Death Stranding marks the first major release for Kojima Productions, an independent studio headed by Hideo Kojima, and makes its way to PC following an exclusive stint on the PlayStation 4. With a star studded cast & One of Sony Studios best game engines, has the creative freedom offered to Kojima delivered something special? Let’s find out.
In the not too distant future humanity is living fractured and clustered together in small cities disconnected from each other due to the Death Stranding, an extinction event that has blurred the lines between the living & the dead in our world. You play as Sam Bridges, a renowned porter, who embarks on a journey through the perilous environments to reconnect our fractured communities one delivery at a time.
Whilst the story is something that is always going to subjective due to the themes it covers, which I find to be worth the journey here, there’s no denying the production value is top notch for it. The likes of Norman Reedus, Lindsey Wagner and Mads Mikkelson headline a star studded cast that each plays their part superbly. The motion capturing, voice acting & graphical fidelity really help to bring Kojima’s vision to the screen.
Luckily though you aren’t necessarily forced to go with the flow as there are plenty of other deliveries you can do in between story sections, with the opening area acting as a sort of tutorial to get you used to the games systems in the first few hours. No multiplayer is offered, but playing online connects you to others and allows their structures, vehicles and deliveries to appear in your game when chiral stations are connected. You can play offline too for a purely singular experience, though this can be tougher, the choice is yours how you want to experience the game.
As you would expect of a game running on the Decima engine from Guerilla Games, Death Stranding can look incredible at almost any moment – though you’ll need a DX12 compatible system on PC. Whilst the environments can feel a little lonesome due to the games apocalyptical nature, there’s no denying the beautiful vistas on show as the environments change with your journey westward. Effects are also suitably high quality including weather, the timefall with its heavy rain & plants growing and dying all around you is the standout, and there’s plenty more waiting to showcase itself later in the game. As noted previously, the character models are really high quality too, with equipment & locations still carrying that recognisable Kojima game styling in a subtle way this time.
On Ps4 Pro we had checkerboard 4K at 30fps, but on PC you can obviously go much higher than those. The overall outlook of the game at max settings is an improvement over Ps4, but not near the hyperbolic revelatory difference as noted by some outlets. Mainly the improvements come from resolution and framerate. On my system (R51600/16GB/RX5700XT) 4K/60 at max settings was possible with some frame drops here and there, most noticeable in cutscenes, which looked more of an improvement over the Pro checkerboard than expected. The only real downside for me was the lack of 3840×1620 support in-game with regards to 21:9, forcing me to do a hex edit to get that resolution as the game topped out at an odd 3660×1440.
Reconnecting America is the goal, but its the journey that is important too. You could boil the game down to going from A to B doing deliveries and leave it at that, but that would be doing the game a disservice. There’s much more to the environmental traversal, as you have to pick your route carefully and balance your cargo to ensure minimal damage for a better rating. There’s plenty of tools to help with that too from climbing ropes to ladders, you’ll want a ladder on you at all times, with wearable tech making an appearance as you go. Devices like power gloves & skeletons allow you to augment Sam towards having faster traversal, better uphill climbing or even more stability & weight capacity to carry bigger loads – you even get to use trucks and bikes which certainly help for the big deliveries when the roads are built.
It’s not all just doing deliveries tho, as you’ll occasionally have to sneak around to survive due to Mules & BT’s. Mules are pretty much porters turned pirate. When you enter their turf, a scanner will ping your cargo and the mules will hunt you down for it until you leave their territory. BT;s on the other hand are invisible otherworldly entities that can only been seen using an odradeck scanner. You’ll need to be cautious around these at first, crouching and hold your breath as much as possible, to ensure you aren’t noticed as it could lead to a voidout. Timefall causes your cargo & equipment to rust as well, so you need to balance that caution with speed before everything you’re carrying degrades. As you progress in the game weapons are unlocked to make these encounters easier, but there’s also no stopping you still sneaking around – unless it’s a boss battle of course.
To be frank, Death Stranding is one of the finest games I have played in years. The story, characters, game world, gameplay loop and graphics, pretty much every aspect of it, had me hooked from the start. The port to PC has been handled pretty well with the framerate & ultrawide options offering a tangible upgrade, though not much else saw a boost, and the game is likely to be unique amongst your steam library. A must play game, on PC or console.
One of the generations best games if it clicks with you. A pompous UPS simulator if it doesn’t. Clicked with me.