✔️Enriching an already unique and lush environment on PC. ✔️Death Stranding performs at peak level on its new platform. ✔️Strong Narrative, abstract delivery, and astounding performances make this a must play.
❌No real exclusives for its arrival on PC, other than some new skins.
For one of the most polarising titles to hit the PlayStation 4 last December, I could never envision Death Stranding landing on an alternative platform. Death Stranding remains one of PlayStation 4’s pivotal turning points in a generation inundated with periodic shifts in nuances. While they may be subtle, most of the Sony platform’s esteemed library of exclusives generally fit a certain vision, or mold crafted by developers and created by its manufacturer. However, when a visionary such as Metal Gear’s creator Hideo Kojima, states that he’s creating a new sub-genre of entertainment, and labeling it a “strand title”, just what is this illusive category? Before Death Stranding, there was no such thing as a “strand title”, if anything the only representation that came close to Death Stranding’s classification was simply an action-adventure/simulation title.
However, I must confess. I was pessimistic towards Koijma’s enthralling vision that inspired him to essentially riff off his initial plans for a Silent Hill reboot, and re-establishing his foundation with the plethora of talent at his disposal. Attaining the talents of Norman Reedus and Guillermo Del Toro, and readying them for what was to be an re-entry to a historic horror series, turned to an original IP, is itself an astonishing feat. Never have a I seen a project with its feet half-way off the ground, be completely scrapped and rewritten into such a mystery as Death Stranding had delivered. Now that is to say, that the title was certainly laden in complete disarray for quite a period of time. Gamers who had the privilege of playing the title on its initial platform immediately engaged with Death Stranding’s abstract. I for one was oddly encapsulated, almost mesmerised by its entire setting. Its premise still has me bewildered, even after my second playthrough of this euphoric experience.
Build a Bridge…
For those who had the pleasure of experiencing this unique narrative on console, I can translate this message to you simply by saying that while there are no major differences made between the two versions. Its performance on PC – depending on your personal specifications of course – is a resounding improvement. We had the pleasure of reviewing the title last November, and with little to no change, our thoughts remain entirely intact. So with addendum to our PC thoughts, here are our initial thoughts that convey Death Stranding. For what was predicted to be one of the most polarising title’s of 2019, it surely delivered on that promise. Death Stranding’s premise is certainly one that I was left with a myriad of unanswered questions. While I will state that it’s a title that will not be for everyone, it certainly left its mark within the gaming industry as one of the most innovative demonstrations of landing it’s own twist amongst an established genre, while trying to market and brandish itself within a completely new one.
While I would love to tell you that Kojima’s brilliance shines, there are sporadic moments of uncertainty placed within Death Stranging, that make you question its direction, or lack-there-of. However, without doubt I can mention that Death Stranding is one of the most unique title’s to had grace us this past year, and will certainly be a conversation piece for its new audience on PC. From its initial reveal, right up until it’s release we knew absolutely nothing about the game and that’s what made it great. I cannot falter Kojima Productions, by taking what will forever be a classified as bold risk, purely redefining what we know about the action-adventure genre and turning it on it’s head, marketing and campaigning the title as what will now be known as a “Strand Title”. I mean, what is the definition of a “Strand Game”?
Regardless, I dig it. It’s fresh and something that attempts to detach itself from the norm. Something I can absolutely respect from the Japanese based studio, and their legendary director. However, I still sit here writing this in somewhat disbelief. I still honestly question myself writing this review, with my own level of satisfaction. Yes, I’m still confused. But I honestly think that Death Stranding’s nature of intent was to do that, so that in itself ensures a major plus on my part. I’ve never had a title leave me with a million questions, but also have me question my own fulfillment. Is that even a bad thing? I’m not sure. However, it ensures a unique delivery regardless of its unorthodox nature. Yes, it’s more art-house than anything I have encountered in this medium, which can be an acquired taste. The old adage that “it’s not about the journey, but the destination” may apply somewhat, but could most definitely be argued as there is plenty to explore while trying to get from point A to B. Its intent is so complicated that even after nine months, I’m having a hard time comprehending its plot. So, let me tell you a little about this bold narrative and some key factors of its gorgeous design and uncommon gameplay loop.
