It’s impossible to go into Death Stranding without some kind of preconceived notions. Even if you go in knowing it’s a Kojima game, which if you’re not aware, Death Stranding is not shy about letting you know this is a Kojima game, certain considerations and thoughts come into play. Most of these are looking at the larger picture, trying to connect dots and in some cases pay attention to the smaller details. With so much hype, speculation, divisive attitudes and more directed at this one experience, is Death Stranding worth playing? Here’s our Death Stranding Review.
The long and short of Death Stranding is that you’re trying to reconnect America in something of an apocalyptic future. Humanity is disconnected, things are falling apart and a lot of this hinges on what we do at this moment. This is presented a lot of different ways that, for better or worse, have a lot of the staples people associate with Kojima.
At first the story is exposition heavy. There is a lot of explanations, some of which is repeated, new terminology and a lot of obvious parallels. Part of what makes a better story is the ability to touch on deeper concepts without making things as overt as possible. Trust me, if you didn’t go into Death Stranding knowing this is about connections, everything from character names to literal locations make this apparent in less than an hour.
With so many of these thrown at you at once, it can be a lot to take in and rather hard to get into. If you make it past the initial exposition heavy areas, Death Stranding relies heavily on the concept and mythology to keep players invested. It’s hard not to find a game where some people are born with something called DOOMs, granting them certain abilities, with Sam being able to see other worldly creatures by strapping an item called a bridge baby to them all while trying to stop a militant separatist group.
Most of the excitement, fun and interest will come from just seeing how it all comes together. Be it what Higgs is ultimately up to or just meeting up some of the fascinating side characters like Fragile. This isn’t unlike Metal Gear Solid or really anything else Kojima has worked on, so if you don’t mind a little weirder and overt story, odds are you’ll enjoy this one. This ultimately leaves it up to gameplay to round out the story.
If I were to be critical about anything in Death Stranding it is that it seems overly concerned with making things realistic, almost to a fault. As videos indicated, the typical gameplay loop is running around picking up and transporting packages from one location to another. Most of your time will be figuring out how to get past various obstacles, something that gets quicker and easier as you progress in the story, but at times it can be extremely cumbersome.
One of the most common challenges is weight and placement. After a certain point or with awkwardly sized items, such as the body you have to transport early on, a good amount of time will be spent trying to keep yourself stable. Walking around the vast emptiness is bad enough that adding in water current that can knock you down, constantly tilting to the left or right, moving differently in a variety of environments and anything else can and will change the experience. Naturally, it makes for a more immersive experience, it just depends on what your limit is. Do you want to play a game where you make burgers by pushing three buttons or by going through a mini-game to chop lettuce and other items, cheese placement and meat temperature makes a difference in terms of melting and so forth. For many the realities of life are not as important as giving a good experience but these trivialities do make for a more immersive experience.
Especially when later revisits will show what you and others have done to help others around the world. Maybe I get to a point with an important package, lack a ladder and there is one from another person or possibly a rope to check out a new location. It adds a bit, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. You can also go around and try to help others by simply doing everything you can to explore the world.
If there is one thing I can praise about Death Stranding, it’s how beautiful the world is. On my Sony OLED everything looks crisp, clear and honestly stunning. Between that and the lovely score, even the low points of transporting some boxes from one location to another makes a substantial difference. Character models and expressions are also well done to the point where you can tell a lot of thought went into this experience.
Death Stranding Review – Verdict
Death Stranding is, without question, a divisive experience. It isn’t like Mario or The Last of Us, in that it is the type of thing you either love or hate. A lot of the flaws come up in the way of delivering an immersive experience that some people simply will not like. Between exposition heavy cutscenes, minimal action and tons of challenges built around going from place to place, Death Stranding is largely just, for better or worse, more Kojima. So, if you’re a fan of everything he does, odds are you’ll find enough to get through it and likely be happy, whereas if you questioned some of his choices or simply hate the trailers, I’d bet on you not liking this experience.
[Editor’s Note: Death Stranding was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]