This is a game that needs very little introduction. In 2019, Hideo Kojima returned with Death Stranding on PlayStation 4, and that name alone made the game an important one. As it so happened, the game was unlike anything else released at the time, mostly eschewing violent conflict in favour of a quest to bring people together. While we won't be going through all the basics here — read our review for the PS4 game for the skinny on story and gameplay — Death Stranding Director's Cut proves that, two years later, Kojima's vision remains wholly unique.
This PS5 version of the game is the same experience as before, only now there's more of it. You're still controlling Sam Porter Bridges as he treks from the east coast to the west of a broken North America, tasked with bringing isolated groups onto the Chiral Network to reestablish some semblance of order. The titular event has transformed the landscape and brought the spooky, spectral BTs into the world. The main thrust of gameplay is delivering cargo from A to B, aiming to avoid confrontation and keep those goods strapped to Sam's back in perfect condition. All of that is here, of course, and it remains a surprisingly captivating adventure. Some of the original's issues remain; it's still overly finicky to play at times, missions become repetitive, and the UI feels overcomplicated. Hardly dealbreakers, but if you didn't enjoy Sam's excursion on PS4, this is unlikely to change your mind.
Director's Cut doesn't make enormous changes to the format, but new equipment gives you some interesting extra options when walking from place to place. The cargo catapult is exactly what it sounds like, letting you load it up with stuff and then firing it across the environment, bringing it down to earth by slowing its descent. This is a fun and useful way of getting deliveries across particularly tricky patches, or over areas you know will be crawling with potential enemies. The Maser Gun is another new addition, and an extremely useful weapon against MULEs, bringing them down quickly (and non-lethally) in a pinch.
Speaking of weapons, a Firing Range is introduced early on, a new location that allows you to get better acquainted with the various firearms and tools at Sam's disposal. You can freely shoot targets or engage in drills, which feel similar to the VR missions from a certain other Kojima game. It's a fun way to compete with other players via leaderboards, although we imagine it'll be new players who will get the most use out of this area.
Our favourite — and no doubt the silliest — feature in Director's Cut is the Racetrack. Once you've constructed it via a new terminal in the game's central region, you will be able to engage in numerous time trials around Fragile Circuit. With various routes to master and vehicles old and new to drive, it's a stark change of pace from the rest of the game, but it's a welcome distraction if you want to blow off some steam after all those deliveries. Hop on a reverse trike, drift around those bends, and set a killer time. Like the firing range drills, you can also compete on leaderboards here for racing supremacy. It's daft, and quite the tonal shift when Sam crosses the line with a smile and a thumbs up, but it only adds to the game's charm.
Next up is the Ruined Factory, a brand new location that forces Sam to take a stealthy approach. Some dodgy dealings are going on in this facility, and sneaking inside and taking down MULEs without raising the alarm forces players to explore this side of the action, which is great. There are certainly enough mechanics and tools you can use to go covert, and it's another refreshing break from the usual hikes. Of course, you can go loud if you need to, but this is clearly intended to be an MGS-style throwback. We wish there was more to it than just a couple of missions, but it's cool while it lasts.
It's not just added content that Director's Cut brings to the table, though. While all of the aforementioned new features are great, and smartly woven into the overall experience, work has also gone into the game's visuals and performance, and it really makes a difference. Death Stranding was already one of PS4's best-looking titles, but on PS5, those stunning environments, excellent character models, and ethereal visual effects have been polished to an even finer sheen. It looks pretty immaculate. Better yet, the performance mode puts the game at 60 frames-per-second, and it feels wonderful to play at a higher frame rate. To be honest, even on the fidelity mode, which kicks the resolution up to full-fat 4K rather than upscaled, the frame rate seems much higher than 30 a lot of the time.
The re-release makes the most of PS5's unique qualities, too. Loading screens are still there but are much, much faster than on PS4, so there's far less waiting around reading tips. The Tempest 3D audio engine gets a workout as well; with headphones on, Death Stranding Director's Cut does great work with directional sound. Combined with some subtle but effective use of the DualSense's haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, it feels as though Kojima's oddball odyssey is right at home on PS5.
Death Stranding Director's Cut is a fantastic port of a fascinating game. It introduces lots of new features that enrich the experience, the graphics and performance get a big boost, and PS5's bells and whistles are all put through their paces. It all adds up to make this the best way to play Kojima Productions' insane adventure, whether you're new to the experience or want to pick up where you left off. It's not going to change anyone's mind one way or the other — it's still Death Stranding, like it or not — but Director's Cut certainly presents the game in the best light.