Review

Death Stranding Review - Postal Service

  • First Released Nov 8, 2019
    released
  • PS4

Alone but not lonely.

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America is broken, and it's up to you to put it back together again. It's a tall order. A lot of people believe in it, but you're not sure you do. It'll take a lot of lonely, dangerous walks and exceptionally heavy lifting, and it's not really clear what America means in the first place. For some reason, you set out anyway, trudging through wetlands and rocky hills on foot, not fully knowing or understanding where you're going. Other than the monsters you can't quite see, there's not really anyone else around most of the time--just you and your thoughts, one foot in front of the other.

On one level, Death Stranding is about America. But your actual goal in setting out across the country is to help people, bring them together, and forge connections, not for the vague concept of America but for the sake of helping the people within it. Death Stranding is unrelenting in its earnestness and optimism--certainly not without its critiques of America, nor without its challenges and setbacks, but inherently hopeful nonetheless. It is a dense, complex, slow game with a plot that really goes places, but at its core, it never stops being about the sheer power and purpose we can find in human connection, and that is its most remarkable achievement.

Hands Across America

Rebuilding the country is as simple as getting every far-flung city, outpost, and individual onto one network, the bones of which were laid down by a pseudo-government organization called Bridges. As Sam Porter Bridges (played by Norman Reedus), all you have to do to win people over is bring them packages; most people never go outside due to mysterious monsters called BTs, but unlike most people, Sam can sense them enough to sneak past them and get important cargo to its destination.

Deliveries can be arduous. You're evaluated on your deliveries across a few categories, but the condition of the cargo can make or break a run, and there are a lot of factors working against you. The landscape can be extremely punishing, from expanses of exhaustingly rocky hills to rivers that are too deep and wide to cross unaided. On top of BTs, you also have to contend with Timefall, a kind of rain that rapidly accelerates aging and deterioration for most of the things it touches. Extended exposure to Timefall can damage or completely ruin your cargo, as can slipping and falling, getting hit by an enemy, or, in some cases, just being a little too rough with it. Even the smallest rocks can trip you up, too. In order to keep your footing, you need to pay close attention to where you're stepping, keeping your balance with the triggers while on rough terrain or when carrying a lot of stuff.

Once you reach your destination, though, you're showered with praise. The recipient will likely thank you to your face (albeit as a hologram), and then they'll give you a series of social media-style likes. You're inundated with a multi-page results screen itemizing all the likes you received for the delivery and in which categories, plus an overall rating for the delivery itself, no matter how small--it's positive reinforcement turned up to 11. These likes then funnel into each of the delivery categories like experience points, and as you level up, you can carry more weight or better maintain your balance, among other benefits. Deliveries also feed into a connection rating with each city, outpost, or person, and as that increases, you acquire better gear and sometimes gifts to reward your efforts further.

In short, you give a lot and get a lot in return. There is a relatively small number of mandatory deliveries to advance the story, but there's a seemingly unlimited number of optional deliveries, and I often found myself picking up orders destined for any place that was on my way. It's a cycle that's easy to get swept up in; no matter how difficult a delivery or how far the distance, you will at least be met with gratitude, likely feel fulfilled from having completed a tough delivery, and often given a tool to make future deliveries a bit easier. Most importantly, though, increasing your bonds with people is how you get them on the network, and the network is what elevates this core loop beyond the simple satisfaction of completing tasks and getting rewards.

No Caption Provided

The chiral network is a kind of souped-up internet that allows you to 3D print objects, which is incredibly useful and a strong incentive in itself. When at a terminal connected to the chiral network, you can print ladders and ropes for traversal, new boots as yours wear out, repair spray for damaged containers, and basically anything else you need to safely deliver cargo so long as you have a blueprint for it. You can also print a portable printer that builds structures for you out in open areas covered by the network--things like bridges, watchtowers, and generators, the latter of which are critical as you start to use battery-powered exoskeletons and vehicles.

The chiral network also grants you access to the online component of the game, which is absolutely essential. You never see other players in the flesh, but their impact is all around you; once an area is on the network, you can see structures and objects left behind by other players in the course of their own journeys, plus helpful signs they've put down just for those who come after them. You can pick up someone else's lost cargo and deliver it for them, too, knowing that someone else may find yours at some point and do you the same kindness.

