This is a very intriguing game, one that does some interesting things while making the journey to reach them punishing. This is a Hideo Kojima game, you can tell because his name is stapled all over the start and end of the experience. This is a really melodramatic title, with a focus on narrative and then forcing you through tiring ventures to get further within it.
It’s a dark future, things aren’t going well for humanity. The United States of America is splintered, and the last president is dying. Death is coming through from the other side, when people die it causes large scale destruction. There’s not much left, and a big part of connecting people comes down to parcel delivery.
This is where Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) comes into the picture. He doesn’t care about the country, and just wants to get his job done. A person who likes to deliver packages, and that’s where you meet him at the start of the game. Things go bad very quickly and eventually you end up working directly for the government in order to deliver items and hopefully connect America together once again. This journey takes you across the entirety of the country, and it’s a lot of walking. You’ll also come across interesting characters, and a very intriguing sort of story. There are flashbacks through your bottle baby (BB), where Clifford (Mads Mikkelsen) is chatting.
You have a teleporting competitive delivery service with Fragile (Lea Seydoux) and a mad man Higgs (Troy Baker). There are of course so many other key players, but it’s hard to really dive into each of them while keeping this piece precise. I will however mention the desire of you ventures, to save Amelie (Emily O’Brien) as she’s the hope for the country’s future. There are many dynamics at play between the relationships here. Those are explored as the narrative develops and expands. This is also very much cinematic in style, hence the naming of the actors involved within this review which is typically held for theatrical coverage.
Going back on track, this is a very convoluted game. Events really don’t give you much clarity as while it’s exciting to think about what might happen, the end results are ultimately not worth the time. At least, in my opinion for this one. The pay-off really isn’t worth the build-up, and it feels like they didn’t really have a good way to finish this one off. They wrapped things up, but in a very tapered off sort of fashion. There’s no choice in this one, just in case you were wondering.
This is a straight forward tale, and that’s fine. At some points you may feel like things can be adjusted, they can’t be. I’d note that a lot of this feels very messy, in terms of being bloated and making it painful to reach the next part of the story. I’ll dive into that more under gameplay, but I truly was engaged in the actual storytelling at play here. I wish it would have been more satisfying, or even had a better focus as the building blocks were there for something truly remarkable.
This really is a benchmark of visual quality for the Playstation 4. This was incredibly impressive visually on the base console, at the same time there wasn’t a whole lot going on it. I will note that the character models and cutscene direction did feel like they’re from what I expect in the next generation. That being said, regular gameplay is a straight up pain in the ass. It’s got the technical aspirations of DayZ where every second of your mission is a grueling and too mechanically realistic. There’s zero fun to be had taking these packages on long walks or drives. The game also likes to take every moment it can to extend your game time, whether you like it or not. Get a new vehicle, well this package needs to be delivered on foot.
Oh, just arrive at the far end of the map? Well, walk all the way back and then come back here again to go a bit further. It really sucks the life out of this. I was frustrated and tired of it the whole way through. By the end, I was just numb to the experience. Gameplay really comes down to walking, carrying packages and hopping out of black sludge areas. The combat isn’t very well done, and you can’t kill anyone without a painful walk to an incinerator. If there’s an opportunity to make it harder for you to do something, the game will take that chance. Honestly if you don’t like the first couple hours or so, it doesn’t get better like many will note.
It gets easier, but then the stuff that makes it easier gets taken away every chance it could be. It was only through the graces of the passive multiplayer that I was able to catch any breaks. This is probably my favorite element of the entire game, things others build show up in your world. Certain bridges, ladders and other climbing tools are there. You can produce these yourself of course, but the convenience can’t be denied. The heroes that helped with the main highway deserve the highest of praise. It’s also nice that I can tab the touchpad to send out a voice line, with someone else possibly doing the same in reply.
You might find a bike in storage, or a shelter for quicker travel, it’s a really intuitive and great addition. You do have to actually connect areas to receive these benefits and that’s sometimes the hardest part. Everything you carry is hard to deal with, a floater or vehicle could help but issues might arise. It’s a large world, and without certain items it is a drag to travel across. The silly mules and eventually terrorists are a slight pain, strategically placed to be annoying for you mission. I was tired of them quickly, match that with random black sludge events due to the BT’s and it’s a pain. It just adds another tiring element on top of another.
I also found the use of Monster Energy as water to be silly brand integration, adds to the aspect of me finding this game rather pretentious. It really does think it’s something special, the game in general that is. Anyways, carrying packages isn’t fun in this and that’s all you do over tens of hours. I was on a mission to reach the end, and the barriers just got worse. There are some neat mechanics, and bizarre ones too. You carry a baby that makes sounds into the controller when it’s stressed, lots of crying. Your blood and bodily fluids are used as a weapon against enemies. A slight miss-step will send packages flying and the rain/snow causes your gear to degrade.
The seemingly loading screens where you’re going up lifts or putting boxes on your character can be skipped, you’re welcome. It’s just done to pad out time, and that’s what a lot of this feels like. If it’s an experience you’re thrilled by or can’t get enough of its great. To me, it was another extension to a nightmare that felt like it was never ever going to end. I mean, there’s a whole segment where you’re forced to sit down for three whole minutes while waiting for someone. I got up and went to the bathroom, its stuff like that which makes this feel like it has so much bloat. It’s like a movie, where an editor might assist to cut down on that. I’m noting that one might have been needed in this situation, or someone to say no to certain ideas.
If you do find this whole process thrilling there are many side missions to take on, and you can go back after the completion of the story too to continue. I appreciate the time that you can get out of this one, but I find it weird that someone would want to get that involved with this as it just wasn’t fun. I’m not sure there was a single moment where I was like, I’m enjoying this. The highlights were praising a higher power that someone had built a bridge or left a bike for me to use.
Death Stranding was an awful, tedious experience that felt like a never ending nightmare where going out to get an actual part time job delivering packages would have been more rewarding. It’s hard to suggest something like this, as I hated almost every moment of it. I trudged through so that I could have a complete opinion on it, and it was quite honestly just rough. I think some folks might like this, and if you do it’s a full world. It’s absolutely massive in scale, and the environments are stunning. The depth, and detail within them is staggering.
There are some issues with pop-in at times, but you really don’t think of it as you get lost in the beauty of the landscape. From the snowy peaks, to the rocky crevices there are a number of environments. Some weird stuff too, like using your fluids and blood as weapons. Massive black sludge monsters, annoying mules that live to steal packages for some reason. Which doesn’t make much sense in comparison to them wanting the items within those packages, but whatever. The narrative was so convoluted and bloated in this, it felt never ending. The end credits were a boring segment, that could have been handled far better. I’m saying the first time the credits are shown, you get them twice.
It just never feels like it’ll end, so there’s value in time here. I think most will get bored and leave it quickly. There’s just so many annoying mechanics in this that it’s purely tiring. I admire the push in a mature and serious style of storytelling. The visuals are incredible, with some physics being only slightly wonky. They did amazing capture work for the performances, and that’s an element that makes this feel like a next generation game. I think visually this is a peak game for the platform, gameplay wise it drags the entire thing down.
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