By Tiger Chainsaw
Free from Konami and free to be as weird or elaborate in his creative ways, Hideo Kojima and his company Kojima Productions developed Death Standing while Sony Interactive Entertainment published the work in 2019 for the PlayStation 4. Commonly referred to as a “walking simulator” Death Stranding was the first released video game since Hideo Kojima left the world of Metal Gear behind. Would this game be a massive hit or flop?
My man Kojima is generally regarded as a creative genius for his work in the Metal Gear Solid series. I agree, and that series holds high regard not only from me but from everyone in the community. It’s rare that almost everyone can agree on a franchise, but Metal Gear Solid is a phenomenal series that made Kojima famous. Now, in the rearview mirror, Kojima set his sights on a new experience for video gamers. He unveiled Death Stranding in a bizarre trailer that left everyone with more questions than answers. In classic Kojima fashion, Death Stranding would be intertwined with heavy elements, mysterious characters, and an overall in-depth sometimes confusing plot.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
Set in the not too distant future, America is finished, well the America that we know. States no longer exist, instead replaced by small communities, cities, and hermits. The large communities and states that we once knew have been destroyed after “Beached Things” commonly referred to as “BTs” began invading the land of the living. BTs are extensions from the afterlife, invisible to most but felt by all. When BTs congregate, they cause rainstorms called “Time falls” where the rain ages anything it touches dramatically, including plants, animals, and humans. Get caught unprotected in a time fall, and you will age a few decades, if not die.
BTs also can cause massive explosions called voidouts that have destroyed most of the population in the world. When someone dies, they can turn into a BT if not incinerated properly. Humans still live on, and these humans need supplies to keep surviving. The creation of “porters” who are essentially high-end mailmen have started delivering packages and important items to people across the land. Porters need protection from BTs so they are connected to fetuses who have been removed from their dead mother’s wombs. The fetuses have a connection to both death and the living world, so they can sense the BTs and help point them out to porters through a highly advanced robotic extension. Starting to get crazy, right?
Meet Sam Porter Bridges, a freelance porter who doesn’t care much for people or America. He is a “repatriate” who can be killed in the “real world” and find his way back to his body using someone else’s beach to revive himself. A beach is considered the gateway to and from the afterlife, just a little FYI. He starts to work with Bridges, a huge corporation focused on rebuilding America by connecting the remaining cities to the UCA network where information can be shared. Sam develops a bond with his bridge baby, who saved him from a few BTs. The BB “bridge baby” was supposed to be decommissioned from service and incinerated, but Sam decides against it and makes the BB that he names Lou his personal BB.
Sam continues connecting cities across America with the end goal of reaching the West Coast to rescue Amelie, who is the President’s daughter and being held captive by a terrorist organization. The President had cancer, but her dying wish was to have Sam rescue Amelie. During this journey of connecting cities, Sam meets several strange characters who all seem shady and have agendas of their own. Slowly, Sam begins to trust them as they work together to connect more cities.
The final chapter of the game reveals a lot of heavy elements and confusing info so let me just dump some of it on you. The president was Sam’s adoptive mother named Bridget, but Bridget and Amelie are the same person. Amelie only exists in the gateway of the afterlife and can appear in holograms. Bridget was the body to Amelie, but because she lived in the real world, her body aged. Eventually, Bridget started telling people that Amelie was her daughter. Sam was originally a bridge baby, and his father Clifford Unger tried to rescue him from the labs before being killed. Sam too, was also killed but he was revived on the beach by Amelie and sent back to the real world and raised by Bridget. That’s also why he is the only person that can find Amelie’s beach and why he has such a strong power as a repatriate.
Amelie is revealed to be an EE, which stands for extinction entity. These EEs bring about a mass extension to Earth throughout time, and so far there have been five extensions. Sam’s team convinces him to go to Amelie’s beach and stop her from causing a mass extension, which triggered the BTs. He is successful in his attempt to sway her mind Earth is saved. Back in the real world, Lou dies, and Sam takes one last order to incinerate the body. He breaks open the glass container and tries to revive Lou in a desperate attempt. The premature baby comes back to life, and in the end, it’s revealed that Lou stands for Louise.
I skipped over some plot details, but this should at least give you the gist of what happened in Death Stranding. To fully discuss or write up the plot to any Hideo Kojima game would take hours, and it’s already confusing as it is.
I can sum up Death Stranding very simply. It’s an extremely interesting story filled with mysterious characters who keep your attention, but the gameplay is simply not fun. Video games are all about fun, and to me, Death Stranding missed the mark on the fun factor. Essentially, as Sam, you take on an order and deliver packages to a remote location in the area. You’ll walk the majority of the deliveries, which can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. During your walk, you’ll face environmental obstacles like rivers or mountains while avoiding Mules (a terrorist organization set on stealing cargo) and BTs.
The game gets better the longer you play, but the first few missions you feel helpless when facing BTs. Eventually, you’ll be able to create weapons to help combat them like guns, grenades, and decoys, but even facing BTs in combat it’s more of sneaking around going undetected while throwing the occasional piss or shit grenade. Literally, they made grenades out of Sam’s shit or piss from the toilet because whatever is in his body the BTs don’t like.
There’s a nice hub for you to rest, and I enjoyed the routine of showering, using the bathroom, and chugging a Monster Energy Drink before setting off on my next run. I played the game on normal but only failed one or two times. The best sequences from Death Stranding were the war zones that happen when Sam gets sucked into a supercell to face off with Clifford Unger who is searching for a BB. You’ll land in warzones like World War I, World War II, and Vietnam, and all the sequences are detailed with gore, soldiers dying, and explosions. It makes for great chaos, and I wish there was more of that action in Death Stranding than the slow-paced deliveries.
Again, the story and characters are fantastic, but the gameplay just didn’t do it for me. I’m the biggest fan of Hideo Kojima, but I need to be unbias in my review. He’s a creative genius, but I think Death Stranding would have served better as a television show. The final act of the game is a weird sequence of boss battles, credits, cutscenes, and explanations of what you just did. It took way too long. I thought I was going to beat the game on a Friday after taking down what I thought was the final boss, but it turns out I still had close to eight hours of gameplay/credits left.
I think Kojima Productions did a great job implementing their style of gameplay. Let’s be clear on that, the game is great for gamers who prefer the mundane routine of the same task, and there’s plenty of ways to plot your delivery or useful devices to use, but I just personally didn’t care for that. You may love this game, and that’s fine if that’s your style. I think it was a game that was better served as another creative element like a TV show.
Watching the trailer when it was released I was so excited for the mystery that was Death Stranding. When the game was released I remembered people and reviewers being a bit confused about it, but I wanted to give it a shot myself. I’m glad I did, I think it’s a great story. It took me a few days to get into the game, but once I got my deliveries down I chugged through the game. Hideo Kojima is still my boy, even if this game didn’t do it for me.
A brilliant story filled with mysterious characters is run down by boring gameplay and repetitive delivery quests. It’s a style that I don’t care for, but that’s not to say that the user experience won’t change for you. I enjoyed learning everything about the well-written characters but the slow-paced nature of the game and feeling of loneliness stopped me from truly enjoying Death Stranding.
Death Stranding scores a 7.2 out of 10.
Do you remember when Death Stranding first came out? What did you think of Kojima’s first game post-Konami? Did the plot confuse you? What did you think of the characters? Did you have a favorite delivery? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.
If you’d like to own a copy of Death Stranding you can purchase a brand new copy of it for the PS4 for $25 on eBay.