What a long, strange trip it’s been! No, I’m not talking about the Grateful Dead. I’m talking about Death Stranding from legendary game producer Hideo Kojima. Never in my 34 years of gaming have I ever seen a video game surrounded in such mystery as I have with Death Stranding.
After parting ways with Konami in 2015, Hideo opened up his own independent game studio, Kojima Productions just a few months later. And, he announced a partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment to make a brand new game. Death Stranding was officially announced the next year at E3 2016 and what the game was about has been shrouded in mystery ever since. Death Stranding was released on PS4 in November 2019 and was either a game you enjoyed or didn’t like at all.
Now, almost 2 years later, Death Stranding Director’s Cut is here on PS5 and it contains some meaningful changes that make it better than its predecessor.
Death Stranding Director’s Cut Details
Platform: PlayStation 5
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Modes: Single player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
A journey to reconnect America
If you’ve played any of Hideo Kojima’s previous games, you’ll know he is a master storyteller. And, Death Stranding is no different. It’s not uncommon for in-game cutscenes to last between 5 and 10 minutes. What makes Death Stranding for me so compelling is its phenomenal, although be it weird, story. I won’t spoil the story for you, in case you have never played the original on PS4. Instead, I’ll give you the overall idea of it.
In a nutshell, Death Stranding focuses around Sam Porter Bridges in an apocalyptic United States that has been torn apart. The root cause of all the chaos and destruction is something known as “Death Stranding“. As a result of the “Death Stranding“, invisible creatures known as BTs have invaded the Earth and cause massive explosions when they consume someone who has just died.
Moreover, BTs can produce a rain that is known as Timefall, which causes whatever it touches to age rapidly. Because of these events, survivors have created independent colonies across the country. It is your job as Sam Porter Bridges to reunite these colonies and reverse the catastrophic events of the Death Stranding.
I’ll be honest. It takes a few hours of playing before you start to get a grasp of the story and it really starts to sink in. The character development is top notch and the twists and turns in the storyline will have you on the edge of your seat.
Meaningful gameplay improvements, restructuring and added content
In my opinion, Death Stranding‘s gameplay was its weakest link. It’s one of those games that either you really like or don’t care for at all. For all intents and purposes, your role as Sam is to deliver supplies to remote colonies across a harsh environment.
Generally, that means picking up parcels with supplies in them from point A and delivering them to point B. Sounds a little boring doesn’t it? Except, gameplay involves having to manage your inventory and balance it on your back accordingly. You’ll have certain weight limits that can carry and anything over it will cause you to walk at a snail’s pace, literally.
However, as you visit the various colonies across the country, new technology becomes available to enhance your journey. Things like robotic legs that allow you to carry more items or move faster make things a whole lot easier. Additionally, vehicles, weapons and grenades are at your disposal.
In Director’s Cut, game guides and tips have been improved and as a result you get key information in the early part of the game. Additionally, more missions, rewards and new equipment have been added, such as the Maser Gun and Support Skeleton, closer to the start of the game. There are even Half-Life and Cyberpunk 2077 themed accessories, equipment and vehicles in the game to discover. Whereas with Death Stranding the first 8-10 were a tough push, Director’s Cut has made it a more pleasant start with these changes and added content.
Outstanding visuals and sound
Along with the superb writing, Kojima is well known for his outstanding presentation values on all of his games. What does that mean exactly? For starters, Death Stranding Director’s Cut looks absolutely amazing on PS5. It uses Guerilla Games’ proprietary Decima game engine and doesn’t disappoint. There are two picture modes to choose from, performance and fidelity mode. Performance mode comes with 4K scaled visuals and up to 60fps. On the other hand, fidelity mode is native 4K. And, there is even a Widescreen Mode for an ultra-wide play experience that uses the PS5’s 16:9 aspect ratio to display letterboxed gameplay that is similar to that of 21:9 aspect ratio.
As you travel across the country, you visit a variety of locations that often made me stop just to take it all in. In addition to outstanding visuals and animation, the voice acting in Death Stranding is top notch. The star studded cast includes the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Troy Baker, Lindsay Wagner, and Tommie Earl Jenkins, to name a few. Again, their performances are some of the best in recent memory.
As important as sound is to a game, Kojima nails it in Death Stranding. The game’s atmospheric sounds make you feel as if you are right there standing beside Sam. Also included is original music from artists such as Chvrches, Bring Me the Horizon, Khalid and more. And, thanks to the PS5’s Tempest 3D audio technology, the sound effects come to life with 3D audio.
Other added PS5 features include haptic feedback and adaptive trigger resistance, which allows you to feel the environment around on the DualSense controller. And, the load times in the game are virtually non-existent thanks to the PS5’s super fast SSD.
Asynchronous multiplayer gameplay
The way in which Kojima incorporated multiplayer is unique and you’ll never see another human controlled character in the game. Instead, Kojima opted for asynchronous play. This means that there are multiple instances of the “world” in which you play on servers that you share with others.
That means structures like bridges, zip-lines, and mail boxes built by other players are available for you to use. Furthermore, you can also drop cargo for other players to help them with their deliveries. It’s a really unique way to incorporate other players and ties in with the game’s overall theme of uniting everyone.
Death Stranding Director’s Cut includes quality of life improvements that fans will appreciate
Kojima has done it again! Death Stranding Director’s Cut is a game with its own unique experience that you cannot get anywhere else. With that being said, even with the quality of life improvements, it’s not for everyone. In my opinion, the new gameplay improvements and restructuring have helped alleviate my main gripe with Death Stranding, its slow to start gameplay.
For those that played Death Stranding on PS4 you can move your save over to the Director’s Cut and continue play. In the end, if you are a fan of Metal Gear and Hideo Kojima, then you will no doubt enjoy Death Stranding. Even if aren’t into a game that really makes you think and isn’t full of fast paced action, you might want to reconsider Death Stranding Director’s Cut with the improvements that have been added.
+ More pleasant start with gameplay changes and added content.
+ Beautiful visuals and top notch voice acting
+ Intriguing story full of twists and turns
+ Good use of DualSense controller and PS5’s functions
+ Asynchronous multiplayer ties in with the overall theme of the game
– Core gameplay remains the same
– Overall slow pace can be a turn off for some
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF DEATH STRANDING
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5