Kojima’s new world-changing genre-creating society-saving phenomenon finally released and, as you’ve noticed in your day-to-day life, the Strand philosophy has taken hold of the world and all of its people and life as we know it has completely changed because of it. This is a brave new world we’re facing thanks to Hideo “The New Messiah” Kojima, but were we truly prepared for it? After my just about 72 hours to complete it, I think it’s finally time to talk about it. This will be one of my longest and most complicated to write (as I’m really going to avoid both story and gameplay spoilers as best as I can) reviews ever, so please understand if I repeat myself, jump around too much, or say terms then explain them way later instead of right then.
As someone who has never been a huge fan of Kojima, aside his very Japanese personality and awkwardness – and who has even been annoyed by how he steals all the credit for MGS when it was really written almost entirely by Tomokazu Fukushima, akin to Komachi pretending he writes Toaru Kagaku no Railgun – I was still excited to see what his really insane and weird creative side would bring with him basically doing something on his own for once and without much holding him back at all. Something I can say right off the bat is that this serves you exactly that from start to finish, this is the most unfiltered sincere Kojima you’ve ever seen. All of his creativity, his unique ideas, his love of hard-focus on themes, all of Kojima is here in full display like never before and being presented in a far more direct “Kojima actually wrote this and designed this on his own” way. Does it work, does it all pay off as one of the best games of our time and the start of a new “Strand” genre? Or does it deserve the hate all the journos and reviewers are giving it?
Well, as you’d expect, everything kind of ties together so it’s hard to pull it apart to discuss piecemeal or at all really because everything is so tightly connected – making reviewing it pretty damn hard. Also, I don’t want to spoil anything including certain gameplay elements and things you can make or build later on, so I might be “mistaken” about certain things like missing aspects of traversal that I leave out or talk like don’t exist. This is on purpose to keep from spoiling stuff I personally found really cool to come across. And of course it means I can’t really talk about the plot much at all because it’s Kojima so saying almost anything spoils so much.
I’m gonna go through my sizable list of problems with the game first. The vast majority of these are just fucking annoying rather than something I could outright say are BAD. It’ll make more sense as I go on. I want to kinda focus on them mostly because the good things are so hard to discuss without spoiling them.
When you try to do ANYTHING in this game there are 8 billion fucking cutscenes, I don’t mean story ones, and they’re all the same exact ones. For example; to take a shower (so already having sat through 3 cutscenes just to enter the private room) you have literally 5 separate identical cutscenes each time you do it. Reedus standing up to get in. Reedus turning it on. Reedus in it. The grenades you got from it being shown. Reedus getting out. It’s not like anything is different or anything, it’s literally the same clips. Even pissing and shitting. To just check on BB takes way too long to zoom in on him. To deliver cargo you have to go to the computer, load it up, turn it all in (in the clunky menu system that also requires way more work than it should), watch a cutscene of Reedus putting it on the thing, watch the thing take it away, watch hologram-man show up, listen to him say the same 2 throwaway lines of just “good job” basically, have him disappear, have the stats pop up with like 8 pages of slow (even when skipping) stats, and finally the game continues. To recycle materials you have to do almost all of that too. To take an order you have to do the same and watch him stand up with his cargo.
To put cargo down – which you often do in the actiony bits of the game (and should be done automatically, but it isn’t), you also have to sit through a 3 second or so scene of him putting whatever down like the 8 rifles you’ve run out of ammo on. It’s just an endless cycle of pointless identical reused scenes. I made a clip for twitter which I can’t get to work on here but it was from the moment I got on the elevator to the Private Room, doing everything you’d typically want to do in there (not any of the bonus like screwing around in the mirror or even reading mails or anything, just the basics) and then kept going up until the elevator out of the Private Room was done while SKIPPING ALL CUTSCENES AS SOON AS IT LETS YOU FOR EACH ONE. It STILL took over 2 minutes and I had to skip about 30 cutscenes. WITH the scenes it took about 12 minutes. Absolutely goddamn ridiculous especially in a game this lengthy and when VERY VERY VERY rarely these scenes MIGHT have something new if you don’t wait juuuuust long enough to make sure it doesn’t.