Set in the midst of an apocalypse, The United States of America has deteriorated into a supernatural state, and dependent on survival through transporters who travel cross-country to deliver multiple cargo’s either by foot, or bike. Hit by waves of consistent rainfall that rapidly ages anything and everything it hits, “Timefall” has killed off humanity and has disintegrated the country into a state of collapse. The once great, now fledgling nation known as “The United Cities of America” locates itself in the North, with Knot City as it’s Capital as Washington D.C. being completely lost within the cataclysmic event known as “Death Stranding”. The cause of the event are due to creatures known as “Beached Things” or “BTs” that roam the Earth stuck in an afterlife known as necrosis. Unless the dead are cremated, body’s are consumed slowly in a post-mortem like virus effect that places them in an eternal void. These “voidouts” are are scattered across the land and hunger for the living which in turn leave meteor sized craters behind. With these events occurring, the living have gone into hiding in remote colonies known as KNOTs, to identify themselves as part of the remaining City of America.
Our protagonist is Sam Porter Bridges, a member of “BRIDGES” who is highly regarded as one of the best cargo transporters within the group. Sam plays a vital role in reconnecting the U.C.A. embarking on an expedition to have survivors communicate across the Chiral Network, which helps establish strands across different continents that have been isolated in America. Sam’s opening expedition leads him to Central Knot City, where a citizen who has committed suicide is on the verge of necrosis, and must help other cargo transporters get the body to an incinerator as soon as possible. On his way there, Timefall puts a halt to his objective where he remains in a small cove until the rain subsides. It is here he meets Fragile who helps Sam evade a BT that is on the hunt.
After essentially giving the cold shoulder towards Fragile’s attempt to befriend him, Sam treks towards Captial Knot City to assist his fellow cargo transporters. Sam is a special breed of human known as a repatriate, which allows him to revive himself after death as his “Ka” is rejected by the beach, according to BRIDGES lead researcher Heartman. After failing to deliver the corpse to the incinerator due to a voidout hitting the cargo truck, Sam experiences death again, only to awaken in Knot City meeting Deadman (played by famous director, Guillermo del Toro), a doctor who serves partially as Sam’s guide through the game. Sam is also given a Bridge Baby (BB) to take with him on his journey, however major spoilers are in place for those reasons intended, so I will refrain from any reasons as to why.
It's different, it's unique, and it's incredible. Death Stranding is an essential. An unmissable experience for PC gamers of this generation.
A Bridge baby is a newborn that has been taken from a stillmother, and experimented on to help build the infrastructure of the Chiral Network. They are kept in small pods that act as bio-mechanical wombs that allow them to live. It is here that Sam is given the task of delivering a cargo full with morphine for the dying President of the United Cities, Bridget Strand. This is where we get our first taste of pure gameplay, and I must say that it does take a little while before we get to this point. It was around an hour and half to two hours before we hit anything of pure substance, but it does make what we experienced worth it. It’s in no way one complete cutscene, but plays out like an entire cinematic experience. There is a notion, that Death Stranding is purely a walking simulator.
Rock-a-bye BB, on the hilltop…
While I would agree in part that there is definitely some moments of isolation, and completely desolate areas with nothing in them, we have to remember that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had these situations put into them, and I could certainly see some inspiration lifted there. Traversing across the barren plains of America, with the voidouts looming only provides tense moments of sudden urgency and needing to find different grounds of safety, which is all provided by difference gear that attaches itself to your Bridge Baby, which Sam nicknames “Lou”. Lou helps Sam sense any oncoming threats in different areas as you travel from different points, carrying various materials to strand together the isolated city’s. This may come in form of the voidouts, with BTs ready to attack and feast on Sam’s living body.
BB helps avoid these situations by giving off an alert that triggers a odradek, a mounted sensor attached to Sam’s suit that shows which direction the BTs may be coming from. Using stealth here, you have to slowly crawl through certain parts to avoid the voidouts from appearing. You must also avoid breathing in these areas, as the BTs can also detect that too. Setting Sam into a crouched mode while holding his breath will allow him to move slowly in avoiding loud steps. However I did find this tedious, as there were moments the voidouts would find their way towards you regardless of how slow you were moving. Wrestling out of the meddlesome mud-foes, seemed like an essential slap fight with a bunch of undead zombie hands reaching out of the floor for you. Not really a fuss, but kind of a headache.
