Death Stranding Director’s Cut is stranger, weirder, and the best version of Kojima’s hiking postal sim
It’s a strange thing, returning to the world of Death Stranding after more than a year away. Having done that classic thing of rinsing almost every last delivery out of it before finally strapping myself in for its rollercoaster ending back in 2020, there hasn’t been much reason to return to my precious, daft BB Boys in the intervening months – not even its Cyberpunk 2077 crossover was enough to tempt me back. At long last, though, I have cause to load up the BB train again. Death Stranding Director’s Cut arrives on Steam and the Epic Games Store today, bringing with it new story missions, new delivery buddies, new weapons and… a Mario Kart-style race track? Yep, that sounds like a classic Kojima upgrade pack, if you ask me. Not quite as revolutionary as Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, mind, but it’s roughly in the same kind of ballpark.
It’s been great fun revisiting the lush mountains of Death Stranding’s definitely not Icelandic version of post-apocalyptic America. If anything, the weirdest thing is seeing that same world I know and love on a fresh server, bereft of all the distracting neon signs, yelps of “Keep on keeping on!” and one-upmanship bridge-building that made up the bulk of the original’s asymmetric online multiplayer component. It’s actually quite refreshing to see these virgin, unspoiled landscapes again, although I imagine this won’t last long once returning players flock back to their well-worn delivery routes. As for the new new stuff, is it worth making a return trip? As with all expando games, the answer will very much depend on if and how much you played the first one.
Much like the PlayStation version of Death Stranding’s Director’s Cut, it’s not a simple free upgrade for existing PC owners. Instead, you’ll need to spend an extra £9 / $10 to turn your base version of the game into the Director’s Cut. Thankfully, importing your save is relatively pain-free. Admittedly, I was provided with the full, retail version of the Director’s Cut ahead of launch, rather than the upgrade version, so the following may not actually apply. Still, all I had to do was fire up old Death Stranding, load my most recent save, head to a delivery terminal and access my cufflink menu, and then use the ‘Export Save Data’ option in the cufflink’s System settings. A little convoluted, perhaps, but that’s it. When I then went to load up Death Stranding Director’s Cut, there’s an option right there on the menu start screen to import your save and carry on where you left off.
As RPS supporters may recall from my BB Boys road trip diary, the place I left Sam and BB was right back at Capital Knot City, the place you start and end your Death Stranding journey. When you finish the game, it jumps you back in time a bit to a period where you’ve beaten the final boss but haven’t yet gone through the final final finale bit, dressing it up under the guise of ‘passing time’ until it happens so you can go off and tie up any loose ends. This is partly why coming back to Death Stranding now feels so strange. With that fresh server wipe, stepping out on those early coastal mountain paths is almost like I have the game started again, albeit with just the structures I placed down way back when rather than all and sundry.
It’s in this part of the map that the bulk of the new story content takes place, too. Accessible as early as Chapter 2 in the main game, The Factory is a new, dilapidated ruin for the Director’s Cut that looms large over Geoff Keighley’s house (aka, the Ludens Fan). You’ll visit it three times over the course of the game. New players will have them staggered as they progress, with the final part unlocking upon completion, but having already reached that point in the game I ended up doing all of them one after another. This makes them feel a bit protracted and repetitive, especially as it asks you to visit it (and scale its accompanying cliff face) three times before you can access the full extent of what’s inside. You’re not asked to do much more than take out some Mule goons as you fetch various bits of cargo, but it does deliver some neat story beats around Fragile’s character, as well as Sam himself, once you complete it.
The final section of The Factory is what we saw during the Director’s Cut’s initial reveal, with Sam tenderly stepping inside a very large cardboard box as he contemplates how to tackle the room full of very tooled-up guards below. In keeping with the spirit of that somewhat endearing cutscene, I did indeed try to do my best Solid Snake impression here, going for a nice, clean run by tying everyone up with my fancy Strand bands for some quiet, non-lethal kills.
