There is no elevator space for Death Stranding.
Every inch of Death Stranding is bursting with meaning or implication. Even the most stupid and pretentious developments create a multi-layered game with numerous potential points of attack that need to be analyzed. It is a story about fatherhood. It's a big deal with the gig economy. It is deeply concerned about the impending environmental disaster and old and new American policies.
Death Stranding is also about throwing grenades from your own piss and shit at ghosts. It's about walking alone in the wilderness for hours. It is a tireless thing. It's a commentary on social media and the internet, delivered by the asynchronous interactions players can have while playing with each other. It is breathtaking in scope, consistently intelligent in design and beautiful to look at. It's a bunch of pretentious nonsense. It's a game in which characters drop revised interpretations of Kōbō Abe quotations. The most recurring visual motif is a not so subtle gesture towards Thomas Pynchon's Gravity & # 39; s Rainbow. It does not advance with the soft stroke of a pen, but with the hammering crack of a hammer. "I brought you a metaphor," says one of the characters late in the game. It is stupid and obvious and perfect.
Death Stranding is also Hideo Kojima's first major project after leaving Konami in 2015. The context is charged: Here is a widely recognized “author” who is said to be captivated by company leaders who have finally been released and are ready to share their minds to blow up a masterpiece. The game follows the tragic cancellation of Silent Hills, a video game collaboration with film director Guillermo del Toro with Norman Reedus. (Reedus now plays in Death Stranding with del Toro and many other celebrities.)
Then there's the supposed craziness of Death Stranding. During development, the storyline and gameplay were closely guarded secrets, with exorbitant and prominent trailers being the only clue as to what was to come. The game was mythologized through its marketing, and Kojima – already considered a legend – was further mythologized with him.
But this narrative is full of mis-characterizations. Kojima is a man with a highly skilled team, decades of experience, celebrity friends and millions of dollars in Sony support. He is no scratchier than any other rich and famous person. Because of this, there are two death beaches. There is the one in public awareness and the one that I played. The first is a dream, an impossible (and frankly, unnecessary) justification of games as art, created by a glorified mastermind. The actual game is a fantastic mess.
But is it good, Heather? Yes friends. I love it.
Hello! It is me, Tim Rogers, with my one-hour video review EVENT, in which I also love this game. So much so that I checked it five times in a video.
Death Stranding takes place in an alternative future where a catastrophic event called Death Stranding has devastated most of the world. The incident, described as a major explosion, has blurred the lines between the land of the living and the afterlife. In the world of death stranding, there is actually something after death and it is observable and measurable. In addition, it was found that everyone contains their own “beach”, a limbo-like space where they arrive before finally moving to the great beyond. The thinning boundaries between our world and life after death set free spirits known as "stranded things" or BTs. BTs devastate communities and wreak havoc on the living. They are so dangerous that a person who contacts a larger BT can trigger an event known as a “voidout”, a kind of miniature atomic explosion that can destroy cities in a jiffy. The world was divided into a few remaining cities and pioneer outposts. Connected to them are delivery services that are staffed by porters who defy the vast garbage and sneak through the BT territory to supply the disjointed, remaining humanity.
The players control Sam Porter Bridges, a lone wolf courier who is happier in the wasteland than with other people. After the last living President of the United States passed away, Sam was asked to follow her final instruction: connect the remaining settlements to the "chiral network," a futuristic Internet that enables instant communication and fast 3D printing of infrastructure and supplies. The goal, he is told, is to "make America well again".
Implementation of this directive is becoming increasingly complicated as terrorist factions join forces to boost human extinction, politicians cover up horrific crimes, and a literal spirit of revenge wages a personal war against those who have wronged him. It's operational, over the top, and ultimately leads to a finale that is so spectacular and absurd that it becomes a delightful pimple of the plot beyond the excessive enjoyment of the anime.
So there are great political machinations that are far beyond Sam's reach. Even so, he is still a postman who has to deliver while he lives in the worst world. To help him navigate this world, Sam is given a "bridge baby". This baby in a capsule gives Sam the opportunity to perceive BTs and make progress on his journey across the continent. Throughout the trip, he will deliver countless packages and supplies from outposts to outposts, walk countless kilometers in solitude, and slowly bring settlements into the network. Every new excursion is followed by difficult terrain, lurking BTs, attackers and a caustic rain called "Timefall", which quickly accelerates everything it touches.
