From 'masterpiece' to 'irredeemable garbage': Death Stranding splits critics

It's not often reviews for a game range from "the best video game movie ever made" to "an irredeemable piece of garbage", but then Death Stranding is not much like other games.

The latest from auteur Hideo Kojima is being released this week for the PlayStation 4 as wildly diverse critical reactions continue to be published since the global embargo lifted.

In Death Stranding, the player controls a character played by The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus, whose goal is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented future US.

Kojima created the game intending all of its elements - including the story and gameplay - to be bound together by the theme of the 'Strand', or connection.

Unlike most games, however, professional critics are far from bound together with a similar opinion on Death Stranding, although most are positive and describe the game as weird.

David Eherlich of IndieWire pronounces it the "the best video game movie ever made".

"It's the greatest achievement yet from [Kojima], the most eccentric and forward-thinking designer of a medium in which virtually every large-scale project is created by committee," he says.

Norman Reedus and Léa Seydoux in Death Stranding.
Norman Reedus and Léa Seydoux in Death Stranding. Photo credit: Kojima Productions

"Death Stranding bends a wide array of modern tech back towards the most basic aspirations of art: It affirms that we're alive, that we're connected, and that humanity will always have reason to hope because our extinction and salvation are made possible by the same tools."

The game currently has a Metacritic rating of 85, although the aggregator has several more reviews in progress before the final score is revealed.

The worst Death Stranding review listed on Metacritic so far comes from Stevivor, which labels the game "dead on arrival".

"Death Stranding is overly self-indulgent, featuring monotonous and frustrating gameplay," writes Steve Wright for the website.

"It's an irredeemable piece of garbage that should serve as a warning to publishers who give developers carte blanche to create 'art'."

Stevivor's Metacritic score for the game is 35 out of 100 - the only under 50 at the time of publishing, but other more positive critics are still rather lukewarm.

IGN's Tristan Ogilvie awarded Death Stranding 68 out of 100, labelling the game "okay". He praised the "fascinating, fleshed-out world of supernatural science fiction" but disliked the gameplay.

Polygon's Russ Frushtick says Death Stranding is like two games mashed together - half of it good, half of it not.

"One is a wholly unique open-world adventure with asynchronous cooperative multiplayer that allows me to feel like I'm part of a community, building a world from scratch. And the other is a long, confusing, deeply strange movie."

Norman Reedus and Léa Seydoux in Death Stranding.
Norman Reedus and Léa Seydoux in Death Stranding. Photo credit: Kojima Productions.

Jade King of Trusted Reviews awards the game five out of five stars, labelling it a "one of a kind, weird, wonderful masterpiece".

"Kojima has crafted a sprawling narrative adventure that serves as a deliberate commentary on division in our society, citing the political fracture and complacent nature of our current climate as the reason for its world’s downfall, albeit with a harrowing supernatural twist," writes King.  

"I laughed, I cried and I grinned like a stupid idiot at the absurdity of it all. But by the end, I was left wanting more."

Kiwis can form their own opinions on Death Stranding when it goes on sale in New Zealand on Friday.