** I have played and enjoyed Kojima games since Metal Gear Solid on the PSX.
My favorite Kojima game is Metal Gear Solid 3.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is on my short list for favorite video game of all time.
I think that Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain would have also been a contender for favorite video game of all time, if Konami had not strangled it in development.
I don't have any personal opinion about Norman Reedus, Guillermo Del Toro, Mads Mikkelsen or any of the other main star-power. I barely know who these people are.
The game is easy as piss and not as long and involved as the initial reports made it seem, probably because a lot of people are fucking bad at video games. I "tumbled" a total of five times over my entire 35-hour playthrough. Those tumbles were recovered from easily because I didn't choose to stack a bunch of shit on my back all at once like I see everyone else doing. I also almost never used any traversal equipment; I either used something that another player left behind or I just found a way to climb around the obstacle. Even while taking more dangerous routes, I had less fuck-ups in my entire playthrough than in any of the 5 to 10 minute YouTube reviews that I've seen.
The only equipment that I carried consistently (outside of the active skeleton, power gloves, boots and other equipment that were essentially non-choices) were blood bags. I came out of boss fights with more blood bags than I went in with.
It is impossible to know exactly what goes on behind the closed doors of development companies, but, considering all of the information that we have about the situation, it is very reasonable to compare the flaws that the Metal Gear franchise had to the blatant lack of those flaws in the completely Kojima-controlled Death Stranding and conclude that many of those flaws were the product of Kojima's creative influence being cut to half-measures and not fully realized in a more corporate environment.
Death Stranding is not a flawless game. However, much of the disappointment that I had could be laid at the feet of poor direction rather than poor vision.
The acting for Deadman and Fragile seemed limp and uninspiring to me.
The acting for Die-Hardman and Unger took a long burn, but developed well later in the game and led to some explosive scenes.
Kojima's writing still has the subtlety of a fucking sledgehammer.
Despite this, there managed to be some genuinely interesting and unexpected writing surrounding the bizarre mechanics of the Death Stranding. This reminded me rather pointedly of old-school sci-fi novels that actually use the elements of their setting to investigate character.
This still was not enough to make Fragile interesting to me. Her catch-phrase is one of the biggest bombs in Kojima's writing that I've ever seen.
I think that it's interesting that people slammed Kojima for putting sexy women in his games as eye candy. In Death Stranding, almost all of the women wear clothing that is conservative, well-covering and/or utilitarian. The one obvious exception is Amelie, who is actually an idealized spirit-woman who is not constrained by the same limitations that keep normal women from running along a beach in high heels. The only time a woman's body is exposed is when it is done to sell how much of a villain Higgs is, as if nuking cities was whitebread compared to the dastardly violation of Fragile's body. There's significantly more screentime spent on how fucked up it was for him to do this to Fragile than there was about him using nuclear fucking weapons on metropolitan centers. Either Kojima listened to people's criticism of characters like Quiet and the B&B unit (not EVA; you will never convince me that EVA was an exploitative character) and changed the way he designed female characters or he never wanted to design them like that in the first place and it was only Konami rushing him and/or saying "we need sex appeal to sell the game" that influenced the previous games in that direction. Either way, Kojima is not as bad as many people think that he is on this subject.
The amount of tutorials and tooltips that you receive in the first several hours of the game is almost prohibitively helpful. It almost seems like they lost track of what they had covered so far and recorded three or four different scenes for each new mechanic. When the umbilical cutter is introduced halfway through the game, they just tell you what you can now do, let you press a button to test it under controlled circumstances and move on. I would have preferred if this was how they handled all the rest of it.
Kojima has gone on the record as stating that Death Stranding is intended to create a new video game genre. This is absolute insanity. Even if Death Stranding was innovative enough to qualify as an example of a new genre (it's not; it falls squarely under "action/adventure game"), it would not create a new genre. A genre is a classification of things; one item is never a genre. A genre describes how a collection of media would be thematically and/or mechanically grouped together. Just because Death Stranding has less focus on combat than Metal Gear does not suddenly make it a new genre. In fact, I would argue that Death Stranding utterly fails to carry through on the idea of a "new genre" at the times that it matters most: the boss fights. Literally all of the boss fights are direct combat contests.
Another point about how babby this game is: I created zero voidouts in my entire playthrough.
