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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V: A Beginner's Guide

Taking the agony out of The Phantom Pain.

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If you, like many others, made your first acquaintance with the Metal Gear Solid series with the recently released Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (read our review over here), it may initially seem like a huge challenge. Who's who and what's what and why and where and when? But don't worry. Thanks to the ten tips listed below, you'll soon become the biggest boss of them all.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

1. Listen to Everything

If you are, God forbid, new to the Metal Gear Solid series and its epic story, this is a definite must if you want to get the most out of the game. There's plenty of information regarding both smaller and bigger events from Hideo Kojima's magical world of espionage, and if you make the effort to dig a little deeper you will be rewarded while playing The Phantom Pain.

Listen when you're riding on your horse or driving around in a jeep on the way to the next task, or even when you just crawl on your stomach through any part of the vast landscape. The tiredness that usually sets in during tedious travelling becomes a real delight here, with nods to the past and present, as well as a little something about what is to come, if you are familiar with the series.

If you played Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and found it contained an absurd amount of background information via cassette tapes, then you'll likely be on the receiving end of a heart attack when starting up The Phantom Pain. The amount of tapes in this game is simply mind-blowing.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

2. Think Before Jumping

Taking the time to study your surroundings and not rush off like a sugar-fueled kid can sometimes be difficult, in particular in video games, and even more so in action games. We want full speed, excitement, and explosions - and we want them now. All too often this results in missed opportunities.

Therefore try to restrain yourself when you play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. There are many decisions in the game that you have to be prepared to consider carefully. Spoiler warning:

In the third main quest, for example, you will encounter a puppy just as you jump from the helicopter. Your friends on the radio will point out that "this is neither the time nor the place to cuddle with the puppies", while the little pooch stands there staring at you. You can heed their advice. Run as fast as your legs will carry you. Do your mission without letting anything distract you. The puppy was just a distraction. However, the dog should actually be sent home in an extraction balloon to Mother Base. After a few missions, that small puppy will have grown up to be a faithful ally that you can take with you on your quests.

You should also spend an extra second or two thinking before sending a certain sniper off to meet the maker. Just saying.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

3. Plan of Action

We know some crave speed and excitement. Just grab the ridiculously overpowered shotgun and head straight for the nearest base you can find. Gears of War-style. This, however, will undoubtedly result in your untimely death. Going for a direct assault will hand every advantage over to your enemy.

Consider and plan your moves. Make your decision based on the task at hand and you'll soon find this phase as rewarding as actually carrying out the mission. Indulge yourself and take the time to really sort out exactly how to best carry out the mission. Maybe it's time pull out silly amounts of C4 and blow up armoured vehicles as they travel along the road, blissfully unawares? Or is it perhaps more appropriate to call in an airstrike and watch from a safe distance?

Maybe you should destroy the enemy's ability to communicate and cut power so you can sneak in more easily under the cover of darkness? Perhaps you should extract information from each and every enemy soldier you come across and thus get access to essential intel? Few things are as satisfying as accomplishing a mission without anyone even noticing that you've been there. Well, discounting any casualties along the way. This is, after all, a tale of vengeance.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

4. The Scenic Route

As much as we want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, it's not always the best available route. If you choose to rush along all the main roads you will undoubtedly happen upon difficult enemies and thus run into trouble. It's always a good idea to take the long way around.

Journey close to mountains, off to the sides of the map, and look for passages and cut-throughs that will take you past guards instead of straight through them. Keep a close eye in case one or two vehicles are driving along your intended route so you can throw yourself on the ground or make for cover.

These steps will undoubtedly make your stay in The Phantom Pain smoother and more manageable. Sure, you will run into dead ends, encounter wolves, and other minor problems along the way, but it's part of the learning process. The long way around will save you time in the long run.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

5. Upgrade Carefully

During the opening moments of The Phantom Pain you will be swimming in money and supplies. Everything will be at your disposal and you can simply buy anything you need. Nothing is too pricey, you are the literary living it up like a big boss. But financial muscle will gradually waste away and it won't be long before you need to carefully plan your shopping and invest your funds soundly in upgrades that matter.

