Okay, I’ll make the obvious joke: was there really anything cut from Death Stranding? For better and worse, Hideo Kojima’s deeply indulgent post-apocalyptic delivery simulator did not feel like it had been subject to heavy editing. But Kojima himself has said that he doesn’t like the name of this new PlayStation 5 version of the game, dubbed a “director’s cut,” arguing instead that it has simply had new content produced for it. So there you have it.
In any case, Death Stranding Director’s Cut is one of the more worthwhile PS5 upgrades out there. For $10 (if you own the PS4 release), this new edition comes with extra missions, improved visuals and performance, more tools and items, DualSense-powered haptic feedback, and 3D audio support. It all adds up to one of the better showcases of the PS5’s hardware we’ve seen so far.
Already a beautiful game on the PS4, Kojima Productions didn’t have to do a whole lot in order to make Death Stranding seem at home on the PS5. The technical upgrades are largely related to resolution and performance: there’s a 4K quality mode and a slightly less sharp 60fps performance mode, though the former usually sticks to 60fps, and the latter is still fairly high resolution. I normally play games in their performance modes, but a quality mode that doesn’t limit you to 30fps is very welcome here.
Another notable addition is the ability to play the game in an ultrawide aspect ratio. This gives you a wider field of view at the expense of screen real estate — you have black bars on the top and the bottom of your screen, but you can see more of your character’s surroundings. It’s a great fit for Death Stranding’s sweeping vistas. On my 55-inch TV, though, the picture does feel a little small at couch distance. I think the mode would work better on a bigger set — especially if it’s OLED, where the black bars will be less distracting — or for anyone using a smaller TV like the 48-inch LG CX as a monitor.
Death Stranding was the first game I thought of when Sony announced the PS5’s DualSense controller, which has triggers that can provide variable levels of resistance. In Death Stranding, you spend a lot of time carrying heavy cargo on your back and using the trigger buttons to balance the load. With the DualSense, the weight is reflected in how difficult it is to pull the trigger, giving you a better indication of when you might end up overexerting yourself and tumbling down a mountain. The increased precision of the haptic feedback also helps convey the feeling of the ground underfoot, as well as weather conditions like rain. Astro’s Playroom is still the best DualSense demo, but Death Stranding Director’s Cut is almost as impressive.
This release also includes one of the best implementations of 3D audio I’ve heard to date. I’ve found the feature to be a little underwhelming on most PS5 games so far, for all that Sony has touted the console’s Tempest sound engine. But in Death Stranding Director’s Cut, it really adds to the immersion. Characters speaking in cutscenes sound like they’re accurately placed around you, and you can hear where ghostly enemies are trying to stalk you from. It’s definitely worth playing this one with headphones.
The extra content appears to be quite slight, though I haven’t been able to play through the entire game a second time yet. Many of the additions are typically quirky, from a full-on racing mode to a catapult that lets you launch heavy cargo across the scenery, while there are some more fundamental tweaks like new melee combat moves. I don’t think any of this will change anyone’s mind about the game, but there’s enough new here to make a replay feel fresh.
A free 60fps patch as seen in games like Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us Part II would have been appreciated, but I think the $10 upgrade is worth it for any PS5 owner who enjoyed Death Stranding on the PS4. At $49.99 for new players, it’s also a reasonable time to get on board with a game that is truly unlike anything else. Death Stranding certainly isn’t for everyone, and that remains the case here, but with this version, you’re getting a very well-rounded package that makes the most of its platform.