Death Stranding Review
Few games this generation have been as ambitious and disappointing as Death Stranding. The title had a ton of hype, as it was being developed by Hideo Kojima, and was starring the Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus. Just on those two points, and knowing there would be an epic world to explore, I was hooked from the day it was announced.
Sadly – in my opinion at least – Death Stranding became enamored with itself, cloaking much of the games development in secrecy, and only showing off the oddest of trailers and images, most featuring the BB – the baby strapped to your chest. And while weird and off-putting for some, it continues to make others curious about what the (potentially) twisted mind of Kojima would create.
And now that we have our hands on Death Stranding, it’s not that twisted. The BB helps the wearer navigate the world, see and feel the presence of enemies, and much more. What we didn’t know was how Kojima would use this game as a social commentary on connecting people, and bridging (literally) gaps that may seem too much. When I look at Death Stranding from that social commentary on life lens, I think it’s a great idea. It would make an excellent movie.
It doesn’t, however, make an excellent video game.
Kojima did a lot right when putting Death Stranding together. The performances of most characters are excellent. The story is excellent. The world you explore is excellent. But sadly, the gameplay just isn’t there.
Some have called Death Stranding a UPS Package Delivery Simulator, and they aren’t that far off. The game is built around the delivery of packages to specific regions and places, in order to build up communities. Early on, those deliveries are incredibly difficult, as limited resources, the inability to use a vehicle, and the rough terrain makes it difficult to bring loads of packages from A to B to C. Adding in the very real element of physics into the game doesn’t help either. As you pile more boxes and items onto your back, the ability to move becomes increasingly hindered. A small step when moving down the slope could result in a slip, a fall, and damaged packages strewn across the ground below.
I’ll admit, the first few deliveries were fun, as I worked to maneuver the landscape to save my packages from destruction, and to avoid unwanted detection from those around me. But that excitement dwindled as I delivered my third package, my 4th packages, my 30th package. I quickly realized I wasn’t having fun anymore, and wished that at least, I could skip the entire game and just watch all the cutscenes on YouTube.
Death Stranding does the opposite of what so many other video games do. Assassin’s Creed, for example, falters from the opposite in many of their titles. The gameplay is rock solid, but the storyline and characters are sometimes forgettable. Those games don’t get 9s, but usually around 7.5 or 8s. Death Stranding has the opposite problem, and no matter how good everything else is, the fact that many won’t want to actually play the game will push scores much lower.
Simply put, in my opinion, Death Stranding: The Movie is an easy 9.5/10 for me. Great characters, great story arch, and a great world. But the gameplay fails it all.
If I based this review purely off my own feelings, it wouldn’t score well, but I did myself a service and asked around for those that really liked the game, and why. Here are a few of the responses, many of which I can understand:
“I enjoy the community aspect of Death Stranding, especially in a time where division is so rampant. I like building bridges and sections of highways that other people will use in their games.”
“Death Stranding made me regain some faith in humanity. It was great to round a corner knowing I had to somehow climb a huge cliff, only to find someone else had put a ladder there making my traversal that much easier.”
More than 75% of people I asked, who indicated they liked Death Stranding, commented on the social aspect of the game. While Death Stranding is a single player experience, you will see the work of others in your own world, and can “like” those world modifications, providing feedback to those that created them. This game play feature ultimately drove me through my entire play through of the game. I liked helping others, and I liked getting ‘likes’ for doing it.
And sure, I would often check in just to see how many likes I got, which is something I usually don’t care about when using my own personal social media platforms. But it was cool to do, cool to see how many people I potentially was helping with my creations.
And I think that’s redeeming quality that makes Death Stranding worth playing. After my time with the game, I’ve realized it’s not for me. But a number of people are going to pick this up and enjoy that social component. And for that, I’m comfortable giving it a 7/10.