Death Stranding review - what has recovered here?
When we learned in 2015 that Hideo Kojima was leaving Konami, leaving the Metal Gear Solid brand, I thought that a certain stage in my life had ended. It occurred to me that I would never play the game again. Let's pour the alcohol, let's raise sad toasts in memory of the great emotions that this series gave us in 1987–2015.
In 2016, Andrew House, the then president of Sony Interactive Entertainment, invited a guest to the stage during a conference at E3, announcing him with the words: "one of the most creative minds in the history of games." The lights went out, the curtain slid open - and Hideo Kojima stepped out to the audience along the lights on the lights, saying, "I'm back!" Moments later, he presented the first trailer of Death Stranding , in which a naked, crying Norman Reedus hugs a newborn on the beach. Back then, we thought, "Oh boy, here we go again."
Experience for over 50 hours
It took 53 hours, 42 minutes and 51 seconds to complete Death Stranding . If the experience can be converted into minutes, I have 3222 more of it than you. If you could translate them over a distance, I'm 197 kilometers away. If by weight, I should feel 3.5 tons on my shoulders. These statistics were displayed to me by the game after its completion. Do I feel richer? Well, I feel that I have had the chance to play an important and momentous game that we will argue about for years . Whether Is Death Stranding more art or entertainment? Hasn't the serious plot been a victim of pretentiousness and kitsch? Isn't the repetition of the gameplay a proverbial nail in the coffin? Do we actually know what Kojima meant?
With Death Stranding , you will ask yourself the above questions many times. And you'll find the criteria we've used to judge games stop working. Because the sense of this production, its mechanics, gameplay and plot escape ordinary evaluation . Think about it like this: you can judge the graphics, plot or mechanics. Even write it down. Then try telling your friend about it. He'll ask anyway, "But what do you mean?"
Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, Death Stranding is not a difficult game, but an extremely difficult experience that is experienced very personally. You will understand this at the very beginning, when you go down the hill, you hear a song by the Low Roar group in the loudspeakers, and in front of you you will see a picturesque, truly Icelandic landscape. I'm sure most of the reviews for this game you'll read today will contain that slightly pompous sentence: "This isn't a game for everyone." It is true. And I will try to explain to you why this is so.
A short history of the world, or how I became a cable TV fitter
Bridges himself (Norman Reedus) is the courier. It deals with the transfer of packages and the delivery of the necessary raw materials. He's a quiet, withdrawn type that shuns people. He suffers from hafephobia - fear of being touched, so he is not one of the most social creatures on Earth.
On an Earth whose history is basically over. When we meet Sam, he lives in an empty and uninhabited world (not counting the occasional bandit camps). There are no more cities, no roads. You won't find villages and shops. Well, what are the shops, there aren't even sellers! Nobody is involved in anything - at least at first glance.
We don't know exactly when the game takes place, and it makes sense: this world no longer has a history. There used to be an order (historical, historical, cultural, political, etc.), but a few decades ago, the title "death stranding" took place, which erased all coherence, knowledge and history. "Death Strike" - how it was translated into Polish. Invisible beings appeared on our globe - spirits with umbilical cords - which started the annihilation of humanity. Those who survived built shelters. Today they are born underground, and they only "see" the sun and sky when they are taken outside after death.
Sinister ghosts, demons, or creatures from another dimension appear with temporal precipitation. This is not ordinary rain - it speeds up time and, consequently, decay. Dampened steel rusts and people age in seconds. Therefore, the only option was to hide in the basement. Those who failed disappeared in massive explosions. After their deaths, craters remained as if struck by an atomic bomb.
Each death - even from natural causes - causes such an explosion and the arrival of the "surfaced" (this is how these creatures are defined in the Polish translation). That is why a body incinerator was created, where the corpses of the dead are cremated in furnaces - far from the underground cities. For the same reason, society has been broken up into dozens of tiny groups that have no contact with each other, and the profession of courier is highly respected. It is one of the few links between human "islands".
When we start the game, Sam is demanded by his former clients - the Bridges organization. We know we've worked for them before, but why have our paths diverged? In the end, we agree to their proposal - we are to cross from the east coast of America to the west , setting up a network in subsequent cities that will once again unite the broken society and enable the country to be rebuilt. He agrees, because although he is not a special patriot, his childhood friend was kidnapped at the same time. In this way, we turn from a courier into a "cable fitter". And we're moving west to connect the world to the web.
How to play that?
Contrary to appearances, it is very simple. From a terminal in an underground city, we take an order for the delivery of, for example, wood and set off to the world. Oh yeah, you'll grab your head again and again. How do I wear parcels? How is it, am I supposed to pull the cable from east to west? But that's it: the whole concept of the game is based on this idea. When we call Death Stranding a game of the road, we will not miss the truth. We go. Let's go. We march. In Death Stranding, this is our main activity: traveling the next kilometers.
