Death Stranding Director's Cut Review
Death Stranding Director's Cut delivers the goods on the PS5 packed with new content, stunning graphics and gameplay enhancements, my full review.
The genre defying, sci-fi trailblazer Death Stranding has returned on the PlayStation 5 in an all-new definitive experience. The Director’s Cut expands on Hideo Kojima’s original dystopian opus in many interesting ways, further synthesizing what made the original game so unique.
Death Stranding still plays host to a complex, abstract story that polarized audiences during its initial release in 2019. The newly added content does little to change this, but it does create a far more engaging gameplay experience. The Director’s Cut has seen many improvements on the PS5, from graphical upgrades to a new arsenal and equipment. The expanded experience also extends the storyline with added missions and new explorable areas.
Death Stranding’s place in interactive entertainment is an important one, laced with critical social commentary and bold, confident storytelling. The game’s plot rings a little more eerily true as we live through a real-life pandemic. The key messages about the power of community and human connection are more important than ever in a rapidly changing world. The gaming industry’s first “social strand game” is an important playthrough and now it’s better than ever.
Let’s delve into what makes this the quintessential Death Stranding experience.
Death Stranding Director's Cut Details
Platform: PlayStation 5
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Developer: Kojima Productions
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action Adventure
Modes: Single player, asynchronous multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
Story - Tomorrow is in your hands
You play as a “lone wolf,” Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) making critical deliveries across a fractured world. Your role is critical, as humans have been disconnected and forced into hiding after a cataclysmic event known as the “Death Stranding” occurs. This has caused the dead to cross into the world of the living with dire consequences. Dangerous creatures known as BTs (Beached Things) now roam the earth hunting and attacking the living. These creatures have decimated America pushing all of civilization to the brink of collapse.
"As the story progresses Sam is presented with an incredible responsibility to begin reconnecting all the marooned cities and reforming a broken America."
What remains are remote colonies known as "Knot Cities," which form the remaining "United Cities of America". As a freelance courier you brave BTs, bandits and terrorists to deliver essential goods to keep these colonies connected. As the story progresses Sam is presented with an incredible responsibility to begin reconnecting all the marooned cities and reforming a broken America. Can you reunite people across the country and become humanity’s last beacon of hope? Tomorrow is in your hands.
New story content integration
The fresh additions to Death Stranding’s story are comprised of a large underground complex. The Ruined Factory mission features additional backstory details around one of Sam’s closest allies. If you are looking to learn more about the lore surrounding Death Stranding, you’ll want to check this out. Of note, it even has a Metal Gear Solid reference so if you are a fan of the series, keep an eye out.
Graphics - The end of the world has never looked so good
Death Stranding’s desolate wasteland looks absolutely stunning on the PlayStation 5. The game’s visuals were built with the Decima Engine created by Guerrilla Games with additions from Kojima Productions. Using lessons learned from the PC release of Death Stranding, there is more flexibility with graphical performance on PS5.
"Using lessons learned from the PC release of Death Stranding, there is more flexibility with graphical performance on PS5."
In the Director’s Cut you get access to two different graphic options: Quality or Performance Mode.
Quality Mode runs at native 4K resolution and targets 60 FPS. Performance Mode on the other hand features a scaled back resolution in favour of a more solid 60FPS. There is also an Ultra-Wide Mode that really expands your field of view. This will give you a better look at more of your surroundings, with so many breathtaking views this new cinematic experience is stellar.
The map has also been changed adding more details with rocks and minor additions to foliage. Overall, the bump in resolution and frame rate has helped to make this an even more engrossing experience.
Death Stranding’s PS5 hardware enhancements
I have been singing the praises of the PS5’s DualSense controller since the system’s launch, and it continues to do wonders. It’s no different with Death Stranding Director’s Cut, the controller once again dials up the immersion with some clever implementations.
Firstly, each weapon has its own unique haptic signature, very similar to what Housemarque did with Returnal’s arsenal. You can also feel the difference moving through different terrain like long grass or trudging along in snow.
The triggers also crank up their resistance depending on the load you are carrying. I also noticed the audio quality output differences on the DualSense’s onboard speaker, things were much sharper than the DualShock controller.
All these different elements added up to far more immersive experience with the Director’s Cut on the PS5.
