Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Death Stranding was originally released in late 2019 by legendary game maker Hideo Kojima. This latest update has additional updates and game tweaks. I haven’t played the original version, so this review is purely based; on playing just the director’s cut version. The PS5 makes use of haptic feedback, 4K modes and quick loading.
The game centres on Sam Bridges (Norman Reedus) who is a courier in the post-apocalyptic United States of America. His job is to keep the world of Death Stranding connected via his interactions with the remaining survivors. The start of the game is heavily story-led, driven by relatively long parts of full-motion video and non-playable sections. I found this long narrative tough going, and I was expecting more gameplay at the start. This mix of storytelling and gameplay do lead to the game being somewhat of a slow burner, probably a bit too slow for my liking which wasn’t helped by the game mechanics.
There is a huge variety of game mechanics, however, the main mechanic is carrying cargo from point A to point B. I know, first off, this doesn’t sound like the most exciting activity in a game. At the start, you must walk and traverse various environments to deliver packages. On the PS5, the use of haptic feedback via R2 and L2 buttons are used for you to balance Sam. It’s responsive and gives a sensation that you are climbing areas and feeling the terrain. The first few deliveries I found tedious after a couple of hours as I had to walk everywhere. As you progress through the game and get upgrades, the dynamic of the game improves considerably. You get access to powerups and vehicles to make your task easier and more varied than walking the beautiful scenery.
The PS5 boasts two modes, a performance mode which is 4K scaled with up to 60FPS and a fidelity mode that is native 4K which just gives the extra crispness. The game looks stunning, the cast, the levels and the weather effects are amazing. Throw in some amazing bosses and nuclear explosions. It gets more action-packed as you get through the game. Persistence is required to get to a specific character level where the game becomes less of a slog.
PS5 load times are almost instant which gives a unique continuous feel to the gameplay.
Hideo Kojima must be congratulated for creating this superb world that is deep, rich in art direction and cinematography. The cinematography is excellently directed with the addition of a huge cast of actors to lend their voice acting to help drive the narration. Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux and Guillermo del Toro are just a few of the actors to grace us in the game. The cast of actors is huge and akin to a movie as opposed to a game. The game very much relies on storytelling to help give context and meaning to the world. There is enough mystery, twists, and turns to keep you gripped.
Death Stranding integrates a rich shared online world experience. You can get the assistance of others to help you through your game. Help can range from getting resources, equipment, or even whole buildings. The seamless merging of this experience does add another layer to the huge game and immersive experience.
Death Stranding combines a lot of deep rich gaming experiences from a wonderfully rendered rich and huge world. The term “genre-defining” gets thrown about when Death Stranding is discussed. Death Stranding lands somewhere between a film and game, the story narration, and the cast of actors in the game would be reminiscent of Hollywood blockbusters. The game is heavily story-driven where chunks of the world get explained as you go through. There are many deep reach game mechanics and systems too. I’m always wary of single-player games with a melded online experience which is just an okay add-on, but they have thought through the integration and how it affects your world. The online experience is breathtaking and adds a whole layer of immersion to the game.
Death Stranding is a slower burner, to begin with, but gets more intriguing and enjoyable as you progress through the game. Some persistence is required at the start of the game though before you experience the true game. There is a rich, deep and wonderful world to explore.