Writing this article was initially a very difficult task. Confronting oneself with a game like Death Stranding, and then having to "deconstruct" and analyze it, presents several critical issues, at least on the surface. A product that faces the market in such a cryptic and atypical way can easily leave displaced, victims of complexity of the work under discussion. Being able to boast of honor, but above all of the burden, of being able to write about a title of such importance and so discussed as the latest production of Hideo Kojima and of his new study, he has revealed himself so much as difficult as it is intriguing. It was even more difficult to start the game free from any prejudice, especially given the fact that this piece comes at a time when the acceptance of the public and critics has already been strongly consolidated. Precisely in favor of what is written above, however, my will during the tens of hours of play was to face Death Stranding in the most as clear and objective as possible, which is a fundamental prerequisite for the drafting of each review, of course, but which in this specific situation is perhaps even more important, trying to grasp the authorial imprint of Kojima but also not to run into the error of treating his last effort like a creature that moves beyond what is the current terrain of the videogame medium.
From the very first trailer for the presentation of Death Stranding, it was clear that Kojima wanted to build a work in net contrastor with the "triple A" productions we are used to. A game that presents high-level production values, without having to compromise on commercial compromises that could compromise its identity. Month after month we came to know more and more details about it the idea behind the production, discovering how the desire to talk about a world deeply wounded and abandoned to itself was rooted in it. A land tormented by a mysterious event that is bringing the planet to the brink of extinction, but at the same time suffering from an even more cruel evil: loneliness. In this sense, Death Stranding is also a game politician, which recounts current events, exploiting genre narration, in a science fiction context that becomes the mirror of a highly realistic situation. Without wishing to exhibit in Pindaric flights of any kind, and regardless of the thought of everyone on our time, it is evident that we live in an increasingly favorable climate for the themes of hatred and violence (in all its meanings) and a society that strives actually to be more and more frayed and disconnected.
Every character, every event and every element of the game is a continuous reference to this concept and it is therefore difficult to completely separate the narrative component from the playful one, although they are often very distinct from each other. However, Death Stranding throws more meat on the fire, often giving the idea that it is too much, going to touch an impressive amount of themes, some more mentioned, others more meaningful but all indispensable to complete the picture that the story wants to portray. The narrative takes advantage of one rich dose of evocative and fascinating elements, as the Cronopioggia for example, the atmospheric phenomenon that literally "rains down" (the original term is more effective Timefall) and manifests itself in a pounding deluge of drops that accelerate the process of growth and decomposition of everything they touch, or the concept of Beaches, parallel worlds that each person possesses and that take the role of intermediary between our world and that of dead, becoming a sort of personal limbo. However, the amount of narrative cues is impressive and it strongly contributes to the hatching of a dense story, multifaceted, bewitching but in some circumstances too long-winded and convoluted. The impression is that sometimes the game tries to raise the level of the discussion, ending up instead embellishing the vocabulary and exposure. This is certainly due to the strong self-referentiality of the work and the author's desire to express his newfound authorial freedom. Net of this, Death Stranding lives on its undoubtedly effective, congruent cosmogony that manages to delineate a credible world, once familiar with the optics, sometimes a little too directed towards itself, of Kojima. In short, right from the start the game envelops us with questions, doubts and misunderstandings that they build a very tangled weave and although all (or almost) i Nodi be loose, the game here shows conspicuous narrative dysfunctions, not so much in its exposure, as in its rhythms, victims of a "distribution" within the gaming economy, which is sometimes incomprehensible. Some answers, some sub-plots are expertly managed in the unraveling of the experience while others try to keep the player on the rope, to then resolve all of one breath, in long sequences exclusively narrative, that even if interesting go to create more or less consistent smears in the overall balance of experience. Strangely, however, and perhaps this makes such lightness even more unpleasant, Death Stranding can boast an unexpected "quadrature", thanks to a perfectly coherent conception among all the counterparts that make up the production.
The best carrier in the world
Immediately nicknamed by his first-time detractors as "Bartolini Simulator" or other similar epithets, the Death Stranding gameplay is often represented, not without a certain malice, like a walking simulator. On balance this is true, but as well as possible. If in the first three chapters we are given very few elements to exploit and a rather sparse equipment, in the course of advancing the adventure our possibilities will increase dramatically, building a sense of progression that is frankly unexpected. The depth of Death Stranding lies right here and is better built than the game makes us believe in its early stages. The concept of gameplay does not remain so much in proceeding from point A to point B, as for the trip preparation, to know how to manage and carefully choose their resources and evaluate the best routes. Traveling too heavy does not only mean being slower and with a more precarious balance but also being unable to follow certain routes and be easier prey if we run into some enemies. At the same time, however, being loaded with materials and equipment can make our wanderings more malleable according to needs and unforeseen events, as well as giving us the opportunity to build more useful and complex structures than those contained in a lighter backpack. A little thoughtful expedition can lead to dire consequences very quickly.
In addition, the construction of its own path, the approach to the game world, the real enemy to beat, and the indispensable adaptability further enrich playability, without counting the asynchronous mulitplayer that offers further depth to the whole. Being able to see on the map the path to follow, we can in fact see the points where other players have built a road, a path, a shelter or even just an element that can make the route less difficult. Thanks to this mechanic, Kojima continues his interconnection discourse in a practical way, even more effective than in the narrative counterpart. Expand the Chiral Network not only allows us to build a large number of structures, but also to be able to see and exploit those of other players. Coming across a journey outside the coverage of the Net is therefore a small odyssey, which perfectly returns the sense of solitude desired by the author in these situations, making our task much harsher.