Most of the time, Sam controls these dangers while carrying a backpack with packages and equipment. The content of the backpack must be balanced. If Sam is too heavy on both sides, he falls. And if Sam falls, his load will be damaged. It is painful to cross the terrain and fall too easily, especially in early game. But over time, Sam gets stronger and the player gains more resources.
First of all, Sam's equipment is little more than a good pair of shoes and maybe a rope for climbing. Over time, players have access to a variety of robotic rigs to increase how much Sam can carry or how fast he can move in extreme terrain. Ultimately, this means that portable 3D printers can build bridges or even safe houses to rest, provided you have enough raw materials.
Building a bridge or shelter costs a lot of material. These structures will also become damaged over time and will need to be repaired. But you are not the only one in the world who builds bridges over flowing rivers or hangs up zip lines in rocky mountain peaks. Death Stranding puts you on a server with other players, each of whom builds their own structures that you can share and use. You can even deliver packages that you dropped or leave packages that you cannot deliver yourself. Every time Sam connects another city in the world to the fictional chiral network, Death Stranding connects you to the real network of other players and their structures.
Sharing is rewarded. These structures exist in a pseudo-social network where players can "like" those who they find useful. The more "likes" you get, the better. It contributes to a progress system that uses a variety of criteria – mission completion time, cargo carrier size, completion of special conditions – to increase a player rank that ultimately brings rewards, such as the ability to carry more items or run down slopes without doing so much to slip.
But it's not just about delivering packages, building bridges and connecting people. Finally Sam gets weapons: rifles, shotguns and grenades, all made from Sam's blood and other body fluids. Because Sam is special, do you understand? He is a "repatriate" which means that instead of dying in fatal situations, he can lead his soul back to his body and get up to do the job. This makes him a perfect candidate for difficult deliveries. His body fluids can also be armed against the BTs, especially his blood. A "haematic" grenade can immediately dispose of a BT, while blood-soaked bullets can slowly turn it into fog. The best option is to avoid BTs altogether and rely on Sam's baby bridge to perceive the locations of the spirits and sneak past them.
Death stranding comes from various sources. The resurrection and multiplayer aspects of Dark Souls, the wandering of Proteus and No Man & # 39; s Sky, the awkward body movements of QWOP, the skeletal remains of Metal Gear Solid V: the phantom pain and surprisingly Metal Gear Survive. These parts come together in a unique package with a simple loop: they start here, now please go there. Choose a mission, grab your equipment, find out how to get there, climb the mountain that stands in your way without losing all your cargo. Fall, get up, keep going. Rinse and repeat, with additional levels of intrigue and combat challenges throughout the story.
Death Stranding's larger narrative is fascinating, but like The Phantom Pain before, Death Stranding speaks more clearly through its systems and is more interesting to play than to experience its raw narrative. The game sharing and building system allows players to be warned of BT hunting areas, leave garages with vehicles for free use, toss shoes and excess equipment into shared lockers, and create complicated routes through a treacherous game world. The word strand, we are told at the beginning of the game, refers to both a connection that connects something and the act of being stranded, isolated from others. Just as Metal Gear Solid V's war micromanagement expressed the endless costs of mercenary violence and revenge, Death Stranding's systems speak for these two interpretations. In the beginning, the players were actually stranded. You are alone in a game world with few signs of human interaction, then slowly but surely the topography changes. Steps on a path, the beginning of a street. These extend over a complex spider web made up of player structures. Each piece flows into the other. It turns out that ladders, better shoes and more mobility are very important if you stumble over the perfectly placed rock at any moment.
Finally, I reached a particularly tricky part of the game, where most of my deliveries involved hiking through heavy snow. Some players had mastered this area before me, but I found many of their structures to be incomplete. A provisional line of magnetic ziplines covered some tips, but there were no connecting ziplines on the most obvious paths. The foundation of a more complex system was there; All it took was some work to become what it could be. Instead of going on with the story, I gathered the materials I needed and ventured through the BT area to place the necessary ziplines that would allow travel across the most dangerous areas that Death Beaching clearly from the players expected.
