Death Stranding Director’s Cut – Hideo Kojima’s Vision in the New Generation

Death Stranding Director’s Cut is essentially the same game as 2019, but with lots of new features and optimizations for PlayStation 5 that make Sam Porter Bridges’ journey more fun and varied.

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There was a before and an after with the release of Death Stranding for PlayStation 4 in late 2019. A before and after that reflected years of anticipation that culminated in an authentic masterpiece, and a before and after in a thematic context that, by the irony of fate, much of its fiction became real due to global pandemic.

Returning to Death Stranding (even with a PC version on the way) is an interesting experience, which I was very excited to be a part of with the new content from Death Stranding Director’s Cut. If you’ve read my original review of the game, you’ll see that I surrendered to the idea and divisive execution of Hideo Kojima. I was able to put aside clichés and less accomplished aspects and embrace it not just as a simple good game, but as one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, something that was just an extension of years of theories and anticipations.

That said, this return was not made with the same emotion, or the same knowledge about its history and concepts, as I already knew everything. Even so, it managed to be quite pleasant, like reviewing a movie we loved, but a movie that lasts for dozens of hours, now with mechanisms that allow you to “shortcut”.

I admit I didn’t replay it all. In this experimental period, I restarted its story and spent a few hours to be able to experience some of the best scenes now on PlayStation 5, where the game supports an incredible 21:9 cinematic widescreen mode, with the game perspective and cinematics adapted to the anamorphic format; and explored a lot of what’s new in a saved game after the epic epic of Sam Porter Bridges on his quest to connect America and save the world from the true Apocalypse.

Death Stranding Director’s Cut, unlike Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, makes a little more sense in its nomenclature. I’m not the biggest fan of this marketing scam from Sony in trying to legitimize videogames as a cinematic art (because art already is), but in this specific case, not only does it have its real meaning, it also fits like a glove in the character that we all built from the game’s director, Hideo Kojima.

This is a definitive version of the game once released for PlayStation 4 and PC, which includes everything that was released back, including the small crossovers from the PC version to Half-Life: Alyx e Cyberpunk 2077. But it’s a version whose inclusions not only add more gameplay and new ways to experience it, but balance the adventure’s progress. And in small details it’s even a literal “cut”: an example of this is the complete removal of drinks Monster Energy.

New content is available for all tastes. Although Death Stranding dances around the shooting, we can see Metal Gear Solid (in particular Phantom Pain) as the foundation of the game’s gameplay. And this Director’s Cut further explores this aspect, with new weapons and a Firing Range reminiscent of VR Missions, also from the Metal Gear Solid saga. It’s a pretty considerable dose of challenges and exercises that will put players’ skills to the test in light of new challenges that during the journey are rare and sometimes non-existent, as many encounters with other human NPCs took place on rescue missions from items and equipment, from which we could avoid any combat.

Along with these challenges, Director’s Cut also offers the possibility of repeating boss battles, in addition to the three moments with the character from Mads Mikkelsen, the only ones available in the original game.

But it doesn’t mean anything without goals, and to spice up the experience, Death Stranding is even more social, as these additions and some delivery missions can now enter multiplayer leaderboards with the Kojima Productions launching new challenges every week and mission and objective recommendations for ranked tables. This is great news as it invites players to get more involved in the game when they feel it’s more boring.

The new additions also include new ways to customize the character and the BB, but perhaps the most important are the new structures – where we find cannons to send cargo safely away -, new bridges, there are more roads to build and we have a lot of requests company robots to help us transport the cargo, in what in the original game was one of the most disappointing absences.

For many, this could be like an “ease” to the game, which takes away its essence, etc., arguments I personally disagree with, as they are tools like all the others that the game offers. Yes, they can help, but it depends on the opportunity and resources we have at our disposal. In addition, unlocking is done organically and according to the game’s progress, after key moments. For new players it will be a fluid and cohesive experience, with additions coming naturally. For those who have finished the game and want to continue exploring the world of Death Stranding, get ready to scratch your head or access guides to find out where some of the news are.

One such case happened to me with racing mode. Yes, Death Stranding has a racing mode that is located in a remote part of the map, to the south, and that requires some mental gymnastics and email reading to find out. This, of course, if we don’t accidentally stumble over the structure yet to be built.

It’s no accident that I’m only mentioning this mode now, as it’s probably the worst addition to the game, which adds little or nothing and which I’m quite happy about not affecting progress or not having trophies associated with it. This little extra, inspired by one of the hobbies of a secondary character, is a small racetrack, with few variants, where you can race with sports cars, motorcycles or transport vans. If the in-game vehicle driving leaves something to be desired, then here is where we get to appreciate how poorly implemented the in-game driving is. Between tight corners, a sense of bizarre speed, rigid handling and impact that lock from 100 to 0 in a millisecond, driving in Death Stranding is a real failure. However, I admire the attempt.

Also in terms of additions that don’t seem to add much is the Factory, a chain of stealth missions that offers some extra detail about the world and characters of Death Stranding, but in a very superficial way. It’s easy to see that it was cut material for the original game, but still a little treat for longtime Hideo Kojima fans.

Death Stranding Director's Cut PlayStation 5

It remains for me to talk about the PlayStation 5 optimizations, for which this version of the game is exclusive. We have everything we could hope for, an optimization that borders on the perfect. Death Stranding Director’s Cut runs fantastically. If it was beautiful on PlayStation 4, it’s still beautiful here. We don’t have any notable graphical improvements other than a resolution or frame rate increase, but what it offers is significant.

Altogether we have four modes, Performance and Quality that unfold with Widescreen mode. The difference between the two main ones is what we expect in most games: in performance the game sacrifices resolution for the sake of fluidity and quality mode the opposite. In this case, the differences are minimal, with the quality mode also aiming for 60FPS, in a mode where my trained eye didn’t find fluctuations or breaks, thus becoming my favourite.

On top of that is the widescreen format, a 21:9 cinematic mode, which apparently to many players looks like it only adds two black bars to the image, but actually does more than that. The camera moves away and we have a superior viewing angle, with more images captured to each side, giving the game a larger scale that makes it a real delight to admire the landscapes we pass through. I’d rather find an FOV slider (like on PC) to give the same effect in traditional 16:9, but as this also applies to cinematics, I embrace the vision of the legendary producer, as the experience is much more cohesive.

And once again, DualSense shines. Death Stranding Director’s Cut takes advantage of all the dimensions of the new PlayStation controller. As in the past, we can hear BB’s laughs and cries through his speaker, but now in more quantity and with more effects, such as footsteps, explosions and other small sound effects that, together with the sound from the TV or speakers, add a touch more immersive. Each sound is also felt with the haptic vibration of the controller and the triggers offer different levels of resistance to different actions, such as pressing the triggers to balance Sam’s body or to evade BTs.

Death Stranding Director’s Cut is the definitive version of Hideo Kojima’s ambitious game. In hindsight, it’s the version I would have liked to play when it was originally released. It’s more complete and finely tuned and, even with its unnecessary extras, it’s a fantastic package, especially for those who’ve never played or were expecting this next-gen conversion. If the game’s impact would be different if it were released today, that’s a topic for another conversation, but something that only a debuting fan will be able to comment, especially in a world shaken by a true Death Stranding.

Death Stranding Director's Cut PlayStation 5
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Copy for analysis provided by PlayStation Portugal.