Say what you will about Hideo Kojima’s games, they certainly know how to leave a lasting impression. 2019’s Death Stranding was one of the most strangest and bizarre games I have played, but it was also one of the most memorable ones. Stunning visuals and totally out-of-the-box gameplay elements made Death Stranding a refreshing game to play.
Now, it has been re-released, with additional content, in the form of a director’s cut. It is a fitting title for a game that often felt like an interactive movie. Out now on the PlayStation 5, Death Stranding Director’s Cut is a refinement of an already fantastic journey.
AT A GLANCE
Release date: 24th September 2021
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 5
Final score: 9/10
Unlike the recently released Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut which featured a new expansion, Death Stranding Director’s cut sticks with small enhancements and additions instead of meaty new content. It still largely feels like the same game we played back in 2019, albeit with tweaks and surprises along the way.
The story of Death Stranding follows the protagonist Sam Porter Bridges, played by Norman Reedus, as he travels across the ruins of a post-apocalyptic America, re-establishing society by linking together outposts and towns. Over the 60 hours that I initially spent with Death Stranding, I often found myself going through a flurry of emotions as the complicated plot slowly unraveled itself around Sam. By the time I had finished the game, I felt like I had come to the end of a long journey that I began years ago.
The story remains unchanged and I think that’s a good thing. While the reception to Death Stranding was divisive, and the narrative often felt overly complicated and confusing, part of what made Death Stranding such a unique game was the quirkiness of its plot. Kojima managed to pack in a dense and complicated plot that was filled with themes and symbology, mixing in goofy sci-fi themes and deep thought-provoking ideas. To change this plot in any way would be risking the game losing its odd charm.
There are of course new additional side quests, including a new mini-plot that relies heavily on stealth mechanics as well as new delivery missions rescues, races, training courses, and the Cyberpunk, Half-Life crossover missions. The new subplot feels largely disconnected from the main narrative and is mostly a diversion than an addition to the main course.
The other major reason why Death Stranding was such a unique game was the gameplay. While combat is a core element in the game, you spend the majority of your time delivering packages across the map, mostly avoiding combat instead of actively seeking it(unless you want to). The entire experience felt extremely cathartic and relaxing for me, and was a welcome diversion from the action-heavy gameplay that we have come to expect from AAA games.
The gameplay has been noticeably improved, with a more friendly tutorial and easier early game. This is a really good move that will allow casual players who were turned off by the complicated gameplay loop of the original game, to give it another go.
There’s also a racing circuit that has been introduced allowing you to speed across the highways of America on a wide variety of vehicles. The new AI buddy accompanies you on your journey, allowing you to carry additional cargo, or if you feel like giving your fingers a rest, it can even carry you around.
New customization options are incorporated: new backpack functions and color schemes. To top it all off, Sam also has access to a lot of new equipment as well, including a catapult that lets you shoot cargo across long distances and rocket boots that allow you to safely descend long jumps.
While it might not seem significant enough for some people, these small additions to the Death Stranding Director’s Cut open up a wide variety of new ways to approach its sandbox world.
The biggest and most apparent change of course is the visuals and the performance. Death Stranding was already a gorgeous game that already pushed the boundaries of what the PS4 could do, and now with the added horsepower of the PS5, it runs at a crisp 4k with vastly improved performance. The result is a much more enjoyable experience with 0 lags and jitters, and free of jagged edges.
I have to mention that the actors and the facial capture in this game are mind-blowing and simply the best I have seen in any game, even 2 years later. Director’s Cut improves on this with its sharper visuals and smoother framerate.
Norman Reedus’ portrayal as Sam, Mads Mikkelsen, Guillermo del Toro, and the rest of the cast combined with Kojima’s excellent choice in music, truly pushes the boundaries on what a cinematic experience can be in a video game.
It’s amazing how well this game makes use of the PS5, despite it actually being a last-gen game. The truth is that it looks way better than some of the more recent releases, many of which are made with the current generation in mind. From a technical point of view, Death Stranding is still a marvel.