When Hideo Kojima left Konami and created his independent company Kojima Productions, back in 2015, the first question that everyone wondered was “What’s next for Kojima?” What was next for a man that is considered one of the legendary creators in the industry? No longer working on the Metal Gear series that he created and made into a series that many talk about and will continue to talk about into the future.
Death Stranding is that game that was next for Hideo Kojima. While the game may feel similar to some aspects, compared to his last work Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, this is a totally unique game and experience that in my opinion makes it one of the best PlayStation 4 titles around.
The past 3 years we have received many trailers that were cryptic in Hideo Kojima fashion, a star-studded cast, and a high amount of anticipation, questions, and confusion being that this is the first IP of Kojima Productions. Now before I start my review I just want to add that this is a spoiler-free review. So you may continue to read at your own leisure.
The world of Death Stranding takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopia after the events of the “Death Stranding” or an “extinction event”. Players do not know how exactly this has come to be and it will be a mystery throughout your time with the game. The event has changed the world as they know it and regressed humanity into seclusion and thus creating the United Cities of America.
Now that the world is secluded and humanity is not together, communication and supplies between the cities have become desolate. Porters are your futuristic UPS delivery man, whose main job is to deliver packages and information between the cities. Preppers will assign orders for Porters to make the deliveries.
The protagonist of the game is Sam Porter Bridges, played by Norman Reedus. Sam is tasked with traveling from the East to the West to connect the cities, expand the chiral network, and reconnect the UCA. Sam is a special being with an ability of repatriation, meaning if he dies he goes to the Seam and he can return his soul back to his body. His blood is also special because it can affect and hurt BTs.
BTs, Beached Things, are beings whose souls are stranded in the world of the living after the events of the Death Stranding. BTs are extremely dangerous and are very hostile to living beings. BTs can cause a void out which is powerful enough to wipe out entire cities if it consumes living beings because BTs are made from antimatter.
BBs, Bridge Babies, can allow a being to see BTs once they have a connection. BB will be your partner in crime during this journey. Your BB will cry when BTs are near, also when you make a hard fall and when crossing waters and he is submerged. He will also laugh and make sounds when he enjoys something that you do in the world.
Players will find an open world with different sections and regions where they must traverse the harsh terrain and desolate landscape. Timefall; rain and snow, will be major factors as you make your travels West because this rain or snow has the ability to speed up the age of anything that it touches. So carrying cargo during this environment danger is not advised. It also is an indicator that BTs may be nearby because they only appear with Timefall.
The equipment you have will be very important especially in the opening sections of the game where you will need to rely on using ladders to cross rivers or scale cliff edges, and climbing anchors to help aid going down. As you progress in the game they will be more items and equipment that will greatly make the travels easier to traverse.
While getting adjusted to the gameplay in the opening hours Sam will stumble around a lot. Players will need to get adjusted to the way that Sam will be a clumsy and underpowered character because of how to distribute weight on his back or attach it on his suit. If the cargo is stacked too high then you will have to shift weight using L2 for left or R2 for right, you can push both to really secure the weight and help prevent shifting. If you attach cargo to his suit you will move slower because of the extra weight on your body.
Players will also need to use the Ordadek which is a scanner that you will use heavily during the journey. It will be able to receive upgrades during the story but the main function is that it is a scanner that will highlight the terrain and let you know what is untraversable versus what is considered safe passage. It can also scan lost cargo that is open in the world and players can decide to pick up that cargo and deliver it to its respective owners or just leave it there to never get delivered.
As players continue to play they will be able to receive upgrades and vehicles that will greatly make the journey easier. Being able to carry more weight will make Sam stumble less and not slow down as much.
The ability to 3D print structures out in the world will give players another element of gameplay. The Social Strand System is one of the elements that make Death Stranding shine. It introduces an asynchronous co-op multiplayer session. It takes the Souls messaging system and multiples Creating a postbox, power generator, or bridge will benefit Sam during his journey and the other players that are connected to your server. One of my favorite things with this feature is when I pick the controller back up and seeing how other players helped changed the world with what they added.
Working together to recreate roads or using left behind vehicles from other players in the world is one of the many positives in the game. Giving Facebook-style likes to other players for their signs, structures, and vehicles show the owners that you appreciate using their items gives it a social metagame. I will add that the vehicles driving in this game aren’t the best. Sometimes the vehicle, mostly trucks, doesn’t want to go in the direction that you want them to go. The vehicle physics aren’t as good as they could.
The game does have combat in it. While it is not the focus of the game there will be action-packed moments as you go the story. Sam Bridges is no Solid Snake, so his movements can be a more clumsy especially if you have cargo on you. And it seems like Kojima made it more of an effort for players not to kill enemy NPCs aimlessly. Players can knock them out with non-lethal weapons but if lethal weapons are used the dead bodies should be transported to an incinerator. If the dead bodies are left in the open the dead bodies can become BTs and the area will be transformed.
BTs can be killed with grenades with Sam’s blood or bodily waste or guns that fire bullets with the blood mixed in it. There are also mini-bosses that can appear if you happened to get grabbed by a group of BTs, which will happen at least once during your playthrough. They are optional to fight since you can run away from them. But the bosses have great designs and some unique boss fights (that I won’t spoil).
Graphically this game is one of the best looking games of the generation. The Decima Engine does wonders for the game. The environments in this game are very lifelike. The rocks, water, grass, snow, and debris all look amazing. The character models as well are very detailed with the muscles, pores, sweat, hair, and clothing. It’s a shame that this game doesn’t have a photo mode for players to take some amazing photos.
The music in this game is amazing. The music fits the tone and the right song will come out at the right time while traversing. There is not always music playing. Most of the time you will just out in the open and listening to nature out in the world. The soundtrack has a nice mix of different songs for when out in the world; when you have boss fights; or even BB’s theme which I personally love listening to.
The game will take about 40-50 hours to complete if you just do the story missions. After years of waiting for Kojima’s next title, Death Stranding delivers all around. The mechanics of making deliveries how you want to, the beautiful landscape and characters, the amazing social strand system that I hope to see in more games in the future. The spectacular narrative and acting from the cast is something that I will never forget. All are things that I loved about Death Stranding. This game is something that will be talked about for a long time.