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

11. Don't try to tranq a bear with your starter pistol while on foot

Yes, you can tranq and Fulton the animals you see, building up your own personal zoo back at Mother Base. And yes, that even includes bears. No, your starter tranquilizer is probably not strong enough to take one down without a few upgrades behind it. Besides, you can't Fulton it without a more powerful balloon anyway, so it's best to just run if you see a massive grizzly barrelling toward you.

10. Keep an eye on your available upgrades, and start building stuff right away

As you acquire soldiers, complete missions, and gather resources and GMP (the game's currency), you'll continue to unlock additional gear and equipment upgrades. If you bring up your iDroid, you can pick and choose what you want to research no matter where you are. At the start, if you see it, and you have the funds to build it, go ahead and build it. Things like smoke grenades, horse armor, and Int-Scope upgrades are vital as you build the foundations for your stealth-based empire.

9. ...but don't spend too much at once, or you won't have any GMP when you need it

Everything costs resources, from bringing gear into the field with you and abducting soldiers with your Fulton balloon, to requesting supply drops or even summoning your chopper to exfiltrate you from the field. If you don't have the resources, you can't do any of these very important things, so don't go overboard researching stuff you don't exactly need at the moment. Otherwise, you'll find yourself out of ammo and without the GMP to safely get yourself resupplied.

8. Call for supplies if you need 'em

When you start The Phantom Pain, you can't carry a whole lot of ammo, and your suppressors are incredibly weak, breaking after just a few shots. If you're not too great at aiming and shooting yet, this becomes a problem - especially since the tranquilizer doesn't come with a ton of darts. Luckily, you can hop into your iDroid anywhere on the field and summon a supply drop wherever you are. It costs a little GMP, but it's a great way to top off your supplies without putting yourself in danger. Make sure you get to the box before the enemy does, though, or your drop will be wasted.

7. The cassette tapes are where much of the backstory is located

You'll likely notice that The Phantom Pain's story feels somewhat sparse in comparison to other Metal Gear games. Sure, the intro's exciting, but once you get through a couple missions, you'll find the focus swings heavily onto its gameplay. If you're finding yourself missing out on all those codec conversations and long-winded monologues, don't worry: just listen to your cassettes. After completing each Main Op, you'll be rewarded with a ton of these recordings, which do everything from fleshing out the political backdrop, to revealing new details about old comrades. You can listen to them while hanging out in your chopper or taking on missions, so be sure to find some time to listen to them all.

6. Explore bases thoroughly and steal everything that isn't nailed down

You may be laser-focused on completing mission objectives, but don't forget that the various outposts and bases you explore are filled with tons of stuff to grab. Radios play 1980s hits that you can steal and listen to on your Walkman, posters adorn the walls of many buildings around Afghanistan, and rooms are filled with materials you can use to build additional gear and even new platforms for your Mother Base. If you're lucky, you'll stumble across POWs to rescue, or even weapon blueprints to give you an edge in battle. Don't just gun it straight to your objective and bail; take some time to look around a bit, and you'll find a ton of goodies, ripe for the taking.

5. The R&D platform should be your first priority when expanding Mother Base

After you've got a few missions under your belt, and a few upgrades completed, you'll unlock the ability to build new development platforms. These will grant you access to tons of additional features, and upgrading the ones you've already built allows you to assign more soldiers to each station. The first one you'll want is R&D, so you can start building bigger and better weapons and items, though you'll also want to build a Base Development platform so your crew can find and process materials while you play. You likely won't have enough materials for any of these when you first unlock the ability to construct them, so keep an eye out while you're sneaking around Afghanistan for additional supplies to bolster your Mother Base ASAP.

4. Know how to use your Phantom Cigar

Unlike other Metal Gear games, time progresses in a realistic fashion in The Phantom Pain, and guard placement will change as day shifts to night (and vice versa). There are benefits to both - it's easier to see during the day, but you might have an easier time sneaking around at night. You can choose what time you'd like to drop into the field from your helicopter, but if you're already mucking about, there's an easy way to change the time of day: simply puff on your Phantom Cigar. It uses the wormwood plants you'll pick up in the field, and by taking a drag on your e-cigar, you'll cause time to move forward quite rapidly. When you're done, simply unequip it by tapping left on the D-pad. Voila, time travel.

3. Blow up the anti-air radar (and anything with glowing lights) for an edge

As you infiltrate the encampments strewn about Afghanistan, you'll likely notice some larger pieces of equipment with blinking lights on them. The enemy uses radios to report in with one another, communication satellites to send messages to nearby bases, and power generators to run the lights. These can either be turned off or blown up, and will disrupt the enemy temporarily. Sometimes, you'll also find a giant anti-air radar just hanging out. Destroying it will permanently take it out of commission, and give your helicopter a new landing space nearby. Be mindful of your surroundings, and take advantage of whatever opportunity you get to cripple your foes.

2. Find delivery manifests to open up fast travel

The Phantom Pain doesn't tell you this until you've found your first leaflet, but some of the outposts you come across will have a yellow, triangle-shaped sign with a delivery manifest attached to it. Grab that, and you'll be able to use it as a fast travel point. Simply hop in a box, wait in the designated area, and you'll be whisked away to any other spot on the map you've unlocked. That way, you won't have to hoof it across the hot desert for miles, or summon your chopper if you want a faster way to get around.

1. Don't be afraid to run away

Metal Gear Solid 5 is hard. The enemy AI is brutal, and enemies will work together to counter your strategies at every turn. If you get spotted, you can only take a few hits before you're down for the count. So don't be afraid to run away, wait for the enemy's alert status to drop, send for some more supplies, and get your head back in the game before you make another attempt. Or, if you'd simply like a do-over, hit "Restore Previous Checkpoint" in your Options menu.

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.