Another negative is the lack of music 90% of the game. Sure, the moments it comes in are really cinematic and well timed, but those moments are extremely rare. Worse, they stop 30 seconds later half the time because so many things can make the music stop itself even as simple as falling down or using a console or going remotely near a BT zone. I understand his idea was to further the feeling of isolation, but when in MGS4 a fucking “super spy super soldier” in the middle of a middle east warfield can play Miku on his fucking iPod I think a delivery guy in this world where they can teleport a goddamn bridge into the middle of nowhere should have a fucking music player of some sort. You end up playing music or putting videos on your phone and listening to that instead of the game audio at all, missing out on the actually pretty great sound design of the game and any immersiveness. When you’re going through BT areas or traversing specific difficult areas? I get it. When you’re first going through an area? Again, sure.
But when you’re going back and forth for the 12th time over the same land, through the same enemies, with the same cargo, to the same place, over the same bridges and same paths? Nothing is going on. Nothing. I need music, I need something. If there was no backtracking, no other deliveries other than story ones pushing you ever-onward – it could work – but when doing deliveries back and forth all over the place to places you’ve been already for TENS OF HOURS it’s ridiculous to expect it not to be a little TOO bland when there isn’t even a nice tune to listen to on the way. It also kind of forced me to pull myself out of the game mentally – when you’ve got nothing there you have to find other things, so you turn on some music, a podcast, or an audio book. I went through all 3 of those to keep it mixed up during my many hours playing, most of which was doing optional content with nothing going on. Basically when you turn it into American Truck Simulator (though not always in a truck) you need to play it how you play that, which I don’t dislike but I do feel it kind of did a disservice to the game at times to not at least have a music player of some kind on Reedus.
Another issue; nearly every antagonistic force at play – I mean the GAMEPLAY aspect, not in terms of story/characters/lore. Each and every one just isn’t a fun thing to encounter. MULEs early on are easy enough to deal with, but then they become insane blocking magicians who you can’t hurt without slamming with cargo or running the fuck over in a vehicle (which can rarely kill them…which means carrying a body all the way to the incinerator which is surrounded by a billion BTs), and, more importantly, they start showing up in huge numbers. Eventually you get weapons to dispatch them but none really work until the late game, even the bolo gun is complete ass with enemies getting up within a minute of its use on them. When you get the non-lethal rifle you finally have a weapon to use…but the best method is still just running them over or throwing cargo in their face. The absolute best way to deal with them is just bash them with ladders and then use their own cargo to bash the rest, it’s a one hit K.O. every time. You can also make them stay knocked out for a good while if you take out the whole camp and open it to other porters. They are sometimes IMPOSSIBLE to avoid – if you are in their huge areas (shown on the map at least) they scan it regularly and the moment they do you are identified immediately and they all start chasing you right away and are all professional Olympian javelin tossers with their shock sticks. It’s ridiculous, even in a vehicle they inevitably shock it sometimes and make it stop working for 30 seconds. The terrorists are just a lazy reskin of MULEs that happen to shoot you a lot more. I mean the map even just calls them MULEs still, you only realize they’re terrorists because they wear different colors than MULEs, shoot more, and rare optional deliveries sometimes have you steal from them and call them terrorists in the description.
BTs are a different story in a lot of ways, mostly worse though. BT areas, just like the MULE ones, are things Kojima claimed you could pass on entirely if you went a different way. This isn’t true early on at all, and later it’s still very difficult a lot of the time. Invisible walls make it impossible in the starting region – I’ve tried for hours just to see if it was true as well as because FUCK BT areas. They are always in the same place and they are always unavoidable, the story forces you through them but also they never go away really. Want to deliver to this place again? BTs are back. And, in some places – most notably the worst area in the entire game – the Wind Farm in the beginning area of the game, the BTs show back up so quickly that you not only have to deal with them and the awful terrain to get IN to the wind farm…but about maybe 30 seconds to a minute later after you turn in your delivery they are IMMEDIATELY back almost every time. It’s absolutely retarded and the only part of the game I can say with 100% certainty is complete shit with no room for discussion. Even as you progress in the game that spot is not ever less infuriating from the BTs and the terrain, even in the post-game it is irredeemable. Undeniably the worst part of the entire game is that area.
