Hideo Kojima’s latest release is one hell of an enigma. And that’s just the story. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
First things first, Death Stranding has a cast to die for. Anything with Mads Mikkelsen is going to be great, and of course the same can be said of Norman Reedus and Lea Seydoux. To top it all off you’ve also got two world class directors who do a mighty fine acting job in the form of Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn (voiced by Darren Jacobs), with del Toro’s Deadman being a breakout star. If you keep your eyes peeled you’ll also see a wide cast of cameos, with other film directors and media personalities scattered throughout, all of which are remarkably well used.
Put simply, well as simply as is possible, Death Stranding is an epic sci-fi journey into a near future which involves your character journeying across vast, mostly untouched landscapes, connecting people and trying to rebuild society. All this is done while trying to avoid horrifically spooky ghosts, as well as persistent bandits and even the rain itself – ‘Timefall’ – which damages your goods and vehicles. And, not forgetting keeping a small baby attached to your suit happy, including being able to rock it to sleep by waving the controller about. Of course this all sounds strange, but surprisingly enough it generally works.
The game lets you take your own pace and your own approach to its path finding. Want to scale that cliff side with ladders and climbing ropes? Prefer to find a vehicle and take the longer way around? Or go in guns blazing through a bandit camp? It’s all up to you. And while you’re deciding you’ll be soundtracked by some superb post rock/indie folk, most of which is provided by US via Reykjavik band Low Roar.
The music is one of the many highlights, with perfectly selected tracks that are synced with your adventure – one of my favourite moments was scaling a vast mountain, avoiding dangers, to have a great track suddenly kick in as I climbed down the other side and was subject to a stunning view across the landscape.
Just like music, whether you’ll enjoy this game is all about expectations. Don’t go in expecting Metal Gear Solid (Kojima’s previous series), because although it does share some mechanics and sneaking elements, this is a more slow paced, ‘enjoy the journey rather than the destination’ production. However, unlike Metal Gear Solid, the story here is a lot more comprehensible, aside from when you get towards the end. The ending is an information overload, and several ‘fake’ endings can test the patience of even the most dedicated fan.
What is definitely a surprise is that the game’s online elements are a wonderful treat. As you make your way through rivers, hillsides and mountains you can build devices to help you on your way, like battery charging stations, rain covers or safe boxes, and these will also appear in other players’ worlds to help them out (and vice versa). It’s a delight to receive ‘likes’ from other players who use your structures, which can aid your character’s skills as well as keep you company on your lonesome journey.
Death Stranding is an enigma alright, but whether you’ll appreciate breaking its code will definitely be down to your expectations and how open you are to trying something a bit different to your standard blockbuster game.