It’s finally here. After years of hype, speculation, cameo trailers, delays and peeing, Death Stranding is out in the wild.
Many have been on tenterhooks for the promise of Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus, a game that strived to be as much a work of art as a product, and featuring an all star cast including Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen and Lindsay Wagner.
But with all this pretence and posturing, is it actually an enjoyable game? Watch on, to find out.
Now I normally start these reviews with the positives, but feel like I need to start with a disclaimer. If you didn’t enjoy the slow burn of games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Death Stranding might not be for you. The game starts with effectively two hours of cutscenes, during which we meet our protagonist - Sam Porter Bridges, and get our first look at the world of Death Stranding. Without diving into spoilers, there’s been a cataclysmic event called Death Stranding, which has disconnected the different communities of the USA, and as Sam you’ve been tasked with joining these communities back together.
But this is easier said than done, as you’re up against fanatical groups who’d rather keep the country in anarchy, as well as invisible ghosts brought about by the Death Stranding event known as Beached Things or BTS. It’s genuinely one of the most breathtaking narratives committed to the video game genre, and the influence of directorial collaborators Nicholas Winding Refn and Guillermo Del Toro is very much evident.
Looking to gameplay, this is another element that’s already proving to be immensely divisive. At its core, it’s very similar to the likes of Breath of the Wild, in that you traverse an expansive world with degradable items and at times, hostile weather conditions. But whereas you’re never far away from combat in Breath of the Wild, altercations are few and far between in Death Stranding. And I can appreciate that to some, this could make the game slow and even laborious.
But I would argue it’s how you approach the game. It works best if you treat it as a survival sim, where you have to pack the right supplies and choose the best route to complete your next mission. For 90% of the game, the antagonist is the world around you, and the puzzle solving that goes into dealing with these dangers can be really rewarding.
There are enemies you can fight, but you don’t encounter these until around the 10 hour mark. This is where the Metal Gear influence is most apparent, and if you enjoyed Phantom Pain you’re bound to enjoy these segments.
Death Stranding is arguably at its most ambitious in its pseudo-multiplayer. There’s no multiplayer mode as such, however there’s an always online element, in which items players leave in their own game will be discoverable in other player’s worlds. This means you can complete other’s delivery missions for shared rewards or combine to work on jobs too big for one person, like building a nationwide highway, amongst other collaborative tasks.
Although the scale of this feature won’t be fully realised until weeks after launch, it serves as a very meta extension of the game’s message on reconnecting the world.
To wrap up, Death Stranding isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the best works of art never are. The real testament to its burgeoning legacy is that it’s got people talking in a way that very few games do. It’s impossible to have a true opinion on it until you’ve experienced it firsthand, and if you have please let us know what you thought in the comments below.