No Caption Provided

In Death Stranding's best moments, the relief and gratitude you can feel toward someone you don't even know is an unrivaled multiplayer experience. At one point in my playthrough, I was being chased by MULEs, human enemies who love to steal cargo. I was on a bike, tasked with a time-sensitive delivery, almost out of battery and totally unequipped to deal with external threats. In my panic, I drove my bike into a ravine. As I slowly made my way up and out of it, I watched as my bike's battery dipped into the red, and I dreaded getting stuck with all my cargo and no vehicle, still quite a ways away from my destination. I rounded a corner and found myself in the charging area of a generator placed by another player, as if they'd known I'd need it in that exact spot at that exact moment. They probably just put it there because they needed a quick charge, but to me, it was a lifeline.

You can give and receive likes for these player-to-player structures, and just like with standard deliveries, it's a strong incentive to do something helpful for someone else. In the earlier sections of the game, I was using other people's structures far more than I was leaving behind help for others. But I wanted to pay it forward and know that my help was appreciated, so I started going out of my way to build structures I myself didn't really need; the map shows the online structures in your instance, making it easier to spot areas you could fill in for others. At first, the likes system seems like a pretty obvious commentary on social media and our dependence on external validation. But it's not so much a critique as it is a positive spin on a very human need for acceptance, and the system does a remarkable job of urging you to do your best for those around you, NPCs and real people alike. Feeling truly appreciated can be a rare occurrence in life, and it's powerful in its simplicity here.

The Super BB Method

The first few hours of the game are the slowest, and a large part of that is because you don't have access to the online component right away. It's an incredibly lonely stretch of time during which you mostly just walk; the work you do early on is especially laborious in the absence of advanced gear, and it serves to give you an appreciation for other players and better gear as you move forward.

Even as the gameplay opens up, you continue to get a lot of story exposition with almost no explanation. It can all seem kind of goofy at first, and you can get lost in the metaphors; every city you need to add to the chiral network has "knot" in its name, for example, and they are all referred to as "knots" on a strand that connects the country. There's bizarre and unwarranted product placement in the form of Monster Energy drinks and the show Ride with Norman Reedus. Guillermo del Toro's likeness is used for a kind of dorky character called Deadman, and there's a woman named Fragile in a game about delivering packages.

No Caption Provided

But the story really does go deeper than that. In keeping with the theme of human connection, each of the core characters you meet and work with has their own story to tell. They all have a unique perspective on death that lends them an equally unique perspective on life, and unravelling their characters, down to the true origins of their often literal names, contributes to the overall tapestry of Death Stranding's take on the human experience. As they open up to Sam, Sam opens up to them in turn, developing into a distinct character in his own right out of the reserved, emotionless man he appears to be at the start. I grew to love Sam, Fragile, and Heartman especially, and even the characters I didn't like as much add to the game's overall message about hope and love in the face of adversity.

By far my favorite character--and the most important one--is BB. BBs are infants in pods that can detect the presence of BTs, and they're issued to porters like Sam to help them navigate dangerous territory. You're told to treat BBs like equipment, not real babies, but it's impossible to think of your BB that way. It's full of personality, giggling when happy and crying when stressed out; it even gives you likes from time to time. There aren't many children left in Death Stranding's isolated, fearful world, but BB is your reminder that the future is counting on you, regardless of how you feel about America itself. The love that grows between Sam and BB is nothing short of heartwarming.

No Caption Provided

Connecting with this story, just as with connecting with NPCs and other players, can take work. It's not a story that immediately clicks on a surface level, and the dramatic mystery and off-the-wall science don't make too much sense at first blush. But it's an emotional story first and foremost, and making sense of things--while entirely possible, particularly if you read the letters and interviews that detail small bits of lore as you go--is not as important as reflecting on how it makes you feel.

You have plenty of opportunities to do that, too. In the quiet moments of travel, usually as you near your destination, music might start to play. The soundtrack, which is largely composed of one band--Low Roar--is phenomenal, the kind of contemplative folk-ish music that suits a trip alone through a meadow or down a mountain. Because the act of walking is so involved, it's not a time to detach completely and zone out; it's a time to feel your feelings or at least consider what's next in your travels.