Kojima Productions has developed all the mechanics of this walking. Each package has its own weight and dimensions. We can wear them on the back, on the thighs, on the shoulders and in the hands (and also, after unlocking various gadgets, for example on aerobags or transport in vehicles). If we overdo it with the load capacity or we distribute the weight of the load incorrectly (it should be placed symmetrically on Sam, fortunately, it is enough to press the triangle to make the game balance this distribution itself), we will wobble.
Camera - action!
This is not an action game - shooting in Death Stranding appears as much as the cat cried. More than once I have caught myself - even later in the game - that I forgot to bring a gun with me. Bridges himself is not a commando or secret agent. This is the courier that delivers parcels. After all, the game offers a certain arsenal, but in truth we rarely get to use it - at least in the first chapters. We meet emerged people with whom it is impossible to fight regularly, and bandits.
The latter can be eliminated openly or silently (the bolas launcher, the weapon presented on the trailers, throwing lines tethering the victims works perfectly well). Sneaking, however, is not a natural activity for Sam, who is hung with goods, and therefore is not the easiest thing to do. Bandits, just like us, have scanners that can pinpoint our location (or more precisely, the location of our inventory) from several hundred meters , hence the surveillance of their bases is rarely as successful as it was in Metal Gear Solid . The fight itself, however, was not particularly well resolved. The entire bandit camp can be defeated by fists, and once we get weapons, we become practically invincible.
However, there is no apparent reason why we should visit these camps at all - of our own free will. If the task does not force us to do it, then we probably have nothing to look for there, except for usually one collectible and a ton of resources that can be used to build bridges, roads, generators, hideouts and many other useful things. But we don't have to do it, raw materials can always be obtained from the base or found elsewhere. This is not an ubisoft sandbox. We do not conquer strongholds, we do not unlock the towers and we do not clear the next camps of enemies.
Lonely multiplayer fun
The multi-person aspect deserves recognition. Known from the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne games, leaving some information on yourself has evolved here into a really sizeable system that makes you happy and can save you from a lot of trouble.
Not only can we leave various signs that other players see in their worlds (they also give bonuses to endurance or the child's mood). If we put a ladder somewhere, the player who has already unlocked the network in a given region (in other words, led the cable to a given place) will be able to use it. It is similar with the generators that power our vehicles, hideouts or shelters - we see other people's buildings, which often turns out to be extremely helpful. I do not count how many times I used the rope left by someone (generously rewarding this player with likes) or the hideout. I had put the bridge in a strategic place myself, and soon began to receive information that someone somewhere in the world had used it on their own journey. Nice!
If you are tired of constantly breaking through difficult terrain, you can build roads (in designated places, you can't do it wherever you want). However, construction requires a huge amount of resources, so other players "participate" in it. If you complete the route, you will soon be able to slide your bike along it, making it much easier to complete side quests.
Movie or game?
While playing Death Stranding , you will go through several stages. You will be amazed and amazed. You will seek and try to understand. But you will also be disappointed if you keep asking yourself questions. It's already? This is what the game is about? On walking? Am I honored to experience something really important here, or am I the victim of a great deception?
Chapter 3 felt the worst when I realized that basically nothing would change here. That that's the whole game. Lots of walking, carrying packs, some cutscenes and fighting. And if the plot isn't good, it's Death Stranding nothing will save. You see, this production encourages you to keep playing with the promise - we want to know what's going on , who's who and with whom, why ghosts roam the world, what Sam Bridges has to do with it, and what are jarred babies. Tempted by the perversity of this promise, we go through most of the game, realizing at some point that no one is bothering to explain anything to us. The composition of this work - stretched, long and monotonous - has its drawbacks, I will not pretend otherwise. But in the end I think Kojima gets his way, and I fall for these secrets as I wander through the cavernous and sad world of Death Stranding .
Luckily for you and me, Kojima once again surprises with a twisted, complicated, and bizarre plot that includes absurd (but - my God - great, great!) Heroes. I cannot say much about them, because I would have to reveal the elements that are very rewarding to discover. But let me just mention that cut-scenes with Fragile (Lea Seydoux) are eagerly awaited, and Heartman (Nicolas Refn, otherwise a director of nice movies such as Drive and Valhalla Rising ) is one of the most interesting heroes from a whole galaxy of weird Kojima's healthily crazy characters. And Mikkelsen. I do not forget about Mikkelsen and the only thing I can tell you is that it is amazing.