Updated: Feb 19
I don’t know what Death Stranding is. I don’t know what it means and I certainly don’t know why I care so much… Hi my name is James and I’m a kojimaholic (stay with me here).
Since November 8th 2019 I’ve spent almost all of that time, until now… not playing Death Stranding. Life has gotten in the way or work or something and for a short while there, anything I could do that didn’t involve playing a game I really wasn’t into. But let me backup a little.
Kojima's games are an instant mark of quality to me and my bias knows no bounds, so why have I struggled with Death Stranding? It has everything I could want or ask for on paper. Kojima at the helm, going all out, no one to tell him no (looking at you Konami), a beautifully crafted world, the most WTF on brand trailers and marketing campaign and a goddamn plastic baby collectors edition (yes I bought it). Yet, despite an excellent opening few hours I just… couldn’t? I didn’t get it, I still kind of don’t but I can definitely argue the case that I do get it a little more than before.... Are you still there?
What I’m trying to say here is that I haven’t over analysed a game so much before, ever, to the best of my memory. I wanted to love it straight away not only to satiate my confirmation bias but also to prove that the game itself would just get me and it turns out I expected too much of it, who’d have thought!
So What's It All About?
Me too man...me too…
All this talk and I have yet to even describe the game to you! With any game release, you’ll always see the type of genre followed by a brief description of the game. If you look up the official press kit though, you’ll find no such thing exists. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a genre not listed, I mean it’s not nothing so it has to be something right?
Now if you go to the playstation store page itself then you’ll see it listed as an action game and you know what, that’s about the best way to describe it. Things happen, actions are indeed performed. You, as Norman Reedus, do things in the game. But that is where the description ends. This isn’t a more traditional Metal Gear Solid, where you go sneaking into bases taking out guards and trying not to be seen…
Oh wait...No...Never mind.
But AHA you see, there isn’t any long standing tradition of a villainous character out to prove you wrong and constantly getting in your way, pontificating on the state of the world and directly addressing you the player...
Well….Ok maybe I’m wrong, but trust me it doesn’t feel like anything else I’ve played...And that's the point I've been trying to get at. This game literally plays to its own tune and my reaction confused the hell out of me. There are moments where everything clicks, you're trekking along, delivering packages either on foot or in a vehicle, taking in the beautiful scenery and doling out resources to help pave new roads to make the journey for other porters (players that you can see traces of but not interact with that much) that bit more manageable.
But then the game tries to be something else, it's self important almost, like Kojima is directly telling everyone that he knows better and that, to my surprise, really grated on me. It gets in the way of itself claiming to be more than it really is with the thickest of exposition dumps and artfully crafted custcenes. And in my over 50 staggered hours of playing all I can really say is that that feels like the point. When you're playing, you are left to your own devices to soak up the atmosphere but then the story will throw itself at you and not explain why, because it doesn't have to.
Alright but why though?
To sum up (finally), I really thought I'd come to some grand conclusion writing this. That getting the words out on virtual paper would make it make sense to me. It still doesn't really. Death Stranding just is, the developers knew that going in and unashamedly made it so. This game isn't for everyone, maybe anyone but Hideo himself all things considered. But you know what, it is for me in enough ways that count and despite all my misgivings I've not felt like a second was wasted experiencing this whacky, stupid, brilliant "action" game. It doesn't work all the time and I may never play it again now that I've finally beat the campaign, but that's not the point of art then is it?
All images were sourced from the Death Stranding press kit found here
That one gif can be found here
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