Hideo Kojima’s latest offering Death Stranding came out last Friday and even before then it’s been having a lot of different perspectives lumped in on it, which have also been illustrated through its review scores. However, recently Kojima apparently ignited a firestorm when he gave various comments about the types of games that sell in different regions of the world.
Death Stranding is unlike any other kind of game that Kojima has released before, in that instead of a spy and political thriller like his Metal Gear games, or even a cyberpunk mystery game like his “Snatchers” game from 1988, it’s a post-apocalyptic art game, if anything.
People have often compared it to the life of an Amazon deliveryman, and they’re not wrong. Norman Reedus’s character Sam Bridges travels between the isolated remnants of a post-apocalyptic America delivering various packages, all of which is in order to keep humanity from falling apart due to becoming more isolated.
While the game does have at least some combat, Death Stranding as a whole is fairly different from what many people were expecting, especially given the confusing nature of many of its trailers. However, it’s in the reviews that most people are pointing out that difference.
Kojima’s comments about how the game does in the world depend on the region, really. He states that the game has gotten rave reviews, but mostly in places like Europe and his native Japan, while attitudes have been more divisive in other places like America.
He’s not wrong, either; reviews from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Russia, France, and China, have all labeled the game a masterpiece, while other countries in places like Australia, outlets like CG Magazine, Hardcore Gamer, and IGN have been significantly harsher to it. Polygon even outright refused to give it a score.
Kojima’s reasoning is that while Europe and Japan appreciate more artistic games, shooters are more in line with what people from the US expect, and Kojima even said that it’s likely that people in Japan and Europe are able to appreciate the game more because of it.
While this has sparked a lot of backlash against him, Kojima is hardly wrong. Shooter games flood markets all over America, and Call of Duty is constantly getting record-high sales despite rarely innovating.
Even Spec Ops: The Line, a shooter intended to criticize the normal “Shooter saves America” plot and the actions a player normally undertakes, got mixed reviews for being clunky and frustrating to play, which if anything was the entire point the game was trying to make alongside its critically acclaimed narrative.
Reviews are also often colored based on the reviewer’s personal preferences, and a reviewer can give a game a bad review because they dislike something about it that other people love. Mass Effect Andromeda, for instance, got a higher grade from IGN (7.7/10) than Death Stranding (6.8), despite the negative response to Andromeda as a whole.
Hideo Kojima has been developing Metal Gear games for over 20 years now, ever since the first Metal Gear game in 1987. If he wants to finally take advantage of being out from under Konami’s thumb to make something different, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If you were playing Death Stranding because you anticipated some grand-scale shooter instead of cerebral social commentary, you probably weren’t paying attention to the game’s trailers, or don’t have the proper mindset to give the game a good shot.
Just because the game doesn’t conform to your expectations, or you’re not in the right mindset to really appreciate it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. It may only be worth one playthrough, and it may not be for everyone, but Death Stranding is still a game that Hideo Kojima actually wants to make, rather than is forced to make. So, while you may not like it, you can at least give it a chance.