Back to the actual encounters though, are they really that bad? Yes and no. Just like I said about all the negatives of this game – they’re not so much bad as they are just a fucking obnoxious annoyance you’re literally or nearly forced to deal with way too often. They aren’t fun, they aren’t TRASH, they’re just irritating. Same places all the time, same rain that destroys your fucking cargo just by being there, same way of dealing with them which is to crouch walk slowly through and hold your breath if they are close while you go past. But, you do get grenades (and later other, more useful weapons) to fend them off or outright kill them…however to SEE them you have to be so close that you’re either caught or simply lucky. Later on this seems to be less of an issue, I think raising your BB’s connection with you makes his range to see them a bit higher – but even then it’s still just annoying to have to slink your way through and scan obsessively and sit there throwing grenades (while more come from the noise anyway). Eventually you can cut their cords which works wonders, but still is mostly luck and often times you’ll punch the air instead of push it with the right timing and end up attracting them.
It’s just slow meandering around in BT zones and 90% of the time (at least in the first half-ish of the game) you end up with bad luck or a loss of patience that results in them finding you which is practically inescapable if they do. Then they drag you around for awhile in first person, and then a giant whale-squid or big doggo attacks you and you can either go through the goddamn sludge at a super slow pace to get out of it eventually which makes the area safe for awhile or you can blow the fucker up with 10 or so Hematic grenades. Either way the area becomes safe for the time being…so instead of trying to sneak through I eventually started putting all my cargo in the nearest postbox and then getting caught on purpose and just running out of it – it’s a few minutes of wasted time but it keeps your cargo pristine without rain getting on it and it makes for a much less annoying trip, though the whole escape part is annoying in its own way. I only did this for the early portions of the game when you literally can’t go around and before I realized I could kill the ‘bosses’, but still. It’s an annoyance, and I wish the game didn’t have these bits or the MULEs for that matter. At the very least, SOME of these areas can be gotten through (after you already have the area synced into the UCA) much easier with the aid of other people’s footsteps and ropes, which are often on the very edge of the area and mostly avoid the BTs but aren’t doable on your original way through. Sadly, this doesn’t apply to every location nor, of course, the wind farm which even with a bunch of ropes and fucking bridges through it it’s impossible to fucking traverse and the BTs are impossible to avoid. It never gets better, you can come back with all the shit you gain by the end and it’s no goddamn better or less irritating – I don’t just mean the BTs either, even traversing the place is fucking hell. Fuck that place.
The smallest complaint I have is the hilariously embarrassingly ultra hamfisted anti-President Trump shit strewn around in some Interviews and a handful of mail from Preppers (mostly the literal boomer) along with the constant barrage of how it’s impossible to survive on your own and walls/any form of isolation is evil and bad. It’s not the whining about Trump or isolationism, I expected that entirely from the moment this game had BRIDGES in a trailer and because it’s fucking Hideo Kojima. The man loves to talk about current social issues, it was inevitable and it doesn’t bother me itself. On top of that, the ENTIRE GAME is pretty much anti-Trump (of his own admission, even) and it too suffers from it. What bothers me is not his opinions on these things, rather it is the hilariously inaccurate view of American politics, American culture, American feelings, and America’s foreign policy that Kojima has – probably due to his only real ‘understanding’ of the US is via Hollywood and celebrities.
What my issue is is that the entire point of the game is undermined by how the game handles it, it reminds me a whole lot of the issue I had with American History X. The message and the messaging do not match up at all. Kojima seems to believe that left wing progressives who want everyone to be equal and connected and inclusive and peaceful are all entirely far-right conservatives ASIDE from that in all their beliefs and ways of life. This plays into the issues with the overall theme as well, where it’s constantly telling you “See, the preppers (these are the survivors off on their own you deliver to) can’t survive without being in the chiral network (the internet and the new govt) because they isolated themselves from others!”…except the entire game you’re told the preppers are basically the only ones aside from a few cities who actually survived both the Death Stranding itself AND the terrorist attacks which have involved literal nuclear bomb strikes, dirty bombs, and even purposeful void outs (essentially nukes) and they are STILL DOING FINE TO THIS DAY.
