Death Stranding PlayStation 4 Pro Review

Death Stranding excels at providing an outstanding presentation and story but those wishing to experience that will have to drag their feet through dozens of delivery missions.

By Grayshadow, Posted 12 Nov 2019

Even after completing Death Stranding twice I've been conflicted about how I feel about this title. On one hand, the narrative, presentation, lore, and soundtrack are outstanding. On the other hand, the game's core gameplay teetered between tiresome and exceptional. Death Stranding's world-building featured an incredible landscape teeming with interesting lore but surrounding that is a delivery simulator.
 

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Death Stranding has you in control of Sam Porter. A delivery boy who lives in a now-destroyed world. An event called the Death Stranding has caused a mass extinction throughout the entire planet, with only small pockets of life still remaining. Those humans who still survive now live in shelters to avoid the deadly supernatural creatures called Breach Things or BTs and the timefall rain that rapidly accelerates time of anything it touches.

As Sam, you are 1 of many delivery people called Porters who transport vital cargo to those still alive either in large cities called KNOTs or isolated shelters. Traveling through Breach Things or BTs for short, the timefall, and sometimes raiders called Mules. Your goal isn't only to deliver cargo but to connect everyone through an advanced form of the internet called the Chiral Network. The chiral network not only connects people but allows them to fabricate nonorganic supplies. Not everyone wants to join though and Sam must gain their trust by making other deliveries.

Sam isn't doing this out of the goodness of his heart or for trying to rebuild America. Instead, Sam is doing this for someone he cares about. Amelia, someone close to Sam, has been captured by terrorists and must travel across America to find her. Unfortunately, he cannot do this alone and must rely on the United Cities of America's resources to accomplish this goal. Joining the company Bridges, which is owned by the UCA, Sam agrees and starts his adventure across America, delivering cargo, expanding the network, and trying to find Amelie.
 

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Much of the story revolves around you gaining the trust of the populist and expanding the Chiral Network. The story becomes increasingly more complex as you progress. With information about the BTs, UCA, and the entire cast of characters constantly being delivered. As expected, this is a Hideo Kojima game so expect long cutscenes but the development team took care into ensuring most answers are provided by the end of the journey. With many of the critical facts coming at the very end of the game.

The performances are outstanding. Kojima Productions went above and beyond with the casting. The exceptional animations for each of the character's and the outstanding voice-acting were present in each cutscene. Norman Reedus delivered an outstanding performance as Sam and each of the supporting cast were equally extraordinary. For its narrative and lore, Death Stranding would get a perfect score. But then there's the gameplay that causes a massive shift.

As stated, Sam is a delivery man. So a predominant amount of time will be spent traveling from location to location. Delivering packages and taking on orders but also managing inventory and supplies during long journeys. Kojima Productions put a lot of effort in creating this world from a technical perspective. With each rock and slope capable of causing Sam to stumble and fall, damaging his cargo and reducing his rewards.

Sam isn't superhuman, at least not entirely, and can only carry a certain amount of weight. During each delivery, you're given a set amount of items to deliver and you have to properly place them on Sam's body. You can do this manually or automatically, but each piece of cargo has weight and durability. This determines Sam's gait as well, with back heavy cargo causing him to slant left and right or body heavy cargo reducing his running speed dramatically. The timefall rain also has a major effect on your cargo, with items slowly decaying the longer you spend in the rain.
 

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The terrain is a challenge in itself. Kojima Productions went above and beyond to construct one of the most technically advance open worlds in terms of ground. Within the 2 explorable maps (1 that's linear), you'll explore every slope, river, and rock has to be taken into consideration when traveling. Things players would've thought much about such as a small rock, a 10-foot wall, or even a minor leap are taken to the extreme here. With Sam constantly needing to scan the environment to plot the best route or risk-taking fatal dives or losing cargo. With tiny dots indicating what the terrains danger after being scanned.

To accomplish most goals Sam must plan ahead. This can become a little annoying since the map doesn't provide contour lines but the details on the map generally give an idea of what to expect. Using the resources at hand Sam can sometimes craft items using the Portable Chiral Constructor or PCC. These include ladders, rope, exoskeletons, and weaponry. Each item takes up room and you have to consider the supplies you're taking, the weather condition, and even how much Monster Energy drink you have on harder difficulties since Sam's maximum stamina constantly drains. Sam is encouraged to not use lethal force as killing can something called necrosis. The progress that causes a dead mammal to turn into a BT.

Speaking of BTs, Sam will encounter lots of these deadly creatures during his adventure. These monsters are mostly invisible but people like Sam who are infected with a disease called DOOMs can sense them. In addition, Sam for most of the game is armed with a special device called a BB. These canned babies can see the creatures and can tell Sam where they are. If captured it'll trigger something called a voidout where you're sucked into the world of the BTs and must fight for survival. Or you can run out of the voidout if you please.
 

