“Some people say it’s almost like the movie Alien, where you are gradually finding out what the whole world is about, what you can do and not do. Maybe it gets really fun when you have completed 50 percent of the game.” – Hideo Kojima explaining Death Stranding
I’ve been following Hideo Kojima’s career since Metal Gear Solid released on the PS1. I was thirteen at the time and it was a special experience for me. It was a game that offered interesting gameplay and an intense story that could rival any Hollywood blockbuster. Cutscenes played out like a movie with fully voiced dialogue. It blew my mind and was a landmark title for the Playstation. My love for Kojima’s games would grow through the years and peak with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence.
Kojima wouldn’t earn my respect again until 2014 with a PS4 demo called P.T. It was a teaser for a now cancelled Silent Hill game that was supposed to star Norman Reedus (Walking Dead) and have involvement from Guillermo Del Toro. P.T. was terrifying and I still have it installed on my PS4 (if I ever muster the courage to play it again). People still talk about it to this day, and the story and systems involved in the short demo are something I really would have loved to have seen evolve into a full game.
Fast-forward to present day. Fans are eagerly awaiting Kojima’s next big video game release. Death Stranding is a game that has been shrouded in secrecy since its announcement. Each new trailer that releases just causes further confusion. It’s about life and death. It’s an open world action game where connecting the world is key. You carry a baby around in a jar. It just has that quirky, crazy, Kojima vibe going on. I was interested in finding out more about its world and characters, but after watching Kojima explain forty-nine minutes of Death Stranding gameplay that was shown at TGS 2019, it would seem that he has seriously lost his way, and I just don’t have the desire to even play it anymore.
The first red-flag for me was the fact that they had to have Kojima explain the mechanics of the game for forty-nine minutes. Before the presentation starts, Kojima tries to reassure the audience “It’s a new kind of game and setting, and because it’s unusually new, explaining it is difficult” Kojima says. He even asks if everyone in the audience watched the briefing video. Briefing video? I didn’t watch a briefing video. Why do I need to have watched a briefing video? And then the gameplay begins…
Now I understand why there was a briefing video.
Before heading out on their mission, players can choose a number of different items to carry with them. These can range from repair sprays to an extra pair of boots. The amount of weight you’re carrying effects your balance and stamina. You use the L and R buttons on the PS4 controller to keep Sam balanced while on the move. You can run, but your stamina usage changes depending on your balance. Terrain varies, even down to how deep rivers are. There’s a baby strapped to your chest (named BB) that needs your attention. You’re some kind of futuristic postman. You pick up a package for a musician off the ground and can deliver it to his house if you want. If you slip on the slope you’re traversing, you’ll fall down and your packages will be in danger. If the package is damaged, wet, or if it takes a long time for you to deliver, you’re given fewer likes. Your boots can break. If you’re tired you need to take a break and you can massage your shoulders to help with the process. Sometimes you’ll have to let Sam sleep for a bit, Hideo tells you this is always a good time to go make coffee while you wait for the recovery process to finish. There are energy drinks you can use that will give you a boost of energy (the game was sponsored by Monster) & machines you can step in that clean you and play music by famous musicians. The music you can listen to levels up…
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Why is there so many things to watch out for? Who wants to play this? Why in gods name am I delivering packages to people in this wasteland?
I know this game is about bringing people together, but it all just seems so convoluted.
While the graphics look amazing and the creature towards the end of the demo looks cool, the only feature that interests me the most is that Death Stranding is an online game, kind of. In the hour demo, someone has left a ladder for the player to use. There are storage systems you can access that contain items players have left behind. You can do the same. Being able to set things up for others to use and receive to help progress reminds me of the notes you can leave in Dark Souls. It was always nice to see a warning for bosses or enemies ahead. In Death Stranding, they are a little more useful than just warnings.
I can’t say I’m impressed with what I saw during the demo, but who knows what the whole game will be like when it all comes together.
This quote from Kojima gives me some hope at least…
“People have created “Walls” and become accustomed to living in isolation. Death Stranding is a completely new type of action game, where the goal of the player is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented society. It is created so that all elements, including the story and gameplay, are bound together by the theme of the “Strand” or connection. As Sam Porter Bridges, you will attempt to bridge the divides in society, and in doing create new bonds or “Strands” with other players around the globe. Through your experience playing the game, I hope you’ll come to understand the true importance of forging connections with others.”
We’ll find out in November if Death Stranding can deliver on Kojima’s vision. – NVJ
Death Stranding releases on PS4 November 8th, 2019