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by Garamoth

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No Traces Guide by Garamoth

Version: 1.02 | Updated: 03/20/17

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - No Traces Guide

Version history

  • 1.02 (20-03-2017): Some new tips for Ep. 18: Blood Runs Deep, corrected some more typos.
  • 1.01 (15-03-2016): Added short mission-by-mission guide, added some new tips, corrected some typos.
  • 1.00 (05-02-2016): First version, it's all brand new! Next step will be to add mission-by-mission tips.

Introduction

Welcome to my Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain No Traces Guide. What is No Traces? It is a hidden score bonus that only shows up when its requirements are met that gives an enormous score bonus (100,000-250,000 depending on the mission) and a guaranteed S-Rank. So No Traces is both a great stealth challenge and the ultimate score booster. How do you get it? Well, by not leaving any traces you were ever there, although the specifics are a bit complicated.

By the way, there isn't a No Traces bonus associated with multiplayer FOB infiltration missions.

I have also made a video series to accompany this guide. The runs are not spectacular by any means, but they should be enough to show how it's done. Full Playlist here:

  • https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLT9L4_SfZ_5uS-oZIBI3L-L5qVQQM0OLC

What you CANNOT do

In order to get No Traces, you CANNOT:

  • Fire any bullet or use any Primary/Secondary/Support weapon with the R2 (trigger) button
  • Attack using buddies/mounted guns/fire support
  • Harm any human (including with bumping, diving and CQC, this includes puppets, but not bosses)
  • Enter Reflex Mode/Combat Alert status
  • Call Supply drops
  • Use score-restricting items

What you CAN do

Things get a bit more obtuse when you consider the things you're allowed to do.

You CAN:

  • Point your gun
  • Hold up enemies (even if it fails but don't get caught)
  • Interrogate enemies
  • Reload your gun (no shooting, though!)
  • Use the flashlight (blinding enemies is forbidden, but luring them is not)
  • Use basic CQC with R2 and the Sprint Punch (in the air, on objects or on bosses, the Blast Arm lets you deal damage)
  • Reload to a previous checkpoint (also removes infractions since last checkpoint)
  • Ask for helicopter Pick Up/leave area with it (the helicopter can be seen and you as well while inside it, the chopper CAN attack)
  • Ask for helicopter Air Support (Except the chopper can't actually attack this way, if the pilot just says "following SOP", you're okay)
  • Pick up resources/plants
  • Fulton held up enemies/prisoners/vehicles/containers/gun emplacements
  • Drive vehicles/bring one on a mission/leave it behind
  • Get hurt
  • Get attacked by wildlife
  • Arouse suspicion (white crescent)
  • Raise "indirect" alert status (ex: stepping on a mine, missing prisoner noticed)
  • Make noise with the Bionic Arm/use Sonar
  • Get spotted or attacked by bosses and hurt them with an allowed method
  • Ride D-Horse/D-Walker
  • Call D-Horse and use other non-hostile commands for buddies (bark, stay, etc.)
  • Block the road with D-Horse/vehicles
  • Poop with D-Horse (lets you stun enemies in jeeps)
  • Change buddy mid-mission
  • Have any/all passive Bionic Arm upgrades for Snake
  • Use special cassette tapes (lullaby, animals)

Most things in the "Item" category are allowed, but more specifically:

  • Use a cardboard box, provided you don't lose one during the mission (i.e., leave it on the ground)
  • Use Phantom Cigar/pills/NVG
  • Use Armor or Mist Parasites (but not Camo)

The gist of it is that you cannot attack and have to be super sneaky, but there are a few dirty tricks you can use. The Blast Arm lets you destroy mission target equipment and hurt bosses while not technically being a weapon. The Pick Up command from the chopper can let you create a diversion and allows you to kill with impunity (lets you keep the No Kill bonus). The Parasite Suit's Mist ability can make you almost impossible to spot and make any No Traces mission practically a cake walk. The latter two tips almost feel like cheating, but it's up to you if you want to use them or not.

The Sahelanthropus missions [31] & [50] are odd ducks: they do allow some score-restricting features without penalty: Fire Support and Air Support. This does let you call Air Support and get No Traces. Fire Support is still considered an attack and makes you lose No Traces, even though you can still get an S Rank using it. So it seems Air Support is a score-restricting feature but is not considred to be an attack, oddly enough.

Here is a video that illustrates most of the things you CAN do. It could be useful for some to prove what actions are allowed:

Equipment tips

The nature of the challenge means that most of Snake's toys will have to stay in their box. This severely limits your options, but the few items that you can use can make a huge difference.

