When Death Stranding came out on the PS4 in November, I had a few people telling me to get it, that it’d be a game I’d greatly enjoy, but due to various reasons – mostly Final Fantasy VII Remake reasons – I never quite got around to it. And despite having heard such good things, I still felt like I went into the PC version relatively blind. A few weeks ago, the only thing I could probably tell you about the game was that it involved a lot of walking.
Now that I’ve played the game, I can confirm that’s true, but I’d go against the notion that Death Stranding is nothing more than a walking simulator, which has been bandied about quite a lot. It is quite a lot of walking, yes, but there’s so much exploring to do as well. You get given waypoints that you can make your way towards, but you are in control of how you get there. There’s no set path – although there are certainly easier paths to take – and so you can largely roam around however you see fit. Given the size and scale of the world as well, this means you’ll be able to explore the fallen nation of America as you please, and there are so many cool little bits and bobs hidden everywhere for you to find.
One of the best things that I found in the world of Death Stranding, were all down to the online element of the game. Although it could do with a bit of better explanation, you can leave useful equipment for future players, as well as using the equipment that other players have left behind for you. This gives you the option of speeding through a stage using all the ladders and ropes available to you to get directly to the endpoint quickly, or avoid them and try to go it alone. Both have their good points, and although I’ll admit to using other player’s equipment more and more as the game went on, I did still like forging my own path.
As you would expect from a Hideo Kojima game, Death Stranding offers absolutely phenomenal presentation. It has a few recognisable actors from various television shows, and they make the game one of the most brilliantly acted games created. Norman Reedus is well acquainted with post-apocalyptic scenarios, having starred in the Walking Dead series, and it translates over to Kojima’s creation extremely well. It’s probably helped by the fact that the world is extremely well crafted, and above all, absolutely gorgeous. There are some times where you just want to stand still and observe all the scenery around you – even if it may not be the best idea!
The other aspect to mention surrounding presentation is the sound. I don’t know what I was expecting going into this – I did know that CHVRCHES did the main theme, but I figured that was the only ‘big name’, but I was wrong. There are numerous songs that punctuate your adventure through the game, and it’s supplemented by the masterful performance of Ludvig Forssell, who composed the ‘filler’ music that you hear as you progress. There are some extremely impressive tracks in the game, and it’s actually been in my rotation of music since I played it.
Death Stranding originally released as a Playstation exclusive, so while I do occasionally use a controller for gaming, I wanted to give the game a test on keyboard and mouse to see how it worked. It’s a PC port after all, and what with me being an old man now, keyboard and mouse is definitely my comfort zone and it’s where I wanted to stay. I was expecting it to be a bit clunky – generally games that are ported onto the PC often feel a bit crap if you’re not using a controller to make your way around. I’d say Death Stranding hits it about right. Not perfect, with having to hold the mouse buttons down to maintain balance being a particular irritation, but generally it worked quite well. It did feel like some of the additional keys were put in random positions on the keyboard, but again, it wasn’t awful by any stretch.
I do have to admit, although the cutscenes were brilliantly created, there were an awful lot of them. It was, by far, my least favourite part of the game. I’d plod along for about ten minutes, and have to watch a half hour cutscene to progress the plot. I do know about how Hideo Kojima likes to create epic game worlds that are fully fleshed out and have tremendous amounts of lore and information plugged into it, but it was quite offputting and I often let out a groan when one started up. Which was almost always followed by a further, louder groan when there was another one straight afterwards. I’m much keener to play games rather than watch hours of cutscenes that explore things that I could’ve found out via codec call or stumbling upon it in the world.
Given that is the only real negative I can think of though, I have to say that Death Stranding is a fantastic game. It has huge amounts of polish that really suck you in and make you want to keep playing through it, plodding through the world and delivering packages where necessary. It’s ported relatively well over to PC, and genuinely it should be a game that everyone is excited to play, as long as players are aware that you will sit through a significant portion of cut scenes to see it all.