Kojima grew up obsessively watching movies, and his games are known for their cinematic quality Photo: AFP/File

Video game 'Death Stranding' bids to rekindle hope

By Jitendra JOSHI

In a world fractured by political populism and divisive voices on social media, can a video game build bridges to harmony? The Japanese auteur behind "Death Stranding" hopes so.

The much-hyped title comes out for Sony's PlayStation 4 on Friday and is the first creation of Hideo Kojima, the acclaimed designer of the Konami studio's mega-selling "Metal Gear" series, since he went independent in 2015.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where the United States of America has broken up and a curious form of rainfall accelerates ageing, "Death Stranding" centers on a mission to deliver packages and help rebuild a communications network in what is now known as the United Cities of America.

Enemies abound, intent on keeping communities isolated, including the undead.

The protagonist, Sam Porter Bridges, is voiced by Norman Reedus from zombie TV drama "The Walking Dead". Other members of the A-list cast include James Bond stars Lea Seydoux and Mads Mikkelsen.

Kojima is explicit about the contemporary parallels to his storyline.

"President (Donald) Trump right now is building a wall," he told the BBC in an interview. "Then you have Brexit, where the UK is trying to leave the EU, and it feels like there are lots of walls and people thinking only about themselves in the world.

"In 'Death Stranding' we're using bridges to represent connection -- there are options to use them or break them. It's about making people think about the meaning of connection."

The concept goes as far as blocking any option to interact negatively with other players, according to Kojima. Instead, you can give them positive feedback and leave items for others to use.

It is a far cry from the all-against-one, fight-to-the death option on the hugely popular game "Fortnite", or the hate-filled commentary of so much social media.

Titles like "Fortnite" and "Call of Duty" rely on bursts of furious action, and are lucrative propositions on the e-sports circuit.

But Marc Alonso, a gaming expert at the market research provider Euromonitor International in London, noted that the most-bought title so far this year was the more immersive "Red Dead: Redemption II".

"So there's definitely room for that alongside the e-sports side of it," he told AFP, predicting "Death Stranding" will prove "one of the most influential and popular games of the year".

"It pushes the frontiers of gaming and cinematography. It's essentially an interactive movie and that's something we're seeing more of, like in Redemption, with clear storylines that are well crafted and well acted," Alonso said. "'Death Stranding' is taking that to the next level, and Kojima's many Metal Gear fans will help it boom."

Still, the slow pace of the game-play and the surreal nature of some of the narrative have attracted adverse comment from a few reviewers.

One otherwise laudatory review at thesixthaxis.com said 'Death Stranding' mixed various storylines including "Mad Max" and "Postman Pat", adding its own "very odd focus on bodily excretions".

Other reviewers have criticized Kojima for pretentiousness. But most have reveled in the cinematic and immersive qualities of his game, and the scale of his ambition.

On metacritic.com, "Death Stranding" scores a favorable aggregate score of 84 percent. The word "masterpiece" crops up in several appraisals of the game.

Its backers at Sony are banking on that translating into Christmas season sales to sustain the PS4 console business in the face of competition from mobile and streaming platforms.

A PC version is due out next year, as is a next-generation PlayStation 5 console.

But there is no word yet on a version of the game for Microsoft's Xbox, after Kojima went into partnership with Sony following his departure four years ago from Konami.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I've got so much respect for this mind right here. Although I don't game nearly as much as I used to (music discovering and listening take the majority of my free time now, other than going out of course), there are specific studios and people working in the industry that I'll always keep an eye out for. Kojima-san here is one example (another one is the studio ATLUS).

Masterful storyteller and perfectionist, although underrated I feel like his Sony PSP title "Peace Walker" was one of his best works. Definitely looking to get Death Stranding, seems very intriguing.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Mediocre reviews, sounds like a glorified walking and fetch simulator.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The game looks beautiful but the story and mechanics sound so far fetched and complicated. I'm more interested in his venture into films.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A walking simulator. I've got mixed feeling about this game. Won't beat the MGS series, for sure.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why is he choosing to bash America and the UK in this article?

Why is he focusing on Trump for his "contemporary parallels"?

Why didn't he use this game to make critical comentary about Abe, the Japanese government or Japanese society.

I find that many Japanese people are uncomfortable or maybe scared of making any kind of criticism of Japan.

I think if he had chosen to make a statement about what is wrong with Japan in this game then it would be more interesting.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

It is a very divided type of game hence the mixed reviews, but I certainly appreciate Kojima's approach to this title. I am glad he didn't do something similar to Metal Gear. No lootboxes or micro-transactions is already a win for gamers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I understand what Kojima is trying to do, but I don't like it so I won't buy the game.

There's almost no "game", very little gameplay, while there's hours and hours of cinematics and non-sensical dialogue.

Doesn't feel like he built something for the player, seems like he wants us to just sit there and watch, like a movie. This format isn't attractive to me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


Thanks for the laugh. Trump and Brexit are an order of magnitude or two more impactful on the world than extremely local Japanese politics, that barely have any effect beyond the borders of Japan. Both Trump and Brexit are products of rampant tribal nationalism that is a serious threat to the human race and globe (vis-a-vis US pullout from Paris).

Pull your head out of that dark place and have a look around the world.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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