There are very few names in the gaming industry that command so much respect and one of these people is the great Hideo Kojima. After an ordeal and a troubling departure from Konami, Kojima began work setting up a new studio and a brand-new IP known as Death Stranding. For nearly 5 years brought about an ungodly amount of hype and upon release, the views were very mixed. There was praise, memes, and even a Rick and Morty sketch detailing its weirdness and obscurity. Now after a few years of the hype dying down and a new cut of the game being released, how does Death Stranding hold up now?
Was it worth all the hype? Is it worth checking out again? Is this even a game you may even like? Read on and find out. What is Death Stranding?
Death Stranding brought itself a huge deal of intrigue leading up to its release. Captivating the attention of fans, haters, and even some of the casual gamer market. It promised an immense journey, filled with hardships, rewards, and ways to capture the struggles of the current climate the world faced in 2019 (and still does). With an all-star cast, a beefed-up game engine, a blockbuster budget and so much more, Death Stranding was seen to be a game-changer.
Set within the post-apocalyptic United States, after a cataclysmic event known as the "Death Stranding" pretty much-stopped humanity in its tracks. The Death Stranding caused a rift between the world of the living and the world of the dead to collide, with strange creatures known as "Beached Things" or "BTs" infesting the planet and killing off most human beings. These invisible creatures aren’t the only concern, as the environment has also drastically changed, with an event known as “Time Fall” where the rain ages everything organic it touches rapidly until death and decay. Oh, and when these BTs fest on the living, they create a gigantic explosion, the same scale as an atomic bomb known as “Voidouts”. These have all destroyed the world’s infrastructure and pushed the remains of humanity into massive underground bunkers called Knot Cities.
Wow, I wouldn’t want to be an Amazon delivery driver in this world.
But you do have Sam, played by Norman Reedus, a delivery man in this mad world who is set the important task of connecting these various Knot Cities where the remains of humanity lie in safety, to rebuild the world and connect everyone together once again. Sam will have to traverse the mighty and treacherous landscapes, delivering important parcels, resources, and data to these cities, but also build a new infrastructure for the raise of humanity once again.
Yet there are those who wish for the world to continue its spiral into madness and decay, in the guide of the charming Troy Baker wearing a creepy golden mask. These shadowy figures will do everything to stop Sam and the B.R.I.D.G.E.S organisation in their mission of hope. Once more…. With Feeling … and Kojima weirdness
Sam’s venture through the endless and beautiful wasteland will see him meet an assortment of strange and intriguing characters, who all have the hallmarks of a classic Hideo Kojima story. Blending surrealistic ideologies, hot topic politics, and mind-bending notions of life, love, death and so much more. Sam is almost a blank vessel in many ways, there to observe the many connections being made between people and acting on the whims of those around him.
The massive adventure takes plenty of strange turns, with the death of the first female President of the United States, a massive Voidout occurring before Sam’s very eyes, the rise of a militant faction hellbent on causing the total end of days, and Sam making grenades from his own poop. Classic Kojima material, where there are so many emotions and concepts being molded together which you believe wouldn’t work yet does so well.
Everyone from Reedus, Lea Seydoux, Guillermo Del Toro, and Mads Mikkelsen does an exceptional job at their performances, along with a wonderful visual presentation that creates beautifully rendered alter-egos of the stars, to the magnificent vistas of the old world. The story only deepens with many compelling beats and concepts that only get bizarre with each hour passing by. The world-building is phenomenal at times, with the BTs, Time Fall, the B.R.I.D.G.E.S organisation, and the cute baby “BB” Pods adding many excellent layers that create one of the most fascinating worlds in gaming for quite some time.
There were some moments that seems to be a little too “Kojima” and felt more like a parody of Kojima. Thankfully these are very far and few in between, yet those who aren’t used to Kojima’s games and style of story-telling, and general oddity, may experience whiplash when their heads fling back from shock. Ladders are a postman’s best friend
Death Stranding is a game about reconnecting the world and accentually being the world’s only Amazon delivery guy making the most epic of drops off. Sam will start at the base of operations for B.R.I.D.G.E.S and slowly make his way from Knot City to Knot City with very little means of traversing the landscape safely. There are no roads when you first begin the epic outing, so crossing the uneven fields and fierce rivers will be a formidable challenge, yet with patience and plenty of extending ladders, will Sam make it to his delivery point.
