Death Stranding

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Death Stranding – Review

A few months ago, we here at MKAU Gaming held a podcast revolving around E3 and what was announced. There was so much that caught our attention, and we all got extremely excited as we saw new titles flash up on the big screen. One such game was Death Stranding, developed by Kojima Productions. The scene chosen to announce this title was one that had many of us questioning everything. After being given a copy for review, we finally have some of these answers.

The opening scene is one of exquisite beauty, with graphics that looked like they could have been pulled from the real world. Leaves and grasses swayed in the wind, while clouds of dust lifted from behind a lone motorcycle as it bee-lined towards its intended destination. For all intents and purposes, I could have easily mistaken it for the opening credits of a film. Even when we focused in on our main protagonist, Sam Bridges, he is easily recognizable as the actor who portrayed him, Norman Reedus. The games beauty doesn’t stop with the cut-scenes either.

When you finally get to play, almost nothing changes. It still looks as though you’re watching a movie, with the only give away being that you are controlling Sam. Every small detail, no matter how insignificant it may be, has been crafted in a way that makes you feel as though you are there, standing alongside the characters in a real world.

Just like any good film, Death Stranding makes use of music to set the mood, expertly timed to give you the strongest emotional reaction to what is going on at any given time. One particular instance early in the game, while walking to a destination over a kilometer away, a musical number came on that had me feeling a sense of hopelessness, wondering why I was even trying to complete the objective at hand – a feeling I am sure that Sam was having himself, given the reaction he had when asked to complete this particular contract.

The in-game sounds and ambient noises also lend themselves to a feeling of isolation and hopelessness as you travel the length and breadth of America, trying desperately to reunite humanity, after the catastrophe that all but destroyed the world. Something I found particularly haunting was the sounds coming out of my controller; the small capsule Sam holds at his chest crying as the rains started.

While playing, I felt that Death Stranding would have made a fantastic movie; A cataclysmic event, known as the Death Stranding has all but wiped out humanity. Opening a rift between worlds, invisible creatures known as “Beached Things” have made their way into the real world and seek to devour the living. The world itself has changed as well, with rain now being known as the “Timefall,” causing anything it touches to rapidly age and deteriorate.

Should a Beached Thing happen to consume a deceased individual, it will cause something known in game as a Voidout; A huge explosion leaving nothing but a giant crater in its wake. The remaining humans themselves have also been changed by the events, with some hosting a condition that has become known as DOOMs, allowing them to see the Beached Things and actively avoid them, while directing their companions to safety.

Humans have also developed technology to assist in seeing these creatures by using a premature child as a “Bridge.” Known as Bridge Babies, they are carried by humans in a pod on their chest and linked directly to the adults who use them as tools, allowing those not influenced by DOOMs to sense the Beached Things. As all of this is happening, a small group of humans are actively trying to reunite America, working to save the human race, and Sam is smack bang in the middle of it all.

As fantastic as the game looks and sounds, as good as the story is, I personally feel as though gameplay is a bit of a let down. Sam is a courier, contracted to take packages from A to B. While a good solid chunk of the game is made up of cinematics, the game play itself will have you transporting cargo from one place to another. As you load up your backpack and start your travels, you’ll have to climb over obstacles, while attempting to maintain balance and sneak around the BTs; that kind of randomly appear around you when it starts raining.

It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, given the announcement trailer had characters fighting for their lives and firing guns into an unseen aggressor. It was a touch disappointing to find out I was little more than a courier, delivering parcels in an effort to restore humanity. All for a few Facebook likes and a ranking system that vaguely resembles Dynasty Warriors.

While I wasn’t really a fan of the game, I can appreciate the amount of work that has gone into this title. A star studded cast set in a beautiful world, coupled with a moving story and an emotional soundtrack; everything about the game is incredible and as I said earlier, it’d make for an amazing movie. I just personally feel as though the gameplay itself isn’t as good as it could have been. If it was intended to have the player wondering why they were even bothering, wondering why they were working so hard for so little reward, just like Sam Bridges quite often brings up, then they have certainly hit the nail on the head. Death Stranding will have you questioning your own motives and wondering why.

The Good

  • Incredible, ultra-realistic graphics
  • Amazing characters
  • Amazing story
  • A star studded cast

The Bad

  • It’s a walking simulator
  • Slow game play
Mathew Lindner

Written by: Mathew Lindner

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