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01st Nov 2019

Death Stranding is unique, bonkers, frustrating, and an absolute must-play

Rory Cashin

death stranding review

Here are our first impressions from one of 2019’s biggest releases.

Holy moly.

If nothing else, you cannot fault Hideo Kojima for his lack of vision.

The guy behind the Metal Gear Solid series – and who was working on a Silent Hill game with horror director Guillermo Del Toro before Konami pulled the plug for reasons unknown – has essentially smushed those two worlds together for his new independent venture, Death Stranding.

You play Sam Porter Bridges (The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus), a sort of delivery man in a post-apocalyptic America that has been torn apart by a devastating event that… is hard to explain. It involves time-forwarding rain-storms, psychic babies in bottles that can see ghosts, and every death causing the cataclysmic aftershocks.

Truth be told, you are thrown in at the deep end right from the get-go, and you are mostly left struggling for something understandable to grab on to.

The plot essentially involves you heading from sort-of Washington D.C. to sort-of California, travelling from the surviving towns and population hubs along the way, in order to re-establish a nationwide connection and start to get what is left of the country back on its feet.

This consists of you taking packages from one place and delivering it to another, attempting to avoid pretty much everything on the way. This includes other humans who want to kill you and take your stuff, and horrific demon creatures that can’t be seen most of the time, who you need to avoid by holding you breath and crawling by as quietly as possible.

Yes, there is an entire button assigned to holding your breath. There is also controls to make sure Sam doesn’t fall over, because his inventory can get very heavy, and walking on uneven terrain can send him tumbling down a cliffside, damaging and potentially destroying his deliveries, forcing him to go back to the last hub and starting the mission all over again.

It can at times be HUGELY frustrating, but never less than fully enthralling. There is a constant push to keep going forward to find out just a little bit more, attempt to understand a little more, hope to crack what initially appears to be a completely impenetrable nut.

This is the work of an auteur with a unique and specific vision, for better or for worse. For every new breathtaking new moment – ranging from a jaw-dropping new landscape, to a spine-tingling new creature – there is are some massive stumbling moments.

For one, subtlety appears to be one of the first things killed off in this apocalypse. Characters are named Die-HardMan and Fragile, for one. And the whole “Make America whole again” overarching plot isn’t exactly low-key.

Plus, when you get right down to it, this is essentially a beautiful, sci-fi Fed-Ex game. You’re delivering stuff, sometimes on foot, sometimes on a motorbike, but always delivering stuff. The main game is made up of the side-missions from most other games.

That being said, it can’t be argued with that this is quite unlike any other game out there. It is bonkers, to the point of alienation, but you won’t be able to put it down. Just one more mission, just one more hub, and then maybe it will all start to make sense…

Death Stranding is released on the PS4 from Friday 8 November.

Clip via PlayStation Europe