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BTs cannot appear out of anywhere and have very specific requirements. They can only appear during a timefall and when the timefall's rain or snow is black. When this happens, a small scene is played before your BB starts to track where the closest BT is. These intense situations provide a constant thrill as you evade these supernatural creatures. Holding your breath when you're near to avoid detection and when caught trying to lose them in the same way. With dark tar footprints getting closer to your location. But quickly this thrill is replaced once you gain the tools to kill the creatures or learn that getting across the tar pit will clear the entire area. This reveals quickly drains the game's challenge as these once dangerous and terrifying creatures suddenly more little more than an annoyance. As you can get caught, run to the edge of the tar pit, and clear an entire area of BTs without worry.

If you are forced to fight the BTs will combine into a massive creature. While it looks formidable you can easily kill the creature as they rarely fight back. In fact, I took more damage from falling off terrain than the BTs during both my playthroughs.

You're encouraged to locate and draft specific routes and build constructions such as roads and supply lines to aid in your journey. Creating quicker routes for easier travel. This is where Death Stranding highlights its multiplayer features. Players can actively influence each other's worlds using the Chiral Network. You can build roads, bridges, and other infrastructure to aid in your journey but sometimes the creations of other players will come into being in your world. This also extends to supplies during combat and exploration. You're encouraged to remain connected as supplies are limited and building quicker and safe routes often require large amounts of resources. In addition, the timefall can destroy your structures so depending on your fellow Porters becomes more and more necessary. You can also pick up abandoned or lost cargo throughout the world and deliver it for your fellow Porters for additional bonuses.

This is one of Death Stranding's best features. With players able to indirectly aid one another, with heavily "Liked" items remaining longer in the world. There's no way to negatively affect another's world which is likely what Kojima Productions was intending. Since roads and other large constructions cost a lot of resources this system becomes vital on harder difficulties. 
 

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The idea of delivering cargo to isolated people does seem prudent within a post-apocalyptic world but it translates to a lot of frustration. Having to transport large cargo through hostile territory can be fun until you stumble on a small rock and everything gets damaged. Or you're driving a motorcycle hoping it'll make things easier only to be stopped by even smaller rocks (Death Stranding will make you hate rocks). Eventually, the aspects that go into delivering things do become second nature but those vexing elements remain.

Since everyone is isolated you cannot store resources together. Instead, everything is stored separated into each base. This also means that rewards from completing optional deliveries are only accessible from the completion location. Sam cannot keep delivering items and is required to rest as his overall stamina does drain over time. He must regularly shower, consume Monster Energy, and use the toilet. It's also in his private room that Sam can customize his gear's cosmetic look and add gameplay boosting items such as batteries to his equipment.

Death Stranding does become progressively easier as it continues. The first 5-hours of this 30-hour adventure is going to be tough. But eventually, you'll gain access to more advanced equipment and the ability to kill BTs using your blood, urine, and stools (I'm not kidding). There are also powerful exoskeletons that make traveling easier and robotic delivery options. If you do happen to die you simply restart to the previous check after a small interactive revival sequence.

You're rated for each mission you complete and given a final score. The score does determine how much your rank increases and the higher your rank the more items you'll gain access to. This includes cosmetics and gameplay boosts. With some items about accessible after completing certain missions or gaining a specific rank.
 

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Outside of delivering cargo will have to engage in very specific combat sections. These situations are Death Stranding's best gameplay moments. With players engaging in incredible boss encounters. Unfortunately, these situations make up for about 10% of the game but when they show up they make up for all those annoying delivery missions.

The soundtrack does play a major role throughout Death Stranding. Whether it's a tune being played when you're close to completing a major story mission or speaking to a character. Every musical score complemented the situation. Even the delivery missions had intense accelerating musical scores that had me charged.

A major issue I did encounter was the overall interface. The interface does resemble Metal Gear Solid V's system but has unnecessary button commands. For example, you have hold X to confirm selections when a single button press would've sufficed. The game's menus are cluttered and you'll need to dedicate some time to get used to everything. The game also has a problem where it doesn't always scan the contents in your vehicle when delivering cargo.

The organization for multiple save files is also extremely poor. While you can save multiple files the lists them one after another in one long list. You don't have multiple slots and instead, everything is smashed together.
 

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I enjoyed Death Stranding but I also hated it. The story, performances, musical score, and technical achievements are worthy of praise. It kept me going multiple times when I wanted to quit. But those same aspects don't always translate to incredible gameplay. Traveling the world, making deliveries, and having to constantly stop because of a small rock or drag your feet through an ankle-high river bed is just irritating. And the BTs lose their appeal once you figure out how to destroy them all in an area. Death Stranding excels at providing an outstanding presentation and story but those wishing to experience that will have to drag their feet through dozens of delivery missions.
 


Adam Siddiqui,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS4
Publisher(s): Sony, 505 Games
Developer(s): Kojima Productions
Genres: Action-Adventure
Themes: Dark Fantasy
Release Date: 2019-08-11

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