds of Matrix-style slow-mo reaction time once an enemy spots you. If you can take an enemy out during this Reflex period, they won’t alert the rest of the base. Do this by shooting them in the head. You can use a regular gun, a tranq gun, or anything else you’d like. If they’re wearing a helmet, aim for the chin and you should be able to get a headshot regardless.
If you’re crazy, like I am, you can just suicide every time you get spotted by enemy soldiers because you want to go for perfect stealth. But the game isn’t really meant to be played that way—every mission is full of dumpsters to hide in, grass to crawl around, and all sorts of secret passages that’ll let you dodge the heat for a while. If there are baddies firing at you from all corners of the map, do yourself a favor and run for safety rather than just killing yourself. Hide out for a while and they’ll lose track of you.
There are no manual saves in MGSV—you’ll have to rely on the auto-save system, which can be a little fickle. Keep an eye out for when the yellow “saving” marker appears on the top right. If you notice that you haven’t reached a checkpoint in a while, you may want to play more conservatively. Some bases can be pretty complicated and there are few things worse than having to repeat 15 or 20 minutes of pinpoint stealth because you just got blasted by an enemy gunship.
If a side-op is yellow, that means it’s a top priority. The gunsmith side-op isn’t yellow, but you should do it anyway! Also do the next two missions that follow it, obviously. Once you finish this sequence, you’ll be able to customize weapons, which is really helpful.
There are some bullshit bosses in this video game. One fight in particular is some seeeeerious bullshit. If you get there, and you find that you’re not making much progress, try hiding out, calling up Quiet, and letting her take care of things. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.
My first time playing through the game, I missed the dog! Don’t miss the dog. You should be able to Fulton him at the beginning of an early mission called C2W.
No spoilers here—just be sure to get her to your base when the opportunity presents itself.
To see the full ending of Quiet’s story, you’ll need to max out your bond with her, which you can do by using her in a bunch of missions. It’s best to do this naturally as you progress so you don’t have to spend a bunch of time grinding for bond points later in the game.
(Minor spoiler warning: Here’s how to get Quiet’s ending. Don’t do this until you’re just about done with the game.)
This may just be a personal preference, but I’ve found that using “Shooter Type” rather than “Action Type” feels way more intuitive. To switch between the two, open up your menu, then go to Options, then click Select Control Type. Play around with both Action and Shooter and see which feels better for you.
As of the publication of this post, Metal Gear Solid V’s PS4 servers are all busted and you can’t do anything online anyway, but here’s a suggestion: play the whole game offline. Not only will this spare you from server load times, it’ll prevent you from ever having to think about FOBs, microtransactions, or any of the other nefarious nonsense we might have not even discovered yet. I played almost everything offline and found it quite delightful. You don’t even have to disconnect your system—just open up the pause menu and pick “Disconnect.”
We’ll keep updating this post if we think of new tips, so keep this bookmarked as you play through the final non-pachinko Metal Gear Solid. Enjoy.