Released in November 2019 on PS4 after a media hype on the Internet of which only PlayStation has the secret, Death Stranding is a game that fairly well represents the evolution of the industry in recent years. Innovative gameplay, twisted story, on paper we would have expected yet another game out of the mind of Hideo Kojima as he had the opportunity to do before. And yet the latest baby from the Japanese designer breaks the codes to offer a completely different experience, enough to disarm even his biggest fans. The game is coming out this week on PC, so we’re going to dive back into it.
Welcome to the future, on the east coast of a country ravaged by a bit supernatural event. The USA is only a shadow of itself (worse than in 2020) and the survivors live in cities isolated from each other. Outside the cities, desolation. Invisible creatures kill the few souls who dare to venture among the ruins to ensure communication between the last human strongholds.
You play Sam Porter Bridges, and your role (which does not enchant you more than that) is to reconnect the cities while crossing the USA. Why you? Because you have a rare disease that allows you to feel the presence of these invisible enemies and even to fight them. You are accompanied by a BB which allows you to detect invisible creatures. An indispensable companion in the middle of a fight, you will have to manage your stress by cajoling it if you are more focused on infiltration, otherwise, it will cry and make you detect.
It is a little complex and much more fun to discover while playing, so we will stop here the point on the scenario.
Death Stranding is an adventure game that propels us into the midst of landscapes where nature has taken over. Environments where we meet few friends (if not a few porters like us who go back and forth between cities), but especially invisible creators who want our skin and mercenaries who steal deliveries.
Our fantastic ride is therefore strewn with obstacles, sometimes natural (a river, a ravine, a mountain), sometimes criminal and in the worst supernatural cases. To complete our adventure, our hero will have to use all the resources available to him.
Indeed, we are not content to just walk, we can (and we are often forced) to use objects to advance in the middle of desert and unfriendly terrain. A ladder to cross a river, a rope to abseil, everything is good to be able to help us finish our journey.
A more complicated journey than it seems because the principle of the game is to transport objects (in the form of briefcases most of the time) from point A to point B. Sometimes bulky goods, often heavy or even fragile, which will change the way you can move your character. You will not be able to carry 500kg like that, it will sometimes be necessary to take the cases directly in your hands to keep the balance. You will have to choose between a weapon, a delivery, security or simplicity …
Running down a slope with 150kg of goods on your back is not necessarily a good idea. This handicap directly affects your way of playing and the game experience. We don’t run in the middle of a plain as we would in an RPG, it’s a simulation-based experience that we are offered here.
A real puzzle around which revolves all the experience of the game. Because if Death Stranding is a solo game, it is connected to the other players. You have to understand that the objects that we leave on the ground during our game, the road constructions that we start, the vehicles that we abandon, all this “appears” in the game of other players.
We go through our adventure alone, but we help other carriers, in the same way, that they help us. And suddenly we have a whole new dimension of play that opens up before us. We start to try to set up objects by thinking of others before thinking of us. If jumping over the precipice was not a problem for us, why not build a bridge to help others?
The game rewards us with “likes” awarded by the players (and by the NPCs) when they use our constructions. We feel useful for others without seeing them using our scales. If they are useless (likes), they allow us to feel connected with others. We feel “useful”.
Death Stranding offers us a complex but rich story, with a truly cutting edge graphic realization, both for the actors and for the environments. All sprinkled with a neat sound environment. It’s a whole. The fight scenes are dynamic and the bosses punctuate the story just right. The dubbing of the characters, their character and their relationships are worked down to the smallest detail.
Kojima Productions gives us the keys to the story from the start and we take pleasure in discovering where it leads us as we unfold the chapters. It’s hard not to get attached to these charismatic characters from the tortured past.
Death Stranding is a slow and long game. We literally walk slowly throughout the start of the game before starting to unlock more practical means of transport (truck, motorcycle, …). But if you don’t play the game in a straight line and want to experience Sam’s daily life, you’re going to make a lot of round trips between cities to deliver packages. There are fun side missions, emails to read, information to glean here, and there to understand the game world a little better. If you like the game, you’re off for long evenings.