Death Stranding Director’s Cut is bringing us back to the beach. In 2019, Death Stranding released and introduced players to the bizarre and mystifying world crafted by famed developer Hideo Kojima and his team. Anticipations were high as this was the first game to come from Kojima Productions and the trailers in the lead-up offered more questions than answers.
When Death Stranding hit PlayStation 4, it received a divisive response from players. Some were thrown off by the game’s narrative and focus on delivery systems in the post-apocalyptic setting. Others applauded the creator for being bold enough to stick to a unique vision and making the game the team set out to create. I for one fell in with the latter camp. Death Stranding was a unique game that surprised me in its themes, execution, and delivery of interesting mechanics. However, it existed inside a small bubble in my life.
Beyond my initial playthrough, I never went back to continue Sam Porter Bridges’ journey to reconnect the last remaining colonies in America and fully realize the social aspects all the way through to the end. Death Stranding Director’s Cut has given me the excuse to go back. But is a revisit of the game justified by the new content and features? That’s up for debate. While not adding an expansive amount of content, Death Stranding Director’s Cut is much like a Game of the Year Edition of a title with PlayStation 5 bells and whistles attached.
“Once there was an explosion…”
The narrative and base themes of Death Stranding get pretty deep and complex. In the near future, America has been reduced to open, barren lands with many remaining colonies sheltered underground after an event known as the Death Stranding. You play as Sam Porter Bridges, a courier who is tasked by company named BRIDGES to deliver supplies and assist in establishing a wireless communications network between the isolated colonies.
The effects of the Death Stranding are numerous and varied. Primarily, the Beached Things (BTs), invisible creatures, which now spawn in the open world. To avoid and detect the BTs, Sam is given a Bridge Baby (BB), which is stored in a pod and carried on his chest. Sam’s BB is an essential piece in his journey and together they form a bond and he travels across the country.
I’m well aware of how out there Death Stranding is from a storytelling perspective. We could be here all day unpacking the message Kojima and his team tries to get across. Is it strange? Absolutely. Though, it can be incredibly compelling at times.
That said, Director’s Cut does not add too much narrative content to sink your teeth into. In fact, there’s only one “storyline” to experience within all the new content. Here, Sam will be tasked with infiltrating an abandoned facility, which has been taken over by Mules (bandits). Seeing this thread through to the end doesn’t require a lot of investment. It’s actually a great chance to see Kojima go back to his Metal Gear Solid roots for a bit. This is a pure stealth delight and is matched with the addition of the new non-lethal Maser Gun. You can feasibly draw a parallel between the facility and Shadow Moses. Though, this instance is very short-lived.
The delivery of new content
The bulk of the new content in Death Stranding Director’s Cut comes from extraneous new features and systems that are peppered in. These range from new delivery methods to new customization options, and new activities to take part in. From my experience, this is where the bulk of the team’s focus went.
If you are taking your PlayStation 4 save over to PlayStation 5 and continuing your previous save, the way the new content is introduced may seem a bit peculiar. Death Stranding Director’s Cut and its new content are meant to be consumed on a fresh slate. For instance, the introduction of the Buddy Bot, an auto-following robot partner, can be unlocked and fabricated mid-way through the game. Similarly, the abandoned facility objective doesn’t unlock until you progress far enough into the narrative.
Playing Death Stranding Director’s Cut on a fresh save allows the new content to be integrated more naturally for the player. When I first tackled the Director’s Cut, I did so by continuing my progress on my completed PS4 game. There was no clear indication of where I needed to go or which Distribution Center I had to interact with in order to begin unlocking the new content.
Replaying the game, I was introduced to the aforementioned content as well as the Firing Range in a much more organic way. Early on in the campaign, you’re encouraged to check out this new addition to the game. For most players who have already completed the narrative, using a training facility isn’t exactly the most tantalizing piece of content. On the other hand, for new players it could prove to be a great asset to learn about combat and feel more comfortable with the weapons.
Unpaved roads ahead
Death Stranding Director’s Cut introduces new traversal methods, fully integrated into the game’s deep social strand system. The asynchronous multiplayer receives new construction methods that players can use on their journey and collectively upgrade. For the uninitiated, the base game offers the option to leave helpful signs, equipment, and vehicles throughout the world for other players in need. Adding to that, players can build bridges and other constructions within the world to help complete deliveries. The Director’s Cut expands on this.
For example, the cargo catapult – a new construction – allows players to shoot their cargo safely across the map to remote areas. They can be used to avoid carrying cargo through dangerous Mule encampments. Additionally, Chiral Bridges can be constructed where normal bridges cannot. These are more narrow and are affected by rainfall but do offer a new way of getting over terrain. Likewise, Jump Ramps can be built and offers a way to cross greater gaps while riding the Reverse Trike.
One of the more meaningful additions is the Racetrack. In classic Kojima style, Death Stranding Director’s Cut introduces a feature that’s a bit left field. In the post-apocalyptic setting, Kojima and his team found a way to organically incorporate a kart-racer minigame.
It does require the use of a lot of resources to construct the racetrack, but once built, you can race against holograms in a small assortment of tracks. This is where we see the incorporation of the Racester vehicle, new to the game. Driving never felt the best in Death Stranding, though there is a noticeable improvement when driving on a smooth track rather than bumping against rocks and terrain.
“And then, came the next explosion…”
Sony has been moving forward with its Director’s Cut branding following the release of Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut. Like Sucker Punch’s game, Death Stranding Director’s Cut receives all the PlayStation 5 upgrades and features. This has gone a long way to making a game that was already a marvel to look at and enhance it for the new console.
If you played the original, you’re probably very familiar with how incredibly detailed the character models are inside and out of cutscenes. Here, Kojima Productions extracted even more detail and texture. The world, while bleak and open, is beautiful to take in as fidelity mode offers native 4K and HDR support. Alternatively, you can play with scaled 4K @ 60FPS in performance mode. I was thankful to see that the loading times were improved thanks to the SSD. Plus, I did appreciate the new Widescreen mode, which added an entirely new cinematic feel to the game. I’m always a fan of Kojima’s methods of incorporating cinema into his games. The letterboxed gameplay really went a long way for me.
On top of that, the DualSense gave way to immersive adaptive triggers when fighting or carrying cargo. The haptic feedback is exceptional. This is especially true as you cross rocky terrain and can feel Sam’s boots slip off a rock and stumble. The Director’s Cut also treats players to a small assortment of new music, including Path by Apocalyptica.
Death Stranding Director’s Cut is the definitive way to experience the game for new players. For fairweather porters, those who walked away after completion, the variety of content added is modest. If you’ve truly been looking for a reason to re-experience the narrative and gameplay, polished for PlayStation 5, the cost of entry could seem tantalizing.
However, make no mistake: the addition of the abandoned facility, new traversal methods, and supplemental additions won’t drastically change the way you play the game. This is still very much the same game that marched to the beat of its own drum in 2019.
I for one really appreciated those improvements Kojima and co. brought to the table. To become immersed once more into the world of Death Stranding felt rewarding. But those lasting feelings will eventually wane once I’ve completed a few more orders with my Buddy Bot and have helped build a Chiral Bridge or two.
Death Stranding Director’s Cut is available on PlayStation 5 on Sept 24.