Death Stranding is a grave thriller about a world where the human race is on the verge of extinction. It is also a game where you can suddenly see your legendary deliveryman trip over a rock and go rolling head over feet for a few minutes down a hill. This is one of those games where, while things are meant to be very serious, people can get some enjoyment out of incidental activities. As dark as it can get, suddenly getting an otter hat or seeing how high the Jenga tower of boxes on Sam’s back makes it difficult to take seriously.
A lot of the normal activities in Death Stranding get super silly super fast. Sam can have all the packages loaded up on him. Even if you’re capable of actually carrying them without being overencumbered, seeing a gigantic, swaying stack of packages on his back is some insane imagery. Especially since this is the most precarious situation ever, and physical are constantly trying to pull him down even in the best case scenarios. There have been times when I thought I had a normal amount of packages well-balanced on his back, I’d start running to get through a seemingly level surface swiftly, and suddenly he’d be upside down on his back like a turtle. That we also get flavor text whenever this happens, occasionally with Sam berating himself for his own ineptitude, makes it even funnier.
We also have missions that can be intentionally funny. With the Ludens fan, you’re always delivering various fan-related merchandise to the person. This means figurines and dinosaurs are among the items you’ll be toting. The idea of Mules wanting that specific sort of cargo is silly. But then, there’s also the Conan O’Brien-based The Wandering MC. He’s a cosplayer dressed up like an otter, and you get to help him and get his helpful Otter Hat by taking the Sewing Kit Delivery: Cosplayer from South Knot City and taking the package to him. (By the way, the otter attire with bright-colored sunglasses is a winning combination, showing that decking Sam out in unconventional clothing can be fun too.)
Even the ridiculous number of product placements in Death Stranding get to be hilarious. Sam doesn’t just drink water or some unnamed energy drink in this dystopian future. Somehow, Monster Energy survived everything! If he takes a shower or uses the toilet, you might see an ad come up for AMC’s Ride, a show Norman Reedus stars in. Funny how, out of all the media made in our time, Ride would be the one to survive into Death Stranding’s future. Can’t forget to advertise Good Smile Company and its Ludens Nendoroid, which you get from running errands for the Ludens Fan (aka Geoff Keighley). Not to mention the J.F. Rey glasses, which show up in the game and can actually be purchased in real life.
There are a lot of times when, even though this is a dramatic game with serious story beats, Death Stranding isn’t afraid to be goofy. It is often incidentally or purposely funny. Considering how tedious some deliveries can be and how long someone might spend with it, it’s something of a blessing. Especially when someone does get further in and comes to understand some of the implications and plot twists.
Death Stranding is available for the PlayStation 4. It will be coming to the PC in early 2020.