Fight, But Not To The Death

You can just as soon be ripped out of that headspace, though, by a shift to the haunting music that signals BT territory. The otherworldly growls of BTs as they close in on you can be terrifying, and early on, your best bet is to freeze in your tracks and hold your breath for as long as you can so you can quietly sneak by them. But there are times when you have to fight a BT in its true form, and for that, you have specialized weapons to take them down. These BTs aren't the ethereal humanoid shapes that float above the ground but huge eldritch horrors that screech under clouds of blood. The combat is mechanically simple--you mostly have to move around a bit and hit them before they hit you--but the sequences are visually and aurally arresting.

You don't get a gun that works on live enemies until 25 or so hours in, but even then, it's non-lethal. You are actively guided away from killing in Death Stranding, because when people die, their bodies basically go nuclear and level cities, leaving nothing but craters and BTs in their wake. On top of that, the main human enemies are MULEs, former porters just like Sam that have been corrupted by an automated world--they've essentially become addicted to snatching cargo in their desperation to have a job and a purpose as more and more people become replaced by machines. They're not evil, and killing them seems like, well, overkill; it's easy enough to knock them out with the nonlethal methods you continue to unlock as the game progresses. I didn't kill a single one in my playthrough, though punching them is satisfying.

No Caption Provided

While BTs and MULEs are a concern when delivering cargo, there's also Mads Mikkelsen's character, a man who's introduced through memories Sam sees when he connects to BB's pod. He gets his own dedicated segments that punctuate hours of simple deliveries, and these highly contained, much shorter sections are striking in their art direction and juxtaposition to the rest of the game. It's not immediately clear what he is, whether it's an enemy, potential friend, or something else entirely, but he's captivating in his ambiguity.

The most cartoonish enemy is Troy Baker's Higgs, a terrorist whose depravity seems to know no bounds. Of all the characters, Higgs is the weakest, with far less nuance to him than anyone else in the cast. He's really just there as a Big Bad to motivate you in a more traditional video game sense than delivering packages and helping people, but he and his band of faceless terrorists are more a means to an end than full-fledged villains. He's the catalyst for some of the major BT fights, and in the end, perhaps an extreme reminder that it's possible to stay hopeful even when things are darkest.

Death Stranding argues in both its story and its gameplay that adversity itself is what makes things worth doing and life worth living.

Death Stranding is a hard game to absorb. There are many intertwining threads to its plot, and silly names, corny moments, and heavy exposition belie an otherwise very simple message. That comes through much more clearly in the game's more mundane moments, when you find a desperately-needed ladder left behind by another player or receive a letter from an NPC thanking you for your efforts. It's positive without ignoring pain; in fact, it argues in both its story and its gameplay that adversity itself is what makes things worth doing and life worth living. It's a game that requires patience, compassion, and love, and it's also one we really need right now.

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Now Playing: Death Stranding Video Review

Back To Top
The Good
Your efforts are rewarded in practical ways as well as emotional ones, driving home the positive impact of what you do for others
Connecting with other players through acts of kindness is a powerful experience that further underscores the game's hopeful message
Each main character's individual story contributes to the whole with a distinct perspective
Fighting BTs is a visually and aurally arresting experience
You're actively discouraged from killing human enemies, which serves the game's themes well
The Bad
Higgs is a disappointing villain that serves as a means to an end
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kallie completed Death Stranding's story in 60 hours, taking the time to deliver some pizzas and build quite a few roads. She would die for BB. Review code was provided by Sony.
773 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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ZYR

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This game is absolutely amazing. The story is great. I played this game for 70 hours and it's still all I can think about. If you say this game is boring you simply haven't gotten far in the game. Everything opens up immensely by the end. I will definitely remember this game forever.

