Review : Death Stranding

Back in 2014, Hideo Kojima—creator of the beloved Metal Gear Solid series, and one of the video game industry’s few true auteurs—was secretly developing a new installment in the survival-horror series Silent Hill. At the end of a truly terrifying game called P.T., which debuted for free on the PlayStation Network, players were shown a quick teaser for Silent Hills: A dream collaboration between Kojima, director Guillermo del Toro, and actor Norman Reedus, whose performance would be motion-captured for the game.To some it’s an arduous walking holiday through picturesque landscapes. To others it’s the birth of an entirely new genre, kickstarted by a genius auteur, no longer untrammelled by corporate overlords. It’s also a post-apocalyptic FedEx simulator.

  

At first, it was an uncomfortable nuisance, but eventually, I became attached to the kid. When it cried, I’d find a safe space to rock it until it calmed down, and I always made sure to check on it when we’d bunk for the night.Death Stranding is the first release from famed Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima and his development studio Kojima Productions since they parted ways with Konami after MGS 5. It is, then, quite a big deal, and the fact that nobody had a clue what the game actually was for years after it was first announced only added to the hype.It’s not even like a standard video game in which one scene leads to another, and then on to an ending. It’s more of a giant jigsaw puzzle made up of tiny little stories.In comparison, positive user ratings over that same period increased from 8,368 to 8,446. The deleted negative user ratings significantly increased the game’s score from 5.1 to 7.4.Metacritic did not make an announcement before removing the negative user ratings for Death Stranding. However, it was widely believed that the move was made to address the issue of review bombing, which is when people gather together to post negative ratings and reviews against a game in order to push an agenda.

Death Stranding is a game about walking. Other stuff happens, particularly later on, but mostly, this is the first AAA walking simulator. You pick up a package, walk for miles and deliver it to someone. You have a chat with a not always friendly hologram, restock your supplies and then do it all over again. Essentially a 50+ hour fetch quest, There are few concessions for uninterested players. It’s ponderously slow, particularly in the early chapters, which largely consist of delivering packages over staggering distances. Early conversations are filled with phrases and words that will be incomprehensible to the uninitiated — and, honestly, much of it remains a mystery after the credits roll.Those ghostly BTs haunt forests and mountains, and certain humans called repatriates are able to return to life from a strange underwater space known as the Seam. Sam, played by Norman Reedus, is one of these repatriates. He’s also something of a post-apocalyptic delivery man, shuttling supplies from one settlement to the next. Early in the game, he’s given a particularly ambitious task: reunite America (now known as the UCA, or United Cities of America) by traveling across the country, connecting settlements to a sort of internet-like network.

Luckily, the gameplay is much more straightforward than the storytelling. Initially, all you’re doing is walking. The company you work for, Bridges, will provide a package, and you have to deliver it on foot. Like most video game characters, Sam can carry an incredible amount of stuff; but unlike his contemporaries, Sam has to account for everything he carries.It is easily the most ambitious and utterly crazy thing I’ve ever experienced, one that is rich with potential for emergent gameplay and unique, lasting experiences, with a star-studded cast delivering a compelling story that unfolds like a fever dream.There’s a vaguely Orwellian, anti-capitalist edge to many of Death Stranding’s more eccentric flourishes—like the way Sam’s “name” is just his job and the company he works for, or the fact that he’s essentially a member of the gig economy who gets “paid” in social media likes (which Death Stranding treats as currency).Kirk McKeand at VG247 comes in on the lower end with 3 out of 5 stars, pointing out that for all Death Stranding’s high-minded reflections on the state of the world and its intriguing liminality, it’s ultimately undermined by unsubtle storytelling and Kojima’s penchant for the puerile: “This is still a game in which you can equip and unequip your penis so you can piss out Red Bull.

As ever—and Death Stranding appears to be a most pertinent example of this—be sure to focus on the written words of the review, rather than just the big ol’ number slapped to the top of them.The trigger buttons on the PS4 controller handle each side, so if Sam starts tipping to the left, you hit the left trigger and he tightens up his backpack to keep steady. Essentially, this means that while all you’re really doing is walking, you need to stay intently focused. One small slip, and your cargo can be ruined. At times, Death Stranding can feel like a big-budget remake of QWOP.But the basic setup is this: you play Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus off of The Walking Dead), an almost entirely humourless deliveryman with a fear of being touched, who you quickly find out is something of a legend in his field.

Verdict

Death Stranding isn’t a memorable action game. It’s definitely not a stealth game either. It’s laughably self-serious, hard to call fun, and it will deservedly be the most divisive big-budget title of this console generation. I find I’m unable to fathom this world’s narrative entirety, despite it being explained to me at least three times.from legendary video game designer Hideo Kojima. According to a review by Digital Trends’ Giovanni Colantonio, the game is “a technical marvel with an excellent, though slow, story.”