Did Death Stranding deserve all this hype, the high expectations and conspiracy theories that have been set up around her? Perhaps yes. Not as much as Sony would like , most likely investing fabulous money in the project, but still deserves it. In the end, no one could have developed this game except Kojima: only a genuine genius could have thought of inserting QTE directly into the walking process.

People who directed Death Stranding trailers can at least now give the BAFTA Award for Best Intrigue. They perfectly masked the fact that the debut project Kojima Productions is actually the simplest and most understandable game in the portfolio of Hideo Kojima. And how much noise! After the first gameplay, where the character of Norman Reedus methodically dragged boxes on pastoral landscapes, everyone started looking for a second bottom in him. Well, after all, let’s not we, in fact, the whole game is sadly rushing around with packages! Surely Kojima is concealing a secret; like in Metal Gear Solid 2 , where after the prologue on the tanker we were no longer playing for Snake, but for a completely new character.

But, alas, the surprise is that there is no surprise. Death Stranding is really a “walking simulator”, but not in the usual sense for gamers, but literally. This project approaches the walking process with the same seriousness as any Microsoft Flight Simulator – to flights.

It is a little strange that both types of game transport (yes, there are only two of them) are disgustingly adapted for riding on rough terrain. Why else could they design them, if not for grass and cobblestones? There are no longer normal roads in the world of Death Stranding

It is a little strange that both types of game transport (yes, there are only two of them) are disgustingly adapted for riding on rough terrain. Why else could they design them, if not for grass and cobblestones? There are no longer normal roads in the world of Death Stranding

In the near future, the planet shuddered from an unprecedented cataclysm – “The way out of death” (yes, we have translated the term death stranding). The afterlife began to seep into the real world, and with it came the Beasts, able to turn entire cities into craters, and the temporal rain, which ages everything that concerns it. Only ruins remained from the USA, and scattered groups of people huddle in underground shelters and generally do not get out.

The needs of these people are served by Bridges Corporation: it delivers medicines, food, and other vital supplies to shelters. And we play for Sam – one of the best Bridges couriers and, in combination, the adopted son of Bridget Strand, president of the United States of America – a new state designed to unite the survivors.

At times, it seems that Reedus was called into the project solely for the sake of such foolishness. Why in my private room can I grimace in front of a mirror? Because why not

Shortly before the events of the game, Bridget’s daughter, Amelia, went to the west of the country to establish a chiral network (in fact, an analogue of the Internet that transmits data directly through the purgatory where the Creatures live), but everything went awry. The expedition was destroyed, and the terrorists captured Amelia herself. Now the Bridges leadership is putting an almost impossible task on the sullen Norman Reedus: to go the route of the lost expedition alone, connect the outposts built on the way to the chiral network and rescue Amelia from prison.

Take me home, country road!

Death Stranding does not at all try to present the courier’s work as fascinating or romantic. Sam’s journey covers two large regions, and both go the same way: you go down to the delivery terminal, select the order, load the package and stomp to the addressee for 5-15 minutes. Then you are unloaded, take the next order, load the next parcel, and the cycle repeats until the game tells you to stop or turns on some cutscene. And then again the same thing – and so on until the credits, with rare interruptions to the “movie”.

The interface here is as impassable as in MGS V. A bunch of obscure numbers, unnecessary indicators, icons … It’s like drowning in Excel without a life buoy

No kidding, if you have ever been on a hike, the Death Stranding gameplay loop will seem terribly familiar and … boring. And boring not by mistake, but by design. As if the developers wanted to create the exact opposite of other AAA sandboxes – a one-of-a-kind “dead” open world.

No random events, no dynamic ecosystem, side quests, collectibles, or NPC chatter. Nothing that can at least somehow distract the player from the pointless and merciless delivery of boxes from point A to point B. There is literally nothing to explore here: firstly, there are no additional points of interest, and secondly, the pace of travel is strictly dictated by the plot. Poked in an area not connected to the network ahead of time, without a delivery task? Sorry, the inhabitant of the shelter does not even say hello – they just dragged in vain.

