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20 essential tips for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is unlike any Metal Gear you've ever played before. If you've haven't experienced Peace Walker, which is Phantom Pain's closest inspiration, then there's a lot to take in, with some massive open environments to explore and a whole mercenary operation to build up and manage alongside the main story.

Don't worry though, as The Phantom Pain is well-paced, unravelling its various systems slowly over time and gradually acclimating you to this positively gigantic beast of a game. But if you find yourself completely lost and you're looking for a little guidance, here are some handy tips that should help you get your bearings relatively painlessly. It's a big world out there, Boss. It's time to rise up and take your revenge. Make sure you check out the video above for even more tips!

20. Your Int-Scope is your most important piece of kit; use it constantly

Right after the bizarre, mind-melting prologue mission, you're dropped into Afghanistan to seek out your old partner, Kazuhira Miller. Revolver Ocelot goes over a few basics with you before setting you off into the open world, including how to use your Int-Scope - which is just a fancy word for binoculars. Your Int-Scope isn't just a good way to look at distant places; by scouting out enemy and weapon emplacements, you'll tag them, marking them on your heads-up display for the duration of the mission. Tagging is a godlike boon, allowing you to keep track of troop movements even after you die or restart from the latest checkpoint. Use your Int-Scope constantly.

19. Don't worry about exploring until you get the Fulton

During your first mission, you'll probably get a twinge of wanderlust, as the wide-open deserts of Afghanistan beckon you to explore. But don't worry about that too much at first, because you're missing several vital skills and pieces of equipment to make the most of your excursions into the field. Just focus on your initial mission: find Kaz, and extract him via chopper. Once the mission is over, you'll be introduced to Mother Base, a massive, off-shore military facility, granting you the ability to research new gear and use Fulton balloons to conscript soldiers. That's when The Phantom Pain finally begins to open up, and exploration becomes a little easier.

18. Kills don't detract from your score as harshly here

In previous Metal Gear games, kills were greatly frowned upon, as even a single execution could completely ruin your mission ranking. The Phantom Pain bucks that trend: kills don't affect your final score nearly as much, giving you a bit more freedom in how you approach the game's myriad missions. Speed and stealth are the two things that matter most to attaining the elusive S-rank, so as long as you're quick and don't get spotted, you can usually leave a pile of bodies in your wake and still get a great mission score.

17. Find the interpreter as soon as you're able

So here's the thing: Big Boss kind of forgot how to speak Russian, thanks to the shrapnel embedded in his skull, and Revolver Ocelot isn't a great interpreter. This is a problem if you want to interrogate any of the soldiers you find milling around Afghanistan, as you won't be able to understand a lick of what they're saying. When you finish your first Main Op (after completing the Mother Base tutorial), you'll unlock the Side Op list which includes a crucial (yet optional) mission: find and Fulton (aka attach a balloon to their torso) a Russian interpreter. Do this immediately; this not only lets you comprehend what they're saying over the radio, but it also allows you to gather intel on hidden items and highly skilled soldiers when you hold them up.

16. Fulton EVERYONE when you first start out

Thanks to the events of Ground Zeroes, Big Boss' military empire has fallen apart, meaning you'll need to help him rebuild his army one person at a time. Now's not the time to be picky; knock out any soldier you can find with a tranquilizer dart or CQC, attach a balloon to their belt with the Fulton, and send 'em back home. Eventually you can upgrade your Int-Scope to analyze soldiers and see their rankings, allowing you to be a bit more choosy with who you Fulton, but don't worry too much about that until Mother Base nears capacity. Oh, and be careful not to Fulton anyone when a patrol's nearby, as enemy soldiers can and will investigate why their friends are being hoisted into the air by a giant balloon.

15. ...but don't bother trying to Fulton artillery or vehicles yet

While you can Fulton smaller animals and people without much issue, you won't be able to snag the many artillery cannons and vehicles you find until you upgrade your balloon a few times. Don't worry about this too much at the start, because it'll take you a several hours before you get to that point. Just keep a mental note of where you find them for later.

14. Keep an eye out for a tiny puppy

There's a cute wittle puppy running around Afghanistan, and once you find him, you can strap a Fulton balloon on him and send him back to base. This pup is DD, and once he grows up, he'll become one of your buddies on the field, helpfully marking enemy locations on your HUD. But he's not always in the same spot for everyone; I found him on a hill as I headed toward base #24 on the map, while someone else I talked to said they found him in a completely different spot. Just keep your ears perked up for high-pitched barks while you explore, and you'll find this friendly canine eventually.

13. Tell people to lie down and they'll stay down practically forever

There are a couple ways to incapacitate enemies. You can shoot them in the head (either with a tranquilizer dart or a bullet if you're looking for a more, ahem, permanent solution), you can get up close and CQC them into submission, or you can sneak behind them and hold them up by aiming at them with your weapon of choice. By holding down L1/left bumper, you can extract info from your hostage, make him call his friends over, or force him to lie down on the ground. That last option is a doozy: once they're down on the ground, they won't get up at all unless they're spotted by another soldier or you raise the alert status by getting caught. It's a really good way to keep soldiers out of your hair without wasting any ammo.

12. Ditch your horse about 150m away from your objective

Ocelot tells you to use your horse constantly during your time in Afghanistan, but your stallion is loud as hell and can be a bit unwieldy on uneven terrain. Make sure you dismount and leave your horse behind around 150m or so away from your objective, so you can make the rest of the trek on foot. It's slower, but you'll be much more quiet and more maneuverable without him.

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David Roberts
David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.