“Death Stranding” Struggles to Maintain Attention Spans

Creator of "Metal Gear Solid" Releases Mediocre Video Game

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“Death Stranding” Struggles to Maintain Attention Spans

"Death Stranding" was released on November 8th, 2019.

Ivy Lister

"Death Stranding" was released on November 8th, 2019.

Ivy Lister

Ivy Lister

"Death Stranding" was released on November 8th, 2019.

Michael Thomas-Stewart, Contributing Writer

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Rating: 2.5/5 Falcons

Death Stranding is the brainchild of video game designer Hideo Kojima. It stars Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and Guillermo del Toro in a science-fiction, post-apocalyptic thriller action game, exclusive for PlayStation 4. Death Stranding is best experienced without prior knowledge going in, which even a spoiler-free review can ruin. If there is a chance in your mind that you may already be interested, continue to read at your own discretion.

The plot and gameplay revolve around courier-turned-emissary Sam Porter delivering important cargo for what remains of the United States of America, in hopes of preventing the extinction of civilization. Some packages are given to you directly by employers, others are abandoned parcels you must discover yourself. The better condition it is delivered in, the better rating you will receive. As you traverse the mountains and rivers that impede your progress, you’ll also have to watch out for the “Timefall:” rain that accelerates the aging of anything it touches (including your packages). 

As for enemies, they are ghostly entities known as BTs, who haunt the graying fields of grass throughout the early segments of the game. These humanoid masses of black goo attack the living and cause “Void Outs” whenever they kill their target, leaving a crater of ash and dust in their wake. Despite the foreboding presence the game tries to establish with the BTs, they don’t serve as much of a threat as the natural obstacles do. Sneaking around them and occasionally holding your breath are the only actions necessary to deal with them. This, unfortunately, kills much of the suspense the game tries to force you into feeling when you encounter large groups of BTs.

One of the most interesting (and also frustrating) mechanics present during the delivery segments is the idea of weight affecting your travel. The more items you carry, the slower your character moves. The amount of thought that went into making real physics a part of the gameplay adds a lot to the barebones difficulty and immerses you in this world that still functions like our own, despite the fantastical elements.

While the idea of delivering as many packages as possible unscathed can be exciting and fun, the game is best enjoyed in short bursts of 2-3 hour play sessions due to its repetitive nature. This wouldn’t detract from my rating of the game if it wasn’t upwards of 50 hours long,.Though many reviewers may try to convince you that the game is a disaster, one of Kojima’s weakest creations, or even an unsalvageable piece of garbage, there is a lot to be enjoyed in the game despite its numerous flaws.

Although writing dialogue is not his strong suit, Mr. Kojima’s genius shines through his creativity and masterful work as a director, as his previous work on the Metal Gear Solid games has proven. The creatures and costumes designed for his games are inventive, unique, and iconic. The cinematography of Kojima’s cutscenes has always been breathtaking. Death Stranding follows and then exceeds this trend. The concepts and worldbuilding he develops truly cement Mr. Kojima as one of the gaming industry’s greatest creative minds living in the 21st century.

Mr. Kojima’s skill as a director and storyteller, the game’s interesting mechanics, and the star power found in the game’s casting is unfortunately not enough to make up for Death Stranding’s boring, repetitive gameplay. The inadequate aspects of the game wouldn’t be an issue if this was a film, given Kojima’s skill as a cinematographer and story writer. As a video game, it becomes clear that Kojima could be losing his touch.

This piece also appears in our December 2019 print edition.