Admittedly, everyone has wished for a chance to make a second impression, and that’s no different to what Death Stranding Director’s Cut is doing. That’s not to say it somehow flubbed its first- the game was a breath of fresh air, acting like an art piece to show that even traversal could be turned into core gameplay if you were smart enough.
How exactly does Death Stranding Director’s Cut reintroduce itself to its audience? Read on and find out.
The Gameplay Experience
Rather than be a Director’s Cut in the sense that it has previously missing content, Death Stranding Director’s Cut instead feels iterative to its predecessor. What I mean is that it feels an awful lot like Kojima looked back at player reception to Death Stranding and thought of ways to improve first impressions, like if God had granted you a second chance to talk to a girl at the bar for the first time.
You see this the most in the early hours of the game, where the new player experience seems way less daunting. You can now get Support Skeletons as well as a new non-lethal gun, the Maser Gun, much sooner than you would have in the base game- which makes for a much more bearable experience.
That’s not to say it’s been toned down though- you still have to do the core gameplay loop of walking to new areas to deliver packages. But Directors Cut feels like Kojima and his team have identified what was turning most players away and added tools there to keep players in.
A good example would be the aforementioned Maser Gun. In the earliest parts of the game, you meet the MULEs- crazed deliverymen out to steal your packages. When you first meet them, your only options are run, hide or suddenly learn how to use the Strand, Sam’s close-range weapon. The tutorial isn’t great, I’ll be real with you- and requires you to get in close the MULEs, identify which one is gonna attack you next before parrying and subduing them, repeat ad nauseam.
If you’re scared of conflict, this is a terrible thing to do, especially considering the presentation of Death Stranding. With the Maser Gun, you now have the option to hang back to deal with MULEs. The core lessons are still there- learn to manage which MULE is gonna activate next if you don’t want to take damage. But you won’t have to worry about things like parry timings anymore since you have the security of some distance.
At the same time, the Maser Gun is totally a beginner weapon. Once you unlock the Bola in the story, it’s outclassed almost immediately. The Bola subdues enemies way faster, as is required by the game’s pacing. But the fact the Maser was there to help you manage MULEs better at the start of the game makes it an invaluable tool.
It’s not all just beginner gear, either- The team at Kojima Productions have sprinkled new things all along the game’s story, so if you’re a returning player who never beat the game the first time you’ll still have new things to find- like the new catapult for launching cargo over dangerous areas, or stabilizers to help Sam jump off cliffs and land safely.
There’s also the upgrade to the Buddy Bot- instead of being a management game about sending bots on automated deliveries, you can actually watch it roam the world now, either following behind you or acting as your autonomous steed as you check Tinder or something once you realize it’s been 6 hours since you started playing at not once has anyone called in to see what’s happened to you.
Personally, I really like the approach that the team is treating the Directors Cut with, where it really is just giving you reasons to check out the game again. The new features are all pretty evenly spread out around the game, so it’s not like you’ll be blitzing to a certain chapter just to unlock all the cool stuff, like you might be doing with Ghost of Tsushima.
Of course, that brings with it its own problems. These features are all locked behind various sidequests, with no clear indication which quest gives what. I remember almost missing the Maser Gun entirely, because the quest that gives it says “Maser Gun recommended”. I spent the next few hours trying to find a quest to unlock the Maser Gun to do it, but it turns out just doing the quest gets you the blueprints for the gun itself.
More Things To Do
Of course, there’s also way more things to do in Death Stranding Director’s Cut. One thing I’m really glad the game does is introduce you to the Firing Range- a virtual room for you to test out all your weapons. You can even do weapon drills, or ranked ones which will let you compare your score against your friends.
With the recurring theme of “Death Stranding has terrible tutorials”, the Firing Range solves a lot of that by being a great place to just mess around without losing resources. There’s a lot of stuff you’ll learn from the Firing Range that would have been annoying if the game stopped you to show it with a menu- such as the Bola insta-KO-ing enemies with a headshot and requiring a follow up attack if you hit their bodies.
