Death Stranding

I have been playing a pretty serious amount of Death Stranding Director’s Cut, mostly because the core game is still so very good and the visuals, at least out in the open world, are simply — cue Keanu Reeves — breathtaking. And also, I unashamedly failed to get past chapter 8 on my original playthrough back when the game was new, something I am now trying to rectify by getting to at least chapter 9.

For those who are still unsure of what Death Stranding even is, you play as Norman Reedus — though everyone calls him Sam — delivering packages to the likes of Geoff Kieghley and Conan O’Brien, who are hunkered down in a post-apocalyptic version of America that more closely resembles Iceland and New Zealand than the good ol’ U.S. of A. In short, you’re simply a mailman in a post-apocalyptic world of chest-affixed jar babies and goopy monsters.

Oh, and Death Stranding is a game made by a completely unfettered Hideo Kojima, so all of this somehow makes sense. Or, at the very least, it’s presented in a way that suggests it makes sense, whether or not it all falls into place for you or not.

The catch is that you have to haul these packages in ridiculously sized loads that are strapped to your back while navigating all manner of terrain on foot (at least in the early part of the game — you will get access to vehicles and all manner of gadgetry later on). One false step or errant maneuver can send Norman Reedus careening wildly, possibly damaging your cargo and reducing the amount of “likes” you’ll receive upon successful delivery.

My point is that walking is actually rather difficult at times in Death Stranding, requiring proper terrain observation and weight distribution management. I have spent upwards of an hour — perhaps even slightly longer — doing a single delivery, hampered by timefall (rain that ages everything it stains), BT’s (the aforementioned goopy monsters), and a stream that seems just a tad bit too treacherous to cross without damaging that precious cargo. I was monitoring my every step, eyes glued to the screen, scanning each little bump or incline, unexpectedly slipping on a patch of mud multiple times and nearly derailing my otherwise pristine cargo and flawless run.

Death Stranding

After wiping the sweat from my brow, I decided to dive back into Red Dead Online to tackle the latest Quick Draw Club pass, And I have to say, it felt like my character was walking on clouds. I had a moment when I was running up a hill and came across a rather large rock smack dab in the middle of my desired path. Well, my Red Dead avatar just scaled right over that obstacle without batting an eye. I didn’t even feel a controller vibration registering the rock as anything more than an afterthought.

For such a small moment, it was monumentally impactful. I had spent so much time fearing even the smallest of pebbles in Death Stranding, and yet here I was yawning my way over what would have surely stopped me dead in my tracks in Death Stranding — an insurmountable obstacle reduced to a mere bump in the road. And that wasn’t the only time I felt my stomach clench when faced with a deviation in the terrain, only to have my character merely ignore it as if it were a smooth surface and simply mosey on by. 

It will be interesting to see how my brain adjusts when I return to Death Stranding. Hopefully my more cautious instincts will kick in instead of my carefree Red Dead ones. Because in Death Stranding, more than in any other game I’ve ever played, ignoring even the slightest shift in incline could spell catastrophic disaster.

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