It’s been a long time since fans of Hideo Kojima’s unique auteurship have been able to experience his work on anything but a Sony console. While his jaw-dropping conclusion to the Metal Gear Solid series shipped across multiple platforms, the fact that Kojima partnered up with Sony in the wake of his removal from Konami led many to believe he would be creating games exclusively under the PlayStation banner for years to come. The writing seemed to scrawl further across the wall when it was revealed that his latest game, Death Stranding, would be using a modified version of the Decima engine utilized by Guerrilla Games, the first-party Sony studio known for the Killzone series and Horizon: Zero Dawn.
Sure enough, the PlayStation 4 ended up being the only home console that Death Stranding would launch on when it arrived in November of 2019. That didn’t mean it was entirely exclusive to the Sony home console, and just before that console release, it was revealed that Kojima’s latest wild cinematic adventure would be finding a home on PC as well.
Now, in the blistering heat and oppressive humidity of the summer, I’ve been able to venture back into the cold, rainy, and solemn atmosphere of Death Stranding’s version of North America, stepping into the boots of Sam Porter Bridges once more with the PC release of Death Stranding.
Not much has changed in the world of Norman Reedus and his funky fetus since the PS4 release just about eight months ago. This isn’t a Definitive Edition with loads of packed-in DLC or a brand new side-story to go through. For the most part, it’s just a computer release of the game with the kinds of PC-related bells and whistles you would expect from a port of a console game.
There is brand new content in the Steam release, though it’s pretty minor stuff. You’ll be able to find companion cubes from Portal throughout the world as you progress through the game, and returning each one to their specified location nets you a new piece of Half Life-themed gear to equip. Wearing Gordon Freeman’s glasses and the Gravity Gloves from Half Life: Alyx are fun, but they’re mostly cute little distractions peppered throughout the same grand experience from the original game.
As for the aforementioned PC-specific bells and whistles, there are many. While the original release of Death Stranding ran at 1080p on the base PlayStation 4, it capped out at 30FPS. On PC, 1080p with a doubled framerate of 60FPS is well within reach of half-decent mid-range hardware, and simply manoeuvring through the natural landscapes of the game at a silky smooth frame rate is endlessly satisfying. Y
ou can bump up the resolution to 4K or even slap the game onto an ultra-wide monitor for some extra immersive walking action, but even at regular ol’ 1080p you can tell there’s some extra detail in here that wasn’t seen on the PS4. It isn’t a night-and-day difference, but there’s just a nice additional layer of softness to the shadows and models in cutscenes and across environments that still managed to blow me away despite having already played over fifty hours of this game on PS4.
Another major technical addition to Death Stranding on PC is the fact that you can play the entire game with a keyboard & mouse. Initially, I was hesitant about the idea of navigating cliff-sides and gently needling through hordes of BTs with my fingers stabbing at the WASD keys. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how intuitive the keyboard & mouse controls were, with left-click and right-click on the mouse controlling your left and right shoulder grips while the keys surrounding the WASD quartet control other vital functions.
I still think that, just as with other games with precise and constant action movements like Yakuza or Devil May Cry, playing Death Stranding just feels more natural on a controller with an analogue stick under your thumb. Still, we’ll see just how well keyboard & mouse stacks up against the tried and true gamepad once I got into the grit with the game and have access to the full suite of Sam’s anti-BT toolkit.
Death Stranding didn’t exactly need fixing when it came out on PS4. It was already a beautiful and ultra-responsive game on that console, and that much will remain true as it comes out on PC later this month. This isn’t shaping up to be a massively updated and upgraded version of the game that PlayStation fans will be kicking themselves for not experiencing. Instead, it’s going to simply be an opportunity for PC owners to get their hands on one of the most important video games of the last decade, and so far, it’s an extremely polished and utterly gorgeous opportunity.