Friday, October 9

Death Stranding Review

I played on: PS4
I paid: £18
Available on: PS4, PC
Notes: n/a

Death Stranding is the result of Hideo Kojima’s troubled departure from Konami. Originally Kojima was working on the reboot of Konami’s Silent Hill series. Although the details of what happened next are unclear, Kojima was let go from Konami. He was stopped from attending the 2015 Game Awards and had his name removed from all Metal Gear Solid V promotional material. The end result of all of this turmoil was that Silent Hills was canceled. Konami has also since seemingly stopped producing all future games outside of pachinko machines. Lastly, Kojima joined Sony to make Death Stranding as a timed exclusive for the PS4 and later on PC.

So enough about the background of this game, let’s talk about the game itself. Death Stranding is an odd game but not a bad one, in fact, this game really stuck with me due to its themes. I feel this is a game that has a theme and story that are far more worthy of discussion here than the gameplay. Although this is a game, so the gameplay is important so let’s talk about that before moving onto the meat of this review.

You play as Sam Porter Bridges, a courier in the post-apocalypse where the worlds of the dead and the living are violently crashing into each other. The majority of this game has you simply moving from one place to another over difficult terrain. Although you do have to fight, the majority of the game is simply walking. Death Stranding could best be described as a walking simulator. You have to worry about stamina, temperature, cargo weight, and balance. The aim of the game is to make it from the East Coast of America to the West coast connecting up waypoints along the way. During this journey, you will learn more about the Death Stranding event that saw the dead invade our world and your role to play in it.

As I said occasionally you will have to fight, and this combat is very similar to the combat in Metal Gear Solid V. That’s not a bad thing at all and sure enough the boss fights here are fantastic. 

Combat and even more so killing is discouraged. Since the Death Stranding, any corpse will violently become a type of ghost known as a BT after 48 in-game hours. This means if you kill any person you need to bring their corpse to an incinerator and burn it. I love this feature as it reinforces the themes of life and death and makes death a serious action in a way that no other game does. There was this moment when I had unlocked lethal weapons and had some cargo stolen by a rogue group of bandits. After finding sneaking into their base difficult I decided to use my new assault rifle. Taking out the group proved easy due to my experience with MGSV. After this, however, I had 12 corpses all of which I had to transport to the local incinerator. The truck I stole from the camp could only hold 6 bodies at a time and the rough terrain damaged it beyond repair close to the incinerator. I had to carry 5 of the corpses one-by-one to the incinerator and along with the truck rides, this took around about 40 minutes. I never engaged any living people after this. Just like that Death Stranding taught me to value human life, unlike any game before it.

How you feel about death is really going to be the deciding factor on whether or not Death Stranding lands for you. During both 2018 and 2019, I lost 4 people close to me so playing this game in 2020 was almost the perfect time for it. The themes of life and death were very effective for me. Life is a journey, akin to the journey Sam takes from the East coast to the West coast. Death in a similar sense is the end of that journey, one that can be postponed but never avoided. That’s very much what this game is about, accepting death. Coming to terms with losing loved ones, friends, family, and even total strangers. This is a part of the human experience. This includes coming to terms with the fact that one day you, yourself will also die. What lies beyond this temporary life is a deeply personal question which some answer with religion, spirituality, or just existential dread. Death Stranding is an examination of that question. It’s a very good game, one that aspires to be more than just another video game.

In summary, the gameplay directly compliments the story and themes which is the mark of a great game. Killing people is a horrible act and one that will very literally continue to haunt you afterward. Death is a complicated issue. Death Stranding doesn’t answer any long unanswered question on the subject, but it encourages the player to look inwardly for their own answers. I understand that this might not be for everyone which makes giving it my traditional recommendation rating difficult. Besides some pacing issues towards the latter half, this is an almost perfect game for me. If this subject or theme isn’t as powerful to you as it is for me then you may feel differently. I’d say for most people this is an easy recommendation but ultimately decide for yourself based on the subject matter. 

Recommendation Rating: ?9? out of 10


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