He thinks all the good things about the right and conservatives are the beliefs of the left and that they just hate borders too because he’s confusing American politics with historical Japanese xenophobia and not realizing the left is against everything these “immigrants who hated that president because he wanted them dead” believe within the game he wrote. It feels stupid. I also refused to deliver more packages to the fucking boomer who whines about nations and President Trump the most. He can fucking die in his shitty little mountain hideout because he ain’t gettin his old man medicine from Norman Reedus anymore. If he hates white people so much then why should a white man deliver his pills?
The main story also comes back to contradicting itself in the very final bits of it. Sam tries leaving everyone behind because he ‘has no ties to anyone’, a character chases him down telling him how he’s wrong – he’s made all these connections, he has ties to so many people now, he isn’t alone and he needs to stay. The typical anime cliche joke of “the treasure was the friends you made along the way” basically, which would work in the theme of the game, actually, but it’s subverted by Sam basically saying fuck you I’m out and leaving anyway. Not only does he literally leave, he destroys the thing that is said and treated the whole game as the sign of everyone’s bond and their literal connection, the handcuffs. The end of the game has Sam shitting over the ENTIRE theme of coming together and being one cohesive group, and instead chooses to go on his own which the game constantly tries telling you is terrible up to that point and, given he is the main character, it’s a lot bigger of a clash than the preppers being conservatives who hate borders. On top of that, they pretty much outright say that all this stuff about coming together, the chiral network, and everything else is the REASON everything is fucked. The game tells you outright that this whole “we all should be one, fuck borders, fuck nations, fuck classes, fuck racism, we are all in this together” idea is actually the entire reason all life on Earth is now about to go extinct. It never undoes that either, that is literally what all the infodumping at the end tells you.
Another, and maybe the only other big story complaint I have, is that they don’t do enough to remind you just how fucked up Higgs really is. They tell you like one time and imply other things, but other than that they stay quiet about it and just use him as an edgy dude to summon bosses. Higgs is a terrorist on a level the world has never really seen and to make it worse he’s doing it when there are barely any humans left to begin with. He’s nuked a city, he’s voided-out multiple cities on purpose, he’s formed a cult of terrorists to steal what little supplies are available, and he’s slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people, possibly millions, by his own hand. Does it ever really remind you of this? No, he just licks your face and says edgy shit aside the one time the mention any of that. He isn’t played up in any special way, he’s just a very generic anime antagonistic, which sucks because he could have been a great character especially with how well played he is by Troy Baker. They only make him even worse in the post-game if you read some of the memory chip and interviews you can get that point, chronicling his childhood of being beaten and turning into a turbo-edgelord murderer at a young age because he’s edgy.
Lastly, and this is another one I care pretty strongly about even if it seems stupid, is that Ludens are…nothing. Well, worse, it’s literally you – not Sam, but you. You, the player, are the Homo Ludens. Homo, maybe for some, but Ludens? Apparently according to a load of talking about it throughout the game, Homo Ludens just refers to “Those Who Play”. The space man suit is also just a cool design for Hideo Kojima’s new company. It’s branding. Ludens is fucking branding. After showcasing this space man and Ludens as this huge big thing tied to the game, this important wild element you’ll never expect…it’s just the fucking company branding and logo. I can’t overstate how disappointing this fact was and still remains to me. They even make you think there’s hints at it meaning something throughout like with the BB pod having a tiny keychain Ludens hanging on it…but then you start going, wait, why is there all this merchandise of this mystery thing? Cuz it ain’t a mystery, it’s nothing. It’s literally not a fucking thing. Kojima even threw his boyfriend Geoff in as the “LUDENS FAN” prepper. Mads even brings up going to the moon, obsessively gives little BB Ludens related things, and the intro to the game HAS A LUDENS ON THE MOON…and that never comes up. They constantly in the Mads flashbacks and loads of email you get bring up both the moon and ludens and how we used to go to space. None of it means anything. Don’t think you’ll go to the moon. Don’t think space has any relevance. You don’t and it doesn’t. Ludens is literally just branding.
