Hideo Kojima might not like the title of Death Stranding's re-released Director's Cut, but that doesn't mean you should avoid it. The Director's Cut release of Death Stranding is one of the most confusing games we've ever played - however, it's also one of the most brilliant. At its core, Death Stranding is about connections and the Death Stranding Director's Cut release keeps this in mind.
As you can imagine, it's largely the same game as the 2019 release. However, the enhancements made to the actual gameplay in the Director's Cut make it a far greater experience. A lot of the new content makes sense - as much as it can do in the strange post-apocalyptic world Death Stranding presents us with - but some of it really doesn't. As you play, though, you learn to take all of this in your stride. The core narrative of Death Stranding is so unusual, yet gripping, that you learn to trust the method in Hideo Kojima's madness and appreciate what's in front of you.
Death Stranding Director's Cut is easily one of the best games available on the PS5 - even if you weren't won over by Death Stranding's initial release - and here's why.
There are so many more ways to finish Orders
The Director's Cut release of Death Stranding includes everything you'd expect from a next-gen upgrade - there's enhanced visuals, fantastic use of the DualSense's haptic feedback, and faster loading times. These all make Death Stranding instantly more enjoyable.
Everything looks incredible - whether you're playing in Performance Mode or Quality Mode, where the difference is negligible a lot of the time. Death Stranding is beautifully detailed.
Everything also feels incredible - The DualSense's haptic feedback takes immersion in Death Stranding to new levels. When you're walking with a fully-loaded backpack, each stumble can be catastrophic and you feel the tension in your palms. There's a rumble when you misplace a step and this is enough to warn you to correct your course. For a title where the terrain is a vital part of gameplay, this is exactly how the DualSense should be used.
However, it is perhaps best used when Sam is wading through water. A strong current can be dangerous and the Haptic Feedback of the DualSense will let you know when you're in dangerous waters - although, scanning the terrain with your Otradeck is the best way to figure this out.
Also, the faster loading times are invaluable for a title with so many time-based environmental dangers. Timefall and BT activity is something you need to look out for and Death Stranding Director's Cut features dynamic weather patterns that you'll need to keep an eye on if you want to avoid any unecessary threats. In addition to this, you might find that resting for ten minutes is all you need for a Road to finish being built - Roads are really useful. We know Death Stranding's Social Strand system isn't exactly in real-time, but faster loading times must help with keeping everything up to date in-game.
The Director's Cut release of Death Stranding isn't just about improving the game technically, there's also a handful of new features and items in-game that make your life as a Bridges Porter a lot easier.
The Maser Gun, another non-lethal way to deal with MULEs, is a fantastic addition to your arsenal. The Director's Cut also adds a new Firing Range feature which allows you to test out your weapons, both new and old, as well as complete "combat scenarios" against MULEs and BTs. If you want to make sure you're prepared for a treacherous journey, this new feature is fantastic. It's one of those things that you can't really imagine Death Stranding without.
Similarly, the Director's Cut also introduces a few new "delivery tools" for you to make use of. The all-rounder Support Skeleton, Jump Ramps, Chiral Bridge and Cargo Catapult are all useful in the right situations and certainly add a bit of variety to each Order you accept in-game. Of course, we found ourselves settling into a few favoured methods of transport but it's far from a bad thing to have so many more options at your disposal.
However, even with all the additional Director's Cut content for Death Stranding... We have found that its best moments are often its slowest.
You feel most at home with your boots on the ground
Sam Porter Bridges is arguably one of the most relatable protagonists we've ever seen in gaming. He's tired, doesn't like to be touched by strangers, and is often confused at the world around him. Playing as Sam Porter Bridges is a delight thanks to Norman Reedus' stellar performance and many of Death Stranding's best moments are when you're walking - or sneaking - without any sort of catapult or Reverse Trike to help you out.
It's hard to explain, really, when you've got so much at your disposal. However, completing orders by foot in Death Stranding feels like a mindfulness activity in a lot of ways. You spend time preparing yourself for the journey ahead, making sure you're fully supplied and well-rested.
Then, you have to plan a route. If it's somewhere you've been before you'll know where to avoid, but if not you have to hazard a guess based on the terrain ahead of you. After you've done all this, you shrug on your backpack - often stacked well-over head height with various bits and pieces - and then set off.