Taking onboard packages that are all incredibly important, Sam will have to do his best to ensure their safe arrival. Everything from the weight of the packages to the condition of Sam’s footwear, and even balancing all the packages on your back, all factor into the flow of the journey.
There are of course obstacles, the biggest being the rugged (and often gorgeous) terrains, with Sam having to make dangerous climbs up and down grand vistas, or risk the chance of running into BTs or Time Fall. But there is plenty of tools and gear to help along the way. You may be aware of the ladders in the game (through the endless memes) and yes, these are helpful. But there are other things to help too. Your BB pod, or the baby you wear, will alert you to certain incoming dangers.
But it’s up to you to decide how to reach your destination and Death Stranding’s world offers many paths and means to do so. At first, you will have to wear down the soles of your shoes and use the very little gear you have, which is still massively helpful. With the early hours offer a lot of guidance to you, especially by showing you which paths you can take in your first mission. But there are still the small tasks you have to figure out on your own, such as whether to change your luck through an area that is experiencing Time Fall or make a climb up a steep mountain, where you could fall and damage the cargo.
Death Stranding is full of these moments and becomes a big lateral task of finding the best path which means less danger. But as you progress, new paths and new gear become available, with some new additions added into the Director’s Cut, including a useful non-lethal rifle. The excitement of running through the wilds, figuring out the best routes, planning everything from the packages you’re carrying, the footwear you’ve got on, and what tools you need to concur those perils along the way.
Sam will eventually be allowed to build massive structures, such as zip lines and even roads to connect major points of interest to one another, meaning you can venture back and forth much more fluently. There are plenty of side quests to take on, such as abandoned parcels and odd jobs offered at Knot Cities, which will take you out of your comfort zone. So, the journey is a big old “Two steps forward, one step back” kind of deal, but has plenty of re-warding conclusions and a wonderful sense of adventure through a hauntingly enriching world.
The journey is staggering at times, and certainly one that’s lonely and indeed harsh, but really gives you purpose in what you’re doing. It’s simple in concept, to be a delivery guy, but there are many elements that make the venture engaging, from all the problem-solving aspects regarding the environment, the maintenance of Sam’s health and wellbeing, and facing some of the most bat-s**t crazy stuff you would have seen in recent memory.
While not everyone will enjoy the long walks through no-man’s land, there is something vastly more interesting about venturing your own way through the harsh landscapes with limited resources and many barriers, than most AAA open-world games. The helping hand of your friendly local gamer
One of the more interesting dynamics is the online mode, being much like Dark Souls, players can work together and help in other players’ games. By leaving encouraging and helpful messages about the best paths to take or the certain dangers that lie ahead, player communication can certainly be a massive bonus towards progression.
But Kojima’s idea of players helping each other out and building better game worlds is astonishing in many ways. Much like the idea of P.T being a social experiment, where players worked together to figure out the last major puzzle of the demo, players can actively help others in their game, improving their journey, ensuring their safety as much as possible, and making the world of each player whole again. It’s a neat idea when the concept and themes of a story actually work their way into an element of gameplay, and the social aspects really do hammer home the message of togetherness. Which was kind of awesome when you think about it.
Plus having some tips, messages telling you how sexy you are, and pointers on where to best place your ladder is always welcomed, especially for new players. Going Postal!
Death Stranding may seem like an epic walking simulator about the world’s most unlikely Amazon delivery guy. There are many conflicts that will enthrall players as they embark on a peaceful mission to restore humanity in the fractured United States … by sometimes having to smoke some fools who attempt to steal your parcels. Nice.
While the landscape is one of your biggest foes in the game, there will be other more sinister problems to tackle. These include bandits, ghostly visitors from another world entirely, and even bigger scarier monsters. Sam is able to dispatch any enemies that come into his path through a varied assortment of gadgets and guns, whether doing it with lethal force or more with a pacifist approach. Players can for the most part avoid many encounters out in the open, whether they sneak on by or have the fortune of owning a bike to drive across the rugged and ruthless lands.
