After spending over 100 hours reconnecting America last generation, I was unsure if Death Stranding: Director’s Cut would grab me in the same way it did on the PlayStation 4. That said, after putting another 20 hours into it, I think the game might have hooked me even harder.
Death Stranding’s PlayStation 5 re-release doubles down on everything that made the first game so special; cooperative world-building feels better than ever before here. It’s sure to delight those already on board with Kojima’s abstract triple-A game, but don’t expect to be swept off your feet if you didn’t vibe with the original launch.
Quick note: This review will primarily be concerned with the extra content included in Death Stranding: Director’s Cut. To see what SmashPad thought about the base game, check out our review of Death Stranding on PS4.
What Is It?
Death Stranding: Director’s Cut is largely the same game that debuted on the PS4 in 2019, but with a lot more content. Missions, cosmetics, and equipment previously exclusive to the PC version, including content from Cyberpunk 2077 and Half-Life, are present here alongside a handful of new modes, delivery tools, and story missions.
As is standard with PS5 re-releases, this version of Death Stranding also includes boosts to both visual fidelity and performance.
Why Should I Care?
My key criticism of Death Stranding on the PS4 was that it didn’t persuade me to mix up my routes; there’s not much reason to choose alternate modes of travel once you cement one solid route. Thankfully, Director’s Cut’s new delivery tools made me want to go out of my way during deliveries, even if it cost me that sweet, sweet S-Rank.
In a nutshell, Death Stranding is a slow-paced game about trying to transport packages from one part of the map to another as quickly and safely as possible. The tools introduced here serve that role incredibly well. You can use the cargo catapult to creatively move cargo across long distances, while Sam’s new thruster pack lets you descend high mountains and valleys quickly without having to stumble your way through steep slopes.
One of my personal favorite additions was Buddy Bot – an in-game companion whose presence helps alleviate the persistent loneliness layered throughout the game. Furthermore, as someone who has spent over 100 hours hiking, driving, stumbling, and fighting through Kojima’s desolate open world, I also greatly enjoyed how Buddy Bot can effectively play the game for you. Simply mount the bot and it’ll take you to your delivery destination. Your new automated companion gives you a chance to take a break from Death Stranding’s purposefully tedious gameplay, while still taking in its gorgeous visuals, and you might even be able to get a chore or two done around the house by the time Buddy Bot reaches its destination.
Speaking of visuals, the game looks fantastic, and its performance is outstanding. In both quality and performance modes, it runs at a near-perfect 60 frames-per-second, which adds a feeling of fluidity to the game’s movement that it didn’t have while capped at 30 FPS on the PS4. The game also has a feature not commonly seen in console games – a widescreen mode, kind of.
Unfortunately, the PS5 can’t output to widescreen monitors in their native resolutions, but Director’s Cut offers a widescreen option that letterboxes the game’s display, while increasing the game’s field of view. It’s akin to watching a movie in a movie theater, which makes a lot of sense considering the big name behind this game. When used in conjunction with quality mode on a nice TV, you’re afforded a cinematic experience during both gameplay and cutscenes, provided you can look past the black bars.
Other additions include the crossovers with Half-Life and Cyberpunk 2077, both of which are nice, somewhat funny distractions from the main story that are in no short supply of in-game rewards. For those looking for a continuation of Death Stranding’s story or perhaps hints at a sequel, you won’t find it here, but there are a few new story missions that add some much-needed depth to two woefully underdeveloped characters from the main story.
Unfortunately, these new story missions are also rather heavy in combat and stealth, which are not Death Stranding’s strong suits. Imagine playing Metal Gear, but with a much less covert, combat-inept Solid Snake; this is what trying to fight in Death Stranding feels like.
In regular gameplay, combat is a last resort. The game’s core message outright condemns fighting and human conflict altogether, but for whatever reason, Director’s Cut wants you to fight constantly throughout its new missions and VR combat challenges, and I just don’t know why. I’m a-okay with some ludonarrative dissonance in my games, but only if the dissenting part of gameplay is good enough to warrant it; here, it’s not.
That said, one entirely new, non-traditional mode absolutely rocks: the Fragile Circuit racing trials. It turns out that driving in Death Stranding feels pretty good when you’re ripping rubber across a road instead of a rubble-filled wasteland.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
I upgraded my PS4 copy of Death Stranding to the PS5 version for $10, and got about 20 hours of new content out of it; moreover, I thought it felt so good to play that I started a new game from scratch. Suffice to say, I think I got my money’s worth.
Whether it’s worth your time is a trickier question to answer. If you weren’t quite sold on the game before, I sincerely do not think Director’s Cut will change your mind. There’s a heavier focus on combat and action, but it’s not executed very well. Furthermore, it’s still mostly the same, slow-paced game that it was before, and its changes are very much geared towards the people who already enjoyed its slow-paced gameplay. But if you liked Death Stranding at launch and want just a little more of it, this re-release should scratch that itch perfectly.