Death Stranding was originally released to the PS4/Pro back in 2019, with a PC release the following year that offered not much new aside from a little visual boost and some added cosmetics, before finally being delivered to PlayStation 5 courtesy of this Director’s Cut. Worth heading out into the wilds to reconnect America? Let’s find out.
Note: Some aspects of our previous review have been included and updated accordingly.
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.
There’s surprisingly a fair chunk of additional stuff added beyond the usual weapons & gear, that returning porters will appreciate in particular, which can help with making those deliveries. New buildable structures like the catapult for example can fire off your cargo into the distance for you to collect a little closer to the destination, tho new things aren’t all helpful as Mules can now bunker down with turrets to block your path – some of the new combat abilities and weapons, or buildable structures, may help with that kinda nuisance. Building the new vehicle boost ramp and nailing some air moves on the trike before landing in a Mule base is fun for a little while.
Other than that there’s some added missions, such as the all new Ruined Factory that was more fleshed out than expected, and new ways to get some R&R, the buildable racetrack near the Timefall Farm is a treat alongside the firing range. Once done with the game there is the added bonus of replaying the boss battles (referred to as Nightmare Battles), to go along with the previous Cliff’s Nightmares of War, now scored and uploaded to leaderboards for extra bragging rights.
As always with the PS5, the Dualsense support is one of the standouts. Haptics tend to feel similar to something like Returnal, the patter of rain and rough terrain alongside weapon fire feel good – but its the adaptive triggers that seal the deal for me. I tend to carry a lot and the heavy loads come through on the triggers as they each bob up & down, balancing can be tough too as there’s more resistance the more weight you carry. If none of that’s your bag then the game offers a robust enough Keyboard & Mouse support, fully customisable in the games settings menu for a welcomed surprise.
The game doesn’t really carry a ‘remaster’ moniker, but that still doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any improvements over the previous gen release. It already looked fantastic really, and still does when you factor in the minor improvements on PC too, so not much has gone into improving most of the presentation that we haven’t seen before. There are some tweaks, what looks to be better draw distance/LOD and a noticeable uptick in the games water rendering, but most improvements come from increased resolution, framerate and the addition of 3D audio.
This cut offers a few ways to play depending on your preference. Fidelity mode offers full 4K and stays mostly at 60fps, performance mode drops the resolution but locks up the framerate. For me the highlight is the ultrawide mode as it locks to 60fps pretty much and expands out to the 21:9 aspect ratio. Sure there’s black borders like a movie, but the wider aspect ratio really brings out the beautiful vista’s of the game – cutscenes were also reshot to take advantage of this. When you put it all together – 21:9, 4K, 60fps, HDR and some minor visual improvements, probably makes the Director’s Cut the best way to play. Almost forgot to mention the insane 2-3 second loading times.
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.
Death Stranding was one of the best games to release last gen for me, the PC port was worth the performance boost, and now the Director’s Cut on PS5 gives me yet another reason to lace up the boots & get hauling that cargo across those beautiful landscapes. Granted there’s not a big upgrade visually, glorious ultrawide & insane loadings times aside, or major expansion included – but there’s plenty of new equipment with some new areas that returning porters will certainly appreciate, and that £5 upgrade cost is a steal! Newcomers will find something quite unique here too and can end up hooked on the delivery loop if it clicks, seeing if the job of a post apocalyptic courier is the life for you is also a snip at £40. Personally can’t complain that one of my favourite games is better than ever on PlayStation 5.
As inconsequential, or must have, as any Directors Cut you’ve mulled over before, or maybe as simple as third time’s a charm for Kojima’s post apocalyptic UPS simulator.