It was'nt easy. Again and again I was dragged to the ground by shady ghosts and dragged into a tar stream that plunged me away from my goal. I fired bullets coated with my own blood and threw grenades with my sweat at massive beasts until I somehow managed to get where I wanted to go. Over the course of several hours that literally spent digital blood and sweat, several hikes through the worst conditions, I connected my ziplines to the wider network. Anyone who came after me could use them, cross the mountains easily and fly over the BT grounds. I am proud of these ziplines, of the work with which they were made. I am grateful to the strangers whose devices I have literally connected to to create something that benefits not only us, but everyone who has stumbled along the treacherous path after us. There was no real point in doing this except that it could be done and I thought it should be done. I had to do it. I had to build something.
During my time reviewing Death Stranding, a relationship fell into disrepair. I never lost the fact that my most valuable personal connection was frayed during a game that is ultimately about the bonds we make. In Death Stranding I kept walking through rough red deserts and snow-capped peaks to bring people together. I crossed bridges left by strangers and trusted that the paths they had taken would take me where I needed to go. I was lost outside of the game. What does it mean for a connection to unravel like an old suspension bridge over a gorge? What does it take to rebuild one?
I have no answers to that. Death Stranding did not provide them. Instead, it insisted on a simple idea: that by grace and, even nicer, the opportunity of others would be strengthened. That we drive on the streets of those who have walked in front of us and leave our own mark that ultimately influences the way they take us. We go alone more than together and lose indescribable things like so much fiddled luggage. Yet sometimes we see signs of care. They are small in life. A random text message from an old friend, a free drink at the neighborhood bar, an enthusiastic conversation with a colleague about nothing important, the sound of your roommate playing his guitar. In Death Stranding, these things are literal. A generator that drives our car in the middle of nowhere, a glowing thumbs-up emblem outside the city gates, a ladder that crosses a flowing stream, a structure that protects us from the acid rain.
"I brought you a metaphor."
The multiplayer aspects of death stranding act both as a critique of parasocial online relationships and as a strong metaphor for issues such as togetherness and solidarity. Crossing the lonely wasteland encourages players to build narratives in their minds. If you stumble across new bridges and see the names of well-known players, you can easily believe that you know something about them. I noticed how a player seemed to place their structures in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic to maximize the likes. Another always seemed to be one step ahead and, with care and consideration, build up exactly what was needed. You build affection for some players, anger for others. The opportunists, the supervisors. They crave “likes” and engagement because it feels good to have something in the wasteland. Once I built the start of a freeway outside a distribution center and woke up to find that someone else had expanded the road. My initial structure has thousands of likes. When I came back to it later, someone else's name was introduced as the owner and he had even more praise than I had received. Who was this asshole who came in to take implicit responsibility for something I had built? I bet he's the guy who steals people's jokes on Twitter. Of course, these thoughts are nonsense. Our interaction doesn't make more sense than the meaning I gave it. However, I cannot help but believe that I know who they are and accept that they have undoubtedly formed their own thoughts about me.
In practice, building structures and expanding paths creates more camaraderie than strife. There's no denying that the strange narrative context underpins everything – after all, we expanded from coast to coast to make America healthy again – but the effects of this mechanic are more romantic than unfortunate. Countless workers who are united in the solidarity of their task and create public and functional means to enable the maintenance of essential services. The work was important enough that the players had their backs and took care of the essential parts without being asked. Death stranding becomes poetic when it comes to intertwining souls and bonds that go from one world to the next. If love, sadness, or duty could move from the land of the living to the dead, those feelings of pride and solidarity might shift from the digital to the actual. We did something; we helped each other. Video game or not, that's consolation. It turns out that when there is solidarity, it is not so bad to be an Amazon worker in the apocalypse.
The larger world of Death Stranding is anything but idyllic. Scattered across the broken continent are bags of horters known as MULEs, as well as other terrorists who are all out to steal Sam's cargo. These human opponents pose a different challenge than BTs. If you want to steal MULE supplies or steal terrorists' caches, you can still do stealth actions like you would with BTs. Tall grass and natural obstacles offer many means of penetration, and equipment such as a bola cannon and a rope to bind enemies put you out of action. The other option is loud and hectic and just as worthwhile. With the right arsenal, it is possible to descend to an enemy camp like a pillaging archangel, fire with non-lethal rounds – killing a person would eventually create a BT – and trigger hectic firefights that reward price resources and equipment.
This is the most obvious remnant of Metal Gear Solid's DNA. While Death Stranding is not an action game, it can handle action when needed. This also applies to boss fights, which I can only spoil here when I say that they range from stealth guerrilla affairs to biblical clashes that would feel at home in Yoko Taros Drakengard. Violence is a last resort, and death stranding is best experienced in a careful and secret way, but when the time comes for silence to break and explosions to sound, it is powerful. Not everything can be solved with a bridge. Fighting is a hard truth that always feels dirty and messy.
