Now that the long-awaited Kojima Productions game has been released on PS4, reviews have been a chaotic mix of high, low, and in-between. Here's what people are saying:
Death Stranding is a long, long walk in a strange world. Much of your time is spent making decisions that determine whether Norman Reedus' character will fall over or get killed. As a deliveryman of the apocalypse, it's your job to deliver various items across the country, but you must literally balance the need for high-paying cargo and not tumbling off a mountain. Meanwhile, you must avoid the dreaded BTs (Beached Things) that will suck you into tar stuff and make you drop your packages and make your chest baby (BB) cry. It's a whole thing.
Bloody Disgusting calls the gameplay "cerebral and convoluted," CQ calls it "absorbing," and Kotaku wants to know what's up with those weird ads that display when you poop. Game Rant says the game is somewhere between disaster and masterpiece, but leaning more toward the former.
One thing is for sure, every reviewer seems to agree that Death Stranding is tedious. The game spends several chapters getting you used to the concepts, strategies, and game mechanics and it isn't until much later that the plot starts to move along.
A highly positive thing that most agree on is Death Stranding's unique "Social Strand System." This allows players to positively impact other peoples' game experiences by leaving objects, markers, building structures, etc. Here is one encounter, as shared by Game Rant author Dalton Cooper:
"...with patience, and persistence, and a few curses muttered at my TV, I finally guided Sam to the peak of the mountain—and took in one of the game’s genuinely stunning vistas, which was so striking that I left an in-game signpost telling fellow players players they should come up this way for a great view. As I climbed down the other side of the mountain—slipping in the snow, boots so worn out I’d soon be barefoot—I came to a steep ledge, and was absurdly grateful to find a climbing rope another player had left for me to use, along with a little thumbs-up sign encouraging me to keep going.
"With Death Stranding, not only does [Kojima] build upon his philosophy of non-violence, he expands upon what it means for gamers to connect," writes Bloody Disgusting author Michael Pementel.
As polarizing as the reviews have been so far, no one seems to have a problem with the graphics. Death Stranding operates at 1080p on the vanilla PS4, rising to a checkerboarded 2160p on the Pro.
All that walking has one distinct advantage - you have a lot of time to enjoy the view! The post-apocalyptic world appear barren but is actually quite stunning, many reviews have said, if you stop to take it all in. In addition, Kojima Productions employed a wildly complex camera setup to capture the likeness and performance of its Hollywood actors and cameos, making the experience seem that much more real.
Composer and Death Stranding sound designer Joel Corelitz describes Death Stranding audio as vertigo—the sense, he says, that you “don’t know which way is up or out.”
Together with Kojima Productions composer Ludvig Forssell and a few others from Sony, a lot of effort was made to create a sound that didn't really belong anywhere. Pianos were struck with a sledgehammer, guitars were stuffed with styrofoam, and every day objects were used in any way they could think of to make unique audio effects.
“Each track consists of a different energy level,” Corelitz told The Verge. “The highest level of energy is for when you engage the enemy. The lowest level is when you are sneaking around. The two levels in between represent that the enemy might know someone is there. As you’re playing, the music is constantly adjusting between four tracks.”
Most reviewers tend to agree that the music and overall audio of Death Stranding is great. With its contemplative soundscapes to reflect on as you're traversing the map, or the eerily life-like sounds of BB crying over your PS4 controller, it's easy to tell that audio design was a focus and a huge win here.
"Death Stranding's excellent soundtrack always seems to kick in at just the right times, enhancing its breathtaking views in a masterful way," says Game Rant.
For best results, always pair your immersive sound experience with a great pair of headphones!
Like Kojima's other games, Death Stranding offers players with a lot of variety based on their choices and the new social strand element could very well become a brand new genre in gaming that invites cooperation. Reviewers and player opinions vary wildly on the game - while some appreciate the quiet moments alone with BB, others find the pace too slow and the game mechanics cumbersome.
Despite some scathing comments, Death Stranding holds a decent 83 Metascore score as of this writing.
Kojima offered a theory as to why his game's reviews are so different:
“I must say that the game has received some enthusiastic reviews, above all in Europe and Japan. Here in the US, instead, we’ve had stronger criticisms," he said. "Perhaps it’s a game that’s difficult to understand for a certain type of critic and some of the public. Americans are some of the biggest first-person shooter fans and Death Stranding isn’t that.”
Will you be traversing the world of Death Stranding? Or are you waiting until it comes out on PC in early summer 2020?