Death Stranding is the first title to be produced by Hideo Kojima after his leave from Konami, under his own independent label Kojima Productions. After 2 years of trailers, interviews, and an exclusive release on Playstation 4, the game is available on PC, opening up to a whole new market. Death Stranding is available on Steam and Epic Games Store, with the first counting more than 20.000 concurrent players over the past days. I’ve been playing Kojima’s new title on PC in order to provide you with everything you might want to know about its performance and overall quality. This is our Death Stranding review.
As a big Kojima fan, it was hard for me not to love Death Stranding from its very first moments. Especially since the game drops you into a beautiful world with background music, designed to make you want to look around and admire the gifts of nature. We’ll go through exactly how beautiful this world on PC is, as it is one of its most prominent features. For now, let’s go over what the game is.
Death Stranding Plot
Death Stranding is a video game set in a post-apocalyptic America, after an event carrying the same name with the game takes place and changes the world as we know it. People now have drifted apart, staying in bunkers underground, with no real connections with one another. Sam Porter Bridges, our protagonist, is a courier guy delivering goods from one place to another. He is tasked with being the one to reconnect this world. Sam is a “repatriate”, which means that he can defy death, coming back every time through “the beach”, which is a perosnal place connecting the living and the dead.
The world of Death Stranding is a hostile place, despite its beauty. Rain results in time speeding up everything around it and groups of people are taking advantage of this situation to accomplish their own devious plans. It’s called Timefall. The Timefall causes creatures and ghosts, known as BTs, to appear leaving behind huge craters whenever they manage to “eat” a person. In this world, Sam needs to form connections, make his deliveries in order to make people trust him, and occasionally fight a BT creature or group of fanatics in order to survive.
The plot of Death Stranding is weird and unique as every other Hideo Kojima title. It takes a mind like his to devise such a complex plot filled with characters that are tormented by their own demons. All characters in Death Stranding are a special kind of personalities with actors like Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Lindsay Wagner and Emily o’Brien giving the best of their performances to make the game feel like an interactive movie. Also, let’s not forget the emblematic voice of Troy Baker, who gives his voice to the main antagonist in Death Stranding, Higgs. All these make the Death Stranding formula a super successful one.
When I first started watching Death Stranding through its trailers, it struck me as an incredibly hard game to comprehend. Yes, it’s scenario is complex. However, as you get your hands on the game, you’ll find out that people talk about what is happening so much that at some point you’ll figure out everything.
Death Stranding Gameplay
The first thing I’ve noticed is a bunch of similarities with Kojima’s last video game, Metal Gear Solid V. The way the interface looks, some of the sounds used for that as well as the way Sam crouches and his attire are Kojima classics. No one would ever accuse him of using the same pattern in this game, as this is a nice little reminder of his work before Death Stranding. Kojima found what works for his games and that creative vision is what makes him different.
Death Stranding is indeed a walking simulator. However, it is all worth it. Experiencing walking in all types of terrain, from fields of grass to snowy mountains to rocky cliffs, the game wants you to experience it all. Even after a few hours where you unlock the bike and things start getting a little easier, you’ll find that you still enjoy surveying the world around you. The fact that, without roads, you have no clear path on where to go, enhances the feeling of exploration within the world. Even with vehicles though, you’ll still have to walk a lot as not all terrains are traversable with bikes or trucks. I learned that the hard way after destroying a handful of bikes while trying to reach a certain NPC on the other end of a huge area full of cliffs.
Death Stranding revolutionizes the way characters interact with their environment in terms of physics. All-terrain is mapped and designed in a way where Sam has to balance himself at all times. You will have to press down both triggers on a gamepad or both mouse clicks in order to stay balanced. Falling down results in your cargo getting damaged. This is the first time this mechanic is one of the main features in a game. It is its greatest value though. After playing for a couple of hours you’ll find yourself walking more carefully in other games too, even without balancing yourself. This is a feature that should become a standard in gaming.
Your main task besides following the main story is to deliver goods from one place to another, connecting people with the main UCA network. This requires a lot of “back and forth”, talking to NPC and climbing to all kinds of weird places to reach them. Besides that, you’ll be able to help other players in their own journey by building signs to notify them about certain dangers or encourage them as well as construct buildings. Such buildings are outposts, roads, bridges, generators to charge your gear and vehicle. For all of these actions you get awarded with Likes, which is the main indicator of experience in Death Stranding.