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Cherub1000

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@zyr: ok so I have to ask, what is it that you enjoy so much? I'm on the fence about checking it out as I've never really got on with Kojimas massive exposition dumps in his games and, I'm basing this only on what I've seen and read, it looks like a fairly standard walking sim where ill get annoyed by dropping boxes? Of course there's tons more to it than that but critic reviews are loving it, however gamers seem very very divided? I really enjoy a solid story with depth, I dont need gun toting action and (from a guy who played dear Ester), I've got no issue with a walking sim if everything supporting it is enjoyable.

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RContini

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What is making me laugh is how many of the comments here are pure trolling or downright lies, by people who are pretending to have played the game and simply can't stand it that so many people like it. Really do you have nothing better to do? IF your comment has anything to do with clunky mechanics, boring easy gameplay, lack of rewards, lack of satisfaction, you haven't played this!! Stop lying to make yourselves sound clever, you're only embarrassing yourselves.

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Judge99

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@rcontini: I don’t think that many people like it though...

The only folks that seem to like it are big game websites and fans of the guys who created it.

I’d argue this game is artificially pumped up intentionally by the sites like GS....

I’m 20+ hours into it.

Beautiful game, back drop.

Story is weird doesn’t make sense (yet)

You’re essentially the future USPS lol

Easily the most over rated game of 2019 (not by actual users though)

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RContini

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This game just gets better and better. The story is nonsense, although I've not yet competed it, so hoping for more clarity to come but the gameplay arcs and cycles are incredibly satisfying and rewarding. Easily the most absorbing game of 2019.

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stanly198585

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Just walking down towards Port Kknot City after passing BT's in the mountain along with that beautiful music alone makes it worth buying this game.

One of the best moments in any video game in ages.

2 • 
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Allroy01

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Edited By Allroy01

*SPOILERS*

I just finished the game. I'm really disappointed.

The story is so confusing. I hold a PhD in psychology and a UG degree in english lit. I still don't know what what the f is going on.

The gameplay is okay. You'll feel rewarded earl;y game for reaching your destination. Later on, it's just repeat and repeat.

I bought his game a couple of days after it released because I wanted to avoid spoilers and be part of that group that was first on the scene. Honestly, just wait. Not a $50 purchase.

5/10

- Sleepy

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JayJayUK

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@allroy01: This is just comical, you claim to have A PhD in psychology and a degree in english lit?

Yet, you state you brought this game a couple of days after release.... brought???? lmao

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Cherub1000

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Edited By Cherub1000

@allroy01: appreciate the honest opinion, think I'll hold off buying for a while yet.

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srfilk86

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This game is wonderful. Great review.

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kostasPyrkas

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Gamespot used to be the best video site 10 years ago...now your popularity has diminished and not without a reason....your reviews arent objective at all...great games get an 8 and bad games like death stranding get a 9!!!!

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JMems

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Edited By JMems

It bugs me that people are trashing this game saying “it’s so boring all you do is walk from a to b delivering boxes blah blah this game deserves a 5.” I enjoyed all the metal gear games but i am in no way a Kojima fan boy but this is a great game and it is something unlike anything else that has been released before it and that deserves some merit of its own. The story is so interesting and deep it’s a refreshing change of pace to have to actually pay attention and read important pieces of information to figure things out. I didn’t see everyone out there bashing games like journey and firewatch when people were saying they were game of the year contenders, and those games actually were boring literally all you did was walk, but i do understand why some people enjoy that. So i understand if death stranding is not your kind of game but it is by no means a bad game and i don’t know what Kojima did to you all to make you so effing butt hurt.

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srfilk86

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@jmems: Most of the people hating it haven't even played it. Go figure. Imo, Death Stranding and NieR Automata are tied as games of the generation.

2 • 
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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@srfilk86: It's not selling at all at my local store. They have plenty of copies but no-one is buying it.

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Nima8255

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Enough of seeing nagging comments about a boring game plz. If you have enjoyed mgs fp, you'll be enjoying this as well. If u can't comprehend this masterpiece and the gr8 content that its mastermind Kojima has shared with us, it's ok, just w8 to grow older.

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RogerioFM

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@Nima8255: hahahahahaha Alright Rick, where have you left your Morty?

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Nima8255

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@RogerioFM: Well if I am Rick yo gotta be Morty ;)

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GarGx1

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Doesn't seem like a game for me, in fact is sounds rather boring. Each to their own though.

