Hideo Kojima’s strange and mysterious Death Stranding finally hits retail with its big Hollywood cast in tow. Guess what? It’s excellent.
The Death Stranding
Kojima Productions started out as an off-shoot of Konami, but we all know the story (or the surface of it, at least) after that. Hideo Kojima created the Metal Gear Solid series, but then split up with Konami after years of being together. Now with the long-cancelled Silent Hills as Kojima’s great “What-if”, we got a brand new game with pretty much the same key people, just without Konami in the picture.
Death Stranding is the very first “Strand-type” of game, at least according to “auteur” and video game creator Hideo Kojima. The entire premise of the game is that you’re a porter who transports packages, materials and even corpses if need be from one outpost to another. This all happens in a world ridden with timefall and B.T.s.
Timefall is basically supernatural rain that rapidly ages anything it touches from humans to cargo and B.T.s or Beached Things are supernatural phantoms that are basically made up of dead creatures. They could be humans, whales or something else entirely. Basically, America in Death Stranding is Australia on supernatural steroids.
Editor’s note: Benj has specifically avoided going deep on Death Stranding’s premise. Though that’s typically a part of our reviews here at BG, I have agreed since a good chunk of the fun of this game is the high strangeness of the narrative.
The gameplay is nuanced but oftentimes tries too much to be realistic that it somehow hinders beginners from actually liking the game. The terrain is understandably difficult to navigate around and there are obstacles that are man-made in nature (such as marauder camps) and sometimes even supernatural in nature (B.T.s).
One of the game’s features that I love to hate is the balancing system. You hold L2 and R2 to brace yourself while walking and that pretty much allows you to maintain your balance while carrying heavy loads. On the other hand, when you carry too much load then you WILL tip over if you screw up. You can think of it as like a more advanced version of QWOP, that ragdoll web-based game where you try to control someone running and hilarity ensues.
The main point of the game’s initial two parts is that you need to familiarize yourself with Death Stranding’s basic controls and it is basically the longest world building you can ask for in a video game. It takes a while for things to escalate and when I say a while, it really means a while but mainly because I was side-tracked into building bridges and running myself ragged carrying cargo here and there.
The game starts to become really interesting after parts 3 and 4. And it’s really hard to write a review about Death Stranding without spoiling anything so I’ll stick to the beginning. That’s because, in my opinion, the beginning of Death Stranding is what makes it hard to love but everything after that is a masterpiece.
The cast of characters in Death Stranding is really up to par. You’ve basically got Norman Reedus as a gruffier more realistic version of Big Boss. I mean the ponytail and the advanced sneaking suit-esque uniform? C’mon. He really grows on you throughout the game too, and the same goes with B.B. That’s the baby that accompanies you in the grim world of Death Stranding.
Again it is hard to write a review and talk about characters without spoiling anything. I will say that there is a wide enough range and number of characters that even the empty world of the game feels populated. It’s very much human enough for me to consider the cast as great.
And oh man, is this cast great
The main thing about the characters is that they are performed exceptionally well by the cast. Troy Baker and Mads Mikkelsen were really really great in this game. It’s just too bad I can’t talk about their characters too much without spoiling anything.
The music in this game, on the other hand, I can talk about – and it is exceptional. I’ve always thought of Kojima as a bit of a hipster when it comes to his taste in music but in this case, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have been introduced to so many new artists that I now have more stuff to listen to than I have the time to.
The Low Roar, who provided “I’ll keep coming” to one of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s trailers is prominently featured in Death Stranding, so is Chvrches and a slew of really talented folks and I gotta tell you, the music in this game means so much more than it normally would because of how “empty” the game is at first and each song tells a story, one that I really enjoyed for myself. I now have a Death Stranding playlist added to my Spotify playlists, that’s just how much I enjoyed the soundtrack.
Believe me when I tell you how hard it is to write a review about a game whose twist is so integral to the game that I’ve simply decided not to write a full on review. In fact, this article might as well be called “impressions” because of my stubbornness to not spoil anything but I swear to Hideo Kojima that once you get through the beginning of this game, everything else is therapeutic and the game’s themes are executed masterfully.
Release date: November 8th, 2019
Platform(s): PS4 (reviewed), PC
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment, 505 Games
Developer: Kojima Productions