Death Stranding for PC impressions: A powerful game for powerful machines
Being on PC only makes the game better... as long as you can run it.
Death Stranding from Kojima Productions was a divisive game when it came out in 2019 exclusively for the PS4. It's long and meandering and the story is confusing and dense. These are all hallmarks of Hideo Kojima's past work at Konami, so the fact Death Stranding is so profoundly Kojima-esque isn't surprising. What was more shocking was that it worked at all.
The game is huge in scope, both in terms of how literally big it is and the kind of story it wants to tell. You play an isolated man named Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) who delivers packages in an apocalypse where people in America are isolated to cities or forced to live underground. Your task now is to not only deliver packages to these bunkers but to also travel across the country uniting everybody. This is a lofty task considering you're being hunted by terrorists and the end of the world.
The sheer size of the game worked well on the console. Despite it coming toward the end of this current console generation, the PS4 only had to chug slightly to render everything the game had to offer. The realistic motion-capture performances, the sprawling landscapes you had to cross, and the way you could see mountains in the distance clearly all contributed to what was, at the very least, a technologically marvelous experience, even if the obtuse narrative or the clunky dialog put players off.
Now that it's coming to PC, there are separate concerns. As you can probably guess, Death Stranding is a heavy game on PC. The game is around 80GB, which isn't the largest game I've ever installed on my PC (that honor goes to Red Dead Redemption 2 at around 120GB). It's also visually intensive, which bodes well over on PC since you can see every detail up close. When you see the dried tears on Norman Reedus' face or the blades of grass near your feet, you'll understand why this game demands so much of your machine.
|Category||Minimum Specs (30FPS)||Recommended (60FPS)|
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 10|
|Processor||Intel Core I5-3470 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200||Intel Core I7-3770 or AMD Ryzen 5 1600|
|Graphics||GeForce GTX 1050 or AMD Radeon RX 560||GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 590|
|Direct X||Version 12||Version 12|
My device technically meets the standards set by 505 Games (the company publishing the PC port). I have an Intel i7-9700K CPU, 16GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660. Even with all that hardware, I still saw a few crashes (including one full system crash). I experienced this when putting the game on the highest settings, however, so lowering visual settings down to Medium let the game run smoothly.
Even if you're not getting the absolute most out of the game graphically, there's still a lot to take note of. The frame rate goes up to 240FPS, which does give the game a motion smoothing effect that can be offputting. However, seeing Sam running smoothly across the screen is a sight to behold, even on a lower 140FPS. It certainly makes climbing over rocks or sticking the landing after jumping off a cliffside easier since you often have to make split-second decisions on how to balance Sam as he's falling.
There are a lot of controls in Death Stranding, so it's suited well for a mouse and keyboard. Some movements are clunky, especially if you're moving from console to PC, but they make sense over time. For example, hitting "G" allows you to look at your Bridge Baby, and moving your mouse lets you soothe it when it cries. On the PS4, you'd do this by shaking your controller. Death Stranding was one of the few games to take advantage of the speakers on the DualShock controller since you could hear the baby's cries through them, so you're missing that on PC, but that's a small nitpick.
The other controls are still appropriately awkward. Since you could affect Sam's balance as he walked by hitting the triggers on the DualShock, it meant every movement was important. Due to just how much you could do in the game, and how much the team wanted you to feel the weight of every decision, the sometimes confusing controls made sense. You had to put the work in to guide Sam through threatening territory or get him over rough terrain. If anything, a keyboard and mouse is more suited for what Death Stranding is trying to do.
There are some new elements in the PC version, including some Portal and Half-Life related content, including exclusive cosmetics and missions that I can't discuss (wait for the full review for that). Otherwise, this is mostly the same game. However, is that a problem?
What I was able to experience was astounding. It brought up memories of me playing the game on PS4 back in Nov. 2019 when the world was more open, the idea of couriers getting hailed as heroes seemed unrealistic, and few other games had reached Death Stranding's level in terms of visual power. It goes beyond the motion-capture, which was able to replicate the varied, emotional performances from Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tommie Earl Jenkins and their subtleties. It's the textures on all the trees and plants out in the world or the way the game can conspicuously load in the huge landscape.
I've played a lot of bad ports over the past couple of months, but as long as you have the hardware necessary to run Death Stranding, it's great on PC. If anything, playing it with a mouse and keyboard, with your face closer to your monitor, is a better experience than playing it on a console. The controls are easier to understand, the motion is smoother, and being close up and personal with the game allows you to appreciate the small details, like how the cryptobiotes move as they float or how the mountain juts out just right so you can grab on as you climb.
We're still in the early stages of the game (our impressions are limited to the first four chapters out of 14) but be on the lookout for Windows Central's full review of the Death Stranding port in the next couple of weeks.
Death Stranding for PC is set to release on July 14, 2020.
A game for 2020
Hideo Kojima at his absolute most
Death Stranding came out in 2019 for the PS4 and with the PC port set to release this month, the game is more relevant than ever.
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Carli is the Gaming Editor and Copy Chief across Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. Her last name also will remind you of a dinosaur. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.