Anyway, aside that stuff there really isn’t too much about the game I can find enough of a fault with to really bother pointing out. The character models are fantastic, the world is fucking gorgeous and it never stops being something you just want to take in the views of, the gameplay – even with the issues I mentioned – is extremely responsive, fluid, and the weight of the cargo ‘feels’ right, the progress milestones are great with you always feeling like you’re getting further along both in the world (connecting more places, building more things, getting more deliveries done and ranking each place up) as well as simply in your abilities (actual stats going up) and options of things to use for transportation, defense, or traversal and so on. It’s a really fucking well made and thought out game in respect to gameplay all around except the Wind Farm. Plus, for me at least, doing deliveries is pretty rewarding and fun – but I also love truck delivery sim games so maybe it’s just me.
The asynchronous multiplayer is a huge thing for the full experience and implemented greatly – and for that reason I do think the game will lack something important if you play it later on or try to re-play it later. Not that it’ll be bad, just that you’ll really be missing out on a part of this that works way way way better than it should and adds a whole lot to the experience. Kojima and his team took full advantage of the idea of connecting with others, creating strands, and doing an amazing job of making the gameplay ooze with a sense of loneliness that then turns into an undeniably genuine feeling of togetherness and camaraderie.
The large regions of the game are cut into a bunch of smaller parts within them on the map with each one having a zone where it’s connection to the UCA network (the internet) is off until you connect it by making a delivery (or doing a task or two, later on, for certain people). When it’s off, the world is devoid of any life but your own, MULEs who are basically antagonistic NPCs that will try to knock you out and steal your cargo, and BTs who are the ghostly beings. You feel alone in this really beautiful big world, trekking through it all on your own. It works, it feels lonely and completely isolated.
Then when you get this area into the UCA network – suddenly the map is filled with signs of life; literal pop-up signs of encouragement and helpful little simple image-based tips from other players, bridges to cross rough waters or crevices, ladders for the same, ropes hanging off of cliffs to give you an easier way through an area, generators to recharge batteries, mushrooms grown from people pissing that you can gather the little worms to eat from, you can yell out and other players nearby will ‘yell back’ encouraging you along, and my personal favorite…The actual literal footsteps of other players appear, which is somehow one of the most “other people are out here too” things in the entire game, and also the more people walk in each other’s steps the more footpaths start being created naturally in the world itself. Soon land that was all just grass (or snow) starts to have dirt paths from being trodden so often by other players as well as yourself. It’s one of the coolest things I think this game does – literally creating actual paths from players leading each other without even being there.
Anyway, this whole thing is encouraged very well with the “Likes” system. I absolutely hate to admit it, but that feedback really does work. When I built my first thing aside a postbox – a bridge at a crossing that everyone would want to get over – I did it for everyone, not just myself, and I was rewarded by so many people “Liking” that bridge which made me feel good and kind of proud about providing something so useful for so many other people. It makes you really know this thing you did added and aided other people and wasn’t just for you or “conceptually” for others. You get a direct thank you, basically, and it works. It makes you want to keep helping, keep adding more to this world, keep making these journeys on everyone with their cargo piled a mile high easier on them. And in return you don’t just get that like as a thank you, you get them returning the favor by adding more and more to help you as well. Even those trodden paths can be liked, even footsteps alone can be liked. If a path you walk leads you to a way just barely out of reach of BTs, you thank that person with a like and you add to that by treading that path for others to find it easier as well as potentially going through it and adding ways to traverse it easier along with whatever others already have put there.
It even includes other players you connected with a lot in your end credits, and your name in other player’s credits.
The concept of coming together, of ‘strands’, really shines in the gameplay from start to finish, from the things you create all on your own like that bridge I mentioned to things like helping develop footpaths (this is still maybe the coolest thing to me about this game) and the community buildings that show up later on that people all contribute to finishing. It’s crazy that it works, but it does and it makes these pseudo-open-world areas have clear direction through them to important or worth seeing things thanks to player input either with signs or buildings, or simply the paths created by many following other’s footprints. It makes the world manageable while feeling enormous.
