Gaming review: Death Stranding

Hideo Kojima’s controversial ‘delivery simulator’ is an unexpected masterpiece for a COVID-19 world

Gaming review: Death Stranding
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A review of what is arguably a failed game from late-2019? We know, wild. However, living through lockdown gave us plenty of time to reflect, and one game we thought about a lot is Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.

Simply put, it’s a third-person open world action game starring Norman Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges, a porter with the gargantuan task of reconnecting the United Cities of America using the Chiral Network and by delivering thousands of kilograms of essential items, which sometimes includes pizza.

He’s burdened with this job because of the Death Stranding – an event that caused the destruction of America and led to the discovery of the afterlife, now seeping into our world. Everyone stays indoors separately in fear, but Sam braves the outdoors to make those deliveries, all the time facing Time Fall (rain that accelerates time), Mules (nasty groups that steal cargo) and BTs (freaky beings from the other side).

Although the majority of the time players will be putting one foot in front of the other to make it to their destinations. A large chunk requires pushing the PS4 controller’s left stick forward and making sure not to trip or fall to destroy cargo. Now that doesn’t sound entertaining, does it? And plenty of reviews have already criticised this tediousness, and for the most part, they’re right. However, it’s this initial repetitiveness that can take hours to do that’s all part of the experience, as we eventually realise other players before us were in the exact same position.

A crucial part of Death Stranding is the multiplayer concept that sees other gamers around the world helping others out by placing much-needed ladders, ropes, bridges, roads and (eventually) weapons out for them. So some players are doing the good deed and others are benefiting from them.

There’s a sort of moreish quality to that feeling of helpfulness in Death Stranding, connecting with other players by giving them a well-earned like for placing a generator just when our vehicle had run out of battery. And it’s even better when they like us back.
There’s also something to be said for spending time wondering which route is best, working out storage space and which equipment to take to help with our task and to aid others. Eventually, we’re totally absorbed by setting out on another delivery.

It isn’t just the logistics we end up enjoying, the engaging (if sometimes truly peculiar) story keeps us going, too, along with the scenic battles with BTs and the beautifully eerie landscape to wander through while the melancholic soundtrack of Low Roar (prepare to hear that band a lot) quietly enters.

Death Stranding is a unique piece of work about reconnection, but it takes times to understand it. We’re talking about 50 to 60 hours, give or take. That’s not something a lot of us had, until the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, that is. Now, many of us do, and for a game that’s literally about people staying safe indoors and the importance of still connecting with them, this one hits home pretty hard. Death Stranding is a vastly different yet fantastic game, and while it still was this when it came out in 2019, unexpectedly, only now do we really see the value in it.

In a very timely sense, Kojima has showed not just the gaming world, but consumers of all artistic mediums, that something innovative and fresh can still be served to the table from big-time developers – pushing the stereotypical open world gaming format into new, riskier grounds. That in of itself makes this a success, and while Death Stranding clearly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a new taste we’ll gladly keep sipping. If you have the time for it, go on a journey of connection with Norman Reedus (not something we’d ever thought we’d say).

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