Having bounced off the opening exposition of Death Stranding on PS4 last November I was not anticipating falling in love with its craggy exploration on PC. And yet here I am, some 40 hours under my belt (along with a pair of spare boots and 30ft of climbing rope) and readily committed to 40 hours more. Underneath that initial hit of lore, acronyms and holographic Guillermo del Toro (yes) lies a brilliant take on open world exploration; a full body cleanse of the genre’s worst habits.
For starters, it’s focused entirely on the journey, that of a deliveryman out to mend a shattered America by hooking up its internet and delivering the odd pizza. You potter between outposts, wrestling with balance and footing in a way that has more in common with the limb-sims of Bennett Foddy than the auto-climbing stars of the modern actioners. This alone brings the landscape into dazzling perspective: it’s a game of plotting paths and learning shortcuts. Not a minimap in sight.
On top of that you can add ghost-dodging, parcel robberies and the occasional mega piss in a river, sponsored by Monster Energy Drink. The more you explore, the more gadgets you accrue, transforming your hiking potential and opening delivery efficiencies that tickle the same part of the brain as Wilmot’s Warehouse. This is before asynchronous online kicks in and helpful structures bleed in from other people’s games, an army of phantom couriers collectively taming the wilderness.
It’s the most engaged I’ve been by virtual fields since Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and I hope you’ll find some time to watch the following video. Colm joined me for a little chat and tour of the game:
The video turned into a bit of a brute, I’ll admit. Like Kojima himself, I’m prone to waffle. If you want to jump to some highlights, I suggest 10:05 for a look at those fascinating communal aspects (and my mountain-defeating zipline) and 14:19 for the Valve-themed shenanigans added for the PC version. You get a pair of Alyx’s gravity gloves for easy package retrieval. Delightful!
If you like what you see of the video, I invite you to subscribe to the Rock Paper Shotgun channel here. And If you like what you see of the game, Death Stranding is out now and available on Steam and the Epic Games Store. If you see a handy zipline built by ‘basilpesto’ don’t forget to give it a like. Yes, not even the apocalypse can prevent the shamelessness of influencers.