All of this is work. Death Stranding is a long and exhausting game, but this grinding and sweating is fundamental to its identity. After the first plot is created, the next 40 to 50 hours of quiet walks and desperate forays with just a few punctuation marks are dedicated. In Death Stranding, work is key, and offering comfort to the player outside of some weapons and equipment would rub against the game's themes. If players are to appreciate connections, they have to be alone for hours.
I had a constant companion on these trips: my friend and colleague Tim Rogers. We talked in his darkened office for hours and chatted relentlessly about Slack messages. A lot was screwed up, but when it was time to think about world design, Tim spoke clearly.
"Games build tension from parts that a filmmaker would work on," he told me.
I can think of the moment that was most clear to me. Several hours in snow-covered mountains, in which underestimated zip lines and shelters were assembled, had taken its toll. I played a part of Death Stranding that was miserable, which gave me the toughest environment and robbed me of important tools. Cold splashes in my face, steel beams jumped out of the snow like massive crucifixes. For two nights I only knew snow and acid rot. I only knew white. Then I came over a comb and saw green again. Wonderful, growing grass. I wish I had the words to describe what it means to see the color green again. It wouldn’t have been nearly as important if I hadn’t invested all that damn work beforehand. I don't think you can do that with a montage or a cut.
For all of Kojima's aspirations as a budding filmmaker, for all the celebrity casting and cameos of his famous friends, not to mention the stupidity of the brand deal with Monster Energy Drink (drinking the in-game material will measure your stamina) The glue that all that holds together is how well Death Stranding works as a game. While much of the time is spent hiking, it's never pointless, and even the emptier interactions – what does it mean to "like" a stranger? – contribute to a whole that always prompts you to think about something. These could be the unpleasant consequences of American expansionism, the current era of Trumpism, the catastrophic effects of climate change, the sluggish but calming nature of social media, the raw physicality of the body or more general ideas about work. It's all there and it's embedded in a game that is both hard work and rewarding to play.
The strongest story in Death Stranding is that told by its systems, but the cutscenes and other narrative elements are still captivating, a slow burning that starts with calm character moments and ends with a mountain-high pile of actions and motivations. Death Stranding takes a long time to define its world and still leaves a lot to do when the credits roll. There is a lore database to learn some terms, but Death Stranding conveniently indulges in ambiguity before exploding outwardly in excessive acts. A simple story is buried under all the science fiction terminology; Once all the motifs have been revealed, it's not nearly as complicated as you can imagine from the game's bizarre trailers. Death Stranding is ultimately more impressive in raw sensory overload than in moment-to-moment action, but it's hard to deny how much its storytelling technique improves compared to Metal Gear Solid V's cumbersome monologues and floating camera movements . Despite all its folding and visual abundance, Death Stranding is stimulating and often moving.
Much of this is due to how committed the actors are to their roles, even if they are often tasked with pronouncing revised metaphors or clumsy exposure dumps. There is a feeling that everyone knows that this is a little nonsense and that the wink is associated with a greater commitment to the whole story. It is more like opera or musical theater than a film. Sometimes his tone looks more like a Sentai show or a B-movie, sloppy and sometimes dingy. There are big gestures, deep spouts of emotion, deliberate choreography.
It's hard not to like Sam Bridges, who faces the whole bizarreness of Death Stranding with a welcome tiredness encapsulated in Norman Reedus' characteristic growl. Troy Baker pounds it as the vicious Higgs and Léa Seydoux nailed the mixture of toughness and raw emotionality as Sam's close ally "Fragile". Then there's Mads Mikkelsen, who gets attention every time he's on the screen. Yes, it's hellishly funny to hear him whisper "I want my BB", but when the time comes, he does the damn job.
Death stranding sometimes falls into reductive gender tropes, similar to other Kojima games. This is a story of paternity, very often at the expense of the women in the cast. Sam's constant attachment to his bridge baby overlaps with the story of Mads Mikkelsen's mysterious villain Cliff and underpins the earth-shattering politics of the main story with more human and assignable feelings. But Death Stranding stumbles when it's time to deal with the women and their stories. There are gestures on maternity issues that are related to paternity issues, such as an act that uses ghosts as a metaphor for postpartum depression. Ultimately, however, it is a story about men, in which even the bravest victims of the female characters come into play, hand with the same characteristic camera work as in Kojima's earlier games. It's never been so gross as Metal Gear Solid Vs Quiet, but it's still a striking problem that undermines the narrative's more thorough investigation of parental pain and sacrifice.