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Judge99

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Now that I’ve played both (haven’t finished death stranding).

Gamespot needs to switch these two scores

Days gone 9/10

Death stranding 5/10

Days gone is a MUCH better game than this. In fact I’d argue days gone is GOY.... however death stranding comes off as a game that could be good? They had all of the appropriate assets to make a great game.... but I’d say this game is a 5-6/10...... so far, it could be the story kicks it into over drive and gets better. Game mechanics is too boring in the end.

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srfilk86

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@judge99: Except Days Gone is buggy trash and Death Stranding is immaculate.

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silv3rst0rm

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This game has a WOW factor that fades FAST!

I rented it (Cause there's still a video game store around that do rentals) and I'm glad I did!
On my first 1-2 hours in it, I was amazed and tought :"That's amazing, I guess I'll buy a copy upon returning the rental one!"

I could figure myself playing this for nights on end, fighting to keep balance and carefully sneak in BT zones...
But then I played for 2 straight nights and reached a point where you realise that you're not THAT easy to trip over and in the end, you don't have to be THAT careful walking/sneaking around.

From this moment on you just begin dashing all over the place in a wreckless maner and barely ever trip and fall.

BT encounters, at first, are INTENSE and heart pounding, but then again, after passing through 4-5 zones of them and getting to know how your scanner/sensor works, from then on you can easily blast through BT zones without any stress or tension at all holding your breath once or twice for 4-5 seconds and voila!!
I guess the fact that there's no surprise AT ALL in this game makes it a bore fest much faster than it should.
It's not an action game, it's not a stealth game, it's not a puzzle game, it doesn't have a great story.
It's nothing, trying to be everything!

It doesn't deserves 0-1 ratings like we see in masses on Metacritics but I can't see how anyone who played more than 10 hours could give it a 8-9-10.

To me it's a 5~6 / 10.

Had I reviewed it upon my first couple of hours in it, I would've given it a 9.
It's been a while since I was that amazed at a new gameplay/feature in a game.
If I would've buy it, I could be frustrated and giver it a 2 thinking it's not worth 80$ but 6$ for a rental, I'm satisfied with the experience.

6 • 
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ExoticCharm

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About a third of the user scores on metacritic have this as a crap game. It seems like reviewers were too scared to give it an honest review because they were afraid of backlash.

4 • 
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Divisionbell

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@ExoticCharm: or a whole lot of people have given it awful reviews. There was a lot of hate before this even came out. From a quick scan of user reviews it looks like people trashing it based on things they read without actually playing it.

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Vilified_Signals

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Edited By Vilified_Signals

The game is trash.
The only reason it got a 9 is because "Hideo Kojima".
When, in all actuality, all you have is a game about transporting boxes from point A to point B and back to point A.
They made the trailer before they made the game. Absolute nonsense. But because it's Hideo Freaking Kojima you all decide it's definitely worth a 9.


If this dumb game earns any kind of awards I'm calling bullshit.

7 • 
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Fia1

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@vilified_signals: Kojima could take a dump on a blu ray disc and it will sell, it is crazy how fanboyism works.

5 • 
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gamingdevil800

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If you can stick with the game till Chapter 4 it gets better and way more interesting imo.

4 • 
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aross2004

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This is easily my GoTY so far, (figured it would be Sekiro or Metro Exodus).

I still reserve the right to change my mind since Fallen Order and Pokemon S and S drop later this week, but DS is easily one of the most unique games I have ever played.

6 • 
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Warlord_Irochi

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Liking it so far with 10 hours in. But this one is almost a "not applicable" when it comes to recommend it to others. it's divisive AF. I may have to recommend my friends to first borrow it from somebody.

4 • 
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50cratez

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It’s strange this game got a 6 at ign and a 9 at gamespot. I guess Kohima forgot to pay ign. Lulz

8 • 
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LiveDreamPlay

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@50cratez: Maybe because it's a love it or hate it game, as you can see from the comments and other discussions as well. Lots of people saying it's game of the year and simply outstanding, lots of people saying it's boring.

