As Hideo Kojima’s first game since his much-publicized departure from Konami, expectations have been high for Death Stranding, especially among Metal Gear Solid fans. While Death Stranding is a brand new game set in a brand new universe that’s attempting to launch a brand new genre, it’s not entirely fair to compare it to the franchise Kojima left behind, but the question remains: will Metal Gear Solid fans enjoy Death Stranding?
Well, that depends on which Metal Gear Solid game it’s being compared to. The core Metal Gear experience is tactical espionage action and/or operations, but each entry in the series has its own unique mechanics, systems, style, and quirks. Death Stranding is definitely more reminiscent of some Metal Gear games more than others. So, without spoiling anything from Kojima’s latest, we decided to break down which bits and pieces of the Metal Gear series we were reminded of while playing.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes & The Phantom Pain
Unsurprisingly, Death Stranding has a lot in common with Kojima’s last game, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The barren post-apocalyptic open world of Death Stranding is evocative of Phantom Pain’s various war zones, as is the way you traverse it. Controlling Sam Porter Bridges will feel familiar to anyone who got a feel for Venom/Punished Snake, but the experience is very different. Snake is a cyborg warlord super-soldier, while Sam is essentially a very human deliveryman, and their objectives and abilities reflect this.
Unfortunately, the complaints leveled at Metal Gear Solid V’s drawn-out story and repetitive mission structure could also be leveled at Death Stranding. If you were content sending Snake on various side-ops, collecting resources, and upgrade your gear, you’ll probably get some enjoyment from Death Stranding — but don’t expect quite as robust an arsenal or quite as many goofy gadgets like inflatable decoys or sheep-abducting weather balloons.
(We could discuss Metal Gear Survive… but let’s not.)
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
While Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker introduced many of the systems that The Phantom Pain expanded on, it feels like almost an opposite experience to Death Stranding. Designed as a portable experience, Peace Walker was primarily composed of bite-sized stealth missions in tightly designed areas, often focused on recruiting/abducting personnel and gathering resources to build Big Boss’ army. Death Stranding, meanwhile, is about delivering goods (and sometimes people) across a sprawling environment.
While Peace Walker introduced multiplayer co-op, it was a more conventional real-time experience, but Death Stranding’s social strand system is more akin to the more passive cooperative elements in games like Dark Souls or Journey. Kojima’s particular brand of storytelling is abundant in both games, but Death Stranding’s high-definition cinematic performances are nothing like Peace Walker’s motion-comic cutscenes. The most obvious thing these two games have in common is an abundance of menus devoted to resource management.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was infamous for its abundance of cutscenes, and there’s certainly no shortage of those in Death Stranding. Plenty of people adore Kojima’s verbose cinematic approach to narrative, but for others, that can be a dealbreaker. The similarities don’t stop there, though. If you were a fan of MGS4’s futurism, you’re in for a treat. Death Stranding gave technical and character designer Yoji Shinkawa a chance to flex his creative muscles. The look of this new universe strikes a wonderful balance between believable speculative designs rooted in existing technology and “because it looks cool” aesthetic sensibility.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
In spite of being released a decade and a half prior to Death Stranding, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Death Stranding have a surprising amount of similarities. Both games turn the player loose in the wilderness, forcing them to manage a number of systems related to survival. Death Stranding won’t have you foraging for food to manage a hunger gauge or tending to individual injuries, but Sam’s bodily functions and personal wellbeing are central to the experience. Beyond that, Death Stranding’s titular phenomenon revolves around the dead being stranded in the realm of the living, something that Kojima first had players experience in Big Boss’s fight against The Sorrow in Snake Eater.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Death Stranding is a drastically disparate experience from Snake (and Raiden’s) first outing on PlayStation 2, but once again, there’s some connective tissue. Kojima used Metal Gear Solid 2’s bizarre final hours as an opportunity to wax prophetic about how The Internet would affect society and almost twenty years later, he wasn’t too far off. I mean, aside from the katana-wielding cyborg-tentacled clone president. In a lot of ways, Death Stranding feels like an optimistic coda to Sons of Liberty’s bleak outlook on America in the information age in which players connect by sharing resources, building structures, and giving each other “likes,” all in the name of rebuilding a fractured America.
Oh, and also, Death Stranding has a little hovering luggage cart that can be ridden like a skateboard, which is a little bit like that skateboarding minigame they added for Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance. Remember that? Snakeboarding!
Metal Gear Solid
Death Stranding doesn’t have much in common with the original Metal Gear Solid, which shouldn’t be surprising. The former is a 21-year-old stealth game for the original PlayStation heavily inspired by action movies of the eighties and nineties, and the latter is something else entirely. That said, they’re both video games that lean heavily on cinematically presented narrative, and they both have boss fights, moments of goofy comic relief, and long-winded codec conversations.
Death Stranding has some of the same DNA as Kojima’s previous work, but just like clones of Big Boss fell various distances the proverbial tree, anyone hoping for a straightforward spiritual successor to Metal Gear Solid franchise might be in for a letdown.
On the other hand, fans of Hideo Kojima who are curious what kind of a universe this veteran game designer would create when given carte blanche? Brace yourselves. This is definitely, without question, a Hideo Kojima game. Max Scoville is a host and producer at IGN. He can’t figure out if he liked Death Stranding or not, but in any case here’s a silly picture of him dressed up as Venom Snake.