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It takes nerve to make a game like Death Stranding, which appears tedious on its face. But just as the mundanity and the indignities of life in Red Dead Redemption II deepened the Arthur Morgan character, so it goes for Sam Porter Bridges in Death Stranding. You feel his loneliness as he trudges across the ruined, lonely terrain of a formerly prospering America, loaded down with packages he must deliver, and networking between the last survivors of an apocalyptic event. Your mission? To "Make America Whole Again."
If that seems a bit on the nose, remember that this is a Hideo Kojima game, a work of fiction by the man who also directed Metal Gear Solid and its widely heralded sequels. This game, like those others, is saddled with both his brilliance and his indulgences: cinematic storytelling, hours of cutscenes, and philosophical moralizing on purpose and existence. And of course, the narrative twists are a given; they are part and parcel to what the "Kojima" label has come to signify.
What is more accolade-worthy? The creation of something that is conventional and seamless, or the creation of something that is overly ambitious but flawed? Death Stranding was "divisive," with some players heralding it as a groundbreaking accomplishment, and other players deriding it as an interactive movie, or even more dismissively, as a glorified walking simulator.
Art is subjective. And regardless of where you fall in the debate, it's important to have the discussion in the first place; it is through intellectual debate and analysis that developers will continue to evolve and stretch the definition of what a video game can be.
The gaming industry should celebrate attempts to innovate, lest we get more of the "same-old, same-old." In Death Stranding, Kojima created something that will be talked about and discussed, in venues beyond those of gaming publications, for years to come. It is an attempt to do something more. And flawed though it may be, it cannot be denied for its lack of ambition.