REVIEW – Nearly two years ago, Hideo Kojima brought us an action-adventure game that was as revolutionary as it was divisive with Death Stranding. Kojima Productions’ title’s surprisingly prescient vision of a closed society where only overworked couriers venture into the dangers of the outside world left no one cold. It’s back on PlayStation 5 in a Director’s Cut with technical improvements and, above all, a whole host of new content, but will Sam Porter Bridges’ extraordinary adventure still hold the same fascination?
We’ve previously reviewed the game in an extended review, and now we’re looking at the latest version’s capabilities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after the excellent PS4 and PS4 Pro versions, Death Stranding Director’s Cut makes excellent use of the PS5’s capabilities. Load times have become almost non-existent (between 2 and 6 seconds, depending on the situation, compared to the PS4 Pro’s average of 1mn20!) The resolution has also increased, with graphics now even more stunning in 4K… and it does all this at a constant 60fps framerate, which makes the otherwise still often relatively plodding gaming experience even more continuous. The console’s famous ‘magic SSD’ even allows hidden charging to disappear every time the ‘time rain’ arrives; that famous dark rain that ruins the environment speeds up wear and tear and displays the ghosts of the dead.
As for the soundtrack and sound design, it’s absolute nirvana for the ears: thanks to the great original compositions and the many songs by Kojima’s favourite artists, Death Stranding was already a real gem in the musical field, but the Director’s Cut has been enriched with new quality music, notably by French musician Woodkid. 3D sound enhances the already successful game on PS4, making Death Stranding Director’s Cut one of the most immersive and realistic games available on PS5 in terms of sound!
Great new features…
As far as gameplay additions go, Death Stranding Director’s Cut has a lot of new additions, perhaps a little too many, and not all of them relevant. For example, the cargo catapult, the escort robot, and the new jetpack-style stabilizer make things too easy for some missions. The deliberately ‘boring’ aspect of Sam’s tasks, part of the game’s charm, has been somewhat tarnished. Fortunately, these add-ons are 100% optional, and you won’t unlock them until quite late. As for the new game modes, the idea of a “shooting range” for learning combat techniques is excellent and fits the universe very well.
This model has one significant advantage: it’s a great training option for fighting MULEs, terrorists and Stranded. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with these phases without stakes or risk of damaging your equipment, and it allows you to develop your skills for free. The original version wouldn’t have had this kind of gameplay against us! Unfortunately, the combat sections are still average, especially with the artificial intelligence of the enemy humans, even though they have been improved and diversified with new and quite enjoyable weapons. It’s pretty easy to take out the enemies, at most as if they were more numerous and aggressive in the latest version.
… and some that don’t fit anymore
On the other hand, the optional Fragile Highway doesn’t fit into this universe, especially in its competitive aspect, which is quite contrary to the cooperative spirit of the game. This aspect of the Director’s Cut thus makes Death Stranding a little less realistic and a little more “video-gamey”. By bringing a little (too much?) fantasy into a gloomy and sometimes depressing universe, it sometimes pulls you out of the masterful atmosphere of Kojima’s work. Death Stranding’s multiplayer concept was initially built entirely on collaboration. Still, now it’s an inappropriate rivalry that at certain moments introduces it into a game that doesn’t seem to need it much. Still, scoring addicts will have plenty to do between the various events at the shooting range, the time trials on the multiple configurations of the Fragile course, or the ranked orders and replayable nightmares.
Speaking of challenges, those who’ve already completed the game on PS4 may find the new additions too easy to test by importing their original save. Thankfully, Death Stranding Director’s Cut includes five difficulty modes, just enough to please all audiences. And overall, this edition is much more user-friendly, with a more readable interface and larger font size than before.
Finally, let’s not forget the story additions. Included here are the exclusive missions from the PC version, the result of a collaboration with the Half-Life and Cyberpunk 2077 universes (discover for yourself, we don’t want to spoil) and bring a bit of humour to the game that isn’t too over-the-top and fits Death Stranding quite well. We can slightly regret that the new PS5-exclusive missions are too short and don’t offer much, even though they were very promising! For such a unique piece of work, it probably didn’t need a different story, but as it’s optional content, we won’t sulk.
Finally, it’s funny that the “Monster” product placement, which featured the well-known energy drink brand in a rather intrusive way, ended in this “Director’s Cut”: the cans Sam consumed were replaced by the fictional “Bridges Energy” brand, which is more logical anyway.
So let’s crack open a Bridges Energy and step back into this twisted world, Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece, once again on PlayStation 5.
+ A whole new kind of open-world gaming experience
+ An immersive, first-rate, artistic story
+ Stunningly spectacular graphics, both in-game and in walkthroughs – 4K/60 FPS on PS5
– Firefights and boss fights are not very elaborate
– If you’re not comfortable with Kojima’s style, you won’t enjoy the story and the walkthroughs
– Some mood-destroying innovations
Publisher: Sony Interactive Games (PS4, PS5) 505 Games (PC)
Developer: Kojima Productions
Style: Open-world action-adventure
Release date: 8 November 2019 (PS4), 20 July 2020 (PC), 24 September 2021 (PS5)