Death Stranding reviews are in, and they're pretty mixed

Death Stranding Sam
Death Stranding Sam (Image credit: Kojima Productions)

Death Stranding reviews landed early this morning and you might be looking for ours. We, unfortunately, won't have a proper review out until after the game's release. Sony did not send us an early code, nor were we given a good explanation for this decision. These were the cards we were dealt, so we have to make do.

We'll have our review out as soon as possible after the game's launch — sometime the following week — but we're only human and this isn't the sort of game you can easily crunch through. You'll need to bear with us.

Until then, I've read through several Death Stranding reviews to see what I could glean from them and if they answered any particular questions I had; as much as they could without spoiling the game. It seems fairly divisive, with some hailing it as a masterpiece of art while others, like Stevivor, were much more inflammatory, calling it an "irredeemable piece of garbage." Strong words. I can't form my own thoughts until I actually sit down with the game, but I can understand where the divineness is coming from; it was kind of expected in some regard.

Death Stranding Heartman

Source: Kojima Productions (Image credit: Source: Kojima Productions)

What most people can agree upon is that the game starts off slow and its micromanagement can be a pain. I'd like a bit more details as to what the micromanagement entails and how it drags down the pacing. More than one review (Stevivor, USgamer) refers to your character and others as "Amazon delivery people," because the crux of the game is about delivering packages. Kotaku even described the type of game as "UPS but spooky and political and stuff." That doesn't exactly sound enticing, at least in terms of the UPS part. If anything, it sounds like one massive fetch quest, the bane of gamers everywhere.

And yet, somehow, it works for people. Despite gameplay mechanics that should by all accounts turn you off, a lot of reviewers found they wanted to stick with it. It's a weird push and pull to get stuck between, and honestly, I think it fits Kojima's M.O. quite well. He was always known for his wackier, often convoluted and confusing takes, but people were drawn to his games anyway. It shouldn't work, but it does — just not for everyone.

Death Stranding seems to actively discourage people from committing violence.

In an effort to capture realistic, tedious travel, it appears to stand out from other games with fetch quests where you're simply traveling from point A to point B with little interruption apart from a hill to climb or merc to fight. As Kat Bailey from USgamer puts it, "Once you're in the wilderness, you need to carefully negotiate rocks, cross rivers, and manage fatigue, all while Sam stumbles and slips as you hold the shoulder buttons to keep him upright. If you go too fast, Sam will slam awkwardly to the ground, sending his cargo everywhere. If you try to ford a river that's too deep, Sam will lose his footing and his cargo will go floating off a waterfall."

What I can appreciate is that Death Stranding seems to actively discourage people from committing violence. It's rare to see in a AAA game where the focus is normally on killing as many people as possible to progress. This deterrence is a welcome change of pace. GameSpot even notes "you don't get a gun that works on live enemies until 25 or so hours in, but even then, it's non-lethal." I'm glad that Death Stranding makes players think about their actions instead of mindlessly spraying bullets.

Death Stranding the drop

Source: Kojima Productions (Image credit: Source: Kojima Productions)

I suspect a lot of Kojima fans will defend the game wholeheartedly with arguments that people are just too dumb to understand its message; that this is the pinnacle of an auteur whose greatness can't be comprehended. Sure, arthouse isn't for everyone. But if most people agree that it has serious design flaws, is it really that great to begin with?

Without playing it, I can't judge it for myself. Maybe the journey is worth it and it has a lot to say. It could be deeply philosophical with a strong message about the world's current political and social environments. But as it stands, I have some worries.

What I want to know more about in Death Stranding

  • The role of each character
  • The actual plot (minus major spoilers)
  • If the journey across America was worth it
  • How bad the micromanagement is
  • Possible upgrades to Sam in the form of armor, weapons, or skills
  • If there's any diversity in the environments
  • How well is Kojima's message of "connection" conveyed
  • How deeply the online component impacts the game

Reviews can only tell so much, and I know I'll have to experience Death Stranding myself to get answers. Still, if you have any questions or aspects of the game you'd like to see us address in our review of Death Stranding, let us know in the comments.

Jennifer Locke
Games Editor - PlayStation, Android, VR

Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.