Death Stranding - Initial Impressions
The Smoky Old Fashioned Knight
The internet has been awash with conflicting information regarding Death Stranding and as I have found in recent years with age and ever-changing personal preference it is best to try for yourself. Old fashioned demos, sadly, are few and far between these days so unless you have a friend to borrow from, the choice I usually take is to buy the game outright, jumping in blindly with my fingers crossed.
That being said, I am glad I have taken that jump here with Death Stranding. Once the game was installed and the initial set up completed you are greeted with, nothing less than, some of the most beautiful imagery you will witness in gaming. It felt as if was watching a documentary filmed for Discovery Planet. The cinematography and music in the opening minutes are captivating, this feeling of wonder is then abruptly and simultaneously coupled with a feeling of dread. Huge levels of anxiety washed over me as I was given a glimpse of the horrors that await.
When you are given control of Sam, you are treated to a very enjoyable segment traversing a beautifully crafted world with a soundtrack that makes you feel like you are watching the introduction to a movie. There are aspects to the gameplay that I did not expect and as time goes on these dynamics will no doubt create some very interesting moments. As my adventure progresses; weight, posture, balance, gravity & human endurance all have factors to play.
Straight out of the blocks I am feeling a connection to the world that is unfolding in front of me. The story, thus far, is captivating and I am optimistic that it will only pull me in deeper as time passes.
I have seen this game labelled an advanced walking simulator, and my response to that would be to say that in the last year I have poured 100’s hours into Bethesda’s, walking simulator, “Fallout 76”. Looking & playing the way Death Stranding does, I will gladly spend the new few hundred hours in this visually stunning, beautifully crafted and emotionally engaging walking experience.
The visuals in Death Stranding are the first thing that hit you upon starting up the game. They are simply breathtaking and really showcase the Decima engine to great effect. The Decima engine was last utilised to great effect in the modern classic game, Horizon Zero Dawn.
Death Stranding takes photorealism to beyond any point Playstation has achieved so far in my opinion. The facial animations are a big plus here and the close-ups are almost lifelike. In terms of story, I am still very much at the start but Death Stranding has all the tenants of Hideo Kojima game. Initially, my feelings about the game leaned towards more of a horror game due to the cutscenes evident but after a few hours, you realise that this is only one part of the narrative. The opening sequences are both powerful and full of emotion, but what else would you expect for a Kojima title.
The first few missions are where the game takes a lull in excitement compared to the very strong opening and, at this moment, hints at what may come in terms of exploration. Traversal is going to be a huge part of this game. Finding routes past seemingly impassable rock faces, navigating through BT (Beached Things) infested areas and also trying to steer clear of other more corporeal enemies. The purpose of the game is to connect areas of America. "The Social Strand System" as Kojima named it, is something I thought would be a little boring. However after connecting two areas and simultaneously avoiding a group of bandits and BTs I can safely say that this game is far from that initial thought.
So far, it looks like the gameplay will be light on gunplay and will focus more on travelling. In essence, it seems that this game could almost be considered an interactive puzzle with elements of a motion picture. Traversing the lands of a desolate America is essentially the gameplay, whereby you need to pick routes, navigate obstacles and solve problems to make sure your journey is an efficient one. That said, not everyone will be entirely happy just wandering around, so this game, like many, will pass or fail on narrative. In that respect, I am very much intrigued to see which way Kojima will go and look forward to the story unfolding further.
I can be sure of one thing in this regard, it will be one hell of a crazy, weird ride.