Before the flight, the game will helpfully show where to go and what can wait on the road, and each box can be hooked manually. True, if you distribute the weight crookedly, Sam will skid on the corners. At these moments, QTE is turned on, and if the necessary buttons are not pressed in time, the courier will stumble and lose all the luggage

This would not raise questions if the delivery process itself (read: walks) was intensive and forced the player to quickly make decisions, adapt, think through every step … But here too. There are always two potential dangers, no matter where the path lies: MULES and Creatures. The former are former couriers who have gone crazy after losing their jobs; Now they attack everyone who carries the official package, and store the looted goods in their camp. And the second ones are the very invisible monsters that want to drag each person they meet “to the other side”.

About the MULES, as well as about the “terrorists” who differ from them only in the presence of firearms, there is even nothing to tell. Kojima, of course, somehow explains their existence by the plot, but in reality they are needed only so that a terribly fresh battle with the same type of opponents can be inserted into the game.

Sometimes the game is insanely beautiful, and sometimes it’s simply none. And all because designers rarely work with lighting: without glare and soft shadows, the gloomy world looks quite faded

Sometimes the game is insanely beautiful, and sometimes it’s simply none. And all because designers rarely work with lighting: without glare and soft shadows, the gloomy world looks quite faded

But with the Creatures, everything is much more interesting: the first time meeting with them causes a genuine panic. You go about your business, do not touch anyone, and suddenly an inverted rainbow appears in the sky. It is raining right after it, and after a couple of moments the grass under your feet begins to grow and wither immediately. It is clear that the monsters are somewhere nearby, but only their blurry, hunched silhouettes are visible; a routine walk in a few seconds turns into intense hide and seek. It will not work out the danger, but the cargo will not deliver itself – you need to sneak past quietly, like a mouse, focusing only on the readings of the detector. Such a change in pace plays an excellent role in the atmosphere, recalling how dangerous the world once belonged to people.

But then the developers of Kojima Productions take and break their own brilliant ideas with their own hands. First of all, the camps of the MULES and the habitats of the Creatures are static: they do not change throughout the game. That is, a safe place – a mountain pass, a plain, a ford of a river – will always be safe, and this makes routes more predictable. If desired, you can easily avoid those and other enemies – it all depends on whether you are too lazy to make an extra hook. But Creatures do appear only in the rain; if the weather is nice, then there’s nothing to worry about.

The visual design of the Beasts is the best find of Death Stranding, I want to directly applaud. Silent Hills may have been canceled , but communication with Junji Ito was clearly not in vain

And finally, to destroy even the beginnings of a threat to the player, Sam gets a weapon that can kill the critters. Just think: the studio created these creatures mysterious, invulnerable, incomprehensible to the human mind … and then handed you a gun with the words “on, otherwise you are too scared.” Because an AAA-game of such proportions can not do without an unnecessary battle, completely devoid of at least some risk.

For a game declaring death as one of the central themes, Death Stranding is suspiciously mildly treating Sam. MULES use non-lethal weapons to cut down the courier and pick up the parcels, and the big and scary Creatures behave completely brainless. They attack as if reluctantly, deliberately allowing you to dodge three hundred times, or even completely run away. But even if you still manage to die, then after a couple of seconds you will return back to the world of the living as if nothing had happened. No promised crater (at least for me – although, perhaps, the fact is that the Creatures have never “eaten me”), no punishment, except for the loss of some of the items. Well, what’s the point then?

