Disclaimer: Before we get into this review, there will be no spoilers for the story outside of what’s already been revealed in teasers and trailers. Only gameplay and impressions will be discussed.
Artist. Director. Visionary. Those are the few words used when you talk about Hideo Kojima, the legendary and notoriously confusing and convoluted storyteller. Famous for Konami’s flagship, Metal Gear and the following Metal Gear Solid series, Kojima has since split off into independent development through his own studio after Konami barred then parted ways with him. Even though Konami canceled any chance of a legendary reboot of Silent Hill with Silent Hills, co-directed with Guillermo del Toro and starring Walking Dead star Norman Reedus. Now, with a partnership with Sony, Kojima was greenlit to do whatever he wanted to do. And that he did; Kojima effectively made a game that is completely and utterly him without Metal Gear but with all of the confusingly integrating writing.
Death Stranding, developed by Kojima Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and 505 games, is a polarizing and semi-glorified walking simulator but an interesting cinematic experience. Gamers were both delighted and confused when Death Stranding made its first splash and now that it’s on shelves and in digital libraries there is a feeling of dis and reconnection with players as they try to reconnect the United States through being a science fiction delivery man who has trouble with his balance.
Death Stranding was described by Kojima as a genre created “Strand game,” meaning players working together with other players to bring others together in a seamlessly single player yet online experience. As you play through the game and its gigantic map, the world becomes dotted with player made structures and bridges, making traversal easier to players throughout the world. The integral “rating” system in place Is fun and not intrusive by any means, which is a plus.
Gameplay wise, Death Stranding appeals to a very niche gaming community; the people who play games to relax or find joy in doing repetitive tasks. If you’re looking for a game that is a form of MGS: The Phantom Pain, you’re not going to find it here. Instead, you will embark on a game where you are a courier, delivering cargo to various locations across a wide map- on occasion, eliminating bandits, BTs (Beached Things), or running away from everything in an effort to get your cargo to their delivery sites. Vehicles provided are clunky to handle on rocky terrain and most of the time you’ll be walking or running. On occasion, BTs will appear in your way and you’ll have to sneak around or attack them with your blood or other fluids gathered in Private Rooms.
Speaking of, Private Rooms are your respite in between deliveries. You get to take a shower, enjoy a stamina increasing energy drink, use the facilities, and check in with your BB (Bridge Baby), a nearly formed baby in a glass canister that can detect the BTs since it is technically connected with the other side of life called the Beach where all dead things go. Still with me? Good. You can hold, rock, and interact with BB to calm it down as running through areas infested with BTs tend to make BB not happy. Let BBs levels go down and it goes into shock, rendering detection mechanics useless.
I will say the performances of all the characters throughout this self-indulgent story, as video journalist Jim Sterling states, are strong by themselves. Along with a strong ensemble cast with Reedus, the story becomes chewable but hard to swallow at times. It’s not something that I can discuss as a written medium because there’s moving parts to the story and outside lore from collectable documents to read through. Plus, it’s weird enough without explanation.
If anything, Death Stranding is Kojima without limits. The game doesn’t make sense until you figure it out for yourself, there are weird moments where it only takes a few hours to digest and go “oh.” This game is not intended for hardcore action gamers, but for times to relax and be immersed in a ride through a post apocalyptic U.S.A. If you want a game to relax to, then look no further than Kojima, Reedus, and the amazing fetus.
Death Stranding was released on November 8th 2019 for Playstation 4 and Summer 2020 PC. It is rated M for mature and is $59.99.