It’s been over half a year since Death Stranding was delivered (pun intended) to our PS4 systems by Kojima Productions. The hotly awaited first solo outing of auteur creator Hideo Kojima after his public split from Konami back in 2015.
Being a prolific creator, Kojima’s games have always had their mixed reviews – to read what we thought of it at the time, head over here. But PC is a different ball-park, and with six months to deliver a polished port (I’m never tiring of delivery jokes) – let’s take a look at how this one stacks up.
Oh, and did I mention the PC version includes new content from Half-Life and Portal 2? Well, that’s about all I can tell you – but everyone loves companion cubes.
Death Stranding PC
One step at a time
As a quick story primer, Death Stranding is about Sam Porter Bridges, a delivery guy with a baby in a bottle strapped to his chest, delivering medical supplies and children’s toys across a scarred wasteland of the United States while being stalked by ghosts and giant oily fish. Got it?
Well, we’re moving on anyway.
Sam is played by Norman Reedus, and the supporting cast is crammed full of more celebrities than an Oscar’s selfie – everyone from Mads Mikkelsen to Guillermo Del Toro show up in finer detail than many of their early movies.
The game tasks you with connecting all the last surviving bastions of human civilisation into one big network so they can all sit on Zoom calls and argue about who’s hosting the next social event.
Wait, that’s just my life these days.
So it’s a lot of walking from point A to point B, talking to a person and then walking back. If you aren’t into this for the long-haul, then you probably shouldn’t be buying games that can be described as a literal ‘long-haul’.
Onto the specifics. I’ve had the PC version of Death Stranding for a few days now, and am a good deal of hours into the story. One thing I’m certain of is that Death Stranding is visually stunning, and that’s even more evident on PC than it was on PS4. In an early cutscene, I was stunned at seeing the hairs stand on end across Sam’s arm, and goosebumps forming as one of the BTs crossed in his path. This is a level of fine detail that I’d expect in a high-budget CGI film, more so than a game on Steam.
Hot footing it
On the technical side, the PC version of Death Stranding is a very well-optimised port. Over the past few days with it, playing on my decent-but-not-brilliant system housing a GTX1070, Ryzen 2600 with 16gb DDR4 – I’ve kept it at almost a rock-solid 60fps. There have been a couple of hiccups, more single hitches down to frame timing more than framerate dips – and these have all happened in complex areas fighting glistening BTs with more oozing, reaching tentacles than HR Geiger’s wettest dream.
For a game primarily about traversal, some of the only real issues I’ve faced have been in traversing. More than once I’ve had Sam jiggle around while he’s climbing up or down boulders, or tap-danced his way onto ledges that aren’t really there. And the vehicles are notorious for getting stuck on rocks or deciding at the last minute that a 10cm stone is in fact a momentum-killing badass with the gravity of a black hole.
Far and beyond my favourite step from console gaming to PCs is draw distance. It’s the difference between spotting a lamp-post hurtling towards you in Grand Theft Auto V and hurtling yourself headlong into a river once it pops into view. Death Stranding was made to be played on PC simply because the vistas are drop-dead gorgeous. This game will have you climbing a hill after 30 hours and still get to the top and sit – just to look at the view.
Out in the wider world, these fine details pop and sparkle – as you’re traipsing across the ruined United States, you’ll see sheets of rain and fog slide across the ground towards you, and droplets sparkle in the sunlight.
That being said, the options for those with high-end systems are sensible, but not astounding. You can tweak your resolutions, cap frame rates up to 240fps, two flavours of anti-aliasing, and three steps of shadows, model details and ambient occlusion.
You won’t see any options here to tone down the game for lower end systems, and it feels like that’s the aim – your system must be at least a console-killer or you might as well play over there.
Held on with duct-tape and hope
At the end of the day, this is a port, and a good one. If you weren’t sold on Death Stranding six months ago then this won’t win you over – but maybe on PC you’ll give it a chance.
Many of the frustrations that players had with the original release are still here – there’s still an overabundance of loading screens in and out of long cut-scenes, the game is still chock-full of exposition with little explanation of terms like repatriate, chiral networks, or DOOMS (this even led other outlets to publish full glossaries that explain these terms).
But you know what?
Honestly, I feel like PC is more the home for a game like Death Stranding that consoles. Say what you like about the console wars, and what pulls me to PC and you to PS4, but I feel like strategy titles, tactical games, puzzle games and walking simulators have found a home on PC when those genres struggle on consoles.
Call it a subconscious overhang from PCs being machines for work, and some of these titles looking more like screensavers and excel spreadsheets than their high-impact counterparts – but when I want to lose myself in the fine details of a game, I’ll pick it up on PC first.
Death Stranding is a gorgeous game, not one that I want to mainline from start to finish, but one that I want to lose myself in for an afternoon while it’s raining outside – put on a podcast and go for a walk without ever leaving the house.
Stay tuned for a more detailed look at the game as a whole before the PC embargo lifts next week.
Death Stranding was provided to PowerUp! by 505 Games.