There are enough options and weapons to get yourself out of a tricky situation, and there’s always the choice to flee if you feel overwhelmed. But you may have to sacrifice parcels to speed up your escape.
The combat is fine overall. While not massively innovated, the fighting but generally the gunplay is solid and reliable, and the large disposal of gear and weapons will certainly help you out in any situation. The crafting aspect is one of the more impressive and allowing players to use Sam’s own bodily fluids to make grenades is weirdly cool and hugely useful. Just power down those (not Monster) energy drinks and Sam’s rear end will produce the most powerful components for an impactful grenade.
This wouldn’t be a Kojima game without some epic bosses and Death Stranding is a return to form for Kojima bosses since MGSV’s slightly disappointing assortment. These range from the epic, the incredibly stressful fights against monumental beasts to the more intimate encounters where Sam will duke it out with nothing more than his knuckles. All that new shiny stuff in the Director’s Cut
So, what’s the big deal with this Director’s Cut then?
In all fairness, the term “Director’s Cut” can be rather suspicious and often be linked to last-minute add-ons and upselling opportunities. Look at the Resident Evil Director’s Cut. Not an add addition to the core game, but honestly, the RE Remake would be the true Director’s Cut, and the term has been floating around endlessly in marketing for years now. Especially since you consider the original game was 100% Kojima controlled (from what is understood).
But Death Stranding’s newest cut does add a few more additions to the core gameplay experience, and for those who own the game already, you can upgrade at a fair price. There are plenty of smaller additions, including a smoother and gentler first few hours. As mentioned, the first mission gives you plenty of hints on how to reach your objective. And within the first few hours, you will find a new location offered as a side quest, which grants you upon completion a nifty new non-lethal rifle and Exo-suit, useful for some of the early game’s long hauls.
There are also some new items for fighting and traversing the path ahead, with some new additions allowing greater distances to be covered. Floaters, which allow you to take items safely across rivers can be attached to Sam and used on land, and even delivery Bots can be used in the open world. Their AI is not great for long, complicated journeys, but for shorter walks and those moments between more useful traveling resources (i.e., ziplines), they’re pretty darn good.
Combat has seen some minor tweaks, allowing Sam to drop some new moves for defence including an epic dropkick. Helpful when in a tight situation with the bandits of the open world. And customisation has been expanded upon to allow players to give Sam and BB their own unique style.
The biggest additions to Death Stranding in this Director’s Cut come in the form of an optional Racing Game and a new Stealth Focused mission (very reminiscent of MGS). Both are completely fine, not mind-blowing, but fun enough if not short-lived. The Stealth was never the greatest aspect of Death Stranding, even in the core game as stealth is not as refined or fleshed out as in any MGS game, due to a few exceptional limitations (i.e., no radar and heavy reliance on BB for when enemies are nearby). And the racing is simple, and fun but lacks any real conflict. It’s a nice add-not, but I had hoped for something a little more dynamic.
Yet the small additions and tweaks make Death Stranding a much more approachable game and these are what matter the most.
Also, the biggest change of the game ….
There is no longer any Monster energy drink branding! Praise the Lord! Overall?
Death Stranding is a game that will surely remain infamous for several reasons. Whether this notoriety is due to this being Kojima’s first game since leaving Konami, how much it’s been meme’d (only being beaten by Will Smith’s slap now), or just how weird it might seem on a surface level. It’s not a game for everyone that’s for sure, but I feel it’s a game everyone should at least try. The simple concept of delivering goods within a ruined world might not set your expectations high, yet the sense of journey and reward are monumentally powerful. The story while completely insane at times, had a grand level of emotional depth, interesting characters, and twists that kept me fully engaged until the end. The various dynamics, social elements, thematic gameplay choices, and artistic choices brought me in and kept me playing for well over 30 hours.
I have to say that Death Stranding is a compelling and original adventure of unfathomable proportions, and one which should get more recognition for its conviction to superb storytelling, thematic gameplay, and general “let's make this something different and special” attitude from its leading creator.
In short, go and play Death Stranding.
++ Engaging and rich storytelling
++ Awesome world to explore and venture through
++ Lots of fun and memorable gameplay moments
- May not appeal to everyone
- The major additional content could have been bigger and better
A PC review code of Death Stranding Director’s Cut was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.