Jonah Schuhart, Contributing Writer
Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima is one of the only true-blue, individual video game artists with near-full control over their projects. And after being fired by his original publishing company, Konami, Kojima’s weirdest project yet was picked up by Sony.
Death Stranding, a game about being a glorified mailman, doesn’t have you play as your average delivery guy. This one is played by Norman Reedus of all people, and he spends nearly all 20 hours of the game with a pickled human fetus strapped to his chest in case any ghosts are around.
Death Stranding stars Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges, a loner delivery guy moving packages from city to city in the post-apocalyptic landscape of the United States. In this dark future, humanity discovered the secret behind the afterlife and used this knowledge to revolutionize their technology.
But it also changed the world for the worst in an apocalyptic event called “The Death Stranding.” Rain now rapidly ages everything it touches, and phantoms called BTs roam the wastes to prey on any unsuspecting mortal travelers.
The only way Bridges can see BTs is by linking himself to a Bridge Baby, one of the aforementioned pickled fetuses. To make things worse, corpses no longer decay and instead cause “voidouts,” leaving nothing but a crater for miles around.
“Death Stranding is a polished and unique gaming experience that is both completely single-player, yet inherently cooperative.” —Jonah Schuhart
In this harsh and disconnected world ravaged by the supernatural, Bridges is given a heavy task by the remnants of the U.S. government. He must march across the continent, delivering important parcels and connecting cities to the “Chiral Network,” a spiritual internet that would serve to reunite the near-dead America and save humanity.
The plot deals heavily with themes of isolationism and the inherent relationships shared by all humans.
The story is told in classic Kojima fashion; it’s absurd with an underlying message and spirit that makes the genius of the whole thing undeniable.
All of these themes fold perfectly into the gameplay, which on the surface sounds terribly boring. It’s a game about walking from point A to point B without falling over before watching a 25-minute cutscene.
This would be a bad thing if it wasn’t already par for the Kojima course or if the cutscenes weren’t fabulously written, acted and directed with a star-studded cast.
And walking from point A to point B is actually really fun. The open world is beautifully designed, and players will find themselves putting real, conscious effort into finding the most efficient route between locations.
In addition, Bridges has the ability to erect structures around the open world that appear in other players’ games. These structures range from simple ladders and climbing ropes that make navigating America’s harsh new terrain more bearable, to watchtowers and entire highway systems.
Having these structures appear in games really drives home those themes of interconnectivity because the player is helping both themselves and others with every structure they place. Whether players like it or not, they are connected.
Structures are important for safely navigating the open world. The player can easily lose balance when delivering a package, especially if it’s a large load, and any fall can ruin perfectly good cargo.
It doesn’t help that the players are already dodging cargo-damaging rainfall, near-invisible BTs and mail-crazy terrorists. So, for God’s sake, build structures to help your fellow man, and don’t forget to mash the in-game “like” button whenever you are helped by someone else’s.
Death Stranding is a polished and unique gaming experience that is both completely single-player, yet inherently cooperative. The story tells this absurd, twisting plot that defies expectations and makes the player question the game’s reality while also being genuine and heartfelt.
Kojima did not let his fans down with this project. He proved, once again, that he is fully capable of pushing the boundaries of gaming. No other game on the planet is even close to being like Death Stranding, and few ever reach the bar it sets in terms of quality.
This review cannot even scratch the surface of what Death Stranding has to offer. So please, if it interests you in the slightest, play this game. It deserves your time.