(Image credit: Kojima Productions)
As the adage goes, there are two types of gamers, and I’m the type that bounced off Hideo Kojima’s oeuvre and didn’t pick up his long-awaited opus, Death Stranding, when it finally released in late 2019. When I read reviews detailing the extensive length of the game, much of which is spent simply walking and meditating on the world, I felt reaffirmed in skipping it. But the changes coming in the Death Stranding Director’s Cut are just the things to get me to finally play the game.
We all got an in-depth look at the new features coming in the Director’s Cut during the Gamescom 2021 Opening Night Live showcase. While the ‘various updates’ include indisputably positive additions like 4K support and a 60fps performance mode in the game’s PS5 version, I’m focused on the extras that make the lengthy travel easier and faster.
Before you say anything – yes, I know I’ll be robbing myself of how the game is intended to be played as Sam Bridges, the lonely everyman tasked with connecting the world one parcel delivery at a time. I know that walking the long, unpeopled expanse of the world is the point, giving players time for their minds to wander just like they would during a real-world jaunt outside civilization.
As our reviewer Cian Maher put it, the game opens with the player “travers[ing] harsh terrain while keeping delicate cargo intact. As you cross impassable abysses and sinuous rivers, the involuntary descent into loneliness is juxtaposed with a solemnity that is, despite itself, quite warm.”
But I can’t deny feeling some relief at the prospect of launching that cargo out of a catapult to save me some time.
Or climbing atop ‘Buddy Bot’ – a pair of autonomous legs – as they ferry me and my awkwardly large backpack.
Or hurling myself off a misty cliff and letting vernier jets bring me to a soft landing instead of trudging down a hill.
Even to someone who’s not spent a moment in the game, these “delivery support” options feel ludicrously alien, both to the world and to how players are meant to explore it. Ease betrays fidelity to Sam’s journey, cheapens the impact of his shipping pilgrimage, and so on.
But if it’s the choice between balking at a game that’s just over 40 hours just doing the main story, as the site How Long To Beat suggests, and trying out Death Stranding with shortcuts at hand that could trim that down, I’ll take the latter.
(Image credit: Kojima Productions)
Yes, I’m robbing myself of the ‘true experience’, and that’s okay
Part of this comes down to time – schedules and commitments mean I rarely stick with a game longer than 20 hours, and I think many games that do last longer overstay their welcome with repetitive padding (most recently, NieR: Automata, an intriguing 15-hour game that plods on for 20 more hours after). As the years go on, my tolerance for lengthy single-player experience has waned, especially since it competes with multiplayer gaming with friends online – which has been most of my social interaction in the last year-plus of lockdown.
Here’s the thing – I do regret not feeling able to spare the time to enjoy Death Stranding like everyone else did when it launched in November 2019, especially once it became eerily prophetic in early 2020 as Covid lockdown set in. I lament that stress over unfinished projects, family commitments, and daily obligations keeps me from even relaxing into a long play of a game like Death Stranding.
The Director’s Cut’s bizarre transportation additions to the game ease that stress; they’re little relief ripcords I can pull if I reach a ridge and realize I need to scramble down a valley and up the other side. Just having the options available makes the game feel less intimidating and more accessible.
But I’m also relieved that these easements aren’t the result of a mod – like it or not, they are Kojima-blessed, as part of (and I’ll quote the trailer’s massive text here) “T H E DEFINITIVE EXPERIENCE.” At least his seal of approval means these extras don’t violate the spirit of his game too much, at least from his perspective.
Some players will probably disagree. As Kotaku’s Ethan Gach writes, “Death Stranding elevated the mundane drudgery of safely delivering packages undamaged by the elements into an irresistibly tense existential crisis. Drones are fun, but I’m not sure how cutting through obstacles by delivering cargo via remote control plays into that.”
I might have agreed if I’d played the game at launch – and maybe I still will, if I come to accept that those extras dilute the experience too much. But at least they’ll get me in the door to try out a game that I just didn’t think I’d get around to. And hopefully more of these kinds of pain point-easing options get added to games in the future for later-wave players who just needed that one thing to ensure the game might be for them, too.
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David J Lumb is Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, covering phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made.