Like most of Hideo Kojima's work, Death Stranding is polarizing gaming audiences with its unique premise. This is the first time the auteur game designer has made a high profile game outside of the iconic Metal Gear franchise since Zone of the Enders. While the world, premise, and much of the mechanics are worlds away from his other legendary creation, one can still see its DNA in the new release.
To detail the similarities and differences, the following list will juxtapose Death Stranding with Metal Gear. This list will also remain spoiler free for the new game, since it is a massive journey that'll take most gamers weeks to complete.
10 Like Metal Gear: Stealth
Much of