Death Stranding – ps4

The definitive Death Stranding review by Sam Kevern.
Rental purchased from Boomerang Rentals.
Motivation and support by Elouise Kevern.
Written by Sam Kevern.
Review Directed by Sam Kevern.
A Sam Kevern production.
Thanks to Alex and Gary.
Special thanks to Porters: FXL1F3, XT21PO0, KingKobble, PickleNuckle & YOU.

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I think I’ve made my point about what you can expect from Death Stranding going in. Even when you remove it from the extremely surreal marketing build up, the actual game itself is such an auteuristic experience. You can expect at least 3 credit sequences before the final end credits roll. I’ve seen many awards lavished on Death Stranding and even a few GOTY announcements for it but after 60hours of gameplay I can now confirm it’s actually 2 separate games and 1 film with only 1 of those deserving of any award. Don’t expect a huge deep dive into life and the nature of death, this is pure Kojima and if you’re on the fence this should hopefully help push you off it.

Death Stranding – Stunning Action Oddity- ps4

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The primary loop of Death Stranding is to collect items, setup your gear, plan out a route and hope that you don’t bump into any monsters or terrorists along the way. A simple premise but one that when it works just clicks fantastically. There are story focused missions that send the player into bleak ruins to retrieve items and slogs through incredibly stunning vistas. Everything is polished to a ridiculous standard and although the frame-rate can drop a little from time to time, what has been modeled here is visually staggering. The motion captured acting and the animations for every little idea is all well and good but the actual landscape to explore is a thing of beauty.

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The amount of extra content and collectibles is absolutely staggering and every place to visit has a luscious extravagant back story and side quest. The online component doesn’t require PSN either and is similar to From Software games in that other players in your instance will share items, weapons and any structures they’ve built. You can be trekking for a while and the travel back once connected to the network becomes so much nicer because everyone works together to make it a better experience. There’s some real fun to be made in the world travelling out to smash a terrorist camp and stealing all their loot to build a new highway, safe in the knowledge that other players will use it and send likes to you. A currency that exists simply to level you up and nothing else.

9/10 – Stranding tall

Death Stranding – The Movie – ps4

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There are so many cutscenes in Death Stranding that you could argue it’s more of a film with interactive elements than a video game. If you thought Metal Gear Solid games were thick with exposition you’ve not seen anything yet. There’s just no way not to look at the many in-game rendered scenes and wonder if they should have been pre-rendered. It’s worth noting that these could be patched and changed down the line. When you look at the cast list and the nominations for performances at various video game awards it’s no surprise that this film has moments in it that are just brilliant. It’s just a shame they’re occasional moments in a movie that’s 3 times longer than it needs to be.

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There are some insanely clever and beautiful moments to be had and the acting prowess really adds a lot of weight to the mostly nonsense dialogue. The problem is you don’t simply get a single powerful clever moment in Death Stranding. You can expect to re-watch each of those scenes at least 3 more times from various character’s perspectives and it really doesn’t add anything special, it just feels overly bloated throughout. Far too often the story will stretch itself thin explaining nonsense world building and exposition for the sake of it. Busying itself with essays on nonsense about umbilical cords and extinction, constantly detracting itself from an interesting look into the afterlife and a simple love story. There’s an awful lot of 2001: A Space Odyssey to be had here but only if each scene was repeated 5 times and someone talked over it about how the block’s material was the most important aspect of it.

5/10 – Stranding for too long

Death Stranding – The Bloated Jank – ps4

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It’s ironic that Death Stranding features so many whales because the game is incredibly bloated and heavy. A huge organically changing landscape that can’t be explored before the story wants you to, if you do you’ll just find empty access points and nobody home or responding. The theme of connecting everyone is only reserved for some very specific characters and a lot of the extra content being either marketing for other products or nonsense text that just isn’t worth the time. Many missions feel added to drag the story length and plenty of the characters seem self aware of how much of a faff their causing or how ridiculous the request can be. Death Stranding can be incredibly frustrating when it uses a system where any accidental death of an NPC porter or terrorist has to be taken to the nearest incinerator (usually a 20 minute hike through instant game-over causing areas)

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There are many moments in Death Stranding where you’ll try to stop Sam or stop a vehicle and the controls simply break. The character or vehicle goes crazy for a moment and he’ll crash into a wall or the vehicle will simply get stuck for the 40th time on a tiny rock. There will be plenty of moments of just a “janky feeling” from the physics where you’ll be happily navigating the terrain one minute and falling to your death because of a misplaced hop the next. All of the frustration is compounded by the cutscenes for everything. Want to hop out a car to pick up an item found on the floor? Enjoy the getting out clip, the walking past it, walking back, picking it up, back to car, the getting in clip and then the engine starting clip. I’ve never skipped more scenes and still felt like the game never ends. Each new main story hub will guarantee another 3 more missions to smaller less important shelters. Even when the story is focused on a ticking clock issue, you’ll still need to rush to get that fossil to another shelter because of ‘reasons’.

2/10 – Stranding to death

Death Stranding – ps4

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When the roller coaster ends you’re left surprised and a little disappointed. Death Stranding is a good game at its core and there are some really incredibly tense moments that naturally occur. Silently holding your breath trying to avoid the barely seen BTs while your BB cries out. These moments instill a feeling of dread that horror games have missed for years. Thing is Death Stranding is also a crazy action game where you’ll be using an assault rifle to shoot out ghosts in bombed out dreamscapes of WW2 and using inventory as a weapon to clobber a terrorist and trying desperately not to kill anyone or be killed in the process.

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Death Stranding at its best is insanely unique madness. Without spoiling anything the game has a boss that’s akin to Attack on Titan, one that’s a complete clone of Fight Night Round 4 (complete with health and block meters) and one which is a fight with a monster that is visually staggering to behold. Death Stranding at its worst is getting caught in tar because another BT slightly grazed your van, blew up the cargo and you’ll need to reset back 20 minutes prior to start all over again. Only this time you’ll get caught on a rock and be instantly killed by something else. Death Stranding is all of these things. For better or worse, it is a step into the mindset of an auteur with no restraints. It has genuine moments of unique brilliance and a core loop that’s enjoyable but the bloated nature of the story and the janky issues means you’ll likely be Stranded in the mess.

5/10 –  A Kojima Productions roller coaster



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