‘Death Stranding: Director’s Cut’ review: Hideo Kojima levels up in his unusual originality

Death Stranding Director’s Cut — a gaming homage to the PlayStation 5’s horsepower — offers up stealth deliveries, a Support Skeleton and a Maser Gun to round off an already-legendary open-world game that features Norman Reedus, Troy Baker, Léa Seydoux, Mads Mikkelsen and Guillermo Del Toro

There is something cathartic about Death Stranding and its trademark delivery gameplay mechanic, such that shuttling various packages between post-apocalyptic shelters across harsh but beautiful terrains has been my go-to escape. Considering how complete this game felt, it may have not needed a director’s cut which comprises a few additional missions and gadgets that could hinder that signature experience.

But a few hours into the new Death Stranding Director’s Cut and developer Hideo Kojima-san has preserved the core experience, while elevating the fun.

Read More | ‘Death Stranding’ main game review: Ideal gaming if you’re feeling brave

Originally launching at the end of 2019 Death Stranding seems to have been prophetic in its story. The world has been driven into permanent lockdown by invisible monsters called Beached Things, invisible supernatural monsters that attack you on sight and knock over your cargo. You play as Sam Bridges (Norman Reedus) guided by and attached to his ‘bridge baby’ or BB (a responsive foetus in an incubator that can sense the ghosts) as he makes his way across what is left of the United States to unify the scattered remnants of humanity.

Aside from Reedus, the game features some of Hollywood and gaming’s A-listers such as Troy Baker, Léa Seydoux, Mads Mikkelsen, Margaret Qualley and Guillermo Del Toro

The visionary creator of the Death Stranding series, Hideo Kojima, himself does not call this a Director’s Cut but refers to it as Director’s Plus, a fitting description as the original game was his essence, unchained. This new release features several tweaks and additions inserted to enhance that ‘completeness’ feeling.

Read More | A look at Hideo Kojima’s incredible legacy as the godfather of gaming

Making the most of the PS5

What would a Director’s Cut be without some serious graphic upgrades? Look forward to a Quality Mode at a native 4K resolution for 60 frames per second; the look is very sharp and life-like, down to the furrow of Reddus’ frowns. But Quality Mode does hinder performance a little. Then there is Performance Mode that has a more low-key frame rate at a scaled 4K resolution.

Just like Ghost Of Tsushima’s Director’s Cut, Death Stranding Director’s Cut also leverages the best of the DualSense. As you operate different weapons, the Adaptive Triggers feel different. As Sam’s cargo weight increases, you feel some resistance in the trigger. There is also some haptic feedback vibrations varying with the terrains you set Sam across. And like you hear with Ghost Of Tsushima’s wind audio through the controller, you will hear BB’s coos and cries.

Read More | Sony PlayStation 5 review: Let the next-gen gaming begin

Lots more to experience

Death Stranding is a polarising game with the way it makes you trudge through harsh terrain balancing lots of cases, especially early in the game and in one snow-clad area. In the Director’s Cut, the slog from the original game has been improved. Providing a handy Support Skeleton — an exoskeleton that augments Sam’s speed, strength and abilities — in the rocky first area was a big helptaking the frustration out of the experience.

Another interesting inclusion is ‘Order No. 77- Collection: Cargo Discovered in the Ruined Factory’ which introduces stealth deliveries. This addresses one of the biggest mysteries in the original regarding the pre-cataclysm structure of the Ruined Factory, in a Metal Gear stealth way. That said, you must go deep into terrorist-infested areas to retrieve intel. When done you will get a new electric, non-lethal gun called the Maser. When unlocked, the Maser Gun can be crafted into any other weapon through the game.

A screenshot from video game ‘Death Stranding: Director’s Cut’

Yes, the core of Death Stranding is all about delivering packages. Along with other players, you could build new pathways to make this easier. This game is all about connections and you can lose yourself in the mid to endgame delivery grind. But the Director’s Cut brings a less lonely experience in the form of the Buddy Bot, a cute cradle with legs, that helps transport large quantities of cargo. There is also a catapult to shoot your packages across great distances.

If you enjoyed the bigger boss battles of the main game, the Director’s Cut keeps this mind. Take up the Nightmare Battles where you have Sam relive some of Cliff’s Nightmares of War and do your best to score against other players.

If you are one of those players who loved building roads and racing on them in your trikes, there are new jump ramps that turn Death Stranding into Excite Bike, and you can go as far as building circuits to race with other players. If you are the on-foot sort like me, you would love the new jump-jet skeleton that lets you descend from dangerous heights gently. All of these features progressively unlock as you play through the game. You can also enjoy a Roadster on smooth, open highways.

A screenshot from video game ‘Death Stranding: Director’s Cut’

A honourable mention for the Director’s Cut is the new music. The original got me hooked onto Icelandic post-rock group Low Roar, and now there are more tunes to keep you company on your stretched-out tasks.

Unfortunately, there are few unusual bugs. Bike-handling can get iffy, sometimes suddenly accelerating or veering off the edges of things or endless wheel-spins. Thankfully, the packages do not take damage with rough riding, but they do get damaged or thrown off with falls. We hope this gets fixed soon!

Ultimately, Death Stranding: Director’s Cut is a repackaging of a truly one-of-a-kind game, made palpable for those who may want to give this a second chance. It is worth the second play-through for those fans of the original too.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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