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The moment I saw Norman Reedus sprouting forth a mushroom with his urine, I knew I had to pre-order Death Stranding.

This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. Generally speaking, I don’t pre-order many games. The increasing ‘release it now, fix it later’ mentality of game developers has deterred me from purchasing any game unless I was absolutely certain of its quality. Nintendo titles like Zelda, Mario and Smash Brothers were the only games I pre-ordered recently because that good old ‘Nintendo Seal of Quality’ still means something to me. Considering this, it’s a real gamble for me to pre-order Hideo Kojima’s upcoming Death Stranding, a game about maintaining fading connections, male pregnancy and magic piss mushrooms.


Speculation Nation


At least, that might be what the game is all about. Although Death Stranding has over an hour of collective trailer and gameplay footage, no-one really knows what the hell is actually going on in this game – not even the premise is fully apparent. The best way I can summarize it: a sci-fi epic that combines elements of Inception with The Revenant. Even this could be inaccurate since it’s born from my personal speculations, but when it comes to Death Stranding, boy, it sure is fun to speculate!

Every new piece of media sends people into a frenzy as they scramble to uncover the mysteries of the story and validate the fan theories. Some believe the characters could be analogues for Egyptian Gods, others think the game could be the full release of Kojima’s ill-fated horror game P.T. No theory is too crazy and every new fragment of media offers one more piece to an ever-growing puzzle to try and understand what the game is all about.

Norman Reedus staring into a pit

Pre-ordering the game also comes with an invisible bonus: a set of earplugs and blinders to help block out internet spoilers. The floodgates for Twitter spoilers officially open up on November 8th and I for one will certainly be staying off social media until I’ve seen Death Stranding’s credits roll for myself. I’m keen to play the game and formulate my own thoughts before the Internet hive mind dictates my opinion; pre-ordering permits me this grace and it’ll be a genuine rush to know I’ll be among the first people to play the game.


Death Standing Around


Though the narrative has got people buzzing, several people think the gameplay looks dull based on the trailers. Most of the current gameplay footage shows shots of Norman Reedus slowly walking across barren, grassy plains with not an awful lot else going on, but I must confess, this slow pace is exactly what appeals to me. It feels like so many open world games recently want to bombard the player with information and checklists instead of giving players the freedom to inhabit the world on their own terms. Shadow of the Colossus used its open spaces expertly to create a sense of isolation and loneliness, now Death Stranding appears to be riffing on that concept. I want to fill my lungs with the air of this world, slowly sink my hands into its soil and lose myself in this fractured version of the USA.

While walking around the world doesn’t scream ‘high octane entertainment’, that doesn’t mean the game will be devoid of original gameplay. Trailers show off moments where we’ll be hiding from invisible monsters and apparently we’ll somehow head back to the trenches of WW1 to fight off ghostly soldiers. The most recent Gamescom trailer also showcased a mechanic where players will need to tenderly cradle their DualShock 4 controller to lull their incubated bridge baby to sleep. Inspired little touches like this are present in almost all of Kojima’s games, they succeed  every time in bringing players deeper into the world of the game and there will undoubtedly be even more surprising mechanics to uncover. It’s been too long since a game truly captured my imagination by bending the rules and I’m eager to see where Death Stranding will take me.


Norman Reedus lulling a baby to sleep


A Game By Mr Kojima


On another level, I’m legitimately excited to play a Hideo Kojima game that’s entirely his own baby (pun intended). Although Metal Gear Solid 4 and 5 weren’t great, there are well documented reasons as to why he wasn’t 100% to blame for those game’s shortcomings. Kojima had been locked into making Metal Gear games for nearly 30 years and Death Stranding has all the qualities of a passion project. I’ve got a lot of faith in the man at this point, he clearly doesn’t want to be the ‘Metal Gear Solid Guy’ anymore and the success of this game will affect not only his career, but it could galvanize his reputation as gaming’s first true auteur. Fact is, nobody makes games like Hideo Kojima. Love him or hate him, his work is always trying to innovate in some category.

Over the years, Kojima’s games have all used cutting edge technology, and Death Stranding is no exception. This is one seriously good looking game bolstered by a celebrity cast including Norman Reedus and Mads Milkkelsen. Death Stranding is looking to deliver a cinematic experience and I’m curious to see just how much performances from professional actors can draw me into the experience. My only fear is that it may lean a little heavy on the cut-scene side of things as a result of this. The last thing I want is another game with a feature length cut-scene in it (yes, I am looking at you MGS4).

mads mikkelsen looking at baby

This leads me to my final concern and biggest cause for hesitation for the game. In pre-ordering a modern game by Hideo Kojima I am signing up to an experience that could be rife with self-indulgence. I’ve since developed a tolerance for Kojima’s own brand of pretentiousness having played all the Metal Gear Solid games, but Death Stranding could be an excuse for Kojima to get drunk on his own sense of self-importance. My concerns for the game taking itself too seriously were washed away as soon as a character called ‘Die Hard Man’ appeared in a recent trailer. Paired with the aforementioned ‘Norman Reedus growing magic piss mushrooms’ mechanic, it’s clear that Kojima’s quirky, fourth-wall-breaking sense of humor is here to stay and that’s only a good thing.


The Magic in the Mystique


In a modern world full of trailers, leakers and streamers, it’s refreshing to get the opportunity to dive into a real enigma of a game. Pre-ordering has somehow tapped into that magical childhood feeling of your Dad coming home with a brand new game for you to play. Sure, Dad could bring home Bubsy 3D, but sometimes he’d bring home Chrono Trigger. Only fragments of Death Stranding’s gameplay and story are currently understood, but the mystique is all part of the adventure.

Norman Reedus pointing a gun to his temple

Pre-ordering Death Stranding is like ordering take-away from a brand new restaurant with no reviews on Google Maps. While I could spend my hard earned money on something warm and comfortable, when it comes to Hideo Kojima, you can bet your ass I’m gonna take a gamble on Death Stranding.


from sickcritic