Stranded Death-one of the things I always wanted to do during lockdown, but never did. Returning to a gray, hazy, and hostile world of death and human misery seems like the worst option for living through a real-world pandemic.
I should never have doubted. In the face of all the Death Stranding violence, dead things, surreal horrors,
and the bleakest and saltiest depiction of post-apocalypse, there is always hope and strong love and bonds and connections like never before.
more needed. If nothing else, Death Stranding: Director’s Cut is the best reason to return to the valley of the shadows of death, and find the gloomy beauty waiting there.
What the new features and content bring to the table just makes those returns easier and friendlier than ever.
More importantly, however, Director’s Cut is a bit confused. Despite the appeal of an auteur like Kojima who takes a more proactive approach,
changing dialogue and text files or adding scenes, nothing too closely related to plot, story, character development, or the way the world is presented has been messed up here.
It’s still largely the same game in 2019: a post-apocalyptic odyssey to reconnect America’s disparate cities at all costs,
with our taciturn and unfaithful hero, Sam Porter-Bridges, confronting the literal and metaphorical ghosts of America along the way.
method. That is just the tip of the broad iceberg of plots toying with metaphysics, the role of politics in our lives, the nihilism inherent in fundamentalist thought, the deteriorating social contract, and more.
All of this is held back by the main gameplay loop where you play as a postman across the country–mostly on foot–and across a variety of melancholy-inducing terrain.
However, it’s all in the game we got two years ago, and by and large, Director’s Cut is the same kind of enhanced experience as Ghost of Tsushima’s Director’s Cut.
That’s not a bad thing, just not a big thing. Newcomers and those starting from scratch will benefit the most.
Director’s Cut features a much more elegant set of introductory challenges, clearer explanations of the core mechanics, and some useful gear like Supporting Skeletons and a debilitating new Maser Gun available from the start, removing a lot of annoyance from the game.
the first few episodes. There’s an AR firing range that allows you to test out any new weaponry you get against static targets or on bots that work like MULE enemies, which really helped me finally get some time to parry using the Strand straps.
All of that paired with the PS5’s expected perks. The graphics boost to 60fps is near-perfect, and despite having two modes for Quality and Performance,
both managed to maintain that frame rate target, with Quality mode only having problems when caught by BT, or stuck in a void.
Load times are virtually eliminated, which makes getting back to business after the word void easier to deal with. Again, haptics on DualSense is the MVP here.
You can feel every little step or movement Sam takes, and the pressure and difficulty involved in trying to balance him while he’s carrying heavy loads is simply overwhelming here. The sensation adds a very effective layer of immersion to the experience.
In fact, there’s some new story content, most notably related to Sam discovering an abandoned science factory/facility early on, with new areas unlocking as you progress through the game.
It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, the new story being told is a powerful one that branches off from the core game exploration of what America really is,
what we have lost along the way, and the best way to get it back. And it raises the question of what we leave behind for our children and whether we can even atone for the sins of previous generations in any important way.
The problem here is that getting that story in full involves a lot of stealth, and while there’s always some of that stuff in the bigger games,
this definitely feels a little too similar to the game that nudged and winked at Metal Gear fans, in that the game is mechanically built and in a different tone.
That goes for many of the new features, such as the Maser Gun, cargo catapults, Buddy Bots, and the racetrack.
All of this can definitely make the game easier–the Bot Buddy that can bring resources back to town on your behalf is a real time saver,
in particular–but it also shifts the focus of the game a bit from the work of connecting America again, basically pointing at the circle on the map,
and instruct the computer to do the work for us. That’s pretty ironic because that’s how the in-game world created previous postal worker antagonists.
The game turns into a skewed RTS at this point instead of, well, whatever you’d describe as Death Stranding.
Two years after beating it, I’m still not sure what I really classify as Death Stranding, in terms of genre.
Kojima may want to make a “strand game”, but that’s still a bit too loose in terms of what he’s accomplished here.
However, arguably the game’s greatest strength comes from its inexplicable nature, from the action and mechanics that are bound by the story it tells, and not the other way around.
The true beauty of the game lies in the difficulty of traversing the wastelands of America, burdened with all the hopes and dreams of the nation, and with death itself physically manifesting on all sides.
It gets a little disjointed by taking too much out of Sam’s hands, though admittedly it makes the game and many of its gameplay elements less blunt.
Thankfully, as mentioned, there is no new content that changes what eventually became and became Death Stranding.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying that returning to the world of Death Stranding after the year we’ve all experienced affects in ways I never expected.
It didn’t surprise me for the first time how much positive feedback the game received. give for every little thing Sam does.
It didn’t surprise me the first time how accurate the game would be to how isolation made every interaction with a live human into an event.
Hope, despair, determination all of them are now different, and in a way that makes this game an experience even if you don’t like it enough to last for decades.
Director’s Cut is still doing an amazing job of gathering that experience for the maximum experience.
Even while trying to push himself towards something more approachable, there’s still nothing quite like this game.