When Hideo Kojima released Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in 2001, it was one of the most anticipated games in history up to that point. It was met with critical praise, but also a lot of ridicule from people who found the game convoluted and laughably unrealistic; several critics and gamers alike were tickled pink over the notion that a dominant government would engage in disinformation warfare, or hand over the keys to their nuclear arsenal to an artificial intelligence that might one day go rogue. Yet here in 2019, Sons of Liberty seems downright prophetic, as the Department of Defense seeks to automate out nuclear capabilities through AI and the country is dealing with the aftermath of an election that hinged on disinformation campaigns from various sources. Today, Metal Gear Solid 2 is universally acknowledged as a masterpiece, vindicated as a prescient piece of social commentary in addition to a solid stealth action blockbuster. Also in 2019, Hideo Kojima released Death Stranding, a game that I am certain will follow a similar trajectory, and not only in terms of the themes presented.

Starring Norman Reedus as Sam Bridges, a porter whose entire job revolves around delivering packages in a post-apocalyptic America, Death Stranding is ultimately a story about re-connecting with what we’ve lost. It’s also completely insane in all the best ways.

REBUILDING AMERICA, ONE PACKAGE AT A TIME

There’s not much that can be said about the plot without giving away things best experienced in person, but essentially the game takes place some years after an extinction-level event known as the death stranding, that has not only killed most of the wildlife in the country but a vast majority of humans as well; most survivors live in highly secure, sheltered, underground bunkers. The wilderness beyond is not only incredibly dangerous on an individual level, but a single untimely death of even one person in this new dystopia can have catastrophic results for life on a global scale.

However, the only way for America to recover from this new nightmare is for the few people who are left to re-establish contact, begin to work together once more and rebuild what was lost. This is where Sam comes in. As a talented porter who can be trusted to safely get things and people where they need to go, Sam is in a unique position to help a struggling, dying country get back on its feet.

THE ROPE AND THE STICK

When first starting out, Sam isn’t given much in the way of equipment to get the job done. In fact, his primary gear set revolves around simple ladders and climbing ropes, with which to create makeshift structures that aid him in navigating the obstacles of the natural world, which now mostly resembles the volcanic mountain ranges of Iceland.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle, at least early on in the game, is the amount of cargo Sam is required to carry. His suit can initially support up to 150Kg, and you’ll often find yourself nearing that limit on any delivery. As you can imagine, hoisting that much weight on your back is bound to make even simple traversal a (literally) difficult balancing act, and Death Stranding’s physics are custom tailored to play into that. You’ll need to manage cargo carefully, both in terms of how you load it up and how you carry it. If you don’t stack your cargo in the correct order, you may leave yourself too top-heavy to walk anywhere without falling down, and even if you’ve organized everything properly, you still need to be careful of even the smallest physical obstacles, as momentary shifts in weight distribution can send you crashing down a mountainside before you realize what’s going on. Thankfully the game provides plenty of tools to help automate these processes, so it’s not difficult from a gameplay perspective so much as it is conceptually challenging.

As Sam progresses across the country, making connections and forging new alliances, new technology becomes available for use through the magic of 3D “chiral” printing technology that allows Sam to fabricate complex structures such as bridges, ziplines or even highways while on the go. As the game evolves and expands, Sam is continuously forced to get more creative in how he gets from Point A to Point B, but there is no one “correct” way to go about any delivery. Much like Kojima’s last entry in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Phantom Pain, Death Stranding gives you an eye-popping amount of multi-functional technology and then leaves it up to you to decide how to use it. When faced with crossing a massive chasm, for example, you may decide to harvest resources and build a bridge to span it. Or you may choose to climb down one side and back up the other. Later in the game, when you open up mobility-enhancing gear like exoskeleton hardware that enhances your speed, you may just want to jump across. The solution to any problem in Death Stranding is only limited by your own imagination. Or, more accurately, your imagination, and every other player you’re connected to.

Death Stranding utilizes a sort of asynchronous, online cooperative gameplay mechanic, one in which you never directly interact with any other player, but where you can interact with the structures they build, just as they can interact with structures that you build. So, when faced with the prospect of having to cross that big chasm, you may just get lucky and see that another player has already cleared a path for you. Alternately, you may be the first to come across that area, in which case you’re laying down a path for everyone who might come after you.

Every time you come across another player’s structures, you can tap the touchpad to give them a few “likes”. These likes play into your overall character level, and help you unlock new perks and benefits as you play, and so you are incentivized not only to build your own helpful structures for others to use, but to show your appreciation for the help you get along the way. The result is an incredibly unique, innovative gameplay mechanic that feeds perfectly into the game’s overarching narrative themes.

YOU, ME, AND BB MAKE THREE

Your greatest asset in the game is not basic technology, or even other players. It is BB-28, a character that defies imagination, is alternately adorable and creepy, and without whom you could never survive the wilderness of Death Stranding. BB, short for Bridge Baby, is a premature baby with quasi-psychic abilities, connected to you through an artificial umbilical cord. He is also your connection to the “other side” of the world, the mysterious dimension responsible for the apocalyptic events that threw the world into turmoil.

