Generally speaking, I like to open my reviews with some sort of statement or story about the game I am reviewing. With Death Stranding, there will be no difference. I will be upfront as I know that there are a lot of people that have been looking at these reviews and trying to determine if the reviewer is Hideo Kojima fan or not. I will not mince my words and say that I believe that he is my favourite game visionary in the business today. That being said though, with the buildup of Death Stranding over these past couple years, I kept myself as far away as possible about the details as I wanted a completely new experience with no idea of what the game is. In that regard, I was able to play the game with no idea as to what to expect.
In the beginning, the only information we had about Death Stranding came from the short clip of a naked Norman Reedus standing on a beach with a baby. This short but simple video was just enough breadcrumbs for the world of gaming to feel some electricity. Kojima was making a new game and it looked as if it was going to be gloriously weird. Over the next few years, we would see small snippets of other moments in the game, but naturally, none of it made any sense! The excitement only grew as the stacked cast of actors were announced. Of course, Norman Reedus, of The Walking Dead fame, was announced as playing the main character Sam Porter. Mads Mikkelsen and Guillermo del Toro were both announced as part of the team as well.
So, what is Death Stranding ABOUT? Well, that is a very complicated question! Death Stranding is set in a tattered and torn version of the United States. You are told from the get-go there was some form of an explosion that has changed the world from everything as we know it now, into a desolate landscape where mankind stays bunkered up and very few brave souls venture out as others stay in their cities in fear. The people that possess the skills and bravery to leave their cities are known as porters. These individuals travel from place to place delivering packages containing resources, medical supplies and generally anything else that is needed.
Sam is one of these porters that is known as he prefers to work alone, which you can understand quickly enough why that is looked at by citizens as insane. You see, it’s not safe to travel for a multitude of reasons. There are no conventional means of travel anymore. There are no airplanes or trains, all the roads and highways are long gone. So moving products from place to place is done on foot. You are able to rebuild some of the roads, but we will get to that later. With the Death Stranding also comes a new version of conventional Rainfall. The citizens’ dub it Timefall. When this new form of rain happens, anything it touches is rapidly aged which leads to deterioration of parcels, but more importantly, if the rain touches human skin, that area is also rapidly aged.
You quickly discover that you are not alone out there either. There are friendly porters that you may run into, but unfortunately, there are also other porters that are out there that want to steal everything they can from unsuspecting porters for themselves. Those porters are called MULES. For the most part, you want to avoid them as much as possible as they can gang up on you quickly and even IF you get away from them, it might be at the cost of losing some of your precious cargo.
Most importantly though, there are the unknown creatures called BTs. These creatures came with the Death Stranding and about all we know about them, in the beginning, is they have something to do with the dead. BTs are terrifying as they are wicked fast and most importantly, they are invisible to the naked eye. After you gain your BB unit, you will gain the ability to see them for a split second when they are near you. Not only are those moments tense, but they can also be downright terrifying!
Sam is given a mission relatively early in the game that sets up the entirety of what the point of the game is. While I do not want to disclose what the mission is or who gives it to Sam, I do want to say that the mission is very clear and so tracking your progress is relatively simple. It’s what happens along the way that makes this game turn from a simple “Mailman Simulator” into a game that has all the bells and whistles (and so much more) that you would expect from the mind of Hideo Kojima.
There is no denying Kojima’s love for cinema as you embark on your first few orders. Quickly into the game, you are thrown into a position where you must trek to a city and deliver a package. It is interesting how in some of those long jaunts how the camera will pan back and seemingly go into a wider lens, giving you a magnificent view of the world. Usually, some form of music will start to play and it feels like you are watching a music video. You would think that these moments would feel dull but that can’t be further from the truth. The amount of unpredictability of traveling from Point A to Point B leaves you constantly on your toes. Not only is it because of the threat of MULES or BTs, but also because Sam is a human with human weaknesses.
You will want to load Sam up with all the orders you can and plenty of resources to move about, but he can only carry so much before he is overburdened. When Sam is carrying too much, his stamina bar deteriorates at a much faster rate and you are unable to run as fast. When you have immediate threats, you NEED to be able to get away quickly. You don’t want your death to happen just because you decided to carry 3 extra ladders and 4 guns more than you needed! You have to be very careful with your packages as well as they will take damage from all your actions. You are given a grade when you deliver the packages based on how long it took to deliver as well as the condition it is in. Much like my brethren in the USPS, FedEx, and UPS, if a package is delivered in rough shape, you will hear all about it.
Which leads me to the ‘Multiplayer’ part of Death Stranding. WAIT, DON’T RUN AWAY YET!!! Multiplayer is present in the game in a unique way. As you travel from place to place, you can add them to the special network that you are building. It’s only after you’ve added them to the network that the multiplayer comes into play. As you progress further into the story, you will unlock different means of travel besides using ladders and bridges, but you may not always have the resources to build the structures. When you are online, anything you build can be used by other people that are online and vice versa. There is a major theme in Death Stranding about connecting humanity and the online community is further proof of Kojima’s vision. It is, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, worth it to play online to utilize the online structures.
When I heard there was going to be crafting in the game, I admit that I groaned in defeat because it seems like EVERY open-world game feels as if it needs to have a crafting component to it now. While I had some gripes about it in the initial stages of the game, once I realized that it wasn’t nearly as complicated as other survival games I’ve played, I gave a sigh of relief. You gain resources by picking up orders, finding them out in the wild, or by recycling gear or other unwanted items. Generally speaking, resources stack up relatively quickly, so it’s not difficult to have enough to craft whatever you need. You craft everything from weaponry, to tools, to transportation and everything in-between. If you accidentally make too much of an item or you happen to find stuff, you can also store it in a private locker.
When I started playing Death Stranding, I knew that I would likely enjoy the game because Kojima’s vision has yet to fail me. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with every minute detail of it. Some people may find aspects of the game to be overly detailed or too weird, but those details are what I love. Not only would I say this is one of my favorite games from Kojima, but I would also say that it is one of the best games I’ve seen on the PlayStation 4. At no point in my adventures as Sam did I feel bored of the luscious landscape or what the task at hand was. Death Stranding is an instant masterpiece that I could not stop thinking about, while awake or the many dreams I had about it. Even as I type this review up, I want to hop back on! My only regret is not ordering the special edition that came with the BB statue!
*This Review Code was so generously provided by the publisher for review*