Death Stranding (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 16.12.2019 7

Review for Death Stranding on PlayStation 4

Hideo Kojima is the only game designer in the world who can sell a title with his name alone. After his tumultuous tenure at Konami came to a close, he was free of the Metal Gear Solid franchise and sought to open his own game studio. Kojima Productions was born, and his first creation not made under the Konami label would have to be something that nobody had ever seen before. Who would have thought that the baggage of Metal Gear Solid was what was holding Kojima back. After years of perplexing and outlandish trailers featuring lifelike renderings of actors and filmmakers, Cubed3 can finally explain just what in the world Death Stranding is.

In the simplest of terms, Death Stranding is a blue-collar science fiction adventure. Sam Porter Bridges is far from a warrior or soldier; he is a working-class guy who has a job that is set in a world with very unusual rules; a result of a calamitous extinction event. His seemingly mundane skillset proves to be an extremely valuable asset in this setting. As a porter, Sam is expected to make deliveries of various packages, and while this might sound simple and even dull, Kojima and his crew certainly know how to turn that into one of the most riveting experiences possible. Just how did Kojima Productions do it? The bleak dystopian open world was key to everything, plus minimizing superfluous elements that tend to bog down most nonlinear 3D games.

The early moments of Death Stranding can often evoke some memories of Shadow of the Colossus. First hours are slow and serene, as Sam has very few options at his disposal, trekking across a lush and green wasteland. The simple action of walking has mechanics to it, and maintaining balance and trying to control momentum when encumbered with a tower of packages is more engrossing than one would assume. Suddenly a rocky path on the side of a mountain becomes a hazard, and carefully manoeuvring Sam around uneven terrain becomes a trial because when carrying over 120 kilos causes him to be unwieldy. Cargo placement becomes a crucial meta-game, since the manner it is stacked affects Sam's centre of gravity, and how he is controlled. Results can lead to hilarious results, making Norman Reedus look like a buffoon as he slips and staggers around, cursing obscenities and falling flat on his face as his stack of packages spills down the side of a mountain. The left and right triggers is how Sam is able to shift his weight to his left or right. Holding both down together is a good way to maintain tension and keep balance but it also drastically prevents stamina from being restored.

Screenshot for Death Stranding on PlayStation 4

Managing, blood levels, having the right tool for the job, and making sure Sam's Bridge Baby has low stress, all while trying to not get lost while being stalked by invisible monsters, or getting jumped by Homo Gestalts. It would be overwhelming if it weren't for the fact that Death Stranding drip-feeds you more features as orders are completed and as the story is developed. At first, dropping a ladder to clear a rough river or using a towing line to descend steep cliff seems impressive. Further along, Sam will be like a surveyor who can have an entire highway 3D printed for easy bike travel. It's a unique feeling to start out with a barren wasteland and to gradually develop a vast network of built paths and structures that reshape the game world... and share it with other players out there. This is Kojima's "strand" system in action; to be the invisible helping hand, and to connect people together through asynchronous multiplayer. A PS+ subscription is not even necessary to
to partake in Kojima's experiment, thankfully because invisible interaction is a huge part of what makes Death Stranding such a magical experience.

This title's core is all about encouraging players to be a good person, and yet it never limits them or place artificial restrictions. Sure, the option to indulge in acts of cruelty and murdering threatening scavengers is always there, but doing so comes at a terrible cost. A 'void out' is something that happens to corpses, which is basically an enormous explosion that leaves a massive crater that makes traversal incredibly difficult, and tends to attract more invisible monsters or 'B.T.s.' A clever boy or girl might even be so bold to use this mechanic strategically over a MULE encampment, which will teach them a harsh lesson. These craters are never permanent as a 'timefall' will gradually restore the landscape to its natural splendour.

Screenshot for Death Stranding on PlayStation 4

Constantly, this encourages the non-violent path, which ties into the grand scheme of the theme of connections. Hideo Kojima loves his metaphors, and he takes such a simple idea and spreads it far beyond one would think is possible. "Strands," "Ropes," "Bridges;" it almost never ends with how far the script goes to tie everything together. There's a wealth of puns upon puns that also have double (sometimes triple) meanings, and it all ties to the gameplay of bringing people together. It's a warm and fuzzy feeling to get a notification that someone else out in the world was helped out by some rope dropped by a cliffside, or discovering that your bridge was upgraded by some kind Samaritan. This is the real meat of the Death Stranding experience; the deliveries and infrequent skirmishes are only there to service these interactions.

