Death Stranding- Review
A work of art worthy of its awards
2019 saw a lot of great releases, but none were quite as controversial as Kojima Productions Death Stranding. Death Stranding is the first release by Hideo Kojima’s (Metal Gear Solid) new development company Kojima Productions. Death Stranding was hit with mixed reviews from all over the gaming world. Being loved by most major reviewers, many giving it their highest scores, praising Death Stranding’s breath-taking graphics and its truly original story. However, when you look at sites like Metacritic, you find that the community did not agree with them so much. Granted there was a degree of review bombs, and angry fans who were anticipating PT in place of Death Stranding, but when you sift through these you begin to see the genuine negative view points, the most frequent being that Death Stranding is a “slow” or “boring” game, or my personal favourite “this is just a walking simulator”. Personally, I disagree with these views on Death Stranding, because for me, it was without a doubt 2019’s best release. For those who are yet to play Death Stranding, fear not as I have left this review spoiler free.
Story- Links and bridges.
Death Standing introduces an incredibly beautiful rendition to the term post-apocalyptic. Death Stranding is set in the distant future where a series of explosions with an unknown origin rip the world apart, reshaping it into a world that would make you think humanity was never there if not for underground cities and civilian bunkers. We are introduced to this world through a movie like cutscenes and a simple but terrifying first level. The scene was set with these, as we meet our reluctant hero Sam Bridges, a courier who has been tasked to trek across the wasteland of the USA. Sam must reconnect the people of the USA, into one online network where they can begin to restore America to its former glory. However, Sam also must keep his day job as a courier, so that he may persuade the more unwilling survivors and doomsday preppers across US.
Kojima gives Death Stranding an incredibly emotional and in-depth story. Its incredible cast, including the likes of Norman Reedus (The walking Dead, Boondock Saints) as our main hero Sam, Léa Seydoux (Spectre, Beauty and the Beast) and Mads Mikkelson (Rouge One, Doctor Strange). The stunning visuals bring more complexity and detail than most modern Hollywood blockbusters. Death Stranding carries so many twists and turns that keep you guessing all the way through to its unpredictable and stunning ending. It is no surprises that this outstanding work of art earnt Kojima a BAFTA, as well as a fellowship within the BAFTAS (Read more here).
Game Play – Walking is good for you.
The main aspect of Death Stranding’s game play is to travel across America, rebuilding both a physical and an online link between all locations, all whilst delivering vital cargo to all these places. This game play is what makes Death Stranding possibly one of the most controversial games of the last year. To many gamers traveling across the States by foot, was boring and tedious, but for me it was perfect. Between the intense cutscenes, vivid encounters and violent bursts of action this game presents, the walking offers time to reflect and think on everything that has just happened in this incredibly deep story. Before venturing out on your missions and deliveries you have to decide what you are going to take with you on your journey and how you will balance it all on your back, arms and legs to stop yourself from falling. Do you rely on the kindness of others to have created a path to your location and purely stack up on deliveries, or do you arm yourself to the teeth with weapons, ladders, construction gear and more and carve your own way into the raw environment? The choice is yours.
Whilst wandering the peaceful wasteland, you can place an array of gear such as ropes, ladders and temporary shelters, to aid not just yourself but other people playing Death Stranding too in their own slice of the Wasteland. Whilst you traverse the superbly detailed and challenging terrain. When other players use your gear, or you utilise theirs you can thank them with the games only form of online communication… Likes. Likes are nothing more than bragging rights between you and your friends, but as sad as it sounds it does feel good receiving a tonne of thanks for making a safe crossing or warning somebody of danger up ahead.
Death Stranding is much more than a walk in this giant park. Danger lurks around every corner, after all this is a game by the great Hideo Kojima. The biggest danger of death stranding is those with DOOMS. Without giving anything away those with DOOMs are essentially walking nuclear bombs with some fantastic abilities. Though these enemies are exceptionally rare only appearing with the story as it progresses, and they really do keep you on your toes.