The kinds of upgrades that matter will be entirely up to you, but we found it prudent to invest in basic stuff like the extraction balloon, your I-droid, night vision goggles, and stun guns. Given our classical stealth approach this was the right way to go, but you should naturally adapt your upgrades to suit your desired play-style. Just take care that you don't spend your funds on something that's rarely used.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

6. Best Friends Forever

When you've progressed partway into the game, and assuming you made the right choice and didn't run rampant, you will have the opportunity to gain reinforcements. A faithful dog to fight at your side, or possibly an angry sniper that can perform miracles on the battlefield, but you'll need to pick which one to bring with you before you head out into harm's way.

If it's a mission that you know will end in a major confrontation, perhaps it'd be more appropriate to bring the sniper or a weaponised D-Walker. But if it's a stealthy incursion you should consider a dog who can check the terrain as well as point out the enemies. Finally, if it's a mission that will involve long journeys, you should stick with your faithful steed.

Make sure you don't forget to try and use all of your allies as often as possible, so everyone gets some time on the ground and thus can level up; you'll reap the rewards before the end.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

7. Be picky with your army

A large part of The Phantom Pain is restoring Mother Base (destroyed in Ground Zeroes). This involves providing the base with soldiers at the beginning of your stay in The Phantom Pain, which will undoubtedly see you send each and every soldier you catch back to your base. It doesn't matter if they're useful or not, you'll want the recruits. However, the further into the game you get, the more it becomes clear that you must be more selective.

Not all soldiers are made of the right stuff. Most are rather mediocre and either die or create problems with other soldiers on the base, lowering morale. These are the types of friends you can do without. Instead focus on soldiers with who are great at a discipline (medicine, combat, weapons and equipment development, base building, information, health care and so on) and you'll soon see your base evolve. Being able to see what skills a certain soldier possesses is unlocked partway into the game, but as soon as it pops up, you need to be mindful of who you choose to enlist.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

8. Gear Up

No job is like the next, but instead of deciding ahead of each mission what to take with you (soon you'll have an overwhelming amount of options) you can have different kits ready with the necessary content. Replacing individual items every five minutes is a tiresome job and something you should definitely avoid.

A kit should include stealth equipment such as a silenced pistol, sniper rifles and a cardboard box, while another kit might instead be focussed on combat and contain a rocket launcher, a shotgun and a protective shield. It is never wrong to come prepared for all sorts of eventualities, and it's an excellent idea to spare a minute or two to set up three or four different kits. Once again preparation is key.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

9. Build Smart

In addition to the soldiers you can collect in your base, you'll also build your fortress up piece by piece. There are lots of decisions to make here. So what should you focus on and when? We concentrated on getting all of the basic elements built first without upgrading anything, which got us everything we needed for future adventures. After that you can upgrade to fit your particular requirements.

Note that different levels are needed for specific upgrades, so if say you're looking for a sniper rifle that is non-lethal, you'll need special parts of the base ready so you can meet the necessary requirements. A tip is to focus on the main base, the infirmary, intelligence, and the weapons and equipment department. But you do need everything to really become the Big Boss.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

10. Stealth

Metal Gear Solid series has always been a game that is focussed on stealth. No exceptions. Sure there are some spectacular action-packed moments, but the foundation has always been that you should try to avoid direct confrontation as much as possible. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain remains true to the roots of the franchise.

If you want to survive you'll need to play with stealth in mind. Whether long or short distances, it's definitely best to stay in the shadows and avoid unnecessary conflict. Personally, we find it extremely satisfying to lie in wait and then exploit the perfect opportunity to continue our journey. Of course others might enjoy a more aggressive approach to stealth, removing an obstacle at the first opportunity. Either way it's a matter of personal taste. But if you want to get the most out of The Phantom Pain you're going to have to embrace stealth because the further you progress in the story, the harder it gets. Even if you can get away with going loud early on in proceedings, stealth is a skill you simply need to learn if you're to make it all the way to the end.