Sometimes Sam has so much cargo that because of the boxes you can’t see where the scanner is pointing (the game itself calls this device “oddradek”). I have to switch to first-person view

Sometimes Sam has so much cargo that because of the boxes you can’t see where the scanner is pointing (the game itself calls this device “oddradek”). I have to switch to first-person view

I brought you a package, but I won’t give it to you

In other words, the experience of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain did not teach Kojima anything. Yes, there the open world served only as a springboard for covert operations and provided the player with the opportunity to experiment, approach the same goals from different angles. But even in empty Afghanistan, there were still flashes of life: because of the turn a patrol is taxiing out – you need to have time to hang over your horse in time so as not to burn the office. I wanted to go past the checkpoint, but one of the enemy soldiers had some characteristic pumped up – now we need to change plans in order to drag a promising recruit to the base. The gameplay was organic, did not hesitate to reward the player for amateur performance, but, on the contrary, encouraged the exit from the comfort zone.

At such moments, there is a desire to just stop and listen to the murmur of water. The contrast of wildlife and rare traces of human intervention always looks spectacular

At such moments, there is a desire to just stop and listen to the murmur of water. The contrast of wildlife and rare traces of human intervention always looks spectacular

Death Stranding is not at all familiar with these concepts, especially with the term “reward”. Bridges couriers do not receive any financial or material compensation for their work – instead, customers give them “likes”. The final grade is affected by a bunch of factors, from the state of the parcel and the delivery time to the complexity of the route. Having gained enough likes, you increase the level, which gives Sam barely noticeable bonuses to endurance or load capacity, and … that’s all. No visible and tangible benefits – and therefore no incentive to try. Why, for what? For the sake of polite “thank you” for holographic communication and good feedback in the local delivery application?

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little: there is still benefit, just to get to it you need to spend indecently a lot of time. Each shelter has a “level of communication” with the main character – in other words, a reputation. Moreover, it rises in only one way – by delivering parcels to a specific shelter. By showing its owner that you are a wonderful courier, you can get items of varying degrees of usefulness: from trinkets for a backpack to really irreplaceable things, like exoskeletons for legs.

Some scenes were purposely set up so that the game quickly scattered into memes. And so the signature is asked in the spirit of “what a half a beer sees before death”

Some scenes were purposely set up so that the game quickly scattered into memes. And so the signature is asked in the spirit of “what a half a beer sees before death”

But the idea fails again. All the most important and necessary you will get in the story, and the optional rewards are absolutely not worth the effort spent on monotonous flights to the same point. Additional tasks, or “standard orders”, as the game itself calls them, are no different from the main missions, so interest in them quickly disappears.

On the one hand, it is fair: Sam is not a legendary chosen hero, but a simple courier. He works, and his work is not sugar at all. On the other hand, we play video games to have fun and not work: there is enough routine for everyone in real life.

I think you already notice the irony. Death Stranding is an open-world game that actively condemns exploration. With deliberately monotonous gameplay, she does not try either to make it at least somehow fun, or to reward the player for the time spent. It is amazing why a project that raised so many questions before the release, with a personal acquaintance, cannot clearly answer the one and only: “Why do we do all this?”

Deadman performed by Guillermo del Toro (unfortunately voiced by his other actor) in the Death Stranding plays the role of Otacon from MGS – an eccentric scientist with a difficult fate

In short, for the sake of the process itself. Oddly enough, in spite of everything that I told above, for forty hours of passage I never got bored. You get about the same pleasure from the monotonous gameplay as from the routine, but pacifying work in real life: as from the reorganization of shelves with clothes, cleaning or parsing old files on the hard drive. In search of such an experience, people play, for example, in Euro Truck Simulator or deliver goods to Elite: Dangerous and EVE Online – just to relax your soul. Naturally, this pleasure is far from for everyone, and for many (rightly!) It will seem deadly melancholy, but Kojima relies on him precisely.

The world of Death Stranding is unfriendly. He doesn’t want to be explored, and is not at all fit for it – but that’s why he just wants to get directions in it. Sometimes orders take you to places that in any other game would be fenced by an invisible wall … but not here. Therefore, taking up delivery, you always first of all look at the map: where is it better to go? Where can I cut? You will have to really take into account, for example, elevation differences, the type of terrain and even the depth of the rivers. I don’t know why the need to cross water flows is so pleasing, but it is insanely happy; most developers rarely attach importance to such details.

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