Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain - the 11 best tactics you're not using right now
I've put around 25 hours in Meal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain so far and watched hours more of Twitch streams. There was something that stuck out to me during my most recent session: how safe everyone is taking things and how they're not using the full breadth of tools available to them.
Everyone is still using the tranquilliser pistol you start with, and a couple of other silenced or loud guns. Everyone I watched or talked to, including myself sometimes, ignores the fantastic tools at their disposal and plays it like a Splinter Cell game.
Here are some of the best tactics that make the game more fun and will absolutely help you overcome obstacles.
If you're just starting out with the game, check out these beginner's tips, and be sure to bookmark our full Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain guide and walkthrough.
Using the many options of the Bionic Arm
Snake’s Bionic Arm is one of the most interesting additions to the series. You get the arm almost immediately and can control which direction you want to take it in. It’s highly upgradable and can serve a multitude of play-styles.
The most obvious trick is using the “Knock” ability, which makes a sound to lure the enemy. It’s faster than throwing a magazine and it can be done while prone, minimising the risk of you getting caught. You can also use it as a sonar by slamming it into the ground to detect nearby enemies. It makes a loud noise when it does, so be sure not to use it close to enemies. Later upgrades let you increase your reflex mode time, raise your damage resistance, boost your speed, and other nifty features.
You can also use it to stun enemies and put them to sleep, just like you can with a tranquillising shot. Some of these features cancel out the others, so be sure to select the ones that best suit your mission before starting it out.
Disarming and holding up enemies
Did you know you can disarm soldiers and even hold them up at gunpoint? Well, you can! All you need to do is hold the left trigger as you're CQCing an enemy. This is massively useful when you’re out of tranquilliser rounds but still don’t want to kill anyone.
Once you take their weapon and point it at them, they’ll put their hands behind their backs and you can interrogate them just like you could if you were to choke hold them. Afterwards, you can ask them to lay on the ground and leave them, or kick them to put them to sleep.
Did you also know you can hold guys up just by pointing your weapon at them? This is different from disarming them. All you need to do is sneak up behind them in any stance, have your weapon ready and keep it pointed at them. As they start to notice you, it won’t go into reflex mode. Instead, they will drop their weapon in fear and you can follow the same routine above.
The trick is to make sure they don’t hear you before you hold the gun up, otherwise you’ll be detected.
Using cardboard boxes to travel around the map
Ah, cardboard boxes. One of Metal Gear Solid’s iconic tools is better than ever in The Phantom Pain. Just like some of the earlier games, you can use your cardboard box to be transported around the map.
This is similar to the way it's done at Mother Base. Just head over to any of the cargo delivery points you find around the map (though there aren't many), select your drop off point and wait for the enemy to pick you up. It takes seconds and is much faster than running around everywhere.
This is even more important in The Phantom Pain because of how massive the world is.
Using cardboard boxes in general
Cardboard boxes of course have kept their original purpose: concealing you as you move around enemies. There are more open spaces in The Phantom Pain than any other Metal Gear Solid title. For this reason, you need to be in constant cover, and these handy hiding boxes can be customised to fit any type of terrain you'll be facing.
Remember, moving around even while inside the box will get enemies to notice you. But, if you move on intervals and keep still as they come to check it out, you’ll be fine.
You can always pop out of it to shoot. You can also go into first-person mode to see from inside.
Making all your weapons non-lethal
As you progress through the game and level up your Mother Base, more equipment will become available. For instance, you can choose to have it so all your slots carry tranquillising or stun shots, instead of lethal bullets.
This applies to pistols, SMGS, assault rifles, and even sniper rifles. Just not rocket launchers for obvious reasons. This is perfect if you want to always maintain a no-kill approach and have plenty of ammo to serve you. It’s also great because the bigger the gun (and the calibre), the more penetration and effective range it will have, giving you more reach to put everyone to sleep.
Anything with a STN or ZZZ icon will not kill enemies, but anything with DMG indicator will. So keep an eye out.
Hiding behind the portable defence shield
The portable shield is one of those items that you either love or hate. It’s amazing at protecting your back from shots as you run in the field, and it’s perfect for those moments when you have to face threats head on.
You can only use your side arm while carrying it, but it’s a major help for Snake, who can die from only a few shots. If you’re the type of action-oriented player, the shield is a must for clearing rooms. You can even use it as a portable cover. You won’t be able to shoot, but it will take out most of hits for you.
Trolling enemies with decoy and active decoy
The decoy and active decoy are two of the most amusing tools you have at your disposal. The former is just a balloon that can inflate to look like Snake from a distance. The latter is similar, but with the added bonus of sound. The sound is of course Snake's iconic "kept you waiting, huh?” phrase.
These are excellent if you think an enemy saw you and he's about to come and check it out. Place them in your last known location and continue on your merry way. The enemy will come around, see the balloon and usually have something funny to say.
In fact, the enemy will utilise the same tactic in a few of the missions and you will be fooled just as well.
Blowing up enemy AA emplacements, communications radars and radios
The Phantom Pain allows you to cut off a base’s communication in a number of different ways. As you know, if the enemy can’t contact central command, they won't be able to to call for reinforcements.
You can achieve this in a number of ways, either blowing up the radar units (usually one or two per base), or shooting and destroying the radio station inside of buildings.
You can also blow up AA emplacements, which are those huge boxcars that have a toe hook at the front. This allows your chopper to reach previously unreachable places. Everything is best destroyed with C4 from a distance, but anything with enough fire-power will do the job.
Smoke, stun, and sleep grenades
The most effective grenades are not those that explode. Rather, those that give you a chance to dominate the enemy and turn a sticky situation to your advantage. Each of these three grenades does just that, and they could be a powerful ally if you know what you're doing.
Throwing a few smoke or sleep grenades means you will create yourself an opportunity where there is none, knocking enemies to sleep or confusing them. The same can be said for the stun grenade, which flashes enemies' eyes for few seconds and is perfect for in-door encounters.
It’s also important to note that the enemies' senses are impaired while under the effects of them. Which means you can CQC, tranquillise, grab, or do whatever, without being detected. I've even used them before to extract prisoners or VIPs right from under their noses. Once the smoke dissipates and everyone wakes up, you'll be long gone.
Using night vision goggles
If you follow the above tip and use smoke grenades often, you will need to be able to see in the smoke. Which is where the night vision goggles come in. Aside from helping you see through smoke, they can be used in dark or misty locations to reveal enemy units.
You can upgrade them over time to have a longer battery life and work better even in broad daylight.
Chugging Pentazemin and Noctocyanin
The power of modern medicine can be yours if you choose. Pentazemin has been in all Metal Gear Solid games and it does the same thing in The Phantom Pain: suppressing your hand and body shivers making you land precision shots easier. This is perfect if you plan to snipe, or if you use first-person-mode a lot
As for Noctocyanin, it works similar to Far Cry 4's heightened senses injections. Once you swallow one, it automatically spots enemies or plants around you. This can be used if you're going into a large indoor location and don't want someone to get the drop on you, or you're just going out on a plant-gathering run.
The effects of either can be strengthened through upgrades.