  • Guns: Might as well go with whatever's cheapest, you can only hold up and use the flashlight
  • Blast Arm: Lets you destroy equipment, hurt bosses
  • Stealth Suit: Very useful for muffling footsteps, but you could also go for appropriate camo
  • Parasite Suit: Can let you cheese your way with the Mist ability
  • Noctocyanin: Just as good as having D-Dog around, saves a lot of guesswork on guard positions
  • Phantom Cigar: Can help pass the time, but it DOES screw up your time score
  • Wormhole Fulton: EXTREMELY useful, captures targets anywhere, faster, more silently and with a 100 % chance. Can also allow you to leave the mission area more easily by Fultoning a container and grabbing on.
  • Helicopter Engines level 5: Shaves off a lot of time waiting for the chopper to show up
  • All passive Bionic Arm upgrades: The movement speed bonuses save a lot of time

Other Tips For a High Score

No Traces is the most important factor for getting a high score, but combining this with other strategies can help you reach for the top of the leaderboards.

  • No Retries is a bonus independent from No Traces, worth 5,000 or sometimes more on some missions
  • Start from the ground (not from the chopper). It removes the lengthy arrival scene.
  • Hold ups, although risky, represent a nice point combo (1,380 = 1,000 Tactical Takedown + 200 Neutralization + 30 Marking + 150 Effective Interrogation)
  • You can hold up multiple guards at the same time by putting a poster on a cardboard box and attracting guards (make sure to turn Reflex Mode off as well)
  • D-Walker is a bit faster than D-Horse, but harder to maneuver.
  • Prisoners are worth 5,000 points each, they more than deserve a little detour. They're sometimes worth an extra 5,000 points if they're also considered an extra optional objective.
  • If you really have to wait somewhere, you might as well mark a few targets while you're at it for 30 points (useful when riding the chopper)

Impossible Missions for No Traces

As far as I know and to the best of the community's knowledge, No Traces is possible on all missions except the following:

NoMission Name
0Prologue: Awakening
2Diamond Dogs
12Hellbound
33[Subsistence] C2W
43Shining Lights, Even in Death
45A Quiet Exit
46Truth: The Man Who Sold The World

Mission tips

The harder version of the missions should be roughly the same as its ordinary counterpart, except for mission 33 - [Subsistence] C2W, where destroying the radio becomes impossible. Watch the embedded videos for specific, moment to moment tips for each mission.

Episode 1: Phantom Limbs

The first mission is a special case: guards do not benefit from upgrades and never resist when held up, so holding up many guards can boost your score. Just head straight for the village Miller is held in. You can totally skip the Skulls phase by choosing a different landing area than the default one.

Episode 3: A Hero's Way

The commander is much easier to capture when he's alone inside the house. Just hold him up then Wormhole Fulton him out.

Episode 4: C2W

The radio equipment inside one of the houses can be destroyed by a sprint punch from the Blast Arm, which does not count as an attack. There's a container right next to that for an easy extraction.

Episode 5: Over the Fence

The western (back) part of the camp is much safer to enter from. There are cracks there to climb up from. Saving the second prisoner on top of the ridge is pretty easy and is worth an extra 5,000 points. Leaving via the container at the back of the camp saves a lot of time and is quite safe.

Episode 6: Where Do Bees Sleep?

This is a long mission, since getting to the fort is more than half the job.You can avoid all the guards at the bridge area by climbing to the other side from the bottom. Make sure to steer clear of the two-man patrol after the bridge station. You can also avoid the outposts by using the side roads. The path I use at Smasei Fort dodges most of the guards. When the Skulls appear, being spotted and shot by them doesn't actually count, but you can't hurt (or trample) the puppet soldiers. The Skulls give up as soon as you leave the base and you can go right back in there to catch the chopper. It's faster, but you have to destroy the AA radar first before the mission.

Episode 7: Red Brass

There are three officers: one is already inside the village, one drives in from the north and one from the southwest. Their routes are shown on the in-game map. You can ambush both trucks with the horse before they reach the village, making the third officer easy to hold up and capture. Starting with the northern jeep is easier.

Episode 8: Occupation Forces

You can bring a vehicle to block the convoy's path. Getting into the village to take the intel file isn't too hard if you stick to the upper parts of the mountain. The prisoner is fairly easy to save and is something simple to do while waiting for the convoy to show up. Both the horse and the truck can block the convoy for a significant amount of time. If things don't work as planned, you can ride past the vehicles on the road and block them with the horse again.

Episode 9: Backup, Back Down

The horse is a must here, since it lets you stop vehicles without attacking. One of the easiest No Traces mission, considering you can Fulton a single vehicle and patiently wait for time to run out. But where's the fun in that, right? Destroying the enemy chopper requires you to call for chopper pick up and have your chopper engage it (it's a loophole in the No Traces rules). Don't forget there are also multiple prisoners to save. Also, once all vehicles have left the area you're free to leave too, you don't actually have to wait he whole 15 minutes.