The most common threats across the wastes are the Beached Thing’s (BT’s) and the Mules. Mules are a mercenary group who realistically are just an organised band of highwaymen, wanting the goodies you are carrying with you across the wastes. Whilst the BT’s are essentially Death Stranding’s main horror element these eerie and daunting enemies are invisible without a little help and some modern tech. BT’s come in all shapes and sizes, making for an element to be feared, as each experience with them was some of the most suspenseful game play I have experienced.
The final threat in Death Stranding is the weather, this is because winds can knock you off course, snows storms can lead you to your demise and the rain, the rain is the most rerifying threat. The apocalyptic event of years ago has somehow made the rain advance the passage of time, something we learn in the very first moments in the game as this “timefall” (Death Stranding’s name for its rain)
The combat in Death stranding though rarer than most games can be played in any way you like, be it all guns blazing, non-lethal, stealthy or even through a good old punch up, although with limited weapons and ammo stealth is often seen as the best option or trying to avoid combat all together as commercial weaponry and standard video game combat styles are not the go to option in Death stranding, giving a very unique feeling, the feeling that you are just a normal man, who improves along with his gear over time.
Audio – Video game soundtrack of the year.
The biggest winner for me in Death Stranding was the soundtrack. The artists and songs selected for the game have even made it as part of my regular rotation on Spotify. The most predominant artist featured in the game is Low Roar. An Icelandic band, who’s soft electronic tones set the mood as you travel past mountains, cities and vast fields. But they are not the only artist worth noting in the way of the game’s soundtrack. During quiet moments of the game I would find myself sitting in Sam’s room listening to the tracks by all the other artists including Gen Hoshiro, Major Lazer and Bring Me the horizon. The music selection truly was amazing, especially when you notice that the sound of the music changes based on Sam’s activities, for example having a shower will muffle the audio as if it would be when you listen to music in the shower at home.
The voice acting in death stranding is second to none. As I previously mentioned it includes an all-star cast, but normally in a game it can often be said that emotions are not correctly portrayed. But the incredible voice acting plays hand in hand with the dynamic motion capture and fantastic graphics, to bring some of the most emotional story telling I have seen in a game.
The in-game audio of death stranding is incredibly immersive, through the sound effects of the rain and the crunching of the snow, right the way through to the echoes in the mountain as you shout to those around. Without a doubt every little detail has been captured to near perfection in Death Stranding.
Graphics- A Picture Paints A Thousand Words.
As I said in my last section Death Stranding has captured every detail and that is not just for the audio, but also for the game’s graphics. The motion capture is simply incredible. Each cast member and all their actions are perfectly captured, like the way they walk and run, to the smallest details such as how they smile, wink and scowl. It truly does make you feel like you are a part of the whole experience, especially with the intricate animation layered on top of it. The animation really does justice for the game as the lighting and textures really bring a feeling of quality to the Death Stranding Experience. The cinematography in Death Stranding is equally as impressive. The juxtapositions and metaphors used throughout the story are incredibly impressive and need to be experienced to truly understand.
The graphics are not only incredible in the cutscenes though, as it carries through into the gameplay. The views offered are simply breath taking. Vast horizons, flowing ravines and imposing mountains are just some of what Death Stranding offers. But like the attention to detail in the cutscenes, there is also the little things to admire in the gameplay. My personal favourite aspect is when walking through timefall. As mentioned in the gameplay section time fall advances the passage of time and it is portrayed perfectly with the in game graphics, from the way nature blooms and dies around you, to how you have to wear what is essentially a plastic anorak to protect yourself, whilst the metal crates you carry corrode.
Summary- See you at the Beach
For me and I hope for anybody else who plays this game Death Stranding is a standout, one of a kind masterpiece. Its deep emotional story line, breath-taking and awe-inspiring visual effects, incredible level making, the perfect soundtrack and an incredible casting line up makes Death Stranding my choice for 2019's game of the year. Overall, this game is a solid 9 out of 10 with my only gripe being that there was a little bit too much backwards and forwards at the start of the game, which in the grander scheme of things is trivial compared to the greatness that overshadows this one flaw. I hope all of you reading enjoy(ed) Death Stranding as much as I have.