'Death Stranding' Shines When You're Delivering Packages in a Haunted World

Late in Death Stranding, a major plot thread is tied-off when a character walks back into a scene and says, “I brought you a metaphor.” It’s a funny line that fits both the character and the moment, but it also serves to lampshade what begins to go wrong in the last act and epilogue of Hideo Kojima’s metaphysical sci-fi epic. Atop an interesting premise where the border between life and death has broken down and been transformed into a new frontier for exotic resources and technology, Death Stranding begins piling on more analogy, and turning decent subplots or bits of backstory into feature-length drama.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3ajqv/death-stranding-review
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When I saw the first trailer, I got really excited not because of any previous connection with Metal Gear (like Rob I’ve never played them), but because it felt like this game might do some of the things with systems and exploration that utterly absorbed me in Breath of the Wild. And it sounds like, maybe despite itself a bit, it actually does.

Discourse be damned, I cannot wait to play this game.

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I’m starting to think a teacher failed to correctly explain what subtext was to Kojima at school and his overtly literal metaphors and naming conventions are the result.

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Is this a Japanese theater thing? Like, I get the feeling from a lot of Japanese media that exposition and expressive dialogue is very essential to the Japanese story telling experience.

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Maybe. I’d be interested to know how his naming works in Japanese. I’ve heard multiple people who are from/have lived in Japan say that English as seen as a “cool” language that’s fun to say (sort of like how Japanese is sometimes shown in media in the west). I wonder if his naming for the English translations are even more literal/blunt purely because it sounds cooler to him.

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Everything about this game seems absolutely exhausting and specifically designed to be exactly Not For Me. It’s fascinating to read about, though.

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Heather Alexandra‘s review over at Kotaku is also a good read. Between these two reviews, I remain mostly comfortable not engaging with the product of Kojima‘s grossness and ego.

But there’s definitely some regret here. The gameplay sounds interesting enough that if the rest of the package was merely janky, or earnestly made by a less experienced or well funded developer I would happily overlook the rest.

But the 30% of MGS2 I played was so actively bad that even though I got MGSV for free over a year ago, I still haven’t even installed it. Knowing that Kojima still hasn’t learned that he’s terrible is enough to keep me away.

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The backstory on the MULEs is interesting and points at a frustrating ambivalence that turns through much of Death Stranding . The MULEs are couriers like Sam who got hooked on the “high” of fulfilling tasks and delivering packages, to the point where it is all they want to do and will steal cargo just so that they have more to deliver themselves.

This is…kind of awesome? Maybe it’s because I’m still fresh off venting about The Outer Worlds where its Marauders’ only backstory is that they were former workers who used a prescribed drug to the point of becoming “not human,” but this thing with the MULEs is actually interesting and makes sense. According to Emile Durkheim, when people don’t have a strong sense of personal belonging in society (be it professionally, spirtually, etc.), they can fall into a state of anomie. This can lead to social deviance in some form or other: from the outwardly violent (e.g. crime) to the inwardly violent (e.g. self-isolation, self-harm). To me, it makes total sense that there’d be some contingent of altruistic workers who get so much moral satisfaction out of having a purpose within this husk of a society that they take that completely overboard and end up being the world’s most well-intentioned (if very misguided) de facto bandits.

At the very least, I think it’s just refreshing that a AAA game justifies a major antagonist faction as something more thoughtful than “they’re the nameless, faceless, amoral baddies and they exist solely because you need something to shoot at.”

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I’m getting the impression that if you like Death Stranding you should probably watch Girls’ Last Tour.

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Well shit, I’m sold on the game now. That’s a very specific but compelling comparison.