There are a number of developers for whom it is not clear from the beginning what they actually want with a project. The duo Romero / Carmack once belonged to it, Peter Molyneux as well, with Chris Robert the question of meaning has been asked almost every day for years. Even Hideo Kojima's ideas do not always move within the limits of what is comprehensible. With Death Stranding, which has now also been released for PC, the game developer seems to have reached the tip of the iceberg for the time being. The virtual parcel carrier simulation in a post-apocalyptic setting is initially barely tangible - and it stays that way for many hours. Why should you still get involved? Read our review on Death Stranding?


The player embodies Sam Porter Bridges and thus not a shining hero with futuristic weapons, but a parcel delivery man. And over long distances you do what parcel carriers are best at: delivering parcels. The wacky basic premise promises neither a lot of innovation nor excitement. Not entertainment at all. And yet Hideo Kojima manages to turn this “next to nothing” into a video game that does not always, but often, knows how to captivate. That is not because of the backstory of the game, which is more solid than outstanding. In return, players get everything they can expect from Kojima: lots of bizarre characters, sprawling cutscenes, a fantastic soundtrack and a game world that literally soaks you in.

Attention, bridge baby on board!

It quickly becomes clear: It is the calm passages that make Death Stranding an outstanding game, in some ways a masterpiece. Just wandering through the post-apocalyptic wasteland is almost meditative. What sounds playfully shallow turns out to be a completely new kind of experience that you have to experience if you call yourself a passionate gamer. The story unfolds step by step, presented in minute-long - and quite handsome - cut scenes. Sometimes in tremendous moments, sometimes incomprehensible, sometimes crazy and wacky.

Norman Reedus, the star of The Walking Dead, gives Sam Porter Bridge's face and body. Copyright: Kojima Productions

The actor Norman Reedus, star of The Walking Dead, lends the immortal parcel carrier Sam Porter Bridge's face and body. Copyright: Kojima Productions

The fact that Kojima not only recruited actors for the roles, but also film stars, is conducive to the atmosphere. Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead embodies the main character Sam Porter Bridges, who is confronted with the supernatural catastrophe "Death Stranding". Other appearances include Mads Mikkelsen and Léa Sydoux, plus some cameos. The synchro is also convincing: Above all, Marios Gavrilis does his job well. Not entirely surprising, the actor and radio play speaker lent his voice to the main character Alexios in Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

One does not meet a particularly large number of human readers in the barren world. The apocalypse forces the last survivors of humankind to live in underground cities. Dangers lurk in the upper world, especially souls suckling spirits, which are staged as mysterious as they are dangerous. Then there is the rain, which makes everything and everyone age. The player's task is now to face the dangers of the wasteland in order to connect settlements scattered throughout North America to the Chiral Network - a kind of Internet, only on a more spiritual level. Sam Porter Bridges seems to be made for this: As a messenger, he knows his way around hiking, with limited time resources, and loneliness. Why you should, no, have to take on all the hardships, is quickly conveyed to you: It's about America and that should be motivation enough. If you feel ready for the big mission, you should count how often the word "America" ​​is used in the cutscene that is called Sam's first really important task - namely, dragging a body bag weighing around 56 kilograms up a mountain.

We don't want to reveal anything about the story at this point and not in this review of Death Stranding either. Anyone who approaches the game without prior knowledge will definitely have a lot more fun.   

Whatever the mission, Sam Porter Bridge's ability to see the invisible GDs - the soul suckers - is extremely helpful. In this regard, the protagonist receives support from a so-called bridge baby, a newborn that Sam Porter carries with him. Oh yeah, the hero who isn't actually has another useful talent - he's immortal. He's a revenant. If the temporal blesses him, he wanders through a soul world from which there is an exit. 

The expression speaks volumes: Damn it, lugging parcels again ... Image rights: Kojima Productions

The facial expression speaks volumes: Damn it, lugging parcels again ... Image rights: Kojima Productions

To experience all of this in the first place is the first, comparatively simple task. The important cornerstones are conveyed through extended cutscenes, you don't understand much about them at first. Head shaking, surprise, amazement - you can accuse Hideo Kojima of many things, but not that he couldn't make the player curious about all the bizarre moments in Death Stranding, which at the beginning you don't even know that they are expecting you sometimes hit with the force of amazement. 

And so you set out on a journey through the wasteland. The vast majority of the game is spent outdoors - with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with it. So the tension-laden undertone is always noticeable, but Sam Porter Bridges does not meet many social contacts. And that's exactly what feels so wonderfully right about Death Stranding.

The game deviates from hopping between social hotspots. Most of the time you are alone, in a lonely world that has little to offer - except for some deadly dangers. The game world is the real star, you read that a lot. With Death Stranding, however, the statement fits as well as with hardly any other video game. Snow-covered mountain landscapes, breathtaking waterfalls, moss-covered rocks, volcanic areas - Sam Porter Bridges lead players through many completely different environments. And you should use the time to explore everything and let the impressions take effect.

There are many moments in Death Stranding that keep players captivated in strange ways. Copyright: Kojima Productions

There are many moments in Death Stranding that are strangely captivating. Copyright: Kojima Productions

The exploration trip is not really boring, which is not least due to the fact that bridges have to be actively “micromanaged”. If it carries too much, you have to keep it in balance, if it slides down a slope on wet ground, if you have to brake bridges, if it wades through a raging river, it is difficult to make progress and loses stamina. And so you trample, stagger and plunge from the east coast to the west coast - always with heavy packages on your back that have to be delivered. This is sometimes extremely annoying, but then turns out to be extremely worthwhile. Of course you drive around too.