Death Stranding can be a slow and maybe "meditative" experience. In some ways, it can be like Shenmue was when it first came out; experimental, methodical, full of little details, and not for everyone. It can be easy to come into this and be disappointed, especially since it comes with the expectations of coming from the man that made Metal Gear Solid and Zone of the Enders. Sam's journey is much more laid back in terms of pace compared to most AAA 3D action titles. It's full of moments where it's easy to just stop and take the scenery in, and breath in the atmosphere. It is not always relaxing all the time; Death Stranding is after all made by a mad man who pushes the envelope on video game design. Things can go south and get tense very suddenly when its least expected. The main story path is paced in a way where these exciting moments are earned and built up to. There is an undeniable confidence in the direction of how the story unfolds, and when big moments get paid off. One cannot have great highs without the calm and pensive moments. It is important to create a frame of reference.

Screenshot for Death Stranding on PlayStation 4

Death Stranding is unbelievably polished and tight. The sheer depth of the systems in place and minutia can be overwhelming to gamers going into it at first. The first few hours will most likely be fumbling around, spending several minutes making sense of the inventory screens, messing around in Sam's stateroom, and maybe trying to urinate at inappropriate times. Who would have thought that a "walking sim" would have a learning curve to it? This kind of emphasis on the mundane just makes everything feel so personal. The way how NPCs care so deeply about the items Sam delivers, and how grateful everyone is to be connected to the chiral network, makes it feels like he's making a difference in the world instead. Most big games like this would have just had him be another mercenary or typical video game badass. Sam is just a working man trying to do his job, and it's a very real line of work that many people actually do for a living. Even though conventional weaponry exists, it's an afterthought, because combat is very low on the list of potential options, since ammo caps are very low. Stealth is always viable, but not always encouraged, since it can be easy to ride or even run past thugs. Only when bypassing B.T.s is when Sam will find himself crouching and moving carefully.

Death Stranding is a one of a kind deal. There is truly nothing else like it. The gripping and emotional story is full of outlandish science fiction and cheeky fourth-wall breaking metaphors that only Hideo Kojima could come up with. Even the gameplay is unique and innovative with how it crafts an open world. Usually environments in open worlds feel like they were made just for the player. Death Stranding makes it feel like the opposite. The terrain is a force of nature that is almost like negotiating a boss. The landscape can be reformed with Sam's various accoutrements and tools to allow a form of expression. At its absolute worst, Death Stranding has some frustratingly small fonts to read in menus, and a UI that feels like reading stereo instructions. The only way to play something similar to Death Stranding, is to replay Death Stranding.

Screenshot for Death Stranding on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

Death Stranding is a bold and artistic vision that is not compromised in its design. It is a video game that encourages the player to be a good person, and to care for the fellow man. There have been anti-war themes in games before, but these inevitably become standard shooters that wear a mask of morality. Kojima Productions (with a little help from Guerrilla Games) may not have created a new "genre," but it did make a 3D action title that is unlike anything else. It is so rare to play a triple-A, 3D game that does not treat the player like a child, and is steeped with exploration and discovery. This is a contemplative odyssey that is ultimately a story about the triumph of the human spirit in spite of entropy.

Developer

Kojima Productions

Publisher

Sony Interactive Entertainment

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

Comments

I hate walking sims, and I especially hate the cover art to this game.

Dragon0085 said:
I hate walking sims, and I especially hate the cover art to this game.

fair point about the box art.

but lumping this with "walking sims" is grossly inaccurate. 

Insanoflex said:

Dragon0085 said:
I hate walking sims, and I especially hate the cover art to this game.

fair point about the box art.

but lumping this with "walking sims" is grossly inaccurate. 


Ha, my post might have sounded hostile, I didn't mean it like that.

Thats true, based on your review it did indeed sound different.  Not knocking your review, as your brought up some interesting concepts about why its different.  I have just played way too many slow paced games and cant handle them anymore now that I have so little free time.

Just my personal tastes, like if some shooter comes out and is a 10/10, I still won't care because I dont like those games.

Punisher (guest) 17.12.2019#4

How much has Sony paid you for the review?

Punisher (guest) said:
How much has Sony paid you for the review?

We're paid in women, drugs, and weaponry.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

Punisher (guest) said:
How much has Sony paid you for the review?

sony didnt even provide us with a review code for this one.

the reviewer purchased a retail copy of the game.

I have just played way too many slow paced games and cant handle them anymore now that I have so little free time.


In my old age, i am increasingly more grateful for games that take it easy. too often AAA games can be obnoxious with how much bullshit they try to overwhelm you with in terms of spectacle.

i guess i like a certain kind of boring. 

good boring: methodical gameplay with thoughtfully designed systems where you have to think about what you are doing.

bad boring: endless filler and and mind-numbing busy work.

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