Death Stranding Review
When Death Stranding was first released last year on the PlayStation 4 I was probably the only person in the world who refused to read any reviews or even play the game; I wanted to keep my experience of Death Stranding as pure as possible for its inevitable PC release. Fast forward 8 months and my patience has been rewarded as I finally got to experience Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding in all its glory on #pcmasterrace, and it certainly didn’t fail to deliver.
Hideo Kojima is the mastermind behind the classic Metal Gear Solid series — This is evident from the moment you first step foot onto the apocalyptic wasteland that is the United Cities of America. Death Stranding’s story is a complex story that blends a traditional adventure game with a supernatural theme that is quite different from Kojima’s previous work. It could be argued that Hideo’s vision would have been better suited to a movie rather than a video game as the abundance of lengthy cut scenes is full of Hollywood grade acting thanks to its cast that includes The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen from Hannibal (and Casino Royale). As you would expect, all this combines to deliver an experience that is worthy of the big screen and is quite like no other video game I have ever played. The only problem is, I am not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.
Death Stranding’s underling message focuses on hope and how people can bring humanity together and to help build a better tomorrow, at least this is how I perceived it. It is a strong message that has inspired me and connected with me on some level. Enough of the emotional connection because Death Stranding is actually the name of a cataclysmic event that caused the existence of Beached Things, or BTs as they are commonly referred to — BTs are invisible creatures that roam the land when a near-death experience occurs, their purpose is to welcome the person to the afterlife by consuming the remains of a dead body by a process called Necrosis. This process causes an explosion in the world that produces a rain-like event called Timefall, except that the raindrops rapidly increase aging and deteriorates whatever it comes in contact with, human being or otherwise.
You roam the wasteland as Sam Porter Bridges (played by Norman Reedus himself), a freelance courier who delivers cargo to the remaining colonies to keep what remains of the land alive. Sam has developed DOOMS, a condition that allows you to sense the presence of BTs and in some cases, allows the carrier to see or even control BTs. This means Sam is one of the most experienced and highly demanded couriers within the UCA. As you roam the lands delivering your cargo, you unite with your sister, Amelie, who reveals that she is being held hostage by an anti-UCA terrorist group called The Homo Demens. Amelie explains that the reason she is held captive is due to her attempting to establishing a network that allows each city to connect to the Chiral Network, allowing each city to communicate with each other, something that The Homo Demens opposes. Amelie asks Sam to finish her work by establishing the remaining terminals at each of the remaining cities, and then rescue her.
Death Stranding is a unique game in the sense that its story is quite complex and engaging, yet its gameplay is not. In fact, it is quite the opposite and as you essentially walk from one city to another over and over again with only dramatic cut-scenes that break up the gameplay. Kojima Productions have done an amazing job creating a gorgeous wasteland; its infusion of supernatural elements creates a feeling of doom and death that encapsulates the game in a nutshell.
The game’s open-world landscape is truly amazing and I honestly loved exploring it. The world is full of landmarks that reward exploration and I was constantly in awe of the detail provided in its waterfalls, rivers, forests, and even volcanic fissures. This was a reward in itself as there are not many games on the market where you are happy enough to go on adventure purely to explore the beauty of the world.
Depending on the terrain, Sam will need your assistance to keep his balance through gushing rivers, steep mountains, or tripping over obstacles like Jimmy at 4 am after a big night out. This sounds quite pedantic and mundane, and that’s because it is, but all this is done to protect your precious cargo — Fall over and damage yourself, or more importantly your cargo and it will affect your rewards. This requires some forward planning in regards to your travels as the game begins to increase these challenges along with new and useful gadgets to aid you. But honestly, there is only so much depth you can add to a game that is predominately 30 hours of walking exploring.
This includes weapons that eventually find their way into the game – At first, I thought these weapons would add another layer of depth to the game, but I was wrong — After initially testing out each weapon, I found myself resorting to my tried-and-tested method of stealth tactics. This is likely as a result of how the game is initially portrayed as a stealth game by constantly hiding from BTs, rather than an action game of hand-to-hand combat with these invisible beasts. So, I can’t be too upset that weapons and combat felt like an afterthought rather than a core fundamental of the game.
If there is one thing that no one can criticise of Death Stranding, it is that it’s one fantastic looking game, even on the PlayStation 4 Death Stranding is a visual masterpiece. Sam’s character model and animations are perhaps some of the best you will see in a video game; Other characters get the same treatment, or near enough as they feature a similar level of detail as the main protagonist himself. This is perhaps thanks to its strong cast of Hollywood actors where their additions to the game definitely pay off.
The world that Death Stranding takes place is breathtaking — As good as a baron wasteland can look, that is. The snowy mountains, gorgeous green landscapes, and crystal-clear rivers add another dimension to the dark, death-infused wasteland. These elements contrast magnificently and at times, it is hard to believe that an open-world game can look this good. I may be slightly biased as I love the apocalyptic/supernatural theme, and when it is done to the level that Kojima Production has achieved it becomes a spectacle rather than a video game.
Death Stranding Review
- GAMEPLAY - 82%82%
- GRAPHICS - 94%94%
- AUDIO - 82%82%
Death Stranding is breathtaking; its open-world is beautifully created and reflects the tragic events that civilization has endured. For as beautiful as it is, it can be boring — A game that focuses its gameplay as a glorified FedEx courier is bound to have its downfalls, but despite this, Hideo Kojima has written a story that I would pay to see on the big screen. I was truly engaged in a story of hope and connecting people together, fundamentals that get lost in society at times. I was able to connect to the game on an emotional level that ultimately rewarded my 30 hours of backpacking across the United Cities of America.
For more on Death Stranding, check out our previous coverage.