Likes are basically what you get for completing missions, help others in building structures, and overall being a good sport. In a world where currency doesn’t matter and people seclude themselves in bunkers a simple thank you and a thumbs up goes a long way.
Leaving signs for other players on PC could have fallen into the trolling trap but amazingly it didn’t. The community has managed to create one “helpful and positive umbrella” under which each player can get information about the game and progress easier. As soon as roads for instance got unlocked in my game, I could see players pointing to the direction of road-building stations and left signs of what materials are needed. Surprisingly, a huge part of that area was soon connected with roads, making gameplay even faster and easier than before.
The most important of all characters in Death Stranding is BB. BB or Bridge Baby is “the baby in the pod” as we all know it. It acts as a “compass” to spot BTs through Timefall and is also a cool way to make Sam care about something in the meantime. BB isn’t there just to act as a “device”, its background story will be the turning point for the plot as well.
Other NPCs besides the main characters feel unique and some of them are still stuck in my head, like the guy that wanted pizza badly or the brother of the delivery man accompanying Sam we’ve seen in the second trailer. And of course, let’s not forget the memorable appearances of Geoff Keighly and Conan o Brien as NPCs.
This is not everything the game has to offer though. After chapter 3, you’ll find yourself thrown into real combat, this time carrying a weapon and experiencing some real shooting from time to time. Don’t get too used to it though as you’ll still be walking most of the time.
Controls felt a little weird on my keyboard at first. When I would find myself in a battle for instance, I would press random buttons searching for V to melee strike and would occasionally mess up the cargo I was carrying by not hitting Confirm on the menu. All those will feel more instinctive as the game progresses. The same goes for vehicles and building structures. When you get the hang of it, everything is way easier than you might expect.
The saddest, yet understandable feature in Death Stranding is fast travel. You’ll indeed unlock fast travel but you won’t be able to carry any stuff along with you. This means that you can’t abuse it to deliver things from one area to another without walking. You come to terms with it as you progress but it still is a shot to the heart.
The last thing I should note about the PC version of Death Stranding is that it includes a new side mission, paying homage to great Valve games. You get Half-Life references through emails a task asking you to collect companion cubes, which are famous from Portal.
Death Stranding PC Graphics
Moving on to my favorite segment of analyzing Death Stranding, it’s time to talk about graphics. More specifically, its graphics on PC. If you’ve played the game already on Playstation 4 and own a gaming PC too, do yourself a favor and replay it. The unlocked frame rates make the game really stand out against its console version. I have to note that I own a mid-range PC, meaning I couldn’t experience really high FPS but my 4GB GPU handled graphics excellently. Where Death Stranding shines is when played on a widescreen. This is one of the main reasons why players claim the PC version is the ultimate version of the game.
During my playthrough, I had no hiccups, no frame drops (except for a couple of area changes that required a huge amount of rendering), and no blurry backgrounds in order to maintain stable FPS. In terms of performance, it’s important to note that players did have their occasional issues with crashes, most of which were caused by DirectX and access violations. 505 Games, the company responsible for porting the game on PC, is looking into all the issues and has already implemented a huge 5GB update a day after release.
Death Stranding Audio
Death Stranding is unique in terms of concept and that stretches to even its audio background. One moment you’re exploring the wilderness with the wind blowing through your headset and the next you’re in the middle of a ghost area, with screaming entities and a feeling of uneasiness that isn’t so familiar to players even for horror games. The ambiance in Death Stranding is so eerie that sometimes you forget that it’s just a game and Timefall won’t influence you in real life. Rain, snow, falling rocks and the wind are all so enhanced that you feel like you are Sam. The audio in addition to the high-end graphics on PC, suck you in like a vortex.
The best addition to the game though is the occasional music track. This mostly happens when you reach a city and include songs by Low Roar, Silent Poets and The Neighborhood. All those songs will be available in the game after unlocking it for you to listen any time and you can also upgrade structures to add a song to them.
Death Stranding isn’t a game for everyone. It’s a game for all those who want to experience something different and won’t judge it by its complex concept or seemingly stale gameplay. It’s an experience worth getting into, especially on PC. If you own a PC and have already played it on Playstation 4, you should really consider replaying it with high framerates and ultra wide-screen support. All-in-all, Death Stranding, even with its ups and downs, is one of a kind and will set the bar higher for PC games too from now on.