This mysterious other dimension is constantly bleeding into our own, bringing with it nightmarish creatures known as Beached Things, or BTs. Mostly undetectable until it’s too late and they’re right on top of you, BB’s link to their dimension works as a sort of early warning system that helps you navigate through the invisible hordes of enemies, using only a directional/doppler indicator highlighting their general direction and distance.

GET READY FOR TIMEFALL

Sam is usually safe from BTs so long as it’s not raining, thankfully. In fact, the world of Death Stranding is peaceful far more often than not, full of beautiful views and breathtaking landscapes ripe for exploration. Unfortunately, there’s Timefall. A byproduct of the death stranding, rain is now a menace known as Timefall, which rapidly accelerates the aging and decay of anything it touches. It also brings with it BTs, who are desperate to pull you into their dimension at all costs.

If they are successful, you’ll be drawn into a boss battle against a much larger, stronger BT and your only options are to run for your life, or use the various weaponry you’ve accrued to take them down and bring an end to the current Timefall. You’re given no shortage of tech with which to fight BTs, especially since so many of your weapons are formulated using Sam’s own bodily excretions (yes, you read that correctly), but given that you’re constantly loaded with mission-related cargo wherever you go, you may find yourself leaving behind most of your arsenal, defenseless and on the run quite a lot.

Constantly being stalked through the pouring rain by enemies you cannot see and can only vaguely sense brings a whole new level of tension to the stealth gameplay Kojima is mostly known for, but it also creates logistical problems for your actual mission beyond survival. As Timefall causes rapid decay of anything it touches, getting caught in a deluge can easily ruin your cargo, causing you to fail your mission. There are ways to mitigate this effect, such as container repair sprays, or Timefall shelters that you or others can place in strategic locations, but you’ll constantly be forced to decide whether to push on with a delivery and risk a fight with a BT or take it slow and risk a lower grade for mission completion.

A MESSAGE OF HOPE

There’s a lot I did not cover in this review, because I genuinely believe it is the kind of game that needs to be seen to be believed and I’d feel horrible about possibly spoiling some of the cooler, more surprising aspects of Death Stranding. Suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of Kojima’s earlier works, particularly the more bizarre and outrageous efforts like Sons of Liberty, this game is probably for you.

Ultimately, Death Stranding is a game about finding faith in the darkness, getting back what we’ve lost, and remembering who we are and why we need each other. It is easily the most ambitious and utterly crazy thing I’ve ever experienced, one that is rich with potential for emergent gameplay and unique, lasting experiences, with a star-studded cast delivering a compelling story that unfolds like a fever dream. Kojima has always had a gift for giving us new experiences before we even realized we wanted them, and Death Stranding is easily the best example of that yet. After 50 hours with this game, my biggest complaint is that I wanted more. A lot more.

Publisher:
Sony Interactive
Developer:
Kojima Productions
Genre:
Action Adventure
Release:
November 8 2019
Final Rating:
10.0


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WetWildWendy
WetWildWendy
10 months ago

10/10 wtf did you play it ?

Blaugrana
Blaugrana
10 months ago
Reply to  WetWildWendy

He did play it otherwise he wouldn’t give it a score, pinhead.

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago
Reply to  Blaugrana

I appreciate you trying to get my back, but I’m quite used to abusive comments. One thing I learned long ago, back when all the hateful comments had to travel through email, is that you’re not really doing your job as a critic if you’re not pissing off *somebody*.

Thanks!

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago
Reply to  WetWildWendy

Yeah, I put over 50 hours into the game. Have you played it? I’d love to hear your actual thoughts, if you have!

Thanks for reading!

Shit on my chest
Shit on my chest
10 months ago

damn how much did Sony pay to these loser reviewers.

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago

As much as I’d like to assume that a user going by the name “Shit on my chest” is acting in good faith, I’m going to have to operate on the assumption that you’re the kind of person who gets off on trying to insult others. That’s sad.

You’re going to have to find someone else to poop on you, I guess is what I’m saying.

Thanks for reading!

KingsGoku✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ
KingsGoku✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵃᶜᶜᵒᵘᶰᵗ
10 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Hartmann

By the time you say this game may not suit everyone, you should never have given a 10/10. you know what your shortcoming is, you know many will hate it, you are here to evaluate the pro fomra game and not put your likes in front.

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago

Hi KingsGoku!

There is no such thing as a universally loved game. If the standard for scoring a game is how many people love it, no game in existence could ever reasonably be given a perfect score. That’s certainly a school of thought, but it’s not one I subscribe to, because I don’t find it to be a useful metric.

Thanks for reading!

The architect
The architect
10 months ago

Please never have children.

Bruno César
Bruno César
10 months ago

Playstation site with a rating of 10 for Playstation games, just to keep the average of a bad game like this.

Ty Harvey
Ty Harvey
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

Giving out perfect scores isn’t something we’re particularly known for, considering the fact we’ve only ever given out 11 of them in the last 20 years. The fact we’re a predominately PlayStation publication has nothing to do with our scoring or review process, nor will we ever rate a game higher simply because it’s exclusive to the PS4.

