Death Stranding is the first title produced by Hideo Kojima after his departure from Konami, with his independent label Kojima Productions. After 2 years of trailers, interviews and an exclusive version on Playstation 4, the game is available on PC, opening up to a whole new market. Death Stranding is available on Steam and the Epic Games Store, with the former counting more than 20,000 concurrent players in the last few days. I’ve been playing Kojima’s new title on PC to bring you everything you might want to know about its performance and overall quality. This is our Death Stranding review.
As a huge Kojima fan, it was hard for me not to love Death Stranding from its earliest moments. Especially since the game takes you to a beautiful world with background music, designed to make you want to look around and admire the gifts of nature. We will see exactly how beautiful this world is on PC, as it is one of its most important features. For now, let’s examine what the game is.
Death Stranding is a video game set in post-apocalyptic America, after an event of the same name with the game takes place and changes the world as we know it. People have now moved away, remaining in the underground bunkers, with no real connections between them. Sam Porter Bridges, our protagonist, is a courier who delivers goods from one place to another. He has been assigned the task of reconnecting this world. Sam is a “repatriation”, which means he can defy death, returning every time through “the beach”, which is a personal place that connects the living and the dead.
The world of Death Stranding is a hostile place, despite its beauty. Rain translates over time to accelerate everything around it and groups of people are taking advantage of this situation to carry out their own underhanded plans. It is called Timefall. 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 make connections, make his deliveries to make people trust him, and occasionally fight a BT creature or group of fanatics to survive.
Death Stranding’s storyline is as strange and unique as every other Hideo Kojima title. It takes a mind like hers to devise such a complex plot full of characters who are tormented by their own demons. All of the Death Stranding characters are a special type of personality 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 of Death Stranding, Higgs. All of this makes the Death Stranding formula very successful.
When I started watching Death Stranding through its trailers, it felt like an incredibly difficult game to understand. Yes, the scenario is complex. However, as you get your hands on the game, you will find that people are talking about what’s going on so much that at some point you will understand everything.
Death Stranding gameplay
The first thing I noticed is a lot of similarities with Kojima’s latest video game, Metal Gear Solid V. The look of the interface, some of the sounds used for it, as well as the way Sam squats and his clothing are the classics of Kojima. No one would ever accuse him of using the same model in this game, as this is a small reminder of his work prior to Death Stranding. Kojima has discovered what works for his games and that creative vision is what makes it different.
Death Stranding is truly a walking simulator. Still, it’s worth it. By experimenting with walking on all types of terrain, from grass fields to snow capped mountains to rocky cliffs, the game wants you to experience it all. Even after a few hours of unlocking the bike and things start to get a little easier, you will find that you still enjoy surveying the world around you. The fact that, with no roads, you don’t have a clear path on where to go, enhances the feeling of exploration within the world. Even with vehicles, however, you will still have to walk a lot as not all terrain is passable by bicycles or trucks. I learned this the hard way after destroying a handful of bikes while trying to reach a certain NPC on the other side of a large area full of cliffs.
Death Stranding revolutionizes the way characters interact with their environment in terms of physics. All the terrain is mapped and designed in a way that Sam has to balance at all times. You will have to press both triggers on a gamepad or both mouse clicks to stay balanced. The fall causes damage to the cargo. This is the first time that this mechanic is one of the main features of a game. It is its greatest value though. After playing for a couple of hours you will find yourself walking more carefully in other games as well, even without balancing. This is a feature that should become standard in games.
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 NPCs and climbing all kinds of weird places to reach them. On top of that, you will be able to help other players on their journey by building signs to warn them of certain dangers or encourage them as well as building buildings. Such buildings are outposts, roads, bridges, generators to charge your equipment and vehicle. For all these actions you are rewarded with a Like, which is the main indicator of the experience in Death Stranding.
Likes are basically what you get for completing missions, helping others build structures, and overall being a good sport. In a world where currency doesn’t matter and people hide in bunkers, a simple thank you and thumbs up goes a long way.