Episode 10: Angel with Broken Wings
Fairly easy mission using the horse. Some poop and the horse itself to block the road will do the trick. Watch out for the two patrols at mission start. You *can* Fulton the APC without losing No Traces status.

Episode 11: Cloaked in Silence

This mission is actually not as hard as it looks. The secret is that Quiet always uses the same second sniping spot if left alone. Two kicks is also all it takes to knock her out. Connecting with the kick is a bit tricky, though. Her third hiding spot is also the same. You *can* get hit by Quiet and get No Traces. Even if you screw up and she has spotted you, you can plunge into her and if you're lucky she won't move out of the way, which gives you just about enough time to kick her.

Episode 13: Pitch Dark


The oil tank *can* be destroyed with a well-placed Sprint Punch from the Blast Arm. You can even survive the blast without any special armor. You can also Fulton out of the area using a container.

Episode 14: Lingua Franca

Probably the easiest mission to get No Traces on. Just waltz right in the empty area in the middle of the enemy camp and reach the "hidden" prisoner. The lone guard can refuse to surrender, but you can also distract him long enough to rescue the prisoner.

Episode 15: Footprints of Phantoms

The enemy soldiers here stick pretty close to the Walkers you have to extract. This makes it one of the few situations where an indirect alert being called is actually useful. It sends soldiers patrolling all around the place instead. Fultoning the prisoner at the top of the mountain is a good way to get such an alert called.

Episode 16: Traitor's Caravan

Forget about the Intel File, just use your preferred mode of transportation to go straight to the airport. There's a crate right next to a broken part in the barbed wire. climbing there will take you right to the truck without meeting any guard. Wormhole the truck (regular Fulton works too, but the Skulls can shoot it out), then run to the nearest container and ride it out. It's possible using Reflex Mode when being spotted by the Skulls is forbidden. Just turn it off in the options and presto!

Episode 17: Rescue the Intel Agents

The prisoner in the jungle is always at the same place. If you go there early enough, the guards will be fairly far from him. The prisoner in the camp is closer to guards, but you can avoid most of them by reaching the prison pit from the back. The Intel File is not necessary.

Episode 18: Blood Runs Deep

This mission is hell without giving yourself some kind of edge. It's very hard not to have the kids spotted by the guards unless you use tricks or perfect timing. Using the Parasite Suit here could be a good idea. You can easily get rid of the wounded kid with Wormhole Fulton; the other four you actually CAN leave there. Miller will protest when getting on the chopper but you will still win the mission. You can also try asking for helicopter pick up in the mine right next to where the kids are kept and let the chopper deal with nearby guards. Then again, you can just fulton the wounded kid and escape using a container in the mine area. You do lose a potential 20 000 points for leaving the four kids, however.

Episode 19: On the Trail

You can find the target right from the start at the northeast corner of the mission area. This one is ridiculously easy to pull off if you just ask for helicopter pick up near that area. The chopper will then mow down the enemies.

Episode 20: Voices


The first part of this mission is a fairly lengthy sneaking mission. The jungle part is especially tricky. You can, however, avoid almost all sneaking by using the northern passage to avoid the enemy outpost in the gorge and climbing around the broken bridge to avoid the jungle patrol. Being attacked by the wild dogs doesn't cancel No Traces, though. As for the boss, you can easily leave the area when he hasn't spotted you or when he's under the hangar.

Episode 21: The War Economy

You can extract the official and the arms dealer without much of a fuss by fultoning the truck in the north hangar as soon as they hop inside it. You can also extract on top of a nearby container.

Episode 22: Retake the Platform

So you *can* get No Traces on this mission, although you are not actually given a grade. This mission depends on your Mother Base size, so the layout is variable. Just like multiplayer FOB infiltrations, you can avoid most of the fuss by going under and around the platforms. Enemies are *almost* blind when firing at the chopper, so make use of the opportunity. Enemies are also mostly unable to see through grating and ramps, so you can use that to your advantage as well.

Episode 23: The White Mamba

What is odd about this mission is that you are allowed to physically harm Eli. That means he is not a "regular" human, but a boss (different rules apply to them). Falling on him from the top of the ship will knock him out instantly. However, it is more reliable (but slower) to lure him outside with the bionic arm, then stun him with CQC. Once Eli has been dealt with, the other children become essentially blind while running away, so you can rescue the prisoner without risking an alert. She is actually worth a "double" bonus of 10,000 points (5,000 like any prisoner, plus another 5,000 as an extra optional objective).

Episode 24: Close Contact

Going through the empty pass is much safer than going through the southern base. The first prisoner stumbles out of the camp on his own. The other one you can either rescue with a daring (and very risky) infiltration of the tent, or you can wait for her to be loaded onto a jeep and ambush it, horse poop style.