Gameplay – Balancing the world on your shoulders
Playing as a porter will have you doing a plethora of fetch missions for much of your playtime with Death Stranding. As you traverse the environment it’s all about carefully managing your cargo while assessing human, supernatural and environmental threats. You can run into BTs or humans that will engage you and damage or attempt to steal your inventory.
"Playing as a porter will have you doing a plethora of fetch missions for much of your playtime with Death Stranding."
You also will experience a phenomenon called, “Timefall.” This form of rain takes away the time of the object it touches and damages it. When a cargo is damaged by the rain, the case's shock absorbency is reduced. It’s best to seek shelter to protect cargo or pack a "case repair spray" that can restore the damage of your cases.
When you are not under direct threat, you will still need to manage your packages by ensuring they are balanced on your body. As you move, you’ll often need to use the triggers to rebalance and steady yourself.
You’ll need to tap RT or LT if you start to lean or press down on both to balance you out and prevent a fall. It’s imperative to stay sure footed as you are ranked for the conditions of your packages at the end of each delivery.
Building BRIDGES (and much more)
In the Director’s Cut transporting goods has become a little less onerous with the introduction of new buildings and technology. Here are some key additions that have made deliveries less of a grind:
The Support Skeleton
Think of Aliens’ giant exo-skeleton but on a smaller scale with a greener fuel source. This addition really helps cutdown on long slogs through terrain by doubling your speed, providing a “double jump” ability and handling well on rugged terrain. It also has a solar powered battery so it can charge, making it less likely you will become stranded.
This new structure is a little more refined than it sounds, but you can fire your delivers long ranges with a high-tech cannon. Don’t worry your packages arrive safely at their intended target as they are equipped with a parachute for a soft landing.
Channel your inner Evel Knievel and get ready for launch! You can now build Jump Rampsto fly over unpassable terrain like gorges and large rivers in a vehicle. Some of the most entertaining moments for me came while performing stunts on my Reverse Trike. I can’t recommend this enough!
The Buddy Bot was in the original game, but in a more limited capacity. The ways in which it can now be used really change the overall experience of Death Stranding’s more grindy fetch elements. Buddy can now follow you through the desolate wasteland like R2-D2, walk cargo solo to a predetermined destination, or it can even carry your character to the nearest distribution centre on autopilot.
Metal Gear VR with Norm Reedus
The Director’s Cut includes a new Firing Range with shades of Metal Gear Solid Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions. This mode is perfect for testing out your arsenal without putting your precious packages at risk. There are 30 VR drills you can test your mettle with virtual enemies. If you are looking for an added challenge, there are ranked drills that let you compete asynchronously with online opponents’ scores.
A new set of toys
As you progress through the Director’s Cut you’ll be able to unlock new gear not previously available in the original game. Here are some of the new devices you’ll have at your disposal:
The Maser Gun causes electric stun damage to enemies, giving you a non-lethal option to deal with human foes. It is also a handy way to immobilize vehicles and level the playing field when you are outnumbered. I found this addition to my arsenal helped to make enemy showdowns more efficient.
The new track mode is an interesting addition to Death Stranding, adding more to the originally underutilized environment. The mode features a few simple grids that can be raced in a time attack mode with three different vehicles. The new roadster is the star of the show with a ton of speed and agility, it can also be used outside of this mode.
Final thoughts on Death Stranding Director's Cut
Hideo Kojima broke the mold when he unleashed Death Stranding on the world, thankfully it’s back for a new generation. As we live through a real-life pandemic, the deeper messages in the game resonate even more.
"Hideo Kojima broke the mold when he unleashed Death Stranding on the world, thankfully it's back for a new generation."
The premise of Death Stranding is the height of outlandish sci-fi fantasy, but the conviction Kojima has to his universe and telling its tale makes it hard to put down the controller. All this paired with gameplay improvements, expanded story and quality of life upgrades makes it a must play on the PS5.
Death Stranding Director's Cut PROS
+ Stunning Graphics and other technical upgrades
+ Incredible acting performances and soundtrack
+ New transportation options and weapons make delivers more efficient
+ Expanded training and tutorial elements add to accessibility for newcomers
+ DualSense integration dials up the immersion
Death Stranding Director's Cut CONS
-Original story still very convoluted and new content provides little added clarity
-Lack of mission variety
Overall Game Score
Overall Rating: 36/40 (90%)
A copy of the game was provided by PlayStation for the purpose of this review.