Reviews for Kojimas Productions’ ‘Death Stranding’ PS4 game, released on November 8th, have been extremely divided and if we’re honest, not really rightly so. Dubbed ‘a lesson in patience’, this single-player adventure combines a plethora of different emotions all wrapped into one nice weird package and is frankly a beautiful mess. (I mean that only in a good way).
Death Stranding is Hideo Kojima's first game since splitting with Konami, the Japanese publisher he’d been working for since 1986. Most renowned for creating the Metal Gear franchise, it seems Kojima has turned from your more A-typical game to something unique and undefinable even by the greatest mind.
Set in a post-apocalyptic America, you’ll be playing as Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) on the seemingly never-ending mission to put back together the scattered community America has become by delivering cargo to connect them with the “Chiral Network”.
Carrying the sweet and somewhat creepy-looking infant BB (bridge baby) in a pod, Sam travels back and form from east to the west coast in a desperate attempt to reconnect this splintered world, filled with obstacles and a depressing amount of fog.
With BB’s help, Sam must struggle against cruel nature to avoid spectral terrors known as BT’s. You can look at it like this, Sam is that legendary delivery man who goes through rain, tornadoes, snowstorms and who knows what else just to ensure your package gets delivered in one piece. Am I right? While this might be the base of the story, there’s much more to it than this, you actually need some logic to survive all the elements.
Expertly weaved into the story are well-known actors like Mads Mikkelsen and Léa Seydoux. I mean who doesn’t know Hannibal? Their addition to the game creates an incredible element of cinematics with dramatic cut-scenes, designed to stir your emotions.
It’s honestly quite hard to put the storyline into words, a fact many critics have touched on, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s out of control. The reality is that the world Kojima created is almost like the truth of future existence and it’s a place where those unuseful are discarded, your only enemies are just a reflection of yourself with no purpose and a place where you doubt your abilities when confronted with a task seemingly too great.
I mean, isn’t that how it is now?
Let’s be real, even though it’s a confusing game for some, what they’ve really done right is create a breathtaking visual no matter where you look. After games like God of War and Assasin’s Creed: Odyssey, my world design expectations are pretty high but I have to say, apocalyptic Kojima America takes my breath away. It seems strange to say, however, the rocks and grass are frankly stunning as if they were taken from a photograph.
Pretty much most of your game time will be spent exploring these landscapes, picking up cargo littered on the ground and attempting to keep your balance while choosing the right place to make a river crossing without being swept away, likely into BT territory. Your control must be exact and strong as the slightest of movements can throw you off balance and falls will probably end disastrously, even small ones will extremely distress your BB, causing it to cry out. Who would want to distress a little baby?
The whole theme of the game revolves around this need for connectivity and this theme is clearly reinforced by the ‘Like’ system associated with Sam’s cargo deliveries. To break it down, all deliveries are paid for in ‘Likes’ (hello, delivery version of Instagram?). You get more likes by delivering the cargo safely and undamaged, though this is much more difficult than it may sound. Cargo can easily be destroyed by falling over or Timefall (rain) ‘melting’ away your precious items. You can also gain likes from building structures that will help other travelers on their own journeys.
I feel like this entire system was built as a feel-good reinforcement of positivity, interactions with enemies are never lethal and your reward for delivering some measly cargo is to feel as though you’ve accomplished the world for that person (and gain a bunch of likes, it’s psychological).
Is Death Stranding weird, strange and sometimes monotonous? Yes. But is it also beautiful and a breath of fresh air after so many FPS games we see these days? Most definitely.
In the end, this game is different from anything before but that’s precisely what we need.