Tuesday 25 February 2020

Death Stranding ★★★★★

Death Stranding is the latest game from legendary creator Hideo Kojima, and his first game since (not so amicably) parting ways from Konami. He now runs Kojima productions and was funded mostly by Sony to create the next big thing in the gaming world. What he ended up creating is something very unique and thrilling to play, and it’s been all over social media and entertainment news since its release.

In ‘Death Stranding’ you play as Sam Bridges (Norman Reedus) trying to reconnect a barren post-apocalyptic America by something seemingly simple - delivering packages. At first glance, you may well believe that ‘Death Stranding’ is a walking simulator, but this honestly does not do the game justice. For the years leading up to release, trailers and gameplay that were shown have been very cryptic, and we really didn't know what to expect when sitting down to finally play it.

It is so much more than just walking through a barren world, despite what impression you might have got from the trailers. There is an incredible amount to think about as you progress through the game, such as your BB (a baby attached to you that senses otherworldly creatures trying to kill you – yep, this is a Kojima game alright) to the quality of your equipment that you will need to traverse the environment and be successful in your task.

These from simple ladders and climbing ropes to later on much more advanced vehicles and building things like roads.  This is where ‘Death Stranding’ becomes really compelling as you live in a sort of shared world with all these different people playing the game building structures in the world to help each other.

You might discover warning signs that say enemies are around, or maybe someone's zip line that you can use to get across the environment more easily.  There is a mechanic where the rain (time fall) erodes things over time, meaning that there needs to be this constant flow of new people building structures or repairing them. It keeps things fresh and the environment is in a constant state of flux – something I haven’t really seen before in a gaming world but it’s a brilliant concept that works really well.

The story is typically Kojima (read: really weird). Tt stars some pretty notable celebrities as voice actors and likenesses from Mad Mikkelson to Norman Reedus, who put on stellar performances over the 50 hours or so that it takes to complete the main story. I felt the storytelling was excellent, if not a little too obvious at times, with a real intrigue to it. Kojima has created a world that I just loved existing in, and it hits all marks for me from both to the art design to the impeccable and much-appreciated soundtrack, featuring a whole host of perfectly fitting songs.

I wouldn’t say ‘Death Stranding’ is for everyone though, and you could say it’s perhaps a little Marmite. The combat feels similar to Kojima’s ‘Metal Gear Solid’ series but there is more emphasis on running from these situations, and although you do have combat abilities (ever wanted to make grenades out of your own bodily fluids?) there was rarely a time where I wanted to fight. It really isn't the games main strength, and it’s the other aspects that you should be focusing on.

If you go into the game expecting another action game such as ‘Metal Gear Solid’ then you might be a little disappointed. Kojima has crafted a world and game, not like anything that has been before it, so this one is for the gamers that want experimental play – an experience where barriers and broken down and new limits are reached, not something similar to those games before it.

‘Death Stranding’ does have a walking simulator feel to it but it's the most absorbing and intriguing one I have ever played. The gameplay and mechanics roll out over time and create a carrot on a stick effect of wondering how it will open up next. Not everyone will enjoy it, but I think everyone should at least give it a chance as it’s one of the best games to come out of this generation.

Hannah Read

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