Death Stranding's core gameplay is unlike anything we've ever played before and the Director's Cut has only made it more enjoyable. Everything is weight-based and Sam Porter Bridges is often balancing on the fine line between jogging comfortably and falling flat on his face. You have to manage each step you take, as any rogue rock could trip you up, and there are countless environmental dangers to watch out for. It might feel slow, but it's a strangely therapeutic experience that really makes you feel like you're exploring the wild. Finding that perfect route through a dangerous, mountainous region is immensely satisfying.
Walking your Orders from A to B is also the best way to experience Death Stranding's Social Strand features - something which the thankfully Director's Cut doesn't change much. Through this feature, Porters - like yourself - can share in-game structures and tools with other explorers.
For example, someone out there on the PlayStation Network can place a Generator outside a Bridges Distribution Centre and you can use it to recharge your Power Skeleton's battery. The thing that makes this feature interesting is that you never see the other player. You can see the PSN name of the player who's placed the structure or item and offer them likes, but you never see another Sam Porter Bridges out there.
The Social Strand system is an important part of bringing life to a lifeless world and it plays into the core concept of Death Stranding: human connection. You're helping other people and they're helping you, even if you don't realise it.
You're never really alone in Death Stranding, even if you shout "Anyone out there?" and you don't get a response. The Social Strand system is also useful in planning your route, as you can leave signs that signal rough terrain or BT activity - they only appear in an area you've connected to the Chiral Network in your own game though.
Death Stranding offers a gameplay experience like no other and the Director's Cut seemingly perfects that. However, there are quite a few things that don't make much sense...
Death Stranding can be a little too weird at times
We know this is a bit of an understatement given the fact that you play as a postman with a foetus strapped to his chest, but Death Stranding is bonkers. Sometimes it's the good kind of bonkers, but sometimes it's jarring in how confusing it can be.
We don't want to spoil the narrative, as that's something you should experience for yourself, but Death Stranding's glimpse into a twisted post-apocalyptic America is something to behold. There is always an explanation behind everything, eventually, but that doesn't make things any less odd. However, after a while, you realise that this is a part of life and Hideo Kojima's game is about life - the good, the bad, the ugly... You see it all in Death Stranding.
In the Director's Cut release of Death Stranding, for example, Kojima Productions has added a Race Track and Time Trials. It's something we didn't know we needed - as Death Stranding doesn't have the best vehicle physics - but it works. You can't quite put your finger on why it works, but it does. This isn't your local Hermes driver doing doughnuts in a car park, either. Racing in Death Stranding is serious - despite everything else going on - and you start taking it seriously yourself very quickly.
Similarly, the Director's Cut throws Buddy Bot into the mix despite the fact you're repeatedly told throughout Death Stranding that Porters are a vital way of transporting important goods. The Buddy Bot is a set of autonomous robotic legs that can carry cargo for you - arguably making Sam Porter Bridges obsolete. You can even sit on Buddy Bot and have him carry you! It makes sense, in a way, but it also doesn't. That's the beauty of Death Stranding and the Director's Cut helps to foster this further with its selection of new content.
All of these unusual additions seem minor in comparison to BTs and the narrative being woven in-between each Order. We all know Hideo Kojima is a fan of the silver screen and Death Stranding's Director's Cut release is as gripping as any big-screen Blockbuster.
Every major plot point feels perfectly paced - even with your ability to trudge back and forth delivering things to people you've already met. We didn't always understand what was going on, but that didn't stop us from wanting to know what happened next. Even if the gameplay isn't to your tastes, the narrative and the performances from Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and Lea Seydoux are excellent.
Troy Baker's performance as Higgs, though... If you thought he was good as Joel in The Last of Us, this is going to blow your socks off. He completely steals every scene.
Our Verdict on Death Stranding Director's Cut
Whether you're holding your breath to avoid an encounter with a dangerous BT, or catapulting yourself across the barren wastes of middle America, Death Stranding remains as unusually captivating in the Director's Cut as it was the first time around.
Norman Reedus as Sam Porter Bridges is just one famous face in a stellar cast of actors that bring this unusual world to life. Humans are social animals and Death Stranding is a constant reminder that we should help each other more often if we want to make the most of it all.
RealSport Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)
This review was completed on the PS5 version of Death Stranding Director's Cut with a code provided by the publisher.