Let’s face it, Hideo Kojima is a polarizing figure in gaming. There is no denying his impact on gaming with the Metal Gear series as well as P.T. People have strong opinions on him and it seems those opinions have managed to find their way into reviews of his latest game for the PS4 (and soon PC), Death Stranding. Some media outlets rate the game mediocre at best while others see the game as a masterpiece. Two of us on our podcast have been playing Death Stranding and I want to give an honest review of the game. I want I to say that I have never been a Metal Gear fan nor a fan of Kojima even though I absolutely respect what he has done for the industry. He has earned even more of my respect after an interview he had with BBC’s Radio One. It is his view of where he wants this game to go, is where I want to start this review.
This game is making a statement about how disconnected the world has become. If you stop and look around, there seems to be a lot of meaningless social interactions. Now a days, people communicate more through test than in person or over the phone. More and more people are beginning to care more about themselves than the better good. It is in this that Kojima is basing his game. The player takes on the role of Sam Porter Bridges who is a courier of sorts tasked with reconnecting the world. What different about this game compared to a lot of games out there is that it has asynchronous multiplayer. Items that players build in the world are left for the player to find. Players are encouraged to like items in the world like a ladder to help cross a river, etc. Kojima wants players to really think about the world they are inhabiting and how their actions could impact/help others. The players are also encouraged to treat running deliveries to other outposts will help those outposts in the long run.
So where does this game excel? The first thing you notice right from the get go on how beautiful the world is. From the rocks at the bottom of the streams to the barren peaks of the mountains, the attention to detail is stunning. This game also excels at the motion capture and the performances by all of the actors are tremendous. There are big names involved with this project: Norman Reedus (Sam Porter Bridges), Mads Mikkelsen (Clifford Unger), Troy Baker (Higgs Monaghan), Tommie Earl Jenkins (Die-Hardman), and Guillermo Del Toro (provided the face for Deadman). Beyond this there are cameos from celebrities as NPCs (non-playable characters) that help flesh out the world. The motion capture performances reminded me of the technology that Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within was using was back in early 2001. The story that Kojima has written is his usual quirkiness, but it also parallels a lot of what culture is becoming. There is such a beautiful sense of hope undying in the story that draws you into the game.
With as beautiful as the game is, there are areas of the game that a lot of people may find unappealing. First, it is very hard to find to argue with some critics that this game is just a FedEx simulator. There is a lot of walking (up until you unlock the motorcycle). Not only that, delivery found items to outposts over and over again does get extremely repetitive, and frankly can get boring for some players. The walking mechanics are true to life as well. If you are running and you trip over a rock, naturally you are going to lose your balance. Your balance is controlled via the L2/R2 buttons and you do have to utilize both to keep your balance. If you lose your balance and do fall, you run the risk of losing your cargo, or even worse, damaging it. This is another area that some critics have had an issue. For me, both of these mechanics seemed like a minor inconvenience versus a true drawback to the game.
Overall, that game is amazing and has deserved all the award nomination and wins it has received. That being said, this game truly is not for everyone. It is something that I think everyone person should at least try out at least once. When I say try out, I mean give it a fair shake and play it for a few hours. First impressions can always go badly, but if you go off the first hour of the game, you might find some disappointment. This game, when given a proper chance, can be quite surprising as a game that one would never play, but grasps us in a way that no other game has before. Even with the drawbacks I would give the game a solid 8.5 out of 10.