I was the biggest hater of Death Stranding before it was released. Every single thing I saw about the game made me irrationally angry and made me want to punch Kojima in the throat.
Well you know what? I was wrong and the man is indeed, a freaking genius.
I saw a lot of naysayers like me when Death Stranding first released and I even found myself taking joy in the fact that the game was panned by “Users” over on Metacritic. Unfettered Kojima, I told myself, was only ever going to be a recipe for disaster and I even managed to convince myself that I didn’t like games where I could just explore a vast open world delivering parcels and meeting a wealth of interesting characters. Ho boy was I incorrect on so many levels. Death Stranding doesn’t feel like any other of my all time favourite games that present me with hard challenges and pushes me to my limits, instead it feels like putting on my favourite pair of slippers and a warm embrace for 6 hours at a time…
Until it isn’t and it beats the living hell out of me and preys on all my fears when a BT attacks me and I am dragged through the endless void of death and misery.
I will start with the one thing that nobody who has played Death Stranding is arguing about; Death Stranding is a stunning game that boasts a graphical prowess worthy of the end of a generation. The open wastelands took my breath away, there was more than one occasion where I would take a photo of my TV screen to send over to Repawning’s Will, demanding that he “LOOK AT IT”.
I appreciate that the empty world can be a bit of a turn off for some people but for me, the feeling of isolation amongst the wilderness gave me more reasons to love the game. The majority of the game was across vast, empty wastelands that when I finally made it to my destination and formed the connection with one of the Death Stranding’s various NPC’s it made it feel all the more worthwhile.
The NPC’s really stand above and beyond as well, the motion capture technology featured in Death Stranding is unlike anything I have ever seen before. The characters you are supposed to take notice of (Deadman, Higgs, Fragile, Heartman) are all obvious that you are supposed to take notice of them as they are developed with such striking visual flair that I couldn’t help but be wowed away by each of them.
Even the NPC’s who run the distribution centers had me feeling for them, one of these random NPC’s being the brother of a man I was travelling with super early on in the game. The motion capture of these incredibly realistic looking characters ensured that the game hit hard in its most prevalent emotional moments.
This leads me nicely into the games Soundtrack, which features big hitters like CHVRCHES, Bring Me The Horizon and even Khalid. These songs are all used whilst you are doing some of the games general maintenance (going toilet, reading emails etc) when in your private room.
However, it’s the use of the various songs by Low Roar that really stand out to me. These are used in such a way that once you feel like you need some music to help you across a large stretch of land it begins to play. It’s used in such a way that it never removes anything from the experience, it never distracts – It just compliments the game perfectly.
I haven’t stopped listening to the Soundtrack since I began the game and whilst I was the first person to say I hated “Ludens” by Bring Me The Horizon, I have since changed my opinion and I now love it.
Okay here is where things can get a little bit tricky to explain. I totally understand why some people absolutely hated Death Stranding because of the gameplay, I totally understand why those who picked it up wanting a hard hitting action game and made comparisons to Kojima’s other prolific series, Metal Gear Solid, came away disappointed in Death Stranding.
That is not the case for me though, I ADORED the gameplay in Death Stranding. The feeling of accomplishment that hits when I reach my objective is like nothing I have felt in a game for a very long time. I loved it.
Death Stranding is, at it’s core, a game about exploration and building bridges between communities. When the action does hit, it hits so hard that you honestly feel like you have been hit by such a huge level of tension and fear that all other senses fly out of the window.
Stamina and weight management is a big mechanic in Death Stranding as you are tasked with balancing the tools you will need to make it to your destination whilst also worrying about the supplied required for each distribution centre. I genuinely found myself panicking when I fell over damaging a parcel.
As I say, if you want an action game then Death Stranding is not really for you. However, if you want something that is driven forwards by an excellent narrative and expects you to explore the world then you will find a hell of a lot to love in Death Stranding.
Look I will be honest with you guys here, I went into Death Stranding completely blind to what the hell the game was about and I believe this is the intended way of consuming the game. Aside from knowing a few bits about bobs about who voiced certain characters, I knew absolutely nothing of the story.
What I will say to you guys is that, so far, I am absolutely blown away by the Story and I feel that this may be the best story from a game I have played in the past 10 years. The feeling I have been getting when I make a connection or help out struggling outposts has made me feel actual feelings, this coupled with the complete other end of the scale of me feeling absolute fear and tension when appropriate has showed me once again that Kojima is truly the master of storytelling in games.
It says a lot when I get a hour of back to back cutscenes and I can’t take my eyes of the screen.
Essentially, you play as a “Porter” called Sam Porter-Bridges who has been tasked with connecting a whole load of different cities to the net after an event called the Death Stranding has wiped out the majority of the planet and given certain people super powers, with Sam’s being that he can sense “BT’s” (Beached Things, I refuse to tell you what they are as that’s too much of a spoiler) and that he is a repatriate who cannot die.
That’s as much as I am comfortable telling you before I go deeply into spoiler territory.
I was surprised when I put Death Stranding in for the first time to play a single hour of the game to get a feel of it. I was surprised by the fact that this single hour converted into 7 hours without me moving from my seat the entire Sunday afternoon. I am absolutely blown away by Death Stranding and the story it has to tell me.
I can understand why people may find this game a little bit boring and I can even understand the massive division in opinions that has become prevalent with the game, but Death Stranding’s world, character and even it’s gameplay has won me over in a massive way and I cannot stop thinking about it, dreaming about it and listening to the soundtrack.
I give Death Stranding: