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.
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Zenmuron666

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After your Days Gone review it is hard to take your reviews seriously.

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viniterra

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@Zenmuron666: I'm observing a peculiar fact about these 2 games on Metacritic. The average of user reviews does not reflect the average of specialized critic reviews. In fact, they seem to be inverted for these 2 games. Makes me wonder if the specialized critic is currently able to target its major audience.

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Gr4h4m833zy

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@Zenmuron666: oh boy! When i saw that review i almost skipped that game. But im glad i didn't because it was actually an 8/10 for me. But i still bought this today because i support hideo.

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Crazy_sahara

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Edited By Crazy_sahara

I've seen everything in death stranding, (it's definitely hyped) dam the endings like prey, or dues ex.(while it's a shame kojima was kicked off the team of konami, because later in the game (chapter 13) there's these badass soldiers that kick down the door those character assets are in theory metal gear 6, if it was re-amagined, but yeah I believe silent hills(but kojima does not have the rights to use it) would have been something hideo should have stuck with because that demo will stand the testament of time, where death stranding most likely not.)

But if I had to break down the story then there would be multi-verses, in the past and present, and the past is reluctant to give up tied to the living, where on one side there's dolls and on the other babies (but the game does not disclose the amount of babies only the obvious one needed to tell the story, it's obvious who the baby is, batman) yet extinction factors are levels of connection, where Sam is below level 3, yet higgs is at level 6 where fragile is 4, and lastly amalise is at level infinity, yet each characters forced to identify their call status as dooms or ee's with out consideration if the player understands what the f is going on.

The game can certainly be poor in certain departments for example, why does higgs try to deliver two (fallout 4) miniture bombs when those that die after 28 hours become necrotised (terminator t800 nukes turning 20 kilometres into craters) when all society has to do is kill each other and the fire works start, yet the game does not explain why a dead body self destructs only that they must be burned? Talk about disrespecting the player whose about to commit hours into walking, and why have guns and vehicles 20, hours after the game, and the intro explains nothing as to where Sam was traveling from while taking scenes from final fantasy advent children.

Then the supercells that are gateways to those beached where your forced to go to, however it seems there's to many random ideas put forth in this game, as the supercell missions are better then the game it's self unfortunately only serve as a set-piece for Hans mikkelsens scenes and missions mostly.( how much did this game cost to make, geez.)

The game seems deliberately focused on infuriating you not on game play but your inability to care when you probably want to.

Overall it's almost comparable to mass effect Andromeda but that was more engaging with dialogue and action.

Videos inspiration for this game comes from:

Hikikomori issues,

Suicide,

Shintoism,

Political agenda,

The internet it's self,

And lastly online bullying.

It's not a good thing to incorporate that into a game followed by you having a serious message to send to the public when the games inner message is to connect, yet only those on playstation can connect, when kojima should have tried sending a message to president of sony, but hay money is evil and kojima should know that if your not willing to sacrifice something then your no hero and this game tends to fall into Hippocratic territory.

Would have loved to hace seen mascot for the decima engine in the game, nope nothing.

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dmblum1799

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Edited By dmblum1799

You know what this: it's a game where you deliver stuff. It has a lot of systems built out of that, but if that's not you, you have been warned. As for reviews, those are inevitably opinions. A review is valid not based on the number (again, subjective), but whether it is cogently, honestly, and perceptively well argued.

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Dilandau88

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I feel there is a strong bias here due to the hype and Kojimas name attached. This is essentially a fetch quest simulator. Any other game would get ripped to shreds for doing this...

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TrooperTrooper

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@Dilandau88: Or the amount of Sony banner advertising currently littering the website right now.

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zafar1981

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A very simple question, if this game isn't produced by KOJIMA and not published by SONY would it still be rated as high as it has been now.

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matastig

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@zafar1981: A very simple question: do you think that your take might or will change the fact that KOjima is one of the best and most respected game makers of all time?...yeah i get it you're one of those "I hate everything popualr" kinda gamer.

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dynamotnt

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@zafar1981: well my most trusted youtube reviewers have all said that, if they had bought it and it'd come from anywhere else, they would still love it, but it probably wouldn't divide the overall gaming community as much, because of the expectations people have about Kojima.

it's a double-edged sword, screwed either way by perception. a game all about bringing people together and making connections, dividing fans more then ever.

I personally can't get over what silent hills could have been, as good as DS may be just goes to show if he can make something this good, about nothing much at all, imagine what he could have done to SH.

i will no doubt get this game eventually though.

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pharoe777

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This game will easily be a 6.5 rating, def not a 9....let's wait and see.

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matastig

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Edited By matastig

@pharoe777: Did you get to play and finish the game? i need to hire some experts for my site.

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pharoe777

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@matastig: Yes, no, and no thanks, I am not for hire.

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andy24king24

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Edited By andy24king24

Look this game is gonna divide opinion even before we gamers get our mits on it in a few hours so why don’t we stop the barrage of negativity and just wait and see. Some love it, some don’t. Thankfully nobody hates it yet, give it till midnight then the haters will start. But one thing we mustn’t do is compare it to the great MGS. It’s a completely different game as we have been told time and time again. Give it time folks and some of us might start to appreciate what a epic game this could be. I’m gonna anyways. Despite the early difficulties I know I’m gonna get when I start it soon. But I’m feeling positive.

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Utnayan

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@andy24king24: Correct: Konami was able to wrangle in Kojima from going off the deep end and still providing a game worth playing with fun and varied mechanics tied in with the crazy. Sony let him loose and this thing that came out should not be compared to MGS. We can now see front and center via this game how much Kojima needs to be hand held. And how Konami was probably right all along.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@Utnayan: So you're saying this is Kojima's Phantom Menace.

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Theo1971

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@mogan said:

@Utnayan: So you're saying this is Kojima's Phantom Menace.

good one, thanks for the laugh!

IMO more like The Force Awakens, which would make Kojima look like Kathleen Kennedy

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Mogan

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@Theo1971: Nah, Disney Star Wars has a while different set of problems that aren’t the same.

Everything I hear about Death Stranding makes it sound like Kojima was 100% in charge of everything, and because of his past success, there was nobody in a position to tell him, “no”. Which was 100% Lucas’s problem with the prequels; he dreamt up Gungans, and 10 year old Anakin, and doing everything in CG, and those were all bad ideas, but nobody was able to step in and edit his vision, so we got one of the worst Star Wars movies yet and the bloom really fell off the George Lucas flower.

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Utnayan

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Edited By Utnayan

Streamers are now live and have been ripping this to shreds. Also, the giant bomb review says it all right in the headline:

Kojima's first post-Konami project is a bizarre, self-indulgent mess that never quite manages to tie its myriad pieces together. And this last parting shot from GB:

"At least now we know what the hell Death Stranding is: a disappointment."

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cjtopspin

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So you represent a citizen trying to keep his shit and you are constantly run down my other people trying to take your shit?

Sounds like a socialism simulator.

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horosavinXX

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@cjtopspin:

It actually sounds like capitalism simulator.

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cjtopspin

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@horosavinXX: ...or a government simulator. It seems universal independent of economic model.

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Bignoli

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The game isn`t even out an the reviewer had so much luck of finding someone else stuff that helped her a lot. mmmmm I don`t think this happened Kaille. How many people are playing this before launch that you happen to find it and saved your delivery. I honestly believe you invented it just to point out how being connected is much better. You can just say it like this instead of creating a whole paralel universo were this happened.

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ASneakyPoptart

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@bignoli: You really should refrain from commenting on something you have NO idea about in the future. Obviously Gamespot wasn't the only outlet to receive a review copy. Reviewers have had this game for 1-2 weeks and it's not farfetched for them to run across other reviewers objects they placed in the world - especially when it's the only MP mechanic this game has.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@bignoli: Sony sent out loads of review codes, so there've been a fair few people playing during the review period. They were probably so accommodating with the codes and early access because they wanted to make sure reviewers saw the stuff placed by other players and interact with the like system, since that seems like an important part of the game.

The guys at Giant Bomb talked about seeing other players' signs, and ladders, and bridges and whatnot on the last Bombcast, and they wondered what the game world will look like when once the general public starts playing.

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twztid13

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A high profile game, especially by Sony (even more especially by Kojima), reviewed by a GameSpot editor... I said gets a 9, if not a 10, a couple of months after the announcement here on GS.

I haven't purposely looked at anything on this game after the 1st couple of news stories about the announcement that i saw here, because it seemed interesting enough that i didn't want it spoiled in case it did end up being good. After that, I've only seen the tweets by Kojima & the pics on the news stories, etc, all by happenstance. I still don't know if i want to play it. I'm not sure if it's a horror game, or in that lane at all. I don't do jump scares anymore. I'm too paranoid as it is, which is why i had to quit smoking weed 15 years ago. I'd either die from heart attack, or kill someone that was behind me if i played games with legit jump scares while high again (not sure why only/mainly those, as i like games like Hellblade, with very few jump scares, but with psychological horror instead). On the other end of the spectrum, I hope it's not a game that I'd mistake for a Quantic Dream title, either. I'll look into it when I'll actually have an opportunity to play it (probably next gen definitive version at the earliest, lol).

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Mogan

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Edited By Mogan  Moderator

@twztid13: Well, I'm pretty sure Death Stranding is not a horror game. : p

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Utnayan

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@mogan: Depends on how you look at it :P

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VBlake73

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Nothing like Sony fanboys & Kojima marks propping up an interactive movie devoid of gameplay.

You know, gameplay? The reason video games exist.

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matastig

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@vblake73: Nothing like Sony haters, full of biased crap and unsupported nonsense.

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twztid13

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@mismajor99: welcome to everything. Face it..., were the grumpy old men, now. I can picture me saying, "When i was your age, reviewers used to play games before they wrote about them. That was when QuickTime Events were frowned upon & review scores were lowered because of them. Now, you kids go & make a whole genre based around QTE's, but because you claimed they felt like too much like micro-aggressions, the 'quick' portion was removed & you have 'interactive novels'."

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Chubby170

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My god, have people seen the gameplay videos? Absolutely horrible. I am shocked anyone would spend $60 on a delivery simulator.

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Utnayan

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@chubby170: Streamers right now are ripping it to pieces. Giant Bomb came out with their review and also ripped it to shreds.

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matastig

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@Utnayan: All i can see, is you ripping it to pieces in multiple different comments , wow you seems to hate either Sony or Kojima.

My only take on the game.....Games made by Japanese makers are not for westerns that's for sure. different culture low intelligence, poor taste and prospective.

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Chubby170

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@matastig: Its because the game looks absolutely horrible. Its literally a delivery simulator.

And people are in fact tearing it apart.

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Chubby170

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@Utnayan: I know. IGN gave it a 6.5.

Why did gamespot give it such a high review when others are tearing it apart???

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ZmanBarzel

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@chubby170 said:

@Utnayan: I know. IGN gave it a 6.5.

Why did gamespot give it such a high review when others are tearing it apart???

On the other hand, why did IGN give it such a low review when others are praising it?

The answer? Different people have different opinions. Really not that complicated.

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Chubby170

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@zmanbarzel: Havent really seen any praise for the game except for this site.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@chubby170: You should really check Metacritic. 83 reviews and almost all of them positive. The GameSpot score doesn’t stand out from it’s peers.

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Chubby170

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Edited By Chubby170

@matastig: You fanboys are hysterical.

You act like im the one making the bad reviews lol. Of course I havent played the game, it just came out!! Did I claim to have played it? Did I say that I thought it was horrible? NO. I am showing people what others have to say about it.

Stop being such a fanboy.

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Chubby170

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@mogan: I honestly hate Metacritic. Its a jumbled mess and never gives any in depth details.

There are a lot of bad reviews out there for this game as well. And honestly, have you seen the videos? It really looks horrible.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@chubby170: Regardless of whether you like Metacritic’s sure design, you can click on all those individual reviews that make up the metascore and go read their reviews on their own sites. That’s a lot of praise from a lot of places.

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Chubby170

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@mogan: And im just saying theres a lot of bad reviews as well... Each are to be considered.

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Utnayan

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@chubby170: The reviewer is heavily subjective on left leaning political games. Those will automatically get high scores regardless of the game quality, game play, mechanics, anything. The game gets pushed aside for the "message" it is conveying.

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krazeekhujo05

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The worst review of the year to go along with the worst game of the year. Just like the review the game is tedious and very boring, I'd rather spend $80 to watch paint dry than play this trash.

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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.
    6.7
    Average Rating89 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