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The Real Reason Death Stranding Got So Many Low Review Scores

Death Stranding was an oddly polarizing game, even by Hideo Kojima standards. Telling the story of a future where the world has been affected by anomalies in time, Death Stranding was released to critics who weren't completely sure what to make of it. While the game was praised for its cast and odd gameplay mechanics, it was also taken to task for its confusing story and overall weird tone. Some reviewers just plain hated the game. Even worse, some people took to review bombing Death Stranding before they even had a chance to play it.


In a brief interview with The New York Times Magazine, Kojima explained why he felt the game was so divisive. In Kojima's eyes, it seems to mostly come down to cultural differences and consumer expectations. Specifically, he believes that Americans expect a certain kind of game from him, while Death Stranding seemed to purposefully fly in the face of all convention.

"In America, they're used to shooters, so they don't gulp it down," explained Kojima. "It's OK; everyone can evaluate what they want." 

This is an interesting point. Though Kojima has certainly dabbled in other genres — such as when he was developing the ill-fated Silent Hills with future Death Stranding collaborator Guillermo Del Toro — he's primarily known for action in the States. Specifically, he's known for the celebrated Metal Gear Solid series, which ties its action together with a completely bonkers narrative


Kojima seems to feel that certain things were expected of Death Stranding because of the popularity of Metal Gear Solid. One specific thing that he has mentioned in the past is how differently stealth gameplay works between the two games. In fact, stealth mechanics were a point of contention in some reviews of the game, with GQ calling Death Stranding's stealth segments "clunky."

Kojima seemed to know that this would be a sticking point for many folks who were used to his other titles. In pre-release comments made regarding Death Stranding, he made a point to mention that Death Stranding "is not a stealth game," instead trying to emphasis the Strand social networking mechanics.

Regarding this issue now, Kojima told the New York Times that perhaps its just a matter of perspective. He says that people weren't terribly keen on Metal Gear Solid's stealth mechanics when that game was first released. He wryly suggests, "In three to five years, we will see what people will say."

More than once, we've seen developers make snide comments about the general public or give a tone deaf argument for why their game underperformed critically or commercially. Just recently, Cliff Bleszinski of the now-defunct Boss Key Productions said that he felt his games failed because they tried too hard to be "woke" or political, rather than acknowledging any of the technical flaws or lack of imagination in the final product.


That's why it's kind of refreshing to see Kojima trying to figure out where the disconnect is with audiences. He understands that he made a product that isn't for everyone, which even many negative reviews of the game admitted. There were many reviews that lauded the game's gorgeous visuals and ambitious high concepts, even if they didn't feel like the gameplay was necessarily to their liking. 

And who knows, maybe Kojima is right. In three to five years (maybe when we're on the eve of a Death Stranding sequel?), maybe Death Stranding will have undergone a kind of renaissance in the eyes of critics. 

One thing is for sure: there isn't a review on the planet that will slow Hideo Kojima down. Even after a public split with Konami, the man has continued to make games on his own terms and maintain a strong enthusiasm for gaming culture. Even when asked about Death Stranding's polarizing reception, The New York Times notes that his reaction was, "He smiled and jumped into a minute dissection of the reviews, which had been published a few days earlier."

Kojima loves feedback, thriving on it and using it to inform his next steps. We can be sure that whatever he does next, it will be something wholly unique. It's also likely the main reason why Death Stranding received such a mixed reception. People expect so much from Hideo Kojima. He consistently pushes the boundaries of what we expect in video games, which is probably a major factor in him being recently awarded a BAFTA Fellowship


If you want to play Death Stranding for yourself, it's as good a time as any. The game is finally headed to PC in the summer of this year. Give it a shot and make up your own mind about it.