Death Stranding seems to be one of those 'Marmite games': not everyone will want it on their toast - no wait, that's not the right analogy. What I mean is, some will love it and others just... won't. So many plaudits have been lauded at Kojima Productions' new game, and if it sounded like your type of thing back when you first heard those pesky console gamers praising it, then you should probably check it out. If you want to read our review of the PS4 original, you can do so here, as we dive into things in a bit more detail. Still with me? Good.
Death Stranding is finally arriving on PC, which is a good fit as it shares a hell of a lot of its mechanics with simulation games, a genre that thrives on the platform. In fact, if I had to sum the game up succinctly, I'd describe it as a huge number of fetch quests with a simulation vibe, backed up by a strong and strange narrative that pushes your imagination.
You play as Sam Porter Bridges, a legendary 'porter' who traverses the wasteland that is all that's left of the United States of America, delivering packages and trying to reconnect civilisation. This post-apocalyptic playground was created after an event known as Death Stranding and the world is now filled with monsters known as BTs (Beached Things). These entities are trapped souls that prey on the survivors.
However, I'm not here today to go too deep into the story as we've already covered that. No, today, we're here to look at whether the game holds up on PC. And the simple answer is: yes, especially if you've got the rig to push the frame-rates up and enjoy the full benefits of this port. The game launches on PC with the photo mode and ultrawide monitor support, and the DLSS 2.0 support delivers a noticeable performance bump and it looked and performed great when played at a higher resolution.
What's more, PC players also get crossover content linked to Valve, with players sent messages guiding them to Portal-inspired companion cubes that are dotted all over the world. Completing these bonus missions grant you with items such as a wearable Headcrab and a pair of Freemanesque glasses. A nice touch but not really a total game-changer either.
Death Stranding is a weird game and it's probably not for everyone, but I have to say that as a fan of both sci-fi and simulation games, I loved it. The textures and the apocalypse-ravaged world are a beauty to behold. At times I would literally just look around, and after standing idle for a while Sam himself would just sit down and fall asleep while he waited on me to finish taking in the sights. The intricate detail found on the various textures was some of the most impressive I've seen in a video game.
It was a good thing that it was so beautiful as the pacing seemed a bit slow at the start, and as I've said before, it has a lot in common with simulation games. You have to use the two mouse buttons to balance yourself if you start to topple over, and the packs on your back can send you off-balance if you move too fast, and that's not even mentioning the water. When you're carrying someone early on (we won't spoil who and why you're carrying them), and you head into the water, you can find yourself swept off your feet and left bobbing up and down.
The level of detail in regards to the traversal mechanics was overwhelming at first, but using a mouse and keyboard really worked well and it seemed right at home on PC. That said, I have to say, you can tell that the game has a console background, and it's probably best played with a controller if you've got one.
Next, I want to mention the acting. Sam is played by Norman Reedus, who is best known for playing crossbow-toting grump Daryl on AMC's The Walking Dead. Norman plays the moody and self-isolating figure of Sam really well, and the graphics used to animate the actors are incredible. It's not quite lifelike, but it's not far off either. Even the details on Sam's beard, such as it is, are incredible - you could see every single hair. You are also supported by a bunch of other characters. Early on you meet a doctor called Deadman who has the likeness of Guillermo Del Torro. When the character makes his first appearance, much like you might see in a film, both the character and actor's names pop up.
Death Stranding is obviously a passion project by Kojima. After leaving Konami, fans of Metal Gear were keen to see what the master could come up with next. He does not disappoint with Death Stranding, but one thing I can say, it does take a while to get into. It's slow, story-driven and rather confusing at the off, and I took a while to realise how much I was enjoying it. Sure, it looks and sounds great, the acting is amazing, but the mechanics take some time to get used to. The story is also quite full-on, and while many who have played the Metal Gear games will know how bizarre moments can be just around the corner, Death Stranding is full of them. The Metal Gear franchise took years to build and get to its current level of world-building, though, whereas Death Stranding just throws you right in from the start and expects you to just accept what you're seeing.
I mentioned the acting and screen credits, and in a lot of ways, this feels like a Hollywood film. The story is told to you, and it's served up via a deep world that you are expected to deal with. It's all a little overwhelming at first; invisible BTs that prey on the living and are filled with antimatter, babies in jars that cry when BTs are close, and a character who is reborn with a baby down his throat when he dies. I know that if you have no idea what this game is about, that last sentence will be bewildering, however, I want to get the idea across that this really is a bizarre experience, but even though it is rather surreal, it's still well worth a play despite the intense start.
All in all, I really enjoyed Death Stranding. It's a bit sluggish at the beginning, but I loved the mechanics surrounding my apocalyptic fetch quests across the wastelands of the future. If you're after a story-driven game that looks incredible, and you have a decent PC that can run it as intended, or even if you're simply partial to simulation games in the vein of MudRunner and you fancy something a little bit different, then Death Stranding is well worth a look.
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