It’s also great since it lets you test the BT weapons without having to risk a void-out if you fail- again, an invaluable place to learn. The only trade off is that the weapon drills involving BTs are stealth-based, so if you were looking to gauge strategies against the BT mini-boss, you’ll need a way to fight them.
Thankfully you can totally re-fight old bosses now, thanks to the new Nightmares option. Considering how fun some of the fights are, it’s a great way to just skip the faffing around and fight something if you start getting impatient.
Finally, if you like driving, there’s also a new Racetrack. This lets you just focus on the driving in Death Stranding, navigating courses and even competing against other players time.
All of these features are really good because they’re literally breaking up Death Stranding into segments players might enjoy, letting you enjoy just that part until you’re ready to move on. While we all know Kojima for his scarily accurate predictions about the future, it’s easy to forget that he’s also a really good game developer- and every single new feature feels designed so you never feel like there isn’t something fun to do at any moment in time, based on anything you might currently find fun.
New Area: Ruined Factory
Another thing I really liked with Death Stranding Director’s Cut was its new area, the Ruined Factory. After getting over the fact that this was not, in fact, a Nier Automata collab, I hopped in to the new zone. It presents itself as a multi-tiered quest, with each new order unlocking another part of the facility and the area’s story.
The thing I like the most about this is just how drastically it changes up the game. Unlike the MULE camps which are all big open areas, the ruined factory is small and claustrophobic. You’re encouraged to play stealthily, sneaking up on nearby MULEs to knock them out. It’s such a drastic change of pace from anything else in the first area, it almost feels like a loveletter to anyone who really wanted Death Stranding to be a legally distinct Metal Gear Solid.
My only qualm with it is there’s no clear way of how to unlock the next part for the storyline- sometimes you’ll finish one Order, chomping at the bit for the next part, but the game simply doesn’t tell you what you have to do to get the next area in the Factory.
Taking Full Advantage of the PS5
As a PS5 Console exclusive, it’s no surprise how Death Stranding Directors Cut takes advantage of the PS5’s features. Admittedly the game doesn’t look too graphically improved- that’s more a testament to the original than anything else. Under the hood though the PS5 version supports 4k 60fps output, as well as a new widescreeen mode to really push for Kojima’s dream to make movie: The game.
I’m a huge fan of how the game uses the Dual Sense though, with each of Sam’s footsteps being reflected in the controller’s haptic feedback. The guns also feel great, having the mandatory kickback on the adaptive triggers as Sam makes some terribly lethal decisions once you get access to firearms.
Funnily enough, one more weapon in Sam’s arsenal uses the adaptive triggers, but it’s not a gun. Peeing in the game also uses the adaptive triggers, for no reason other than “it’s funny, I guess”. It’s a weird and delightful feature, for a weird and delightful game.
There is one thing that’s not new, but definitely improved on the PS5, which is the lightbar. In the previous release, the PS4’s lightbar changed color to reflect the condition of your BB, as you rocked your controller to soothe it. The only problem is most people probably would have missed this, considering the lightbar on the Dualshock 4 was facing away from the player at all times.
With the Dualsense, the lightbar faces the player instead, letting you actually see the changes in your portable child as you rock it to sleep.
Of course, the biggest upgrade is still the PS5’s SSD, which makes loading virtually nonexistent as you load in new areas.
If you missed out on Death Stranding back on the PS4 and had been meaning to give it a try, absolutely give Director’s Cut a go. The game is very much an attempt to re-introduce itself to new players and win them over- and does so in a way that still respects Kojima’s original vision for the game.
It even has multiple quality of life features, like a reworked fast travel to be more intuitive, as well as 4k 60fps modes to make sure it actually fixes problems its predecessor had.
That being said, if you’re a seasoned veteran of Death Stranding, it might be a bit of a harder sell. Sure, the game’s available as an upgrade, meaning you won’t have to pay full price, but it’s very clear based on the rollout that you’re meant to discover these features through natural progression instead of unlocking them all at once. So unless you like the game enough to slog through its prologue again, you probably won’t feel the new features like the game clearly wants you to experience.
Game reviewed on PS5, Review copy provided by SIE.