Death Stranding: Director's Cut review

By Sean Carey,
As I finally summit the snowy peak of a mountain, breathing a sigh of relief, I mistakenly hit the jump button and instantly feel a pang of regret. I had just spent what felt like an hour getting this far, and I hadn’t saved in a while. I was furious at myself and dreaded the thought of having to go back and make this long and arduous journey again. Luckily I had upgraded my Stabilizer, and I slowly descended to the ground, breathing a sigh of relief with my cargo intact. One of the main reasons why I didn’t gel with the 2019 release of Death Stranding was that the gameplay just felt too laborious. Now, with Death Stranding: Director’s Cut, the game introduces a few new features, as well as a significant and welcome bump to the frame rate, that make deliveries much less tedious.

Death Stranding review

Kojima Productions hasn’t changed much with Death Stranding: Director’s Cut. You’ve still got that Marmite traversal gameplay with its seemingly never-ending cycle of fetch quests, the intriguing plot, the fantastic voice acting, superb art design and animation, and the wonderfully realised world that’s rich with backstory that the original game had. However, technical innovations and a few new extra features have now been stuffed into Sam Porter Bridges’ already overflowing backpack. Visually, Death Stranding was always a beautiful game, but harnessing the power of the PS5, the game can really crank the dial up to 11 and is now playable at 60fps. Sure, there isn’t much going on in terms of fast-paced action in Death Stranding and most of the time, you will be slowly walking across a river or rappelling off the edge of the face of a cliff, but when the combat does show up, it feels so much more fluid and crisp along with the animations.

Of course, with the Director’s Cut, you do have the option to switch between two picture modes: Performance, with scaled 4K and up to 60fps, and Fidelity that supports native 4K at 30fps, but you really should be playing this with the improved frame rate. The game now features 3D Audio, but in all honesty, I couldn't really tell if there was a difference or not. Also on the technical side, the game makes use of the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which are really nice touches and add to the immersion. You can feel a small clink in the controller when picking up delicate chiral crystals, and the pad will violently rumble in your hands if you take a tumble down a slope, but what really surprised me was the fantastic use of the adaptive triggers. When Sam is carrying a heavy load on his back, his balance will sway to the left or to the right and using the triggers, you have to correct his balance, so he doesn’t topple over, spilling the precious cargo you’ve just spent 40 minutes carrying over the top of a mountain. The triggers now fight back when you’re trying to correct the balance. I thought this would be a bit of a novelty, but it never got old. You’ll also feel the feedback in the R2 trigger when Sam squeezes out a piss. Why I hear you ask? Because it’s a Hideo Kojima game, of course.

Death Stranding review

For those that haven’t played Death Stranding, the technical improvements on the PS5 already make this a must-own. However, Kojima and his team have added a few new features and quirks to the game that only enrichen the experience... well, all but the new racetrack (more on that later). The most notable addition is probably the new story mission. If you watched the Gamescom reveal, you will have already seen a small taste of it. The mission takes you into the interior of an old factory and presents you with a short stealth section that features numerous nods to the Metal Gear Solid series. The music is reminiscent of something from Metal Gear Solid 2, there are guards walking around that you’ll need to stealthily neutralise or avoid, and there are a couple of scenes (you’ll know them when you see ‘em) that are almost ripped straight from Metal Gear Solid 3. The mission is pretty short, which is somewhat disappointing as it really breaks up the normal gameplay of running from one location to another and tedious inventory management. It adds a bit of context to some of the characters and context to Death Stranding’s weird world, which fans of the game will surely appreciate. I wish Kojima and co could have woven a few more of these missions throughout the game because it was a highlight and shows what more the team could have brought to the table with Death Stranding. There are also a few new side missions, but they aren’t really all that interesting and don’t bring anything new to the table, other than some Half-Life cosmetics.

Two of the more primary new features are built on probably the two most disappointing aspects of the game: vehicles and combat. The driving is simply bad, and every vehicle handles supremely poorly; trucks slip and slide all over the place when trying to navigate a moderate slope, and bikes are a law unto themselves. For some reason, I think the bikes are worse in Director’s Cut. There seems to be a huge delay after holding down the trigger and the bike moving. Why someone thought it would be a good idea to include a racetrack in Death Stranding Director’s Cut is beyond me. On the track, you’re competing against other players to get the best time in one of three vehicles — none of them handle well on the track and aren’t particularly fun to drive. The other new feature is the firing range, which offers a bunch of drills to complete against the clock. Death Stranding’s combat isn’t anything to write home about — it’s fine, and you can get the job done after getting to grips with it, but it’s not something the game really focuses on. I’d describe Death Stranding as a combat-lite experience. Saying that, I was surprised at how much fun I had with the firing range. Some of the drills remind me of Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, which is only a good thing, and with the variety of weapons found throughout the game, there is just enough here to keep things interesting. You can also now revisit boss battles (arguably the best parts of Death Stranding’s gameplay) via the figures in your private room and compete against other players to get the highest ranking, which adds even more replayability.

Death Stranding review

Aside from those major additions, there are few new items that will make your life much easier when traversing Death Stranding’s harsh and unforgiving terrain. First up, is a new Cargo Cannon, which allows you to fire your cargo off into the distance for you to collect, saving your back and your feet — this is an absolute boon if you’re low on stamina. The Jump Ramp adds a little more fun into the mix and lets you jump over obstacles such as rivers and crevasses on your bike. Buddy Bot has also received an upgrade and will follow you, carrying your cargo, or even yourself if you’re knackered. Then there’s the upgraded Stabilizer, which allows you to jump off mountains, and with its thrusters, lets you descend slowly and safely to the ground. These new additions are a lifesaver and take the edge off the difficulty slightly without making the game too easy. Naturally, you have to progress quite far in the story to unlock most of these, but a new Maser Gun, (essentially a taser) has been introduced near the start of the game to help new players deal with those pesky mules.

DSDC review

For PS5 owners, the question here is: is it worth picking up? If you already own Death Stranding, then you can upgrade to the PS5 version for just $10/£5/€10, which is a fair price. Putting aside the technical improvements, there’s enough new content here to keep you busy. Of course, if you haven’t played the game, then Death Stranding: Director’s Cut is the version you’ll definitely need to buy; plus, instead of purchasing the game new, you could always pick up a cheap PS4 copy from eBay and then upgrade, which will save you money.

On the trophy front, save files can be transferred from the PS4 version of Death Stranding to the Director’s Cut, which means some of you will be in for an easy platinum as no new trophies have been added.

Summary

The Director’s Cut is without a doubt how Death Stranding should be played. While the 2019 release already did the heavy lifting for Death Stranding: Director's Cut, with its intriguing story, superb art design, and voice acting, the power of the PS5 takes the game to another level visually. The improved frame rate makes everything in Death Stranding: Director's Cut feel more fluid, while the superb implementation of the DualSense’s haptic feedback and adaptive triggers really add to the immersion. The new content, despite some of it being built on the most disappointing aspects of Death Stranding, is varied and engaging and offers enough to easily make it worth the upgrade fee. If you’ve never played Death Stranding, now is definitely the time to do so.
8 / 10
* Sean spent around 35 hours fighting off BTs, terrorists and mules while over-encumbered, unlocking 49 trophies in the process. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
Sean Carey
Written by Sean Carey
Hey, I’m Sean! I joined both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies as a staff writer in 2019. I’m a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid series and love a good narrative adventure. Most evenings you’ll find me failing to get a win in Call of Duty: Warzone.