Leaving marks for other PC gamers may have fallen into the trolling trap but surprisingly it wasn’t. The community has managed to create a “useful and positive umbrella” whereby each player can get information about the game and progress more easily. As soon as roads, for example, were unlocked in my game, I could see players pointing in the direction of road building stations and leaving marks of what materials were needed. Surprisingly, much of that area was soon connected to roads, making the game even faster and easier than before.
The most important of all the Death Stranding characters is BB. BB or Bridge Baby is “the baby in the pod” as we all know. It works as a “compass” for locating BTs through Timefall and is also a great way to get Sam to worry about something in the meantime. BB isn’t just there to serve as a “device,” its underlying story will also be the turning point for the plot.
Other NPCs besides the main characters feel unique and some are still stuck in my head, like the guy who badly wanted pizza or the brother of the delivery boy accompanying Sam that we saw in the second trailer. And, of course, let’s not forget the memorable appearances of Geoff Keighly and Conan or Brien as NPCs.
That’s not all the game has to offer though. After Chapter 3, you’ll find yourself thrown into real combat, this time carrying a weapon and experimenting with some real shooting from time to time. Don’t get too used to it as you’ll keep walking most of the time.
At first the controls looked a little weird on my keyboard. When I was in a battle, for example, I would hit random buttons looking for V to hit in melee and occasionally mess up the load I was carrying by not pressing Confirm on the menu. All of these will feel more instinctive as the game progresses. The same goes for vehicles and building structures. When you are sure, everything is much simpler than you might expect.
The saddest but understandable feature of Death Stranding is the fast travel. You will really unlock fast travel, but you won’t be able to carry stuff with you. This means that you can’t abuse it to deliver things from one area to another without walking. Come to terms with it as you advance, but it’s still a blow to the heart.
The last thing I should note about the PC version of Death Stranding is that it includes a new side mission, which pays homage to Valve’s great games. Receive Half-Life referrals by email an assignment asking you to collect the famous companion cubes from the Portal.
Death Stranding PC graphics
Moving on to my favorite Death Stranding analytics segment, it’s time to talk about graphics. More specifically, its graphics on PC. If you’ve already played on Playstation 4 and also own a gaming PC, do yourself a favor and replay it. Unlocked frame rates make the game truly great compared to the console version. I have to note that I own a mid-range PC which means I couldn’t experience very high FPS but my 4GB GPU handled graphics excellently. Where Death Stranding shines is when playing on a widescreen. This is one of the main reasons why gamers claim that the PC version is the definitive version of the game.
During my playthrough, I had no hiccups, no dropped frames (except for a couple of area changes that required a huge amount of rendering), and no blurry background to maintain a stable FPS. In terms of performance, it’s important to note that gamers have had occasional issues with crashes, most of which were caused by DirectX and access violations. 505 Games, the company responsible for porting the game to PC, is looking into all the issues and has already rolled out a whopping 5GB update a day after release.
Death Stranding Audio
Death Stranding is unique in terms of its concept and extends to its audio background as well. One moment you are exploring the wilderness with the wind blowing through the headset and the next you are in the middle of a ghostly area, with screaming entities and an uncomfortable feeling that is not so familiar to gamers even for horror games. The atmosphere in Death Stranding is so creepy that you sometimes forget it’s just a game and Timefall won’t affect you in real life. The rain, the snow, the falling rocks and the wind are so strong that you feel like you are Sam. Audio, plus high-end graphics on PC, sucks you in like a whirlwind.
The best addition to the game though is the occasional music track. This happens especially when you reach a city and include songs from Low Boato, Silent Poets and The Neighborhood. All those songs will be available in the game after unlocking it for you to listen to them at any time and you can also upgrade the structures to add a song to them.
Death Stranding is not a game for everyone. It’s a game for anyone who wants to try something different and doesn’t judge it by its complex concept or seemingly stale gameplay. It’s an experience to try, especially on PC. If you own a PC and have already played it on Playstation 4, you should really consider playing 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, from now on, will further raise the level of PC gaming.