Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the Auteur Behind the Metal Gear Solid Series
New York Times Magazine - "Hideo Kojima’s Strange, Unforgettable Video-Game Worlds"
"After my interview with Kojima, I spent much of the next few days sequestered in my tiny hotel room in Tokyo, playing Death Stranding on the cheap TV. Once I started guiding Sam along his journey, I found Death Stranding to be not as radically unfamiliar as Kojima’s prerelease hype had suggested. In many ways it hews to the popular conventions of the “open world” genre — a term that arose to describe titles like Rockstar Games’s famed Grand Theft Auto series, which tossed aside the linear levels of older games in favor of endlessly explorable virtual environments. As in the Grand Theft Auto games, I controlled a character from a third-person perspective and roamed free over a vast landscape. I advanced the plot by taking on mandatory missions, but I also could complete various optional secondary quests for additional rewards. I assembled an arsenal of weapons and gadgetry that slowly built my character’s abilities and opened up new ways to interact with the world. To someone watching my screen, it would have been possible to conclude that Death Stranding was basically a sci-fi version of Rockstar’s wildly popular recent open-world cowboy epic, Red Dead Redemption 2.
But there was something fundamentally new, I found as I continued to play. Death Stranding manages to transform an act that most open-world games take for granted — the act of traveling from one point to another — into a complicated and meaningful experience. Although you eventually gain access to vehicles, much of the time walking is your only mode of transit. In most games, walking is a mindless chore: You can watch the scenery go by, but there’s not much to do besides push the joystick forward. But in Death Stranding, traversing the terrain comes to feel like the core of the game. Walking Sam across the rugged landscape with a load of cargo teetering over his back requires a level of skill and concentration rarely found in games outside of combat."