Death Stranding for PS4: A lonely isolated postman simulator

Death Stranding for PS4 has been a game I have been looking forward to since I first heard about it, oh say a few years back. Hideo Kojima’s grand opus after parting ways with Konami. If you don’t know what I am talking about, Google it. I’m not some kind of historian here to do your research for you. All you need to know is that Kojima is considered by many in the digital entertainment world as a god amongst mere mortals.

 I actually got a copy of it not too long after its release. I decided ‘This will be the game I enter the streaming world with!’ And it sat shrink-wrapped in a box for months. I can come up with a few good excuses why that is, I was living at the in-laws house and it was hard to set up a streaming area there, I was in the process of buying a house and didn’t have time, I was working a lot during the holidays and couldn’t find time. All of these, excuses. 

 I really took so long because I was afraid, for two reasons;

Reason #1: I was afraid no one would watch.

Why should anyone? I am just some random floating head on the internet with a stupid handle I picked up from a gamer tag generator.

 Reason #2: I was afraid it would take my hobby of gaming and make it into a job.

 I heard somewhere some years back a quote that has stuck with me; ‘Never work for a company you love’. I think it means that if you end up doing something you love for money you get to see the real side of it and grow to loathe it. I was afraid that once I started gaming on someone else’s dime I would lose my freedom of choice and my ability to escape into another world for moments at a time. As a gamer I’ve never played too well with my fellow tribe, either not good enough, fast enough, dedicated enough or just don’t plain care to play nicely with others.

 I realize no one cares much for my brand of gaming. I like solo RPG’s, story-driven games, solo horror stories I can get engrossed in, retro games that really were only multiplayer on a couch. While I’ll never move away from such titles, I will let a few multiplayer experiences creep their way in, just to be apart of a community I have long said I was apart of but openly shunned to anyone listening. I am gamer and I am proud, so headshot me as a noob, blow me up of raid my flag because I don’t know what the fuck I am doing, I will enjoy every minute of it regardless.

 So, on to Death Stranding, a solo adventure game.

 First off, what a cinematic masterpiece. The general mood of hope in a world of despair led by one mans unnamed ambition to carry on is breathtaking. From the first scenes of trike riding and rain that ages all that it touches, it strikes an emotive balance between hopelessness and possibilities. 

 As Sam Porter Bridges you play the games third person through the voice and movements of Norman Reedus.

A meticulously motion-captured Norman Reedus (even if his abs and arms seem a bit, unrealistic). A lot is thrown at me in the first couple minutes about BT’s and DOOMS syndrome or virus and trying to rebuild America after some strange ass rift between the living and the dead that I only assume will become much clearer as I play through the game. Fortunately and also, unfortunately, this is not my first Kojima game so I am expecting a lot to go unanswered as I play through.

 Essentially this game so far is a post-apocalyptic postman simulator.

I’ve spent most of my time as Sam climbing cliffs and traversing waist-deep through rivers to deliver drugs and old magazines to encampments all over the east coast of America. Sam has a baby in a jar of orange fluid strapped to his chest that somehow can see the BT’s (Some otherworldly ghosts of some sort that want to kill us) and Guillermo del Toro chimes in every so often to give us our next bit of what the fuck advice. All I know are ‘porters’ like Sam are humanity’s last hope of connecting the country through some weird-ass network called ‘Chiral’ that seems to make everyone look like holograms from Star Wars. Now that I am typing it out I suddenly seem to realize that all these people are probably not in the same realm of existence as Sam or are past iterations of themselves, probably has something to do with this DOOMS affliction Sam has that no one really explains. It also probably explains why he never actually interacts with actual people and they are all ‘chiral projections’ whatever the fuck that is.

 What the game captures well is isolation.

You feel alone and are happy to be alone. Sam doesn’t seem to want any human companionship and will often sing songs to himself as he is walking through the wastelands. His only flesh companion is BB, the baby in the jar. On occasion, you can interact with BB by taking it off Sam’s chest and using the controller to shake the jar vigorously to make BB happy. Occasionally you will come across these package thieves who have gone mad with desire for… packages. They roam the land maiming and murdering any porter silly enough to be trekking about and will take Sam’s shit and run off to their camp with it. I’m not sure if they are human or not as they are head to toe decked out in cyber gear or cyber armor. Why can’t Sam grab some of that stuff instead of running around in basically fishing waders?

 Early on some girl who’s name I forget runs afoul of one of the BT’s in a cave with Sam, I recognize her from movies but don’t know her name. She’s decked out in leather and has a cyber umbrella and says something to Sam I now forget since its been several gameplay hours since she showed up last.

 All in all, I am enjoying the freedom of essentially playing a hiking game as Norman Reedus.

There are some funny moments in the bathroom of his private rooms at encampments and the inevitable loss of balance while stomping around over mud and wet rocks that sends him tumbling down a steep cliff and dropping all of his delivers just to hear Sam curse up a storm. But ultimately I have almost no idea what the fuck I am doing or what the fuck is going on, and only continued play will hopefully shine a light on the larger story of Sam Porter Bridges (He is a porter, and the company he works for is called Bridges, yet there is never any mention of why that coincidence exists. Maybe all we really know about Sam is his first name).

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