Written by Callum Hutton
Imagine this: You’re walking through a stunning valley of luscious greens and a flowing river by your side. You’re carrying an impractical amount of cargo on your back and there’s a baby in a glass pod strapped to your chest. You take a moment to rest and take in the nature around you. You walk up to the river and stand on the bank, watching as it flows from the mountains to the ocean. It’s beautiful. What could add to this picture? Urinating into the river while the baby laughs. He gives you a thumbs up. True harmony.
That was the first thing I remember about playing Death Stranding. Much like the rest of Hideo Kojima’s games, it finds the fine balance between the serious and the surreal. This has been worth the wait. Since 2015, when Kojima was suddenly removed from Konami – a company he had worked with since 1986, we have heard little from him. Shortly after, he started his own studio – Kojima Productions – and started work on a new game, which seemed more and more elusive the more it was revealed to the public.
I pre-ordered the game and sat waiting for the midnight release. I didn’t sleep that night, that’s how much I anticipated the game. I stayed up playing it for 24 hours.
In terms of tone, it is the best I have seen in a long time. The direction of the story and gameplay – especially the combination of the wide-open landscapes and Low Roar’s music – struck something deep within me. You feel the weight of the character’s journey as he delivers each piece of cargo to its destination.
The music swells as you reach your goal and you are thanked by the recipient and, a lot of the time, the online community. It feels genuine and optimistic in a world split apart by the devastating Death Stranding event.
In terms of the online aspect, I feel that the approach is executed well; while you never have physical contact with a player – you never even see another player, which adds to the isolation of the world – you can use whatever is dropped or placed down by someone else. This also means that you can place things like ladders, climbing ropes, bridges, roads or ziplines in places that can help you and other players. Even abandoned vehicles can be used by other players. You get ‘likes’ for this, too.
The plot is confusing initially the first few hours or so, but as you piece together what led to the devastation and make sense of the more surreal elements; you have an interesting story that changes how you initially perceived the world of Death Stranding.
While the gameplay can be clunky at times, it’s never ruined my immersion or detracted from the unique experience that the game offers.
For Hideo Kojima’s newest and first game as an independent producer, it stands up to his legacy by providing a challenging, surreal, and altogether beautiful game. I hope you, too, enjoy the story of Sam Porter Bridges and his journey through gorgeous valleys, harrowingly devastated lands, and bitter mountain blizzards as you rebuild America.