Four years after the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and a painfull public exodus from his former employer, Hideo Kojima finally released his newest title, Death Stranding. There's a lot to unpack from this massive adventure, from its detailed story to the unique gameplay.
As one can see from review scores, opinions vary about the new title. For those still on the fence, perhaps the following list will help one make a decision, as it details five things we love about it, and five unimpressive facets of its design. At the end of the day, the game's goodness far outweighs anything negative about it.
10 Best: The Multiplayer Component
Players never directly interact with each other. Instead, their communication is done through likes. When going through the post-apocalyptic United States, one will come across structures like ladders, ropes, and bridges laid down by others.
When standing next to one of these, it is possible to give out likes, and others can give them in return. The closest comparison one can make to another game is the message system from Dark Souls, but this is more in-depth and vital to success than in From Software's titles.
9 Worst: Lack Of Polish
The game is a radical departure Hideo Kojima's other works. While some DNA from Metal Gear is apparent, it is ultimately a whole different beast. Because of this, it lacks the polish of existing franchises.
On a technical level, everything moves smoother than expected, but movement and driving often feel clunky. No one will ever feel cheated or want to throw their controller at a wall, but it's notable. Hopefully, a potential sequel remedies these issues.
8 Best: Use Of Actors' Likenesses
The first face seen in the premiere trailer was Norman Reedus. The actor and Kojima already had a relationship from their work together on the doomed Silent Hills, so it was not a huge surprise to see him. Eventually, more names jumped on board like Lindsay Wagner and Lea Seydoux. Additionally, filmmakers Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn lent their likenesses to the project but were voiced by someone else.
Seeing these notable names put into a video game is surreal, and it surprisingly doesn't break immersion. These are professional actors, after all, and their job is to suck viewers into the world with a performance.
7 Worst: Slow Start
The opening does a great job of introducing the world and its unique ideas. However, a small lull after about forty-five minutes of gameplay makes one trudge through some boring moments to really get into the meat and bones of what Death Stranding is all about.
For those whose gameplay sessions regularly last between three and five hours, this isn't a problem, but those who play in shorter, more infrequent bursts will have a harder time getting into the swing of things.
6 Best: Relationship With BB
Sam travels with a Beach Baby, or BB. These unborn children help porters detect the otherwise invisible monsters known as Beach Things, or BTs. Despite warnings from many that BBs are just tools, Sam cannot help but grow attached to it.
The player also grows a fondness for it, establishing a wordless bond as they spend hours with the strange invention out in the wilderness. Like all the best relationships in video games, this one is forged and solidified not through cinematics, but through game play mechanics.
5 Worst: Repetition
Discovering a new area and happening upon a fresh vista is what makes the title shine. However, Sam is going to retread the same ground several times in the name of completing bonus missions or helping build the infrastructure of a particular region.
Granted, these Standard Orders are optional, but they net valuable rewards and it is recommended to do at least a handful of them. The upside is seeing the world slowly improve through one's own contributions and the hard work of others.
4 Best: Cutscenes
Hideo Kojima's games are known for their dedication to crafting compelling cinematics, but they've usually been good "for a video game." Metal Gear Solid V's one take cutscenes were a step up from his prior output, and Death Stranding's go even further.
Each cinematic feels like a short movie, though most of them aren't as long as the ones from Metal Gear Solid 4. The acting, camerawork, and dialogue all come together to create some of the best drama in a 2019 game.
3 Worst: Sneaking Past BTs
Occasionally while out making a delivery, timefall will come, and BTs will start prowling. At the beginning of the game, one has to tactfully crouch through these areas, depending on BB for support in detecting where these nearly invisible creatures are.
Shortly into the campaign, Sam gets weapons he can use against them, making these encounters negligible, removing all the stakes. On a bike or truck, one can zoom past them altogether as long as they don't stop to enjoy the view.
2 Best: Story
All the ideas coming together to make Death Stranding's world and plot are not only unique to the video game sphere, but to storytelling as a whole. Few science-fiction stories come up with such bizarre, intriguing premises.
The idea of a ruined, disconnected world where porters are counted on for delivering packages between cities feels like the setup to a Philip K. Dick novel. The relationship between life and death explored throughout the story also makes one wonder about their own mortality and what really is there for us after we pass on.
1 Worst: Combat
Fortunately, this is not a principle part of the game, but several later chapters focus purely on combat. The shooting isn't as refined as other AAA games and lacks cover mechanics. Sam's movement also wasn't made for fast-paced action, so it never quite feels right to control him while under gunfire.
On the plus side, one is already going to be over twelve hours deep into the game before hitting one of these sequences, so any player will have already decided if they are in or out by then.