Does Death Stranding capture the essence of the delivery driver?
Curries, postcards, discreetly packaged sex toys: the delivery driver is often the link between you and happiness. Anyone who has played Death Stranding can see that designer Hideo Kojima clearly has a fascination with the person who takes a box from one place and brings it to another. As a child, so did I. That’s why I became a postman.
I was enthralled by the freedom, the open roads, the black and white cat. Now, the realisation wasn’t quite as romantic, at the best of times, but I really enjoyed the few years I embodied Pat Clifton. I was always going to be drawn to Death Stranding.
While I was playing it, I couldn’t help but compare Kojima Productions’ depiction of my previous profession to what I experienced, so I began to jot them down. Here are my thoughts.
Be efficient went loading up
In our world, there are two breeds of deliverers; let’s first call them Delivery Person One and Delivery Person Two, and then call them DP1 and DP2 every other time from here on out, because why use more words than we have to? Unnecessary waffling is something DP1 would do. That time waster calls the Santa Claus method “defective,” and prefers to check their parcels at least four times before they leave the depot.
If you’re doing it right, in Death Stranding, your Sam Porter Bridges should be more like an efficient DP2, glancing at addresses while loading the astronomical weight onto their back. They don’t break health and safety regulations because they want to, they break them because they have to, dammit!
Death Stranding’s auto-arrange function seems like an outlandish, video game-y inclusion at first, but when I mulled over it I realised it’s actually pretty authentic. When I used to sort my mail, I went into a trance-like state, gleefully organising the chaos in front of me. Still, a button would’ve been nice.
Plan your route
Plotting your journey is imperative: shortcuts aren’t worth it if your day ends with a written off Citroen Berlingo and a very cross line manager. While there’s a distinct lack of panel vans in Kojima Productions’ first game, it does replicate that horrible feeling of being outsmarted by the environment. In reality, it’s frustrating, in Death Stranding… yeah, it’s frustrating as well.
As you can see in the image above, it’s quite easy to be hampered by the terrain and your own impatience. On this particular job, I didn’t want to fiddle about with BTs or MULEs, so I decided I’d go direct and head straight for the drop-off point. What a fool I was. After falling down a cliff, with minimal climbing implements on my person, I spent the next 60 (!?) minutes attempting to Skyrim my way up it again. Eventually, when I got back on track, I was forced to go the scenic route and take on the baddies I was initially trying to avoid.
I should’ve known better, really. On a frosty winter’s day, in 2012, I tried to save time by using a road less travelled, slid atop some black ice and careened into a child’s homemade den. Like the aforementioned Death Stranding example, no small person was harmed in the process; the only thing that took a battering in this instance was my pride when Mrs. O’ Brien laughed in my face after I told her what had happened. Cheers, Liz.
Music is important
Like its lead character, the world of Death Stranding is mostly quiet. For large stretches of the United Cities of America, all you hear is the blowing of a gentle breeze and the thud of your footsteps. And all you see is grass and rocks. It’s not that dissimilar to many of the breathtaking, remote areas I went to while working as a postman. In rural Ireland, along the coast, countless letterboxes and front porches overlook some of the most wondrous views you can imagine. It’s improved, obviously, by blaring ‘80s hair metal from the van radio.
Look, I’ve established that Death Stranding looks and sounds lovely—and it really does—but there are times where it gets a bit dull. Often, all you’re doing is looking at big stones that are a little different to the big stones you saw five minutes ago while Walking Deadman grunts incessantly. Kojima Productions recognises this and scores the occasional moment with pleasant little ditties, like Bones by Low Roar or Asylums For The Feeling by Silent Poets.
Koj undoubtedly loves scoring your hikes with dreamy electronic pop, but I know I would’ve struggled to combat the midday slump if the only music I had when knocking on doors was intermittent, downtempo tunes. KP acknowledges the importance of music to a delivery person, but it needs to be constant and more upbeat. Imagine how jazzed you’d be while climbing up a mountain in Death Stranding if you could program a playlist full of Boston and Whitesnake.
Handle with care
No decent delivery driver would ever recreate the opening scene from Ace Ventura; it doesn’t matter how loathsome the recipient is. If a package gets damaged in transit, for whatever reason, proper order would be to offer an apology and suggest the customer escalate the matter with the higher-ups, if they so wish. What you don’t do is reassemble the priceless crystal vase that some dope packed into a fucking jiffy bag.
Sam Porter Bridges is a bit more concerned with the integrity of his packages than the average delivery person, though; he has to be because a number of missions in Death Stranding require your cargo be a certain percentage of all-rightness when handed off. Thanks to a magic spray, Bridges is able to repair his load if it takes a bit of a bruising. This bottle of mystical reconstruction juice isn’t that peculiar in a world where rain ages anything it touches.
While the real-life Sam Porter Bridgeses out there don’t have to fight off a light drizzle with anti-ageing cream, they do have to be mindful of the impact bad weather has on what they’re carrying. There’s not a lot they can do about a constant downpour, though. So the next time a sopping wet electricity bill comes through your letterbox, have a look at the person who delivered it before you rush out of your toasty living room to complain. You’d be better off sending a strongly worded email to the Met Office instead.
Even though he’s intrigued by them, I’m convinced Kojima despises couriers. He believes the person ringing his doorbell is the one who should be held accountable for every faulty movie reel he’s received through the mail. It might’ve passed through 15 people before it got to Koj’s front porch, but that doesn’t matter to him. Clearly. Only a twisted individual would dream up the fantasy of a postperson, crouched underneath a rocky awning, splashing supernatural juice onto their customer’s slightly moist packages.
Stay hydrated and hygienic
The last thing I ever wanted to do when I got home from a day’s work was Unleash The Beast, unless The Beast was going to boil the kettle for a cup of tea before giving me a cuddle. Sam Porter Bridges is of a different mindset; that man bloody loves a can of Monster Energy once he finishes his round. It’s like he can’t wait to get ready and brave the elements once again.
I do appreciate the inclusion of a shower in Death Stranding, though; you wouldn’t like to get a whiff of most mail carriers after hours of tearing around town. Sadly, my bodily fluids never produced grenades—it might’ve been an issue with my drain or something.
So, while Death Stranding doesn’t get everything right, it’s the best delivery driver simulator we have until something better comes along. Like Death Stranding 2. Just please remember the black-and-white cat next time, Kojima. It’s essential.