Snake Beater: 5 Tips for Success in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a very, very big game. And it’s a very complex one – full of interlocking systems, subtle details, and easy-to-overlook elements. But it’s also a magnificent game, one that you really owe it to yourself to play. So here are five general tips to help you get a leg up early in the game.

Recon Twice, Infiltrate Once
Actually, make that “recon four times.” Anytime you’re about to infiltrate an enemy installation, you want to whip out your binoculars and take a thorough look around. You’ll learn very early that simply zooming in on enemies tags them, and lets you track them even through walls. What may not be as obvious is how crucial it can be to tag every single enemy in a base. In some games, enemies move in very predictable routes and patterns. This is not such a game; it’s all too easy to get surprised by an unseen enemy, and ruin a perfectly stealthy infiltration.

Furthermore, as you advance in the game, knowing specifics about enemies can be very helpful. By upgrading your binoculars, you can get information about enemies’ particular skills, which can let you be selective about choosing who to send back to Mother Base. But more on that later.

Make New Friends
One good way to help ascertain enemy locations is to ask a local. And by that, we mean grab an enemy and beat the info out of him. Once you’ve rescued a Russian interpreter (which happens very early in the game), you’ll be able to interrogate enemies when you have them in a chokehold. Tell them to “Spit it out” and they’ll usually divulge some prime info, like the location of prisoners, or at least of resources – which will thenceforth show up on your map.

You can also ask them to tell you where their friends are; not every grunt knows the positions of his comrades, though, so if you come up empty, keep trying. And remember that interrogated enemies will only tell you about stuff in their immediate vicinity. In larger areas, you may need to update your knowledge as you move through the compound.

Fill the Sky
One of the greatest features in The Phantom Pain is the Fulton surface-to-air recovery system. After a few missions, you’ll get the ability to use this awesome device, which essentially lets you tie a balloon to an enemy and watch him get whisked off into the stratosphere, where he’ll be recovered and brought back to Mother Base (you can also eventually upgrade the Fulton to let you balloon away machine guns and mortars, and even vehicles and cargo containers).

Balloon-napping soldiers isn’t just for giggles, either; it offers two huge benefits. First, it staffs up Mother Base, allowing you to expand your HQ, and buy and upgrade new gear. Second, it removes downed enemies from the battlefield, meaning they’ll never wake up and alert their comrades. Now, if you Fulton someone away where another enemy can see, they’re going to come investigate, so be judicious in your Fulton use. But otherwise, don’t let sleeping grunts lie; snatch up everyone and everything you can.

(By the way, the Fulton system? It’s totally real.)

Be the Boss
Which leads us to another major feature of The Phantom Pain: Mother Base. While this may seem like a relatively uninteresting hub between missions, you’ll soon learn that proper management of Mother Base is absolutely crucial to your success. As you retrieve more personnel, you’ll gain the ability to expand your base and upgrade your gear. The more staff you have, the better stuff you can get. Well, early in the game, at least; as we hinted at earlier, you’ll want to be a little more selective about who you’re bringing home to Mother as your base fills up… but at first, it’s best to go for quantity over quality.

This stuff doesn’t all happen without any input from you. For one thing, you’ll need to begin the physical expansion yourself; we recommend starting with the Base Development Platform, so as to make future expansions cheaper and quicker. Of course, you’ll need to select what gear to buy and/or upgrade, too; make sure you upgrade your Fulton early, and pick up a sniper rifle and rocket launcher as soon as you can.

Finally, you have to keep an eye on your staff members themselves. Occasionally, you’ll end up with a troublemaker who can make life rough for other staff members. So you’ll need to check in periodically to make sure everyone’s behaving themselves. If not, feel free to toss any bad apples out of the barrel.

Get Shipped
One last tip, because it seems like it’s often overlooked: Did you know that The Phantom Pain has a fast-travel system? It’s not the most obvious thing in the world, but being able to move clear across the map without having to call in a helicopter is a definite plus. Have you ever noticed the orange platforms in various villages and enemy encampments? Have you ever noticed the invoices posted on poles in front of them? Once you’ve visited at least two of these platforms and retrieved the invoices, you can fast-travel between them at will: Simply climb into your cardboard box and hold Y to have unwitting enemies pack you up and ship you off.

A similar system applies within Mother Base, which is a godsend if you’ve expanded a lot. Just hunker down in your box on the Delivery Point stand, and you can jump to any of your other platforms almost instantaneously.

Oh, and here’s one other tip to make travel quicker: Remember that anytime you’re outside a mission, you can bring up the Pause menu and choose “Return to ACC” to instantly jump back to the helicopter.

There’s an awful lot more to the game, of course, but these tips are a good start to keep you happy, healthy, and alive through the early days of this vast adventure. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is available now on Xbox One and Xbox 360.