Death Stranding is not quite as divisive as some would lead you to believe. Released to widespread critical praise, it is the only video game this year to receive a rare 10/10 rating from Push Square thanks to an experience that could only come from the mind of Hideo Kojima. The creator's first title since Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and his subsequent split from publisher Konami remained a mystery for four years, but when it was time to put up or shut up, he delivered on all fronts. Death Stranding is the most unique AAA title of the generation, and it's all the better for it.
As complex as it may seem, the heart of what makes Kojima Productions' latest title tick is the simple task of getting from A to B. Sam Porter Bridges, played by Norman Reedus, must reconnect the United Cities of America in an attempt to rebuild society and make the country whole once more, done by delivering packages to various Porters in order to earn their respect. Bringing them back onto the Chiral Network is the aim, but of course, it's setup which only just scratches the surface of what's to come.
Featuring phenomenal performances from Hollywood actors Mads Mikkelsen and Léa Seydoux, Death Stranding is a narrative juggernaut which pushes the industry's boundaries in every conceivable manner. The all-star cast raises the bar for performance capture, plot points subvert expectations and never fail to surprise when it comes to twists and turns, and a moving soundtrack accompanies the lot.
The game may put its competition to shame narrative-wise, but it truly comes into its own by laying the foundations for a new genre with innovative online social features. Players can come together to build roads and structures to help themselves and the wider community in reaching the next objective -- contributing the materials they find out in the open world to structures that benefit those playing in the moment. Titles of the future could take the features and run with them, but Death Stranding will always be known as the auteur.
You know you've got something special on your hands when a game doesn't need direct player input to change, but what about when those palms are already full? Weight distribution is one of the most important factors you'll have to consider as you go about your travels, and it's something which turns a basic trek into a thinking man's game. With strict weight limits to adhere to, do you sacrifice equipment or offensive capabilities to allow for a lighter load? Do you choose to take interactions away from your hand in order to carry more cargo -- committing to holding both the L2 and R2 buttons if you're in need of extra tools?
These are the questions you'll need to ask yourself, with the answer more than likely changing on the fly as you do battle with terrain, the weather, and the foreboding BTs. It's methodology steeped in intelligence, making you choose between the safe route of piling your cargo high but weighing Sam down in the process, or a more daring approach which may get you to the destination quicker, although leaves you much more vulnerable to the harsh dangers of the post-apocalyptic planet.
Death Stranding dared to go against social and video game norms in almost every aspect of its design, and for that, it should be celebrated. Sam Porter Bridges' task of bringing unity back to America is unconventionally fascinating -- packed full of quirks, unforgettable sequences, and awe-inspiring boss battles. Hideo Kojima took his time and he used it well, piecing together one of 2019's, and indeed the entire generation's, most exhilarating experiences to date.
Where does your opinion fall on Death Stranding? Do you love it or are you a part of the vocal minority who can't stand it? Share your points in the comments below.
How we decide our Game of the Year: At the end of November, our editorial team creates a list of nominees for Game of the Year based on our own review scores and a number of other factors. After much discussion, we trim the list of nominees down and ask all Push Square staff to vote on their five favourites using a points-based system. The ten games with the most points by the designated deadline are our top ten PS4 titles of 2019. We then use this same order when writing about each game.