Building BRIDGES

What a trip

Ok I know I’m a couple of years late on this one, but man, Death Stranding eh?

Everyone knows Hideo Kojima is no stranger to excess. His Metal Gear Solid games have been celebrated and derided in equal measure for their complex gameplay, movie-length cutscenes and spiralling narratives. But Death Stranding – which I started playing for the first time this week – is really off the scale.

In simple terms, Death Stranding is about making deliveries across a post-apocalyptic landscape in order to bring America’s scattered population back together.

In Kojima terms, Death Stranding is about connecting “Knot Cities” to a “Chiral Network” by helping a company called “BRIDGES” deliver cargo across the “United Cities of America” whilst avoiding “Beached Things”, “Voidouts”, “MULEs” and “Timefall” rain. All with the help of your personal “Bridge Baby”, your “DOOMS” condition and your ability to “Repatriate” from “The Seam” after death.

Make sense? Ok good.

It’s a lot. And believe me, there’s more.

It’s unwieldy, convoluted, and to be completely frank, flat-out ridiculous. It also features nearly everything I hate about modern gaming; menus upon menus within menus, an infinite number of items, systems, mechanics and map icons, endless technobabble and a core gameplay loop consisting of little more than fetch quests.

So why can’t I stop playing the damn thing? And why am I always thinking about it when I’m not?

As I’m schlepping across its deserted world at a snails pace, trying not to trip over my own shoelaces and spill all of my cargo into a river – again – I’m constantly asking myself “why the hell am I doing this?”

But man, what an intoxicating, evocative world it all plays out in. A world and narrative that is truly, truly unique. It may not make much sense (at least not during the 10 or so hours I’ve played so far), but it is genuinely impossible to predict what’s going to happen next, or how the game is going to evolve as it progresses. That’s rare. And it’s exciting.

Death Stranding certainly isn’t for everyone. But what an incredible thing that the games industry can accommodate a big budget, AAA game that is as bold, daring and risky as this. What an incredible thing that a creator as idiosyncratic as Kojima can not only get the nod to make something so personal and downright bonkers, but also the funds and tools to deliver it at this kind of scale and polish.

Think what you will of the game itself (and honestly, I’ve yet to make up my own mind about it), but the fact a game like Death Stranding exists at all is a wonderful thing. It shows just how far the video game industry has come, and the sheer variety of experiences it can cater for.

This article is an extract from The Week in Games newsletter.

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