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Beaten to death and Stranded: A ranty SPOILER blog

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Sam Porter Bridges is his name, job description and the company he works for. Maybe in Hideo Kojima’s America, corporate identity is everything, but even in the old days we were identified as Shoemakers, Smiths and Bakers. Though there’s something purely “coincidental” as being a Weatherstone working at the Weather Station or a Southwick at South Knot city.

I mean we can probably unpack how on-the-nose the last name ‘Strand’ is for this game.

Before I continue on, please note that this blog is going to get into spoiler territory. there’s a lot to unpack here. I don’t know if I can accurately pinpoint the exact crux of the problem that IS Death Stranding but I can certainly come up with an idea somewhere.


What it looks like in my brain when I'm trying to make my arguement.
What it looks like in my brain when I'm trying to make my arguement.

Fragile but not Fragil and certainly not Fra gilé.
Fragile but not Fragil and certainly not Fra gilé.

An easy place to start is all in the way people are named. It’s something we give a pass to when it’s a stealth action military game, yet when you’re a delivery person walking around handing out parcels it feels a bit too much. This guy over here? He is called Deadman because he’s built from the parts of other dead people. That guy’s name is Heartman because he voluntarily stops his heart every 21 minutes to find his dead family. That lady over there? We call her Mama because she was pregnant once. Don’t worry, she doesn’t really have a kid, IT DIED. But we call her Mama anyway, either as a way to make her feel better or as an insulting reminder that her baby is dead and continues to haunt her workspace.

When it was revealed that Mama has a twin sister and that their names were actually Målingen and Lockne I looked around the empty living room in which I sat and scoffed. “WHY NOT JUST GO WITH THOSE NAMES?!” I shouted, “Those are perfectly good names and why the fuck is Sam so STUPID?”

This is of course in reference to the scene in which Sam Porter Bridges thinks Lockne, THE IDENTICAL TWIN SISTER, is Målingen herself. This is of course after Målingen tells you that she has a sister up in the mountains and that Målingen can’t even leave her workstation because of dead baby.

You can’t pull a fast one on Sam who quickly assumes that it’s Målingen playing a trick on him.

“Mama, is that you? Quit playin’ around Mama I know it’s you! How did you get all the way over to Lake Knot city considering everything I went through just to get here! You’re totally Mama stop lyin!”

There’s two theories here. Either Kojima thinks his audience is dumb, or Kojima has always been a terrible writer. I’m aware there’s probably a disconnect here in the sense that I’m playing a translated version of the game and not in its original Japanese but the message is clearly the same. The constant need to over explain things (oh we’ll get there) or having a character be incredibly ignorant on purpose for the sake of exposition is frustrating.

Again, this is probably the kind of stuff we that gave a pass to when this game was called Metal Gear Solid. It was easy to accept Snake as being an ignorant protagonist, because in the world of Metal Gear there was a lot to explain (and most of the time it’s not till last minute). There are Giant Mechs, Snake is one of three brothers, one of them is British and the other was the President of the United States. Child soldiers, Hind-Ds, Cyber Ninjas, Big Boss... the list goes on!

Traveling across the whole of America doesn't take very long on foot.
Traveling across the whole of America doesn't take very long on foot.

The plot for Death Stranding is essentially: You have to go from house to house delivering packages as a way to convince people to use the internet.

“Thanks for giving me this box of underwear I guess I will sign up to America Online.”

A little while later you keep getting emails about “how great Ludens are”. Cause why not be masturbatory over the mascot in your company logo.

OKAY, this reminds me of something else. At some point in the game, there’s a guy that hates delivery people because someone special to him was killed in an explosion. The way he’s talking about this girl, you assume it’s his daughter. A little while later you find out she’s still alive and lives on the other side of the hill next to him. He doesn’t believe you and tells you to find stuff in a BT zone. When you do that he apologizes for being an asshole and says if that girl really is who she is, then please deliver this hourglass she loves to play with.

When you arrive at the other house, this is the only time in the game where someone walks out onto a stage under a spotlight and delivers a monologue about love and loneliness. Then you wrap her up in a tarp and carry her to the guy. When they finally see each other after such a long time, she throws the hourglass at his feet and they get married. Oh wait… she isn’t his daughter?

I’m downplaying it a lot here, but it’s with a purpose. In earnest this is a wonderful moment at first. If this mission was your elevator pitch about travelling across America and connecting people, I could have really been sold on the concept of human stories in between back breaking parcels. Hell it was one of the few moments in the game where tears actually meant something.

But there were two moments that killed the scene. One, Sam stood there like an asshole unable to react as the girl poured her heart out (Which could have easily be fixed by just not panning the camera over to show him). Two, the moment they say they’re getting married you get an email from the guy telling you about how marriage sucks. AFTER THEY JUST SHARED A GODDAMN MOMENT AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY SAID WE’RE MARRIED NOW.