5 • 
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zafar1981

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@50cratez said:

It’s strange this game got a 6 at ign and a 9 at gamespot. I guess Kohima forgot to pay ign. Lulz

It means Kojima paid Gamespot to score 9 otherwise the game deserve.......

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@50cratez: Are you saying he remembered to pay IGN Italy, Japan and Spain, as well as the other 80ish review sites that gave the game positive reviews, but forgot IGN US?

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Berserk8989

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Edited By Berserk8989

Seeing people be so pathetic and ignorant is just sad... Instead of appreciating a new, complete and unique single-player AAA experience that clearly carries the vision of a single man, unaltered by the publishers greed and without any kind of microtransactions or other monetization practices, they act like children wailing in their own sh*t.

The game robbed you of nothing, it never lied to you nor deceived you - It always showed you what it was: A slow-paced narrative driven game that's focused on making deliveries, featuring a vast amount of rich, complex traversal and item management mechanics, and not your mass fodder "pew pew" and "bam bam". And in my opinion, after playing quite a chunk of it already, just those traversal mechanics are deeper than most of today's games full gameplay mechanics, especially in the AAA segment.

Even if you don't have as broad a gaming horizon yet and still don't have enough of today's mainstream games - Why not just be happy for the game and the people that like it, while continuing to play the stuff that YOU like instead of downright sh*tting on and making fun of something you don't find interesting (and don't even fully seem to understand because you haven't played it, judging by most of the comments I see on here).

9 • 
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Vilified_Signals

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@Berserk8989: The game is about transporting boxes from point a to point b and back to point a.

Oh, look! Conversations! NEver been done BeFore!?
Nope. Bioware has been doing great in game conversations and emotions since the late 90's.

But it's hideo freaking kojima ya'll keep sucking that "magic D". Overhyped and completely stupid. Like his fans!

4 • 
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Divisionbell

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@vilified_signals: We get it. You hate Kojima.

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Berserk8989

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@vilified_signals: Thank you for reinforcing my point.

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lonesamurai00

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Edited By lonesamurai00

Just read the IGN review, and as usual it made more sense.

6 • 
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LiveDreamPlay

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@lonesamurai00:

It really didn't... the only review I've seen that made sense is Eurogamer, but they don't have scores so people are not interested...

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lonesamurai00

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@livedreamplay: It doesn't matter though, as I've made up my mind that I am buying the game (on PC of course) just to support Kojima. The game has really sumptuous graphics, oh and mods - in this open world game - no doubt.

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LiveDreamPlay

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Edited By LiveDreamPlay

@lonesamurai00: I'm waiting for a price discount but I've also made up my mind. Not getting it on PC though as it will probably run poorly.

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lonesamurai00

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Edited By lonesamurai00

@livedreamplay: If you are fearful that it won't perform well on your PC I can understand your concern.

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LiveDreamPlay

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@lonesamurai00: Yes, badly need an upgrade. Think I'll wait for spring and get fresh for Cyberpunk.

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lonesamurai00

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@livedreamplay: Nvidia 30 Ampere GPUs are going to be quite the upgrade then, even the from current Turing GPUs. Should be worth the wait .

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Robbie23

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Not sure what the problem is. I'm really enjoying this game.

5 • 
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LiveDreamPlay

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@robbie23:

Yes, most people that are actually playing the game are really enjoying it. It's the people that are only watching on youtube or twitch that are having issues with it, and are as usual more vocal for something that they didn't even try.

7 • 
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Warlord_Irochi

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@robbie23: My guess is that people were expecting a game similar in mechanics to MGS. Enjoying it too here, mainly because i was looking for something different to play, but even so it's not for everyone.

5 • 
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alastor529

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THis seems alot like Detroit or Beyond Two Souls except with an emphasis on walking mechanics

3 • 
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LiveDreamPlay

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@alastor529: Very far from both truly.

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aross2004

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@alastor529: No.

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Arkhalipso

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@alastor529: It's absolutely nothing like those games.

6 • 

Death Stranding More Info

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  • First Released Nov 8, 2019
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Death Stranding is a PlayStation 4 exclusive from Hideo Kojima's new studio.
    6.5
    Average Rating63 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Death Stranding
    Developed by:
    Kojima Productions
    Published by:
    505 Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language