Tomorrow brings the PC release of
, a ‘game’ from Kojima Productions; their first since Hideo Kojima, creator of
and others, left Konami.
The game was first released on PlayStation 4 late last year to polarising reviews, some regarding it a masterpiece, others regarding it a slog.
I’ve been fortunate enough to try out the game these last couple of weeks, and unfortunately, I came out of it bored, disappointed, and wanting more.
Here’s my experience on delivering mail, Hideo Kojima style...
Game - Score 40
The world has collapsed due to an event called the ‘Death Stranding’, where ‘Beached Things’ begin roaming Earth and with their powers, severely age and rots anything they come into contact with.
Because of the damage to the infrastructure of the United States, many cities are now colonies, called ‘Knot Cities’ that rely on a company called ‘Bridges’, where these porters distribute parcels and other items across different colonies.
That’s really all I can say about the story, mainly because of two reasons: one, i
’s very spoilerific if any more is explained; and two, I had no idea what was going on and following it was a hindrance.
The story becomes so convoluted, confusing and boring that I ended up just skipping cut-scenes on my first play-through.
Throughout this mess, you control postman Sam Porter Bridges, played by Norman Reedus, and you begin the game taking a few packages from one colony to another.
You’re armed with carrying cargo that requires you to press triggers to balance yourself, while a robot can send out a signal that can display items and useful cargo to additionally take.
There’s also a system called ‘Social-Strand’, where you can connect with other players that may be able to help you traverse the uneven lands of America, with useful ladders and items to help you along your way. You can even give a ‘like’ to those items left.
Kojima regards this single feature as a new genre, but I’d be more comfortable in calling it a gimmick. It barely adds any fun to the experience, while any feeling of connectivity is lost when you’re trying to balance cargo on your back, and while you’re pressing the triggers to balance yourself, Sam can’t even lift a leg over a small rock without pressing ‘
With the PC version, there is a surprising collaboration of Death Stranding and Half Life, where, through a variety of missions, you can summon certain items from the Half Life series. I found this to be a nice feature, but overall, it just made me want to play a game, and in this case, Half Life 2.
Overall, it's mix of gimmicks and long-drawn-out story is an entry by Kojima that unfortunately does nothing for me.
a confused mess, rather than a fun experience
The game changes tact about two-thirds of the way through, but by then it was too late; it was just a bloated, convoluted mess, that would have fared better as a movie on Netflix, rather than advertising itself as a game.
I was playing Metal Gear Solid 4 last week, and it suddenly hit me; we are seeing the next stage of a creator, more akin to George Lucas when he was developing Episode 1.
Surrounded by a group of yes men it seems, we’ve now got Death Stranding. Through a mix of investment and unhinged creativity, we’ve got this experience that adds no joy or fun to playing a game.
You may notice by now that I’ve been calling Death Stranding an ‘experience’ more than a ‘game’, and you’d be correct.
This isn’t a game; it’s an interactive movie that’s more like Snatcher than Metal Gear from his portfolio; you don’t feel part of the story or the world, even with the ‘Social-Strand’ gimmick, you feel as though you’re pressing buttons in an FMV game, akin to Dragon’s Lair from the Mega CD.
With Metal Gear Solid you felt part of the story, it was one full of dread and then part of hope. You felt like it was you against the group of FOXHOUND, using methods that made it a fun game, and one that you could repeat again and again.
Here, it seems as though the main pull is this ‘social strand’, but the fact that it isn’t even crossplay with the PlayStation 4 version is more baffling to me.
Death Stranding is a product of when you’ve stared at a dot in a wall for a long period of time, and it’s become a confused mess, rather than a fun experience. I hope for the next entry of whatever Kojima comes next, that he and his team just reign it back, and hopefully rediscover what fun means for a game.
PC Verdict - Score 88
To the good news; the PC version is a triumph technically; this has clearly been optimised to the hilt; every graphical option is here where you can easily play Death Stranding at 30FPS and still have a mediocre time.
I ran it on a GeForce 2060 Super, which really made the cargo sing, with the 1440P resolution making everything as crystal clear and detailed as possible.
I controlled Death Stranding through a DualShock 4, followed by a keyboard, and after a few changes in key-bindings, I was able to control Sam easily, with every control scheme well-thought out.
the PC version is a triumph technically
The Photo Mode is a nice touch; whereas there’s ‘Likes’ for an undeveloped multiplayer mode, here you can manipulate Sam’s face and body language while posing outside of a colony or in front of a corpse, while there’s many filter effects to add to the mode. It’s a fun mode, and I can see many players taking screenshots and sharing them on Twitter, Discord and Facebook over time.
Overall it’s great to see a Kojima game being given its full due on another system such as the PC. We saw glimpses of this through Metal Gear V: Phantom Pain, and here it’s coming with exclusive content from Half-Life alongside a very fun Photo Mode.
- Many customisable settings for PC
- Control scheme is great for keyboard and mouse
- Lovely rendered grass
- Should have been a movie
- Social Strand is a wasted gimmick
- Incredibly boring story; I’ve had more enjoyable moments with a migraine
Some have regarded it a masterpiece and I’d be interested in what they were drinking at the time, while others have derided it.
I’m in the latter here; it’s a fantastic PC port, but that’s simply not enough for a product that seems confused, unfinished, and simply not fun to interact with.
It would have been better suited as a movie on Netflix, as clearly that’s what Kojima wants to be. For a movie, it’s great, but as a ‘game’, it’s a massive disappointment, and frankly barely a game.