Hideo Kojima cemented himself as an icon in the gaming industry with his Metal Gear series. It has been one of the biggest franchises for decades. After many controversial disagreements between Kojima and his publisher Konami, their relationship ended. Kojima formed his own studio and headed to Sony to bring us Death Stranding. Now out of his comfort zone, let’s see what the kooky Kojima has for us.
America has been hit by a devastating “Death Stranding”, an event that brought “BT’s” to the country. These “Beached Things” are a bridge to the afterlife, they visit the dying and when death occurs, they take over the host and cause a massive explosion called a “Voidout”. This then produces a rain called “Timefall”, which rapidly ages anything it touches.
Watch the PC release trailer below:
As the country slowly died, a company called Bridges became the last hope for civilisation. They burnt recently dead bodies and delivered vital resources across the country. You play as Sam, one of the “Porters” who works for Bridges, it’s up to you to re-establish the strands across America. Sam is a “Repatriate”, when he dies he can return to life. He is also affected by “DOOMS”, a condition that allows a user to sense, see or even control the BT’s and alongside him is his “BB”, a baby that can always see BT’s, to aid him in his quest.
Is your head spinning from that synopsis? Well, you might be interested to know, that covers about 5% of the craziness in this game. Death Stranding opens up fairly well, it’s cryptic but keeps you invested. As the plot goes on, it keeps throwing terms at you until you’re almost totally lost. That doesn’t cover the insane cast of characters you meet with their own rules.
The player is left with this strangely paced story that is simple at its core but overblown with eccentricities. It reminds me of Control, the problem I had with that game is that it threw too much info at you and never went anywhere with it. Death Stranding has a similar problem, the story may be interesting but that doesn’t make it good. That is, until the finale of the game. The finale and its build-up are pretty solid and as the game closed I was satisfied. It’s a really weird one to rate from a story standpoint, I didn’t like it for the most part. There are good moments artistically but from a narrative standpoint, only the finale grabbed me.
The reveals for Death Stranding left everyone mystified as to what this game was. Did anyone guess it would be a delivery game? The crux of the game is to deliver packages from one location to another. The trick to the game is the journey. The open map has all sorts of crevasses and surfaces to clamber on. A harsh stamina and weight management system forces you to plan your journey.
This stuff is great, you open up the map and figure out how to get there and balance your packages as best you can. You can bring along ladders, ropes and trolleys for assistance but the bulk of the game remains the same and that’s actually not too bad. Later on, you can even build roads and drive vehicles. All of this is great but Kojima has to take things too far again. Balancing weight also applies to Sam and his movements, this means holding triggers to balance him when he tips to one side eaning if he falls so does his stuff. He falls a lot. It’s not all lovely peaceful strolls though, enemies are abundant.
Bandits dot the area and attack you on the road, or at their bases. This is where the Metal Gear influence creeps in, stealthily taking out enemies is great and hand to hand combat feels fluid. You get weapons and throwables later to make these encounters easier. BT’s are the real threat, they are mostly invisible, though Sam can sense them. This is where the BB comes into play, displaying an aura of where the BT is. You can stealth past them by holding your breath but if they catch you, they take you to an arena. In this arena, you’ll face a tough foe and after beating it you get crafting materials, but don’t forget to pick up all of your damaged packages!
Yep, throughout the game, you’ll always lose stuff or it’ll get smashed to pieces. What’s your reward for all of this? Well, get ready to sit through several menus for your meagre reward of “Likes”. This isn’t side content either, this is the game itself. I enjoyed trekking across mountains but having to sit through many cumbersome menus was a poor way of communicating with the player. This is a problem Kojima always has, too many menus and silly button layouts.
Visually, Kojima’s team makes magic once again. Character models are probably the best in the industry and the game world is as close to next-gen as we can currently get. The PC version ups the ante even more and the awesome widescreen mode shows off the game at its best. It also defaults its settings to what the PS4 version is, this is an awesome way for PC players to benchmark. The voice acting is outstanding across the board and the soundtrack is stunning. On a technical level, Kojima proves why he’s so renowned.
I love that this game tries something new but it just didn’t come together for me. The story is interesting and ends strongly but the bulk of the story is just bland, despite its oddity. The idea of the gameplay is solid and it mostly works. There’s a lot of room for play and people can help you online by dropping ladders and signs but the locomotion system gets really annoying. Combat is solid and the BT’s bring a survival horror atmosphere but this is all let down by a mountain of menus and so many buttons to press. It’s hard to recommend because you might love it, you may hate it or like me, you’ll think it’s okay. There’s something special here but the game doesn’t quite shine the way it should.