America is about to doom: don't rush ...

Hurry is the contrast to Death Stranding. Hideo Kojimo took his time to shape the world. As a player, you also need time. With small steps Sam Porter Bridges drags his parcels around, as a player one takes away from him that his fragile load weighs heavily. You have to plan your path, the landscape sometimes seems insurmountable - for example when you sprint fully loaded over a mountain ridge, at the edges of which you could slide down the slope at any time.

There are also sneaking passages, mostly when it comes to rushing past the GDs - unnoticed, laden, actually stupid, yet successful and therefore satisfied. That you are confronted with wind and weather with Death Stranding? Almost taken for granted. And then there are also villains who would be only too happy to take the freight from you: if it succeeds, the protagonist sneaks into their warehouse and takes back what does not belong to either them or himself. 

Men staring at corpses - that happens regularly. Copyright: Kojima Productions

Men staring at corpses - that happens regularly. Copyright: Kojima Productions

In Death Stranding, it's much more the feeling that you have fun and few the game plot itself. Even if the latter are gradually becoming more diverse, because the progress keeps supplying the player with useful tools: climbing ropes, various kits, gloves with which you can climb faster, but also exoskeleton improvements with which you can carry even more loads - and then there are these “blood grenades” that can be used to take down GDs. Since you cannot of course lug all of the additional equipment with you, a small tactical element comes into play because you have to decide which equipment you can probably use best before starting a long journey.

There are weapons in Death Stranding too, but you don't have to use them - at least for long stretches of the game. The new work by Hideo Kojima is not non-violent either, in terms of both the framework and the plot of the game as a whole. Nevertheless: Much can be solved excellently without the use of armed force, mostly even in a much more exciting way.

Much in Death Stranding seems confused, some crazy. In the end, however, everything is somehow connected and in a strange way understandable and just as correct as Kojima puts it on the screen.
In addition to the many small moments that convince, there are also the big design decisions that make it clear why Hideo Kojima can do more than just “Metal Gear”. The multi-game mode is such an outstanding example: The concept is asynchronous, players are there without ever having to be seen. Scattered all over the game world are the remains of other players: zip lines, bridges, generators. There are traces of those that you have never seen before, but of which you know that they are there, were there. Likes can be given out for the “cool moves” of other games, as a kind of appreciation for their work. The multiplayer mode is optional, you don't have to use it - but you shouldn't miss out on this experience, which in a certain way makes Death Stranding complete.

Infobox

Number of players: Solo and asynchronous multiplayer
Age: from 16 years
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: medium 

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment / 505 Games
Developer: Kojima Productions
Release year: 2019 (PS4) / 2020 (PC)
Platforms: PC, Playstation 4
Language: German
Costs: 29,99 euros / 64,99 euros

Conclusion on Death Stranding

Admittedly, getting started with Death Stranding is hair-raising. A never-ending jumble of crazy terminology rattles down on the player, many of which remain incomprehensible at first. It seems as if you have to know the framework of the game world of Death Stranding without knowing Death Stranding in order to be able to understand the game from the beginning. There are so many confusing, sometimes cluttered accessories that seem to drive the story into the background.

As a player, it is difficult enough to deal with the main features of the story. Despite the great cast, what is presented is not always thrilling - with the exception of Mads Mikkelsen, he proves once again how precise his skills can be when it comes to portraying charismatic villains. Nevertheless: When virtual tears are cried, the moment is by no means always moving. In addition, the big framework story - Sam's Porter Bridges saves America - is a great hook, but the details are sometimes worked off rather than worked out in an appealing way.

Not to be missed at Death Stranding either: the admonishing index finger. Copyright: Kojima Productions

Not to be missed at Death Stranding either: the admonishing index finger. Copyright: Kojima Productions

With this mood you start and embark on the first missions - and from then on, Death Stranding unfolds its true potential. Rough landscapes, a lot of time to deal with them - first because you have to - later because you want to. The fight against wind, weather and landscape is the exciting element in Death Stranding. Then the game unfolds the charm of a nature documentary, in which little happens cinematically, but which you still have to watch with fascination. The post-apocalyptic elaboration is just as terrific: devices, vehicles, items - all the technological gems that Sam Porter Bridges comes into contact with appear as if they were made from one piece. The high-tech art of Yoji Shinkawa underlines the special atmosphere of the game. Graphically, Death Stranding hammers into the gaming chair on the PC anyway. The look is breathtaking, as well as the sound, as well as the music.

In the end, Death Stranding isn't just a good or bad game, but an experience that you have to get into in order to even experience the qualities of the title. One can easily understand why Hideos Kojima's new work is controversial. Not everything follows a common thread, some appear confused and superimposed, almost unsuitable - others fit so seamlessly into the game world that they are impressive. Death Stranding is a kind of virtual thinking outside the box. The game tears down genre boundaries, it can hardly be assigned with its wild mix of post-apocalyptic adventure, mystery horror, action, life simulation, role play and sci-fi film. 

Is Death Stranding a good game? The answer to this is clear: It all depends ...


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