One of the main themes of how this game is written is the idea that there are no truly evil people. All of the doubts of the character or motivations of various characters that are planted throughout the game are resolved with the explanation of incomplete information or additional points of view. I find this extremely unsatisfying. Even though I do not personally subscribe to the traditional notion of objective good and evil, that does not mean that there are not people with motivation, agenda and psychology that are inimical to reason and civility. However, it was written this way for a specific reason.
I haven't seen anyone talking about what Kojima is actually using this game to do yet. People are still bogged down in determining if the gameplay is good, what is going on in the story, etc. and have not yet gotten around to examining the impact of the themes and lessons that Kojima is trying to impress on the world.
Kojima is trying to fix the doomer generation. If you don't know what a doomer is: they're essentially a first-world young-adult that has been fucked by the modern world into a downward spiral of isolation, depression, substance-dependence and nihilism. This is so prevalent, especially among internet and social media culture, that there is an ever-growing tree of "doomer" memes. In Death Stranding, "DOOMS" is literally a medical condition that causes nightmarish visions of the future and isolates the sufferers from other humans (and the only major characters that have it are younger people).
Sam and Higgs represent the two sides of dealing with this kind of life. Sam is rootless, a BB rattling around the tin can that is the world, Stoic in his way, all of his sharp edges blunted by the hardships that he inflicts on himself. Higgs is manic, psychopathic, radical and suicidal (eventually literally). The areas that physically reflect their character, their living quarters, explain this further. Sam's room is any of the sterile, generic motel-like rooms in the various distribution centers that he stops at. Higgs' room is intensely personal, unique and indicative of an obsessive and neglectful personality. This is one of the things that actually stung me deeply; Higgs' room, with haphazard stacks of books, a plethora of pizza boxes and various layered images of the object of his obsession, looked eerily similar to the way that my own room looked until a couple of years ago.
The matched duality of Sam and Higgs also reflects the Myth of Sisyphus. Albert Camus claimed in his titular existentialist essay that there was only one true philosophical question: whether or not to kill yourself. This is explained with the simile of Sisyphus eternally pushing a boulder up a hill, an image so starkly mirrored by Sam carrying stacks of essentially meaningless crap over mountains that it borders on gimmick infringement. Sam represents Sisyphus happy: choosing to persist. Higgs represents Sisyphus in torment: choosing death.
The entire theme of reconnection and recreating the chiral network was something that I did not find satisfying. As with the trustworthiness of certain characters, the potential negative effects of the chiral network was something that was heavily indicated and then later trivialized with a "oh, we'll just fix it - it's better to just reconnect everything anyway, even if there is the potential for problems". Given the real-world implications that Kojima would appear to promote, this lesson borders on the criminally negligent. Just reconnecting everyone is not the solution, especially not when it is done through dehumanizing social media currencies like "Likes".
What are "Likes"? What the fuck are they supposed to do for me? It sounds a lot like the planned Chinese social credit system, which is a nightmarishly authoritarian and dystopian pile of human rights abuses waiting to happen. We know from Sam's interaction with Heartman that you can also be docked Likes by other citizens.
Modern social media is a cringingly fake circus of dehumanizing bullshit. It's so stupid that even if Kojima tries to create a perfectly wholesome representation of it in Death Stranding, it is done by lampshading the issues that the system has.
The first thing that I did when the game allowed me to have firearms was kill an entire camp of MULEs and leave their bodies to necrotize. There were no apparent negative results.
I avoided subsequent firefights because there was no actual benefit to me killing everyone anyway. The only thing that happens in gunfights is I present myself the opportunity to get shot. I just leave, instead.
MULE camps apparently have a bunch of resources in them for you to capture. I never needed any resources. I left all of the lost cargo on the ground as well. I never ran out of resources.
I also started leaving all of the standard orders to the robots. I still reached Transporter status by endgame.
I wept at the final scene with Sam and Cliff. While not exactly relevant to my life, reconnecting with a father figure is something that is bound to be incredibly poignant to a lot of doomers. It's just a well-told part of the story as well.
The soundtrack is good for what is it, but I wouldn't listen to it at literally any other time.
Stupid shit: game being too easy; Deadman and Fragile; tutorials and tooltips; the strand genre; no true villain; blindly reconnecting everyone; Likes; social media; criticizing firearms as a solution and then requiring firearms as a solution; not being the 50 hours that all the dumbass journalists said it was.
Based shit: Unger and Die-Hardman; decent weird sci-fi writing; no cringy eye candy; Kojima trying to help a struggling generation; a decent and respectful use of music; generally chill and subtly rewarding gameplay.
Probably have more things to say about it later, after I think about it more.