Battling off grounded enemies in the area is almost simply running for your life, when groups of militia type bandits known as MULES try to haul cargo from transporters across different plains. The MULES carry weaponry on them to try and steal any cargo that you may be carrying and will try their best to defeat you at any cost, so be very attentive to the world around you, they sometimes come out of nowhere and could also lead you right into a sea of voidouts. There is some gunplay introduced which helps elevate the title’s impact but it is quite minimal, and not entirely needed. For a title that heavily exudes the message of stranding the world together, we do see simple elements of communication in items dropped from other players that are traversing on the same path you are.
These items will be helpful in building multiple roads and can help or hinder your adventure. A sense of realism is introduced in balancing cargo weight using both LR & R2 triggers, which could also lead you Sam toppling over, and aggravating BB, so be sure to take some moments of rest to relax and revitalise yours and BB’s health. You will know when your BB is aggravated when it’s tank fluid starts turning a bright orange, this is the first sign of caution and is highly advised to take it easy, however when the the tank itself starts emanating a signal to stop, then most certainly, stop. It can be an interesting mechanic, but sometimes gets in the way of the entire experience, but I still understand and appreciate it.
While the title will be recognised as Kojima’s most polarising, and may never reach magnum opus levels of achievement that the Metal Gear franchised accomplished, it certainly puts on an incredible showing. Vast displays of incredible design that is put on display quite beautifully, and while much of it may seem repetitive, there is something that we can’t dispute here and that is how realistic of a situation it would most certainly be. It’s a post apocalypse story. What else would you want? While understanding that we are given rolling hills of lush greenery and different weather patterns in certain environments, it all comes to one feeling and that is urgency. The game radiates this emotion, and it’s almost inescapable at times, and that’s what makes it completely unique.
You’re not jumping into anything that you have seen before, it’s nothing traditional nor anything regular. It tries it’s best to stay real, while surpassing any element of supernatural. On paper, it’s a psychiatric wet dream, but on display it puts on an incredible show. I really am in awe of what I came out of this title with. But honestly still question what it’s true message is. While star power may potentially create a new reach within this medium, we are certainly treated to a vast cast, headed with Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) as Sam, Mad Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal), Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Persona 4), Lindsay Wagner (The Six Million Dollar Man), and special celebrity cameo appearances by Conan O’Brien (Late Night with Conan O’Brien) and Geoff Keighley (The Game Awards), and that is just a taste of the star power included here.
The Death Stranding Timefall Official Soundtrack does an amazing job at triggering certain emotions an scatters itself quite nicely throughout pivotal points in your journey. It’s range of musical choice is on full display, showing Kojima’s fandom of the electronica genre. Multiple artists feature throughout the album including CHVRCHES with the game’s titular track “Death Stranding”, also Bring me to the Horizon, Missio, Flora Cash, Khalid and Alan Walker. Kojima explained that he wanted an “enviromental image” to connect with each piece of music presented in the game, and the only way to do that was to get the best in the industry right now to help compose the title’s album. I have to say personally, the soundtrack is one that has been in my Spotify’s most played list since it’s release, and I absolutely love it. But that could also be my undying love for CHVRCHES showing.
Well, here we are. The closing statement. I still can’t wrap my head around the game. But from what I have written above, I can certainly tell you that Death Stranding is a must play. Sure it’s not going to be for everyone, but it’s a talking piece that will certainly provide gamers a unique take on what we know, and turn it on it’s head into something completely different. Is it a walking simulator? Sure. Is it and action adventure? Yes. Is it a self-proclaimed “strand title”? Yeah okay, I’ll give it to you, Mr. Kojima. It certainly deserves its own genre, why? Because it’s nothing like we’ve ever experienced. I’m sure that casual gamers would be questioning just what they would even be playing, and even as someone who does his best to sell the medium, it would be extravagant enough, but not too extremely difficult to describe.
So did I enjoy Death Stranding? Yes. It should not be this good but it definitely is. Am I satisfied with the 60 hours I experienced? Yes, I most certainly am. Does it wrap everything up nicely, plot wise? No, it doesn’t. That’s what leaves me bewildered on why the title is so good. Does it deserve an accolade and be recognised amongst the best presented in 2019? Hell yes. It most certainly deserves to be in the same conversation as anything labeled “Game of a Generation”, and I for one will argue it. It’s different, it’s unique, and it’s incredible. Death Stranding is an essential. An unmissable experience for PC gamers of this generation.
Death Stranding - Kojima Productions
Death Stranding is an action game developed by Kojima Productions. It is the first game from director Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions after their split from Konami in 2015.