I've been getting through this game in fits and starts. I'm up to Episode 5, of apparently 14-ish, but these Episodes aren't split up into equal lengths and apparently 3 is by far the longest one in the game. I'm hoping I'm past the halfway point, because... I don't like this game and I don't want to spend too much more time on it.
At this point I can answer the question that nagged all through the run up to the game's release: what is Death Stranding? It's a game about delivering packages. Sometimes you just take them from A to B, sometimes you first have to go and pick the package up from a third point. Sometimes there are bad guys on the way, and sometimes those bad guys are black goop monsters you have to throw grenades made of your own blood and poop at. Once I fought Mads Mikkelson in a WW1 trench with a 3D-printed assault rifle, but that was a pretty big outlier. The bulk of this game is using a clunky menu system to load up your absurd body-mounted parcel rack system, marking out a route on your map, then schlepping all the way over there with 80kg of metal briefcases stuck to all your limbs.
It's not bad. There isn't much in the way of challenge, so if you're just looking for a casual hour or two of making deliveries I guess it can scratch that itch. With no magic sticky climbing system, it does take a bit of effort to find (or create) a route that'll get you and your cargo up a craggy hill, which you wouldn't even think twice about in most games. Getting back down hills can be kind of fun, too, as you hang on tight to your shoulder straps tight and half-run, half-stumble at a dangerous speed, trying not to actually go tumbling. And there's kind of a neat melee combat system for fighting off bad guys, where on knocking out an enemy you have a second of slow-mo during which you can grab their dropped cargo out of the air and use it as a weapon. L2 and R2 control your left and right grip respectively, so you have to hold the trigger the entire time you want to hold a thing, but if you want to throw something you just let go of it while you're swinging it, and it can be pretty fun to bonk one guy, grab the briefcase that goes flying out of his hand and then yeet it at the next poor sucker. It reminds me of what I thought combat was going to be like in Breath of the Wild before I actually played it.
But I am long past the point where I would have stopped playing the game if it wasn't for Kojima's name on the cover and the promise of something happening with this story. In spite of his problems with verbosity, buying into his own hype, not having written a female character who wasn't actively embarrassing to behold since, like, MGS3, I still think Kojima is a pretty good storyteller. Even at his worst, I would still take an overlong, indulgent Kojima cutscene over, say, the storytelling of a Kingdom Hearts or modern Final Fantasy game. For all the made-up terminology and baffling trailers, the story and world of Death Stranding have been pretty easy to grasp so far. I know what I'm doing, I know who the characters are, I can tell you my short term and long term goals. Everything's weird, but it's weird in an "I'm looking forward to finding out what that's all about" way, not a "This game was in development hell for five years and maybe the explanation for this was in an earlier build and got cut from the final release", Square-Enix kind of way.
Though, next time you meet a Kojima-can-do-no-wrong die-hard, dunk on them with this scene and enjoy the mental gymnastics as they try and pretend it's anything but trash: