Death Stranding is the eagerly anticipated first game from Hideo Kojima’s new studio. Is it as solid as his previous work? Here’s what the critics are saying.
We expected the critical response to Death Stranding to be mixed, and so it has proved. On the whole, the game has been well received, with reviewers complimentary about its vast, meticulously designed open world. Likewise, the performances from Norman Reedus, Lindsay Wagner and Léa Seydoux are also praised. However, when it comes to the moment-to-moment gameplay – which features a lot of careful walking and environmental negotiation – the response is more divided.
It also appears that despite his best efforts, Kojima hasn’t managed to invent a whole new genre. Instead, he follows in the footsteps of FromSoftware and Ubisoft, to name a few, by incorporating ‘mingleplayer’ elements, albeit to impressive effect.
Here is our pick of the game’s reviews.
Death Stranding: Review round-up
“The actual walking in Death Stranding is incredibly complex: Each small rock or ledge is capable of tripping Sam, sending his packages flying. I find myself constantly scanning the environment, surveying the landscape to find the smoothest possible route through a perilous rocky outcropping. There’s no automatic parkour or physics-defying cliff climbing here. Every step I take needs to be intentional, or I might end up taking a serious tumble. When I overload my pack I have to use the left and right triggers to balance my weight, or else I risk falling over, damaging my goods. It’s equally engaging and frustrating as I topple over after twisting my ankle, forcing myself to restack all my belongings. Death Stranding is a walking simulator in the truest sense.”
Not scored – Review by Russ Frushtick
“Death Stranding’s online connectivity is one of the game’s strengths, not only because other real-life players add useful items like ladders and warning signs to your world, but because it achieves what it tries to do: It creates bonds. I liked knowing I was helping others when I erected a bridge or anchored a rope at a key location, and enjoyed giving others praise for their efforts via the like system. Regardless, this sentiment wanes amidst the larger morass of routine.”
7/10 – Review by Matthew Kato
“Part of the reason Death Stranding feels like such a gruelling grind is the lack of payoff. Plenty of open world games feature long bouts of laborious adventuring through sparse terrains, but most reward players on the other end. With characters to interact with or cities to explore. In Death Stranding you walk from gigantic metal box to another, slightly different metal box. You deliver one faceless package, pick up the next faceless package and start all over again.”
Not scored – Review by Mark Serrels
“Death Strandingg’s multiplayer aspects function as both criticism of online parasocial relationships and a strong metaphor for themes of togetherness and worker solidarity. Crossing the lonely wasteland encourages players to build narratives in their minds. Stumbling upon new bridges and seeing the names of familiar players, it’s easy to believe you know something about them. I noted how one player seemed to place their structures in areas with heavy foot traffic, maximizing “likes.” Another always seemed a step ahead, building exactly what was needed with care and consideration. You build affection for some players, annoyance for others.”
Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra
“Hideo Kojima’s liberation from the MGS series can feel like X-Men’s Cyclops removing his visor and having a good old look around – it’s a little much. Think 2001, The Road, The Leftovers, Silent Hill and Planet Earth reinterpreted as three days of UPS contract work. Death Stranding pulverises the player with its overwhelming scale, seemingly unending objectives and fastidious resource management. Yet, despite everything, the game somehow pulls you through, creating a cycle of punishment and reward in a technically brilliant blockbuster experience quite unlike anything that has come before.”
4/5 – Review by Dan Dawkins
“Death Stranding touches on all kinds of contemporary issues, particularly when it comes to technology. Sam is essentially a part of the gig economy, taking on a constant stream of small jobs, which range from disposing of nuclear weapons to delivering a pizza. You’re able to replenish your supplies via 3D printing — that includes everything from weapons to ropes to motorcycles — and you can even automate some of your deliveries by sending out a two-legged drone on simple missions. Meanwhile, seemingly the only non-human animal to survive is an enlarged version of a tardigrade, which is Sam’s main form of sustenance. But the game never really explores these subjects in much detail, instead focusing almost entirely on its own insular story of ghost-detecting babies and the end of the world.”
Not scored – Review by Andrew Webster
“With the exception of certain tutorial missions which introduce the basics of the combat system, boss fights, and a handful of other combat-oriented diversions, advancing the plot in Death Stranding amounts to taking item X from location A to location B, over and over again. Sounds pretty repetitive, right? Well, the good news is that there are also side missions in Death Stranding. The bad news is that these side missions are also fetch quests, undertaken mainly to unlock additional items or customisation options.”
6.8/10 – Review by Tristan Ogilvie
“It is steady, hypnotic stuff. Some may find it boring. I enjoy hiking myself and found it startlingly true-to-life to pick my way through the rocky outcrops, footfall by footfall. The maps encourage this, being convincingly organic, meticulously designed and completely open. I liked the game best when I planned a circuitous route for a delivery and was rewarded with a long, lonely walk through silent, beautiful views; or when I figured out that I could shortcut a very long delivery by taking a risky, gruelling trek through a high mountain pass.”
Recommended – Review by Oli Welsh
“I’m glad that Death Stranding continues Metal Gear Solid’s tradition of deemphasizing killing—a rarity among big-budget games. It encourages more creative solutions, and a feeling of helplessness tends to lead to heightened emotions. When Death Stranding does fall back into more familiar action sequences—as it does from time to time—it’s at its worst. I won’t say anything more for fear of spoilers, but there are a couple sequences in particular that really highlight Death Stranding‘s weaknesses as a third-person shooter—from the lack of true cover mechanics, to the way that your own cargo tends to block your peripheral vision.”
3.5/5 – Review by Kat Bailey
Title: Death Stranding
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: November 8, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4 / PC in 2020
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