Blaugrana
Blaugrana
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

Medievil got 8 and Spiderman got 9.5 yet you say this site gives 10 to Playstation games! lol It doesn’t hurt to do a bit of research, idiot.
And since when a game that gets 83 on metacritic is considered bad?! smh

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

Hi Bruno! I’ve been writing for PSXE since 2001. In the span of those 18 years, I’ve given out exactly three perfect scores, over the course of reviewing literally hundreds of games. It’s not a score I give out lightly, and it’s not one I give out unless I think a game has excelled in several categories beyond current game design standards. It has nothing to do with this being a PlayStation exclusive, especially since it isn’t; the game will be on Steam sometime next year.

I’m sorry you’re disappointed in the score, but I stand by it, because the game earned it.

Thanks for reading!
Ryan

Bruno César
Bruno César
10 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Hartmann

I’ll pretend to believe you, just pretend.

Give me the ID where you played all these games, I want to check if you really played?
comment image comment image

The architect
The architect
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

Argumentum ad hominem. I can only hope you gain enough brainpower to understand that views are subjective and respect other peoples ways of appraising them based on their perspective and set of rules. You don’t have to like the game which is based on your taste. Your taste isn’t a universal means of measurement. Remember that.

Bruno César
Bruno César
10 months ago
Reply to  The architect

Hurr durr Argumentum ad hominem, stop being a jerk dude, i don’t care about your opinion, you’re a nobody to me, you can cry in the comments.

The architect
The architect
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

The irony.. The fact that you dont know me is in fact a relief. Hopefully you will mature with time and finally onderstand what I wrote and accept your wrongdoing. (Accepting that your view is just a humble one and not everyone should share it). If not then you will be still of service: you will serve as an example of a crappy person. Indeed, a jerk.

AM
AM
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

Brasileiro e certamente bolsominion.
Tenha vergonha.

Bruno César
Bruno César
10 months ago
Reply to  AM

Vai chorar petista safado?

AM
AM
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

“Chola mais, mimimi”.
Não falha uma, são todos iguais.
Ignorantes, burros e sem qualquer educação.
Passam a vida poluindo a internet.
Vê se cresce, adorador de fascista.

Bruno César
Bruno César
7 months ago
Reply to  AM

Vai chorar? HAHAHAHAHA

AM
AM
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruno César

Tua mãe é que devia chorar, pois depois de te parir esqueceu de dar descarga.

Bruno César
Bruno César
7 months ago
Reply to  AM

Tá nervosinha né, não fica nervosa não kkkkkkkkkk

Rogueagent01
Rogueagent01
10 months ago

I picked it up day one but haven’t gotten around to it yet, but i like what you wrote about it and am looking forward to finally playing it. I’ll probably start it right after Christmas since i’m just to busy up until then.

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago
Reply to  Rogueagent01

It’s definitely a game you’ll want to block of large chunks of time for, for sure. Some missions can take up to an hour all by themselves, depending on your route and how much help you’re getting along the way.

Great game to settle down with during the holidays.

Also, glad to see you back in the comments 🙂 I’ve been away for awhile but I’ve always appreciated your posts!

Rogueagent01
Rogueagent01
9 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Hartmann

I’ve finally gotten around to it and have been enjoying it so far, i’m about halfway across the country just taking my time. The only thing that bugs me at all is the filler content, though it isn’t a big deal as it is skippable.

The architect
The architect
10 months ago

Gained 820k+ likes and going for platinum! from what I understand, once you finish the game you’ll look envious towards people who have yet to play/experience it to discover the story. So Im taking my time with it.

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago
Reply to  The architect

You definitely hit more likes than I did. 820k, holy cow lol!

I think I benefited a lot from other people’s structures. With the exception of re-building most of the highway system, most major junction points were either completed, or at least started, by other players. Most of my structures were one-offs when I took… interesting paths for the purposes of exploration. I think I ended up just short of 100k likes by the end.

I definitely plan on going back through and seeing how much different my experience will a second time through.

Thanks for reading!

The architect
The architect
10 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Hartmann

About the structures.. a lot of them are well placed. But for the life of me I can’t help but feel aggrevated when people put the ziplines on lower ground. I made a whole zip-network in the snow area and had to use extra chiral bandwith because other peoples ziplines were poorly placed. But having said that, it feels very gratifying climbing steep high and steep mountains to place a key zipline. It’s like that meme when Gandalf see’s the fire lit in the mountains, asking for aid of Gondor.

PS I hate Peter Englert! I keep feeding him pizza, but the stars aren’t progressing even after reading his mails in the private room. Argh!

Ryan Hartmann
Ryan Hartmann
10 months ago
Reply to  The architect

It can definitely be frustrating, but this really is an experimental game at heart and I was happy to see people trying to get creative, even when it failed.

The architect
The architect
10 months ago
Reply to  Ryan Hartmann

To be frank, people just need to think a little more about placement. I’ve encountered Unger where he finally gets recognized as the father of BB. Somehow the Sam-Unger-BB interaction was beautiful to watch. Really felt something.