This is a spoiler free review.
Death Stranding is a tough game to describe, especially without giving anything away, but fortunately Hideo Kojima has made it easy for me with the promotional text on the back of the game box. “The ‘Social Strand System’ ushers in the new ‘Strand game’ genre”. ‘Strand game’ is a new term that Kojima has coined, and in my sixty hours so far I have experienced enough moments to justify the need to create a whole new genre to explain this game.
For the sake or putting pre-existing labels on this revolutionary title for those yet to play it, the elements I have found packed within Death Stranding’s lore and mechanics are akin to those found in stealth, horror and action games as well as being very cutscene heavy, similarly to the Metal Gear Solid franchise. These are packed round a healthy dose of walking simulator which the base gameplay revolves around, with the other themes branching off to establish themselves in the first ever Strand game.
If you have ever played a Hideo Kojima game before the abundance of cutscenes should not be a shock to you, though it is worth stating that there is no filler to be found here whatsoever, and it is clear that the game wants you to return to gameplay sections just as much as it wants to tell you what the hell is going on.
Moment to moment gameplay is spent out in the huge and haunting open world of post-apocalyptic America (not a spoiler as that’s established in the opening cinematic) like you’ve never seen it before. The game is so varied and full of the unknown that occasionally the challenges provided by supernatural forces and terrorist cells can pale in comparison to a slightly faster than normal flowing river you must cross. The moments you can allow your mind to wander while playing this are few and far between; and you need to be thinking on your toes constantly in order to reach a destination that the game has set you.
I confess I wasn’t in the least bit interested in this title during its announcement and marketing, purely because I believed it to be a horror game and therefore not something I would enjoy. Having been assured that it is decidedly not a horror game, and having found it for a decent price not long after release I decided to give it a shot. Even now that I have finished the story and experienced almost all the game has to offer I still have a powerful hunger to continue playing it, as no matter how many other games I play I keep feeling it calling to me to explore it some more.
The phenomenal cast who bring the story of Death Stranding to PlayStation 4 include the likes of Troy Baker, Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen, whose incredible performances make the motion capture in this game one of the best examples that video gaming have ever seen. Don’t feel left out if you are a PC gamer, as Death Stranding is confirmed to be arriving on PC in June 2020.
I do have a couple of tiny gripes that pale in comparison when compared to the rest of the experience but are worth noting nonetheless. One thing the game could do more to make clear is that you must never kill human enemies in the game. I never did as I was forewarned before playing, and while I won’t divulge what happens if you do choose to, I cannot overstate how important it is that you don’t do it.
There are also a couple of story beats that I feel aren’t properly explained, but ultimately they do not detract from the experience, and a couple of late game episodes (chapters) caused me no small amount of frustration before satisfying resolutions presented themselves.
Death Stranding is not a game to read about, hear about or watch. It is a boundless and dazzling masterpiece that you will not regret trying should you decide to pick it up. I managed to avoid all story spoilers despite not finishing the game until almost four months after launch, and the late game twists and sequences playing out left my jaw in my lap and my mind truly blown.
Without any shadow of doubt, for its chilling beauty, superb narrative and diverse gameplay, Death Stranding receives a very well deserved