Thursday 14 November 2019

Death Stranding review: A fine line between love and hate

PS4 ★★★★ Age: 18+

Death Stranding
Death Stranding
Death Stranding
Death Stranding
Children of Morta
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Hideo Kojima needs a ruthless editor. It can't be easy to say no to the enfant terrible of gaming, at whom Sony threw millions for the rights to enigmatic avant-garde project Death Stranding.

But somebody should occasionally have called a halt on Kojima's indulgences - underneath all the layers of abstraction, pretentiousness and, well, faff lies a dazzling game, maybe even a piece of art.

In fairness, the glimpses of brilliance are frequent, despite the entire narrative hanging on your job as a glorified delivery boy in a post-apocalyptic, disconnected world. Set in a breathtaking mountainous landscape traversed largely on foot, Death Stranding is freighted with allusions to Trump megalomania and the climate crisis. Kojima stuffs it with complex systems, some engaging, some pointless, including but not limited to stealth, combat, rock climbing, hiking and construction. You'll encounter ghosts, bandits, dead whales and an unborn baby in a plastic womb.

To bring some humanity, the director has marshalled a starry Hollywood cast including Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Guillermo del Toro, Léa Seydoux and (1970s Bionic Woman) Lindsay Wagner. Unfortunately, he mires them in his labyrinthine plot and hands them leaden dialogue (sample: "Nothing ruins your day like your boots falling apart."

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It's possible to fall in love with Death Stranding for long periods only to be worn down by the tedium of repetition, the interminable exposition and the grandiose ambitions. Play it, yes - but don't expect to understand or at times even like it.


Children of Morta

XO/PS4/Sw/PC/Mac

★★★★ Age: 15+

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Children of Morta

The hack 'n' slash of Diablo meets the randomness of a 'roguelike' in this grindy but charming pixel-art dungeon-crawler. A family of six brave warriors live in a house perched atop a hellmouth - each ventures one at a time to slay the demons below.

You'll die and respawn many times but build knowledge, abilities and strength on each run as the dungeon layout reshuffles itself. The family members differ in their powers and you're forced to shuttle between them as they tire out.

It's gorgeously animated but most endearing of all are the beguiling cutscenes between runs where the family story plays out as a contrast to the monster slaying.

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