Kojima also found an inventive way to avoid giving the player the option to kill others people. For one, you’re just a delivery guy, it’d be a little weird if you were just out blasting fuckers in the head without a care in the world, you aren’t Solid Snake. However, beyond that, almost nobody has guns because this is a world where a single dead body is as destructive as a nuclear bomb, making outright killing someone a death wish for an entire county-sized area. Would I prefer to just kill the MULEs and end their encampments so they aren’t in my way? Sure, and later on they do get easier to deal with (non-lethal weapons more than beating the fuck out of them), but it was smartly dealt with and not just “NO, SAM, YOU CAN’T DO THAT” and the game not allowing it like killing civilians in Assassin’s Creed or something. In fact, you CAN kill them. Not only if you get really unlucky when running them over (99% of the time it doesn’t kill them, only had it happen once) but you also get access to lethal firearms later on. However, you’re still heavily discouraged from killing them because, for one, I’m pretty sure they’ll still respawn later anyway but most importantly…you have to take every single dead body to an incinerator – and they are never nearby and are often surrounded by a near impossible to get through without being caught gangbang of BTs. It’s basically a huge fucking pain in the ass to keep you from doing it (plus you can only carry one body at a time), while also fitting in with the story.
Let’s do a quick little dive into the characters.
Honestly, most of the women characters were written and acted poorly aside Amelie who was ‘fine’, I suppose. Mama’s actress totally phoned it in and the character, while important to learning some things story-wise, really didn’t need to exist. Fragile is also “fine” both acting wise and in terms of her character – she’s alright, I didn’t dislike her but I didn’t give a shit about her really either.
The men all were actually acted pretty well and their characters were much stronger presences and had much more meaning and depth. Die Hardman, whose actual canonical name – hilariously enough – is John McClane, spends 80% of the game being a very wooden and lifelessly acted character who also doesn’t really do much aside say “Sam, do a thing”. However, in the last portions of the game his character matters a huge amount and the actual acting ability of Tommie Earl Jenkins comes out, having been stowed away for big spoiler story reasons, and his character ends up one of the better ones through a lot of spoiler-y twisty winding things and being able to act.
Heartman and Deadman stand out as maybe the most likable and memorable supporting cast members both thanks to being Refn and Del Toro and because they just have the most development and presence throughout the story (and Del Taco is just a fun dude the whole time). Reedus and Troy Baker both have a similar issue – Sam and Higgs are both very well acted…but their characters are both lacking, which sucks because it kind of did a disservice to their abilities to play them. Higgs is generic edgelord and Sam’s problem is he sort of contradicts his own shit half the time with no mention of it by the game, he just kind of goes along with whatever even if he’s staunchly opposing it seconds prior, he’s got the same issues that Venom Snake did in his writing and also the same half-silent-protagonist issue.
Mads Mikkelsen, however, is absolutely above all the rest. His incredible acting ability shines through constantly and even though for most of the game you only see him in short memories when leaving your private room those 1 to 2 minute scenes draw you in like nothing else. Mads and the character and whats going on in these scenes are unbelievably enigmatic and intriguing. You get such a strong desire every time to know more about whats going on in these memories and to see more of this character, wondering when you’ll meet him, what his role in all this is, and so on. And boy, his role in the story is the absolute best part of this game and something that will make this a memorable game for me for a long time. Mads’ story is basically the central point in the entire plot, its of utmost importance, and while all the rest of the story is just “pretty good”, his entire thing is worth playing this game for alone. It starts great, never stops being great, and it COMPLETELY pays off in the end. It has the best twists, it has the best presentation, it has the best writing, it has the best proof of Kojima’s whole connections theme, and it has the most emotion in the entire game. In a way it hurts the rest of the game because it is just so much better than everything else that it makes it easier to find the rest of the story less good. Everything with him is directed, written, and acted so well and is so emotionally powerful especially later on.
This actually bleeds into the gameplay too. The action sequences set in historical wars where you take on Mads and his group of skeleton soldiers (this was shown in trailers, not a spoiler!) are the only combat parts of the game that aren’t frustrating and are actually really fucking cool. I wish that the game had more of them, but those that are here are fantastic. Having Mads Mikkelsen hunting you down yelling about his BB while the ghosts of World War 1 are battling all around you is fucking incredible.
