It’s been 4 years since our consoles have been graced with a masterpiece from Hideo Kojima. This year, freed from the shackles of Konami, Kojima Productions hits us with something strangely familiar but also completely different.
To make life easier for Metal Gear fans wanting to learn whether the game is for them without reading any spoilers, here’s the skinny: If you liked Metal Gear Solid 5 and ThatGameCompany’s fantastic indie title Journey, you’ll enjoy this game. If you liked Metal Gear 5 purely for the combat and not the story, you’re probably not going to enjoy this game. For those of you that are still here and are still on the fence, brace yourself, we’re about to dive head first into Death Stranding.
Let me quickly make it clear, I will have to mention some very mild spoilers. Kojima and crew haven’t put that much out into the world about Death Stranding’s plot and what you’ll be doing over the course of about 60 hours. (Yes, you ready that right. 60. Hours.)
*very basic plot spoilers incoming*
In Death Stranding you play as Sam Porter Bridges (played by Norman Reedus), a porter (a.k.a a courier) for the Bridges corporation, who is trying to ‘reconnect’ America after the devastating world event known as “The Death Stranding”. With this event came “Timefall”, rain that rapidly ages anything it touches, and invisible entities known as BTs that seem to hunt down anything that crosses their path. With these two destructive forces roaming the world, humanity has retreated into underground bunkers and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. As previously mentioned, your job is to reconnect humanity back together again and you do that by… delivering packages.
And I haven’t even mentioned “The Beach”, “Beach Babies” (BBs), “DOOMs”, “Voidouts”, “StillMothers”…the list goes on.
If you’ve played a Kojima game before, this all sounds par for the course. In previous games we’ve had cyborg ninjas, vampires, giant nuclear warhead launching robots, Psycho Mantis and there was even this one time we played as a naked guy who was in a stuck VR world. (Metal Gear Solid 2, if you were wondering.) If you’ve not played a Kojima game before, I recommend you have an open mind. You’re going to have a lot of questions when playing this game and not everything will be answered straight away. This game, more than anything is about the journey. Try to sit back, relax, keep an open mind and enjoy the ride.
As I mentioned earlier, this game reminds me so much of Journey. The bulk of your time in this game is spent moving items from point A to point B, but the thing that keeps you engaged through this seemingly tedious task IS THE JOURNEY ITSELF. The missions are simple: take these packages from a distribution center to the person who needs them, in the middle of nowhere. That’s it. Those are your instructions. How you complete the mission is entirely up to you.
Playing Death Stranding while connected to the PlayStation network connects your world to hundreds of others. As you start to explore the beautiful, vast open landscape, you’ll start to notice objects and items that weren’t there before. In a similar vein to Dark Souls’ notes written in light, you’ll begin to find things left behind by other players. You’ll find ladders across some rivers, postboxes that might contain some much needed items you were after, well placed watchtowers that will let you scout the area ahead, and more. You might even find something as simple as a note saying “Keep on keeping on.”
Pretty soon you’ll start running into community projects like structures that can’t be built by just one person. This is yet another way Death Stranding is trying to connect people together, not just the character in the game.
When you’re not delivering packages, the other half of the gameplay is the where Metal Gear fans will feel right at home. Every so often, you’ll be tasked with sneaking into a hostile force’s base. These hostiles are known as the MULES, people who have lost their minds and are addicted to delivering packages. And wouldn’t you know it, Sam is a man with a whole heap of packages. When completing these missions, the game seems to pull a 360. No longer are you just taking a stroll and enjoying the view. Now, you’re hunkering down behind some rocks hoping that that patrol didn’t spot you, while planning your next move.
It’s worth mentioning that you get a similar feeling when you enter a BT territory. Some of the greatest enemies in video game history are the ones that you can’t fight. And the BTs are no exception. Your nice relaxing journey turns south real quick when the Timefall comes and the BTs turn up. The sudden slow motion and the activation of your Odradek (the device that sits on your shoulder that BB uses to detect BTs) immediately sets the new tense tone.
I’ve already mentioned how stunning the scenery looks when you’re out an about but I should note how gorgeous each of the star studded cast looks. Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux and the rest of the cast all look amazing. Not to mention, each of the actors and actresses play their part really well. I’m thoroughly enjoying the melding of video games and movies. It feels like the gateway for amazing storytelling in games has been busted wide open.
As of November 1st 2019, the Wikipedia page for Death Stranding calls it an action game. I personally believe that this is inaccurate. At heart, Death Stranding is a narrative journey. If anything, the game focuses more on stealth and the quiet approach. However, I feel like this has lead to my own gripe with the game. A ton of lore of the world and characters are written as interviews or mini articles in their own menu section. It honestly feels like there is a book’s worth of extra text I have to read to be truly caught up on everything that is going on inside Death Stranding.
If I were to sum up this entire game in one word, that word would be ‘oxymoron’. This is a game where you simultaneously know what’s going on, but you also have no idea what’s actually happening. You are often extremely alone in vast landscapes but at the same time, you are connected to hundreds of other players. This game is one of the most relaxing games I’ve played but also one of the most intense. Death Stranding is an amazing roller-coaster ride of emotions and feelings, which I absolutely love.
This game is easily my favourite game of the year and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something a little bit different or who is looking for one amazing story. I will happily wait another 5 years for Kojima Productions to produce another masterpiece like Death Stranding.