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Death Stranding Review (PS4) :: Connecting Strands Vs. Delivering Cargos

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Death Stranding is a direct result of Hideo Kojima’s fallout with Konami. This game had the hype of the Snow Piercer at full speed. And it was almost a given that Death Stranding will receive contrasting reviews. The game has either been touted as a new direction in video game design, or it has been reduced to meme material. But which side do we land on. After a couple of weeks with Norman Reedus aka Sam Bridges, what do we think of Death Stranding? Let’s find out.

Story & Narrative

There are 2 things that I look for when I go out to watch movies, Imagery, and Characters. Death Stranding delivers some eye-catching and awe-inspiring imagery and is full of complicated characters trying to work through or make the best use of their own flaws and limitations.

Their names might seem a little too on the nose. But set in a world torn apart by a phenomenon called Death Stranding, where the worlds of the dead and the alive have come together in strange ways, the cracks in the world are best portrayed by the cracks in its characters. Bridget might be pioneering a unification project of what’s left of the United States, but she also suffers from a terminal disease (looking very similar to cancer). While her daughter Amelie might be the president of the United States, but she has been put into a house arrest by an extremist group who believe that holding the President hostage is their insurance.

Sam Bridges suffers from Aphenphosmphobia (a fear of being touched), and yet is entrusted to cross the width of the country and save Amelie, whilst connecting different cities together (basically bringing them the internet). Heartman is a scientist whose heart goes into cardiac arrest every 45 minutes, and when he comes back he suffers from insomnia, and yet he has dedicated his life towards the gathering and discovery of knowledge. Its these juxtaposition of limitation and ambition, that Hideo Kojima tugs at while he tells you the story of Death Stranding. A story told over multiple chapters stretching to somewhere around 40 hours.

And throughout those chapters, you are bombarded with these masterpieces of cinematography. An underground chamber fitted with VR to look like the Oval Office. A battle tank made of dead bodies, which fall off as it move forward. The rainfall, (now time fall) ages everything it touches instead of nourishing it. BTs, who are these beings from beyond, connected to god knows what through an umbilical cord trying to get in touch with the living. On the face of it, they look blatant, whimsical and sometimes even confused, but all these abstract and layered themes insinuate themselves from the edge of your periphery vision.

Gameplay & Mechanics

This is why it can be a little irritating, that a game which has such lofty layers in its story-telling choose such a primitive game mechanic to underline its moment to moment gameplay. As has been well documented, for the majority of Death Stranding you will be delivering packages from point A to point B, and that can get a little boring (as has been well documented too) fast.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that. Every package that you are entrusted with, has to be carried on your person (at least for the first few hours). Its not just as simple as pressing I and finding 2 blocks of space in your inventory though. The size, the weight and the positioning of the cargo is important so that none of your extremities are lopsided which would make walking easier. What’s also important is how much weight you want to carry, taking into consideration the terrain that you might have to traverse or the enemies that you might encounter. Oh, and it’s important to have some free space so you can pick up any lost/discarded cargo that you. find during your trip. And you mustn’t forget that you not all you carry should be cargo, there should be space for resources too, like ropes and ladders which you can deploy to navigate difficult part of the terrain.

These ropes and ladders are also an important part of the Death Stranding experience. Each resource is a one-time-use object, and once placed it will not only stay there for the entirety of your game but will also appear in the game of a few other players. These players can then make use of those resources, and award you with likes. And that’s the only interaction you can have with other players. You can like whatever they have set down for you. Ropes, ladders, resources in post boxes, towers for scouting, icons to warn you of incoming rain and BTs and in later levels even highways for transportation. Death Stranding only allows positive feedback between players and has been showcased by Kojima as a central theme to Death Stranding.

And while all of these mechanics do add depth to the game. The minute to minute gameplay of Death Stranding involves you walking and tripping over multiple times as you try to make your way from one waypoint to another. That and the Bridge Baby soothing that you have to do from time to time. It’s like the worst parts of 2 of the most hated side quest templates mixed together (escort missions and fetch quests). AND YES, the game opens up considerably once you get past Chapter 3, there are much more variety and help in traversing, there are also combat interludes to break the courier monotony. But that’s 10 hours into the game, and that wobbly walk never goes away.

This is what we get for making fun of autorun in Assassin’s Creed.

Graphics Performance & Sound

For a game that looks so beautiful, it’s almost acrimonious for it to inhibit exploration. I mean you are rewarded for using the shortest route possible for delivery. You are also driven towards an explored path with already placed ladders and such. Plus, there is a huge risk involved in staying outdoors for too long, and definitely not much reward. What you do get to see of Death Stranding though is A+ visual cocaine. The sky, the rivers, the mountainsides, the War-torn areas, the red deserts, the character models.

Ahh, the character models. I have never seen such an international star-studded game in my entire carrier. I mean Norman Redus, Mike Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, Margaret Qualley, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Troy Baker. That IMDB page feels like a 3 season worth of high rating television. And all of them have been recreated perfectly. Especially the amount of detail that has gone into Norman aka Sam Bridges is phenomenal. This wasn’t just a gimmick to license likeness, this was a full-fledged effort to bring these characters to Death Stranding, and it shows right from motion capture down to voice acting. Death Stranding was not going to lose out to any medium in the world when it comes to cinematic perfection.

The Soundtrack feels as if its a playlist picked right from Kojima’s Spotify account. A mix of mostly japnese modern rock, I saw multiple tracks that I have seen showcased on Kojima’s Instagram account. Kojima himself being a resolute consumer of mass media and entertainment has made Death Stranding a funnel of his sensibilities.

Performance I don’t have complains either. The game ran smoothly, and even during long sessions, I didn’t encounter stutters. I am sure the PC launch of the game, is when the real technical test of Kojima will be, but as a PS4 exclusive (for the time being), Death Stranding runs like a dream.


Death Stranding forces you to play one way. Death Stranding does away with the notion of “Play Your Way” and doubles down on demanding your time, attention and patience. Its ok to be tired of Death Stranding and come back to it after a few days. It’s also ok to play it for 1 hour each day. But it’s not ok to play Death Stranding as any other game you have played before. It’s a different beast, a slow burn, a long drip, and only the patient can enjoy the ride.

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