The Wonderful Absurdity of Death Stranding

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Liam Ferguson looks into what makes Death Stranding so uniquely special

Hideo Kojima is one of the only developers that many would consider to be an auteur in his field. From the creative and genre-defying Metal Gear series to the utterly devastating cancellation of Silent Hills, his work is widely praised within the industry. After leaving Konami and forming his own studio with Kojima Productions, he had little to prove, yet still excelled with Death Stranding, a game that is absolutely not for everyone, but for those that it hits for, it leaves a long lasting impression.

For those unaware, the basic premise of Death Stranding is that Sam (a fully motion captured Norman Reedus) is tasked with making deliveries across a post-apocalyptic United States in order to rebuild the country under the unified Chiral Network. The primary form of gameplay consists of walking around the massive map, ensuring that you don’t trip and damage your cargo. 

The game is simultaneously the most chill and most stressful experience. Take on too much cargo and you will have to hold the triggers on your controller constantly to regain balance. There are a plethora of moments where the player is peacefully walking or driving along a luscious location with a clear path listening to the beautiful soundtrack that can be rudely interrupted by a storm of timefall, the acidic rain that plagues this world. Timefall storms can destroy the player’s precious cargo and force you to quickly find a source of shelter to wait it out. 

You may also be interrupted by the threatening presence of MULE’s, who are essentially a group of raiders that have laid the world with outposts and traps. This is where the game’s combat comes in, it’s rather rudimentary and mostly involves swinging your fists or cargo at an enemy while often employing terrifying stealth mechanics to try and avoid being outnumbered. These stealth segments are brought up to the 11th degree when facing BT’s, ghost-like creatures that occupy certain parts of the world and thrive in timefall. Holding your breath and cradling BB, the baby that Sam carries around in a tube for story-reasons, makes for some extremely tense horror-sequences, leaving you wishing Silent Hills wasn’t canned even more. 

Death Stranding is an odd marvel. Within the span of twenty minutes Sam can go from delivering a pizza up a mountain without destroying it to hurling grenades made out of his own excrement at the most fowl looking giant creature in a boss-fight scenario. The world is gorgeous, whether you are walking in broad daylight, trying to stealth your way through a spot filled with BT’s or traversing a snowy mountainous plain. I haven’t even mentioned the game’s wacky array of characters played by actors like Lea Seydoux, Mads Mikkelsen or Conan O’Brien. It is not beating the walking simulator allegations, but if that is up your alley I would highly suggest giving it a try.