Game Review: 'Death Stranding' Is A Mess Worth Playing The latest game from visionary game designer Hideo Kojima is marred by moments of frustrating gameplay and bad dialogue. That doesn't mean it isn't interesting.
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New Game 'Death Stranding' Is A Compelling Mess

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New Game 'Death Stranding' Is A Compelling Mess

New Game 'Death Stranding' Is A Compelling Mess

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's become something of an article of faith to say we live in divided times, especially politically. But we're going to spend the next part of the program focusing on efforts to bridge divides. A new video game by visionary game designer Hideo Kojima was released yesterday for the PlayStation 4. It's called Death Stranding. And it tasks players with reconnecting a divided America. NPR's Vincent Acovino says the game is frustrating but compelling.

VINCENT ACOVINO, BYLINE: The opening images are of extinction - whales washed up on a beach, birds struck down by acid rain, former bustling cities reduced to rubble, all thanks to a not-so-far-off environmental disaster called the death stranding.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "DEATH STRANDING")

NORMAN REEDUS: (As Sam Porter Bridges) Once there was an explosion, a bang which gave rise to life as we know it. And then came the next explosion.

ACOVINO: That's Sam Porter Bridges, played by "The Walking Dead" actor Norman Reedus. By trade, Sam is a courier or a delivery man. He's also part of an organization trying to reconnect an America torn apart by natural disaster and domestic terrorism. He does so with the help of a baby strapped to his chest that helps him fight interdimensional spirits.

(SOUNDBITE OF BABY CRYING)

ACOVINO: Death Stranding is outlandish. The games of Hideo Kojima are obtuse, cinematic, eccentric. His Metal Gear Solid series is famous for having hourlong cut scenes, B-movie dialogue and postmodern gameplay mechanics. Death Stranding bears all the marks of a Hideo Kojima title, for better and for worse. It has over-the-top characters like Heartman, who dies every 21 minutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO GAME, "DEATH STRANDING")

WINDING REFN: (As Heartman) Defecation, pollution, nutrition - most of life's basic functions fit rather easily into a 21-minute time slot.

ACOVINO: And as a game, Death Stranding is intentionally mundane. The simple act of moving around, which is a breeze in most video games, is treated like a puzzle in Death Stranding. You travel across jagged terrain while tending to various logistical details like balancing the weight of the cargo on your back or scanning a stretch of terrain to see if a cliff is too steep to scale or water too deep to walk across.

Death Stranding is far from perfect. It has overwritten dialogue and serious pacing issues, but it's an earnest creative expression from a talented game designer. In an interview with the BBC, Kojima said that during a time when, quote, "Trump is building a wall and the U.K. is leaving the EU," he wanted to make a game about using bridges to connect things. Games often pit us against one another. And just weeks after yet another Call Of Duty release, there's something to admire about Death Stranding's refusal to do so. Vincent Acovino, NPR News.

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