The care taken by the team in this aspect is noteworthy and creates an experience definitely not for everyone, also because of its dilated pace but absolutely effective and consistent, as well as perfectly consistent with the soul of the product. There are also phases aimed at breaking the rhythm, such as infiltrating the fields of MULI for example, or crossing a section infested with Creature Arenate paying attention to more phases stealth that can also result in desperate fights against titanic monsters or small skirmishes towards our fellows. Then without revealing anything some chapters that focus on action, allowing us also to exploit a rather large arsenal of weapons. Although these portions of the game are decidedly smaller, and therefore less impacting overall, they are still well constructed, although very light in their structure. The same cannot be said of sporadic ones Boss Fight which result, with perhaps one exception, no bite, although visually spectacular. Paradoxically, the real surprise of the title lies in its gameplay, therefore, which is much more complete and concrete than one would expect, also taking into consideration the due imperfections.
What does "Chiral" mean?
/ Who-le-ra /
adjective Not superimposable to its own mirror image, enantiomorphic. In chemistry, a compound whose molecule has an asymmetric atom (called ch. Center), ie an atom linked to different groups arranged in space according to a geometric configuration such that its mirror image is not superposable (stereoisomers).
Probably, the most important concept of Death Stranding, it is right here. Specularity is indeed the cornerstone of many of the aspects of the title. The concept of the Beaches for example but also the dualism between soul and body (Ha and Ka, as defined in the game referring to Egyptian mythology) and in a certain sense from the fictitious world represented in the title and ours. All this takes value at the moment it results not a mere narrative tinsel but true structure of experience. Without the Chiral Network and the undoubted benefits we can draw from it thanks to the aforementioned asynchronous multiplayer, Death Stranding would be a broken game. Not only because the Net has reason to be in conceptual terms (a game that speaks of connection and does not allow comparison with other players would be at least inconsistent) but precisely at a purely playful level. Underestimate this aspect o believe it secondary it would be wrong, because here we find the fulcrum of the experience. Helping to build a structure like a portion of a road or a bridge allows us to proceed in a safer and faster way but also gives real satisfaction. Being in the middle of a journey and seeing a shelter for rain or snow, or even simply a cleverly positioned ladder, can make the difference, allowing you to complete an otherwise destined shipment. What follows is a game in which all participants are unconsciously led to think not only of themselves but also of other porters around the world. Obviously, this concept will ecstatic some players while others will remain indifferent, nevertheless it is a point in favor in the thought brought forward by the author, which is not resolved only in small talk but becomes Keystone of production. The beauty of Death Stranding resides here, in wanting to express a particular point of view, which clashes with the canonical concept of "hero" and manages to do so not only in the progress of the story but also to make everything effectively usable, creating a title with a well-defined identity in each appearance.
Coast to Coast
Technically Kojima Productions flanked by the excellent Tenth Engine and backed by well 70 developers of Guerrilla Games, manages to convince from beginning to end. Leaving aside the models of the characters, who despite the use of subsurface scattering and equipped with more than good polygonal models, are not able to fully excite, resulting in not too defined and almost looking "Plasticky", the game world, true protagonist of the production, constantly offers breathtaking views, from the lush and bristling moss areas to the barren desert expanses, up to the snowy areas. Obviously in such an extended world there are some smears but overall, thanks to a good use of the parallax occlusion mapping and an intelligent lighting management the result is almost always exceptional, without disfiguring too much even on the "basic" PS4 models. The animations are usually good but sometimes they are low-cut and imprecise, awkward but nothing to lose sleep over. Artisticamentand then, thanks to a very accurate characterization of the game world, of a dark and fascinating stylistic cut and a solid as well as original character design, the production stands out succeeding in being in this case also endowed with a strong personality.
Despite the premise at the beginning of this article, gaining confidence with the eldest son of Kojima Productions, getting a clear idea of the title was simpler than expected. Defects are not missing, starting from a too long life span and game rhythms that sometimes are diluted too much, making some missions, if not entire chapters, decidedly too watered down and dispersive. Narration at times forcibly complex and poorly distributed remains effective and interesting, but remains a victim of these and other defects, like a swinging regia that gives beautiful moments but also situations with which one does struggling to empathize. In part Kojima remains burned by the use of actors perhaps, loading in some points only on them and on their expressions (sometimes exacerbated by motion capture) the effectiveness of some scenes and thus breaking up the much sought after catharsis. To whip the whole and smooth out even the situations that can be haughty or even pretentious, Kojima inserts some of his canonical flashes of eccentricity, or absurdity, only apparently out of place. Thanks to these situations on the verge of ridicule, production succeeds (I hope voluntarily) not to take itself too seriously e to dampen tones that would otherwise be really too pompous. The idea that I had during the about sixty hours of play that I took to see the - three - end credits is that of an author who is well aware of having a tendency to lose himself in his own thoughts, deliberately inserts some elements that cannot fail to raise the eyebrow of even the most savvy gambler and that, indeed, often go to make fun of the criticism and the public that loves talking to each other and talk about the depth of this kind of production. At the same time though, Kojima's message is crystal clear and shareable, as well as well represented by this small virtual universe, which is completely permeated by it. On balance then Death Stranding is not an impalpable, ethereal and made of the same material of which dreams are made but a product with its feet firmly planted on the ground, which does not disdain a strong artistic component and a strong authorial imprint that allows it to be a work in the round and therefore also surrender to ambitions and whims that always fertilize the mind of an author. It won't be futuristic, it won't be revolutionary but Death Stranding is certainly a brave, intelligent and, above all, functional product. The challenge of Hideo Kojima is won, but perhaps not as his fans would have expected, and this could prove to be a great fortune.