However, considering Kojima’s pedigree in this area, it’s almost hilarious how ill-suited Death Stranding is to any kind of stealth. I thought I tied up the first guard out of everyone’s sightline, but their muffled cry ended up alerting literally everyone in the room (sans exclamation marks, unfortunately), and the whole thing devolved into a messy, Bola Gun-shooting showdown. You do, at least, get a fancy new gun to play with here – the Maser Gun, which fires bolts of electricity for an automatic knockout, no kicking required. If I’d had this earlier on the game, I suspect my trusty Bola Gun would have seen a lot less use as I progressed.
I feel the same way about its new delivery aids, too. It’s great to see the Buddy Bot get a more prominent role here, having been promoted from an automated delivery dogsbody to fully-fledged companion. If you’ve got a particularly heavy load to carry, Buddy Bot can share that burden with you, following after you in faithful fashion as you lead the way. It’s surprisingly good at following you over Death Stranding’s rough terrain, too. When I fell down a ravine, I was surprised to see Buddy Bot had actually jumped over a small gap to the other side up above to try and find me, and when I made it back to the surface it came running back pretty much instantly. If you stray too far from it, it will just return to the nearest delivery facility, mind – so no zooming off on your truck or bike – but if I hadn’t finished all of the game’s key deliveries, you can bet your cotton socks my BB Boys diary would have quickly morphed into the BBBB Boys once I’d unlocked it.
The stupidly large cargo catapult is another great addition (though still not as powerful as the almighty zipline). While it’s a shame it can’t also fire you, Sam Bridges, over mountains and the like to join your cargo once you’ve honked it across the map, it does help to ease the burden of travel. If you’ve got a particularly steep climb coming up, building a cannon to lob your cargo up ahead of you does at least saves you the worry of accidentally tripping up and watching it all tumble down the mountainside in a broken heap. It’s a little clunky to use, as you can’t always see where it’s going to land or really what direction you’re aiming unless you press Tab to consult your map screen – where a small line will appear showing you where you’re firing – but thankfully it comes with a parachute and tiny little thrusters you can deploy to help guide it to a safe landing spot. They also have the added bonus of appearing much earlier than the zipline, giving you a powerful mid-game upgrade to your delivery arsenal.
I’m less bothered about the race track and firing range, even if they do provide a nice reprieve to indulge in something other than delivering packages. Mostly, though, they’re designed for leaderboard fiends who want to compare times with their friends. A fine enough thing in itself, but not my particular cup of tea.
Outside of those new additions, though, this is still very much the same Death Stranding as it was two years ago – a baffling, but beautiful hiking postal sim that’s just so darn strange I can’t help but love it. If you’ve yet to partake in the full Death Stranding experience, the Director’s Cut is definitely the way to go – especially as it does a bit more this time to teach you the ins and outs of its traversal system right at the beginning of the game. It’s still massively frontloaded with a lot of strange cutscenes and galaxy-brain story beats, mind, so there’s a good chance you’ll still bounce off it if you didn’t get on with it the first time.
If you can deal with the Kojima-ness of it, though, the rest of Death Stranding is a real treat. It’s a fantastic open world to lose yourself in, and the way it asks you to assess and interact with its gorgeous landscape also makes it one of the most engaging open worlds to date. We never did review Death Stranding properly when it came out, but it was one of my favourite games of 2020, and our vid bud crew liked it a lot as well, so have a read and watch of those to find out more.
If, like me, you’ve seen everything there is to see in Death Stranding, I’d be more cautious about buying the upgrade pack. There’s certainly a decent amount to see and tinker about with for £9 / $10 – it took me around 5-6 hours to see and unlock everything – but I fear many of the new additions will only really come alive during another full playthrough, and having spent a good 100 hours or so playing it the first time, I just can’t quite bring myself to do that all over again this close to when I last finished it. Give me another five years, and I might be ready, though. The BBBB Boys story must be told.