Oh god, don’t even get me started on everyone emailing you all the fucking time about nothing particularly important. Since you are the person connecting everyone to the internet, it feels like you’re the only one they ever talk to, with classic emails such as:

  • Ludens are the greatest thing in the world.
  • I’m proud of all the work you’re doing even though I don’t know anything about you other than you're the guy that gave me a box of metal.
  • I found a usb stick but was too afraid to get it.
  • I know you heard this from the important characters but Isn’t it crazy that Samantha America is so young looking.
  • We’re unmarried now I’m moving back in with mom.
  • Hey Sam U up? Just want you to know you’re great.
  • Do you think Kojima likes me.
  • I don’t trust you because you work for a living, but let me tell you about plants.
  • I’m so happy to be on the internet now I can tell everyone about the joys of cosplay.

You can pee on BTs but Sam gets shy if you try to pee on people.
You can pee on BTs but Sam gets shy if you try to pee on people.

Involuntary one sided conversations with NPCs that don’t tell me anything really important to the game itself is a thing that almost always bothers me. It’s different when it’s characters you’re playing alongside or have in your party because you’re already learning so much about them, but it’s different in the context of people you just deliver to, and they spam your email account.

And how about all those interviews that tell you things that they already told you but differently?!

Anyway that was a tangent, where was I.

Another thing that gives you a hint that the writing feels insultingly bad is the use of things like BB, BT, EE and so on. The BB is a 'Bridge Baby', and when abbreviated sounds an awful lot like ‘baby’, but we just can’t call it a baby because it’s not a baby it’s a tool.

BTs are 'Beached Things' because they probably didn’t know what else to call them, and BTs just sounds cooler I guess.

EE is the 'Extinction Entity' Also known as Samantha America, also known as Amelie also known as Spirit Lie (or whatever the fuck. If you go with Latin it’s Sea fish Mendacium or something.) that is responsible for wiping out all life on the planet. The thing that you were actually building towards the entire time! You’re connecting America to Amelie so she can kill everyone one!

She’s also the reason for why there’s all these BTs and her Ha Bridget Strand (or Bridget Beach if you prefer, it makes sense because she’s the Ha to the Ka) is responsible for the BB that becomes the catalyst for the EE to make all these BTs really fuck up America.

You know this stuff before it’s being explained to you as it leads up to the first credits, you’re retold this stuff before it gets to the second credits and then you’re essentially retold this stuff again but from different perspectives before the third credits. (WHICH IS ALSO THE SAME SHIT THAT THEY WERE GIVING YOU PIECEMEAL THROUGHOUT THE GAME. But now you get the privilege of watching it all play out in order INCASE YOU DIDN'T GET WHAT WAS GOING ON.)

I know I’m going all over the place but, at this point I was 47 or so hours into the game and I became angry. This had every potential to be a simple game. Kojima, who is known for his over the top narratives, could have said, “I’m working on a new game from scratch. I could just make a quaint little delivery game, that is engaging around the mechanic of delivery through and around difficult terrain.“

This guy has also been making games for years, and loves making his stories (or at the very least dialogues) the more important aspects of his games.

He's about as cool as Norman Reedus on AMC's RIDE with Norman Reedus.
He's about as cool as Norman Reedus on AMC's RIDE with Norman Reedus.

I felt insulted at the end of Death Stranding because I feel like he should have learned something about storytelling by now. The biggest problem Death Stranding has is that he doesn’t trust the audience's ability to understand what’s going on. Which is why it constantly over explains things throughout the game only to make you sit through 2-3 hours of being told everything you already know at least 4 more times. The game’s pretentious meandering with constant metaphors made me start to wonder if I’ve ever actually liked Metal Gear in the first place.

But maybe I just grew out of it.

And like OF COURSE MADS IS SAM’S DAD, AND YEAH LOU (that’s the name of the baby that Sam carries around) IS PROBABLY SAM’S KID IN THE FIRST PLACE. But why the fuck is Mads calling it a BB. I mean sure, you call it BB for the audience’s sake, but we’re not stupid. Mads seems incredibly against the whole thing as time goes on but just can’t seem to give his own son a fucking name?

Also holy shit, Everyone suddenly has access to the same beach for narrative purposes only?! You have to walk all the way back to the first city in the game for narrative purposes only?

You can’t Shoot Amelie in the head even though you’re given a gun, but what you really should do is HUG HER?

Also another thing, Die Hardman’s monologue at the end of the game was enough for me to say Tommie Earl Jenkins was robbed at the Game Awards, so lets get him an Academy Award instead.

I know these thoughts are a little messy, but I figured I should give some detail into why it was my biggest disappointment of 2019. In a way, I’m happy I got to experience the gameplay for what it was, but the story did everything in its power to not make it worth it in the end.

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