That said, Death Stranding is just as in love with the male body. Whether it's the sensual portrayal of Mikkelsen smoking a cigarette or the way the camera moves to make sure you see just enough of Reedus' bare body during the shower scenes Death Stranding's bisexual camera is more interested in men than in the excruciating blood-licking Metal Gear franchise. The difference ultimately lies in how lovingly men are framed compared to women, both by the literal camera and by their place in the larger narrative. Fragile's body can be damaged by time lag and rain on her skin, but ultimately Léa Seydoux still runs in the rain while the camera focuses on her ass. Reedus stands naked on the beach and Mikkelsen climbs out of a tar pit and yes, it's sexy, but you can also do a lot more nobility.
Death Stranding addresses many universal topics – children and their legal guardians, death, work – but also addresses more specific current issues. The focus is on a deeply environmentally conscious attitude to deteriorating living spaces, extreme weather and the breakdown of society. As reports of our growing climate crisis and the resulting costs of inactivity flow in, Death Stranding imagines a world in which the most extreme conditions break the bonds that hold the world together. This can be seen in the world design, which ranges from rocky shallows and more reasonable terrain to extremely strange topography. There are parts of the map that are more like Mars than Earth, almost blood red in the color of the sand. Angry snowstorms distort space-time, and sunken cities lurk under rising tar floods.
The death stranding conflict takes on biblical proportions. Many characters believe that humanity is doomed to fail, no matter what, that any action that prevents impending extinction is a patch for a deadly wound. After all, with enough time, there is no doubt that humanity will be little more than dust. Death Stranding has an undercurrent of fatalism that feels very current. Even if other characters hope that a better, sustainable future is possible, there is also a quiet acceptance that we may really be struggling with something too big. That the small victories that we find could be overshadowed by the bigger problems we face. This is never offered as an excuse for idleness; It is clear that there is still a lot to do. Death Stranding moves between these two extremes. One that says it doesn't make sense. Another that says that the future is undetectable, but there is a duty to fight for something better, even when the sun gets hot, the bodies pile up and the world breaks.
This message is accompanied by gestures towards modern American politics. "Making America healthy again" is the usual chorus. In Death Stranding, America is a nation that is broken and scattered into diverse groups of people who are just trying to get through and are ravaged by monsters and looters. Die Lösung für dieses Problem ist angemessen quixotisch: Was ist, wenn wir nur Kommunikationsleitungen zwischen allen reparieren? Es ist eine Idee, die sich nicht mit einigen der dringlicheren Fragen der modernen amerikanischen Politik auseinandersetzt – zum Beispiel mit zivilem Widerstand – und die naiv erscheinen kann. Das Zerbrechen des realen Amerikas ist ein Symptom für ein größeres systemisches Problem der Bigotterie, bei dem weltweit die Gewalt und die Rhetorik der Isolation zunehmen. Angesichts dieses Augenblicks entscheidet Death Stranding, dass dies reparabel ist. Dass die Politik der Spaltung etwas ganzheitlicherem und integrativerem weichen kann. Death Stranding rechnet zu seinem Nachteil nie ganz mit der Verwendung der amerikanischen Ikonographie – es ist eine Nation, die auf Sklaverei und kolonialem Gemetzel basiert -, aber es entscheidet sich immer noch dafür, mit dem Finger zu zeigen. Dinge, wie sie sind, können nicht stehen oder sie werden zum Ruin führen.
Der Silberstreifen sind natürlich andere Leute. Death Stranding ist kein subtiles Spiel. Die Mechanik ist die Botschaft. Bauen Sie Verbindungen auf und verwenden Sie diese, um Teilungen buchstäblich zu überspannen. Selbst wenn die Geschichte zu einem verworrenen Chaos anschwillt, das das monströse Kanonenschweißen von Metal Gear Solid 4 zum Erröten bringen würde, ist der grundlegendste Punkt von Death Stranding nicht schwer zu verstehen. Ja, das ist die Hölle. Ja, wir fallen auseinander. Ja, das könnte das Ende sein. Aber es gibt Erlösung bei anderen Menschen.