Episode 25: Aim True, Ye Vengeful

You can use the bionic arm as a distraction to reach both targets. The prisoner can be dealt with first, since wormholing the child soldier leader will make the nearby child soldier suspiscious. No need to put the wounded prisoner in the chopper, just ride (or walk) out of the zone with him.

Episode 26: Hunting Down

This one is a bit tricky. First of all, you can just go to the enemy party's stating point southwest of the mission area. The sniper at the back of the group has much better sight, so it's helpful to Fulton him first. The target always walks with someone else, but if they suspect something, only the bodyguard will investigate. You can also try holding them both up at once with a poster on a cardboard box.

Episode 27: Root Cause

Easy as pie. Just circle around the camp and catch the prisoner before he leaves in the truck.

Episode 28: Code Talker

It's easy enough to avoid the sniper Skulls completely by following the river and climbing using the cracks in the hill. Getting spotted by them doesn't even really count anyway. You can then follow the mansion around to the back entrance which will put you right next to Code Talker. The guards will have become puppets by then so they won't raise an alarm, but make sure not to get grabbed by them.

Episode 29: Metallic Archaea

Yes, this mission can also be completed while getting No Traces but it's a hassle. There are very few things you are actually allowed to do to harm the Skulls:

- Ram them with a vehicle
- Sprint Punch them with the Blast Arm
- CQC counter them (it *does* hurt them)

The most efficient method seems to be to get the Skulls stuck in a loop of melee attacks and CQC counters, but it's tricky.

Episode 30: Skull Face

This is an honest, straightforward sneaking mission. The safest path seems to be to enter the first area by going around the cliff and climbing the wall overlooking the water, then going through the front door. The rightmost path is almost empty in the second area. Reach the second door, then cross to the other side of it to find a stone ladder. From then on, keep mostly left avoiding cameras and going through a storehouse. There will be a crawlspace leading to the third area left of the blast doors. In the third area, follow the aqueduct to the right, then up the stairs until you find rubble that lets you climb discreetly to the final stairs.

Piece of cake, right?

Episode 31: Sahelanthropus

Yes, it's also possible to complete this mission with No Traces. As stated above, the Sahelanthropus missions [31] & [50] are odd ducks: they do allow some score-restricting features without penalty: Fire Support and Air Support. This does let you call Air Support and get No Traces. Fire Support is still considered an attack and makes you lose No Traces, even though you can still get an S Rank using it. So Air Support is a score-restricting feature but not an "attack", oddly enough.

Pequod seems to like using missiles a lot more than rockets, so you should equip those. The actual time it takes to win is pretty much random depending on the timing of Pequod's attacks. You *can* punch Sahelanthropus with the Blast Arm, but it's pathetically slow. It does work on the floating boy to stun Sahelanthropus, however.

Episode 32: To Know Too Much

Another fairly simple mission, since the target is alone in the middle of the desert. In fact, if you're fast enough, you can extract him before the walkers get close enough to detect you. The chopper can be detected and get shot at, even while you're in it, so don't worry about a quiet extraction.

Episode 35: Cursed Legacy

Another pretty straightforward mission. All guards are wearing riot suits and cannot be held up. It's also very easy to leave using one of the containers you're supposed to extract.

Episode 38: Extraordinary

Blazing fast mission. Just gallop in, pick up the film and run out. It can change position, so look at the iDroid image to pinpoint its location. With a bit of practice you can figure out where it is just by the blurry first picture. Guards with riot suits always refuse to surrender while standing up, but holding them still makes them less able to spot you for a little while, so you might be able to use that to your advantage.

Episode 41: Proxy War Without End

Extracting the vehicles is easy enough with the D-Horse method. For the two armored vehicles that are together, first extract the one behind, then park your horse further along for the other one. The other vehicles stop at predetermined locations so they're easy to get when stopped. The chopper can be killed easily by calling for chopper pick up and having it engage the enemy chopper. Yes, it does not count as a kill OR an attack, oddly enough. If you place yourself right, you'll also be instantly extracted when the chopper crashes.

Credits

  • User Uryvichk discovered you can destroy equipment with the Blast Arm, letting you destroy the comms equipment in episode [4] C2W and the fuel tank in episode [13] Pitch Dark.

https://youtu.be/VfW9Lr-PLKY

  • Users Trzebiat and Prenatual discovered you can defeat the Skulls with No Traces in [29] Metallic Archaea by sprint punching them and driving them over.

https://youtu.be/1hbvFo5_Bjg

  • Prenatual also discovered you can let the helicopter fight the boss in Sahelanthropus [31] & [50].

https://youtu.be/3BSWw4EL50E

  • Fulton Hardy has mentionned to me how to get the Skulls stuck in a CQC loop on [29] Metallic Archaea, and does it on extreme, no less.

https://youtu.be/b6cHDN4-UTI

  • Ad Vert for telling me you can leave the non-wounded kids behind in Ep. 18: Blood Runs Deep.