I played and completed Death Stranding when it originally launched, but I sort of rushed my way to completion, so Death Stranding Director's Cut was an opportunity to get the full experience. I planned on playing it on an easier setting, but I saw that Kojima introduced Very Hard mode. I couldn’t say no to that challenge.
I’ve noticed plenty of improvements in Death Stranding Director's Cut that would have made life a lot easier the first time around, and despite playing on the hardest difficulty, I’m having a smoother time getting around. The addition of the widescreen mode is the most significant change, as it not only alters the presentation, but also the tone of the game. Death Stranding is arguably more film than video game, and the widescreen mode just exemplifies that.
I’m still working my way through Death Stranding Director's Cut, but it’s easily one of the best PS5 games of the year.
What the hell is Death Stranding?
For those that have no idea what this game is about, Death Stranding is a chill game where you get to travel across a dystopian version of America and deliver mail to people. You’re kind of like the average USPS person dealing with the current pandemic. Sure, there are terrorists and ghost monsters that you have to deal with too, but it’s basically the same otherwise.
Death Stranding is lax when it needs to be, but still offers a challenging experience to those that want a little bit more. The expansive difficulty options really define how you want to play the game as well. It can be as relaxing as watching a film, or as stressful as playing a Dark Souls game.
The goal of the game is to reconnect America. It’s as simple as that. Well, not really. If you’ve played a Metal Gear Solid game, you know that it’s infinitely more complicated, but that’s way too much to explain.
What’s Death Stranding like now?
I haven’t played Death Stranding since it first launched on PS4, and when I completed the game, I didn’t get a chance to experience the updates that came afterward. Updates that happened on PS4, PC and PS5 updates are all new to me, so here’s what I think about them.
The biggest difference on PS5 is the option to enable 21:9 mode. This completely changes the presentation and execution of each individual moment. You can play Death Stranding as a normal video game or experience it like you're watching a film. Technically, the 21:9 ratio is meant to be played on a 21:9 display, but PS5 doesn't support that, so you’ll get a widescreen-film look instead. Considering Hideo Kojima's affinity for film, he's probably happy with the big-screen vibes. The majority of the game already feels like a movie, but the widescreen mode elevates the immersion. Half the time I’m trying to deliver packages, I almost forget that it's me playing.
I’ve already had some trouble with the new Very Hard mode. Sam gets exhausted much faster, Timefall ruins equipment too quickly, and MULEs are kicking my ass. The first thing I did was rush to get the Bola Gun and Exoskeleton, but I’m still having a rough go of it. However, I am loving the new experience, as it’s forcing me to take full advantage of the mechanics provided, and I have to plan my routes more carefully.
Speaking of planning out routes, I noticed that the beginning of the game now provides planned routes to give the player an idea of paths that they should take. I actually really appreciated this addition, as it acts as a jumping off point for players to think about how they should be planning future routes.
The Director’s Cut also adds in a Firing Range / Training Room that lets you test out the weapons you gather throughout the game. You can also take part in timed-training missions, which gives you some field experience and some extra Likes. These are reminiscent of training missions in Metal Gear Solid games. There’s also a race course called Fragile Circuit, which I haven’t tested yet because I haven’t paved any of the roads due to the lack of online service.
The Director’s Cut also adds in new story missions, battles, weapons and additional delivery support, all of which I haven’t been able to experience just yet. There’s even additional melee mechanics, but I didn’t get to mess with that, as I’ve spent too much time running away. I will update this when I get the chance.
One of the most wonderful additions to the game is the ability to skip cutscenes. You could do it before by pressing pause and then clicking skip, but now you can skip repetitive animations with the click of one button. Believe it or not, this is a serious quality of life improvement. Kojima loves his cinematic moments, and everything in this game, from pissing to showering, is cinematic.
With the Director’s Cut, you’ll find a separate downloadable app called Death Stranding Bonus Content, which lets you peruse through a mini soundtrack as well as selections from the art of Death Stranding. The soundtrack includes eight songs by Ludvig Forssell: The Drop, Craters, Bending to the Wind, Car Go Fast, Pizza Time, The Strands of Time, Trailer and BB’s Theme (Instrumental). The clips from the artbook are pretty neat. I recognize some of the pieces from the physical museum that Kojima did to promote Death Stranding.
What Death Stranding Director’s Cut is missing
If people yelling it from the back didn’t make it obvious, folks want a damn MP3 player. Music players have appeared in Metal Gear Solid games before, so why doesn’t Sam have a little Sony Walkman with him?
I would have also appreciated a New Game Plus mode. This would be the perfect time to introduce it as well, since some fans are coming over from PS4 to PS5 in order to replay Death Stranding. In other words, I want some extra stuff for completing the game the first time around.
Since I’ve played most of the Death Stranding Director’s Cut offline, I would have appreciated a cached online system, where I could experience some of the online elements while offline. This would give players without the best internet a chance at experiencing all of the new mechanics Death Stranding has to offer.
Why you should play Death Stranding Director’s Cut now
Death Stranding is one of my favorite video games of all time, and the Director’s Cut version improves upon what’s already there. If you’re even a little bit interested in giving Death Stranding a shot, now is the time to play it.
Kojima claimed that he was creating a new genre with Death Stranding, and he’s not entirely wrong. Death Stranding expands upon the idea of a multiplayer game in a single-player world. There are so many ways to interact with and help other players in this world, but with Timefall, everything deteriorates at some point.
I’m not exaggerating when I say the best time to play is now. You will get the most out of the Death Stranding Director’s Cut experience by exploring the game while everyone else is playing it.