The story overall is, like I said, pretty good. It could have been better but it suffers from a lot of the same issues in MGSV – which also proves the problems with MGSV were, in fact, not Konami’s fault but Kojima’s. This has the same awkward stilted piecemeal storytelling with short cutscenes sporadically placed throughout sometimes 30+ hours until another one, loads of reading text interviews instead of anyone saying anything, a quarter of the story being hidden on hidden collectible memory chips, and characters not existing even if they’re a door away type of stuff – and a mostly unendearing protagonist who may as well never speak because nothing he says ever matters to himself or anyone around him and he just does what he’s told anyway. It’s pretty good regardless of those problems, but aside Mads’ (very big, luckily) part in it, it’s nothing amazing when it really should have been. I do want to give him credit for MOSTLY tying everything up really well, practically every question I had was answered clearly by the end, and that’s crazy for Kojima.
The biggest surprise for me with the story was that it really is ultimately less about all this strand shit and coming together stuff, and more about fatherhood. It’s almost Maquia-like in how far it goes into showcasing paternal instincts and what it means to be a dad. You not only have yourself with BB and having to care for him and always have him carried on your chest, you also have Mads’ obsession with getting his baby back and the huge payoff in that storyline (and how much of it encompasses the entire plot by the end). There’s even a really fantastic little speech from Mads to his BB in the memories about what becoming a father did for him as a man too. Even both of the most emotional and powerful moments in the game come about from fatherhood situations.
It also has plenty of KOJIMAAAAAA things about it, like all the Monster Energy drinks (and how river water miraculously turns into it in your canteen), Norman Reedus bringing up AMC’s Ride With Norman Reedus, Deadman recommending Sam a movie Del Toro made, etc. Even in the story and cast, the weirdness is all typical Kojima, but less LOL SO RANDOM as a bee man shooting bees from a bee gun or the 80 twists dealing with Ocelot. It’s weird, everything about it is weird, everyone in it is weird, and there’s loads of stupid moments on purpose that actually work because it’s Kojima like Higgs’ constant game speak (“no more continues”, “game over”, etc). This is Kojima not trying to appeal to teenagers or Dan Ryckert but still being his weird ass self in silly ways and serious but still fucking strange ways, just with less hammed up bullshit.
Is this Kojima’s MASTERPIECE? I wouldn’t say so, you can tell this is absolutely exactly the game Kojima wanted to make 100%, and Mads’ whole storyline is pretty high up there, but Death Stranding just didn’t quite reach the magnum opus level. Yet, one part – the very final gameplay portion – absolutely reaches that. It’s only a few minutes long but it is arguably the master stroke of his career to this point. I won’t spoil it, but it just completely strips away every distraction from the game and sends you on one final trip with nothing else but you, BB, and the scenery. No vehicles, no gear, no backpack, no structures, no signs, no trodden paths, no BTs, no MULEs or terrorists, you can’t even check your map or basic menu. Just you and the scenery while this fantastic beautiful super emotional song plays over it during this already deeply emotional moment. It’s the one thing out of Kojima’s entire history in games that feels like it truly is his heart and soul right there. This is what Kojima truly has been striving for even if, for now, it only exists in a few minutes of the final moments of one single game. But it’s there, peeking out, and it really makes it hard not to want to see what he creates next in hopes he can make those 4 or 5 minutes into hours.
Death Stranding is not some mind blowing “game-of-the-generation” “society changing” thing like Kojima presented it to be, but it is unbelievably creative and executed mostly fantastically and his “new genre” kinda works as something never done in this way or this well before, both the way it’s entirely focused on simply traversing the landscape and in the asynchronous co-op aspects. It’s got an interesting story that keeps you wanting to push forward and learn more, it’s got some good characters – even though they aren’t super deep they do feel like the type of guys you’d find in movies (and I don’t mean from them being literal actors and directors) and some amazing ones, the visuals are beautiful, and as a game it truly is unique. There really isn’t anything else like this, and while I’d like more of it I don’t know if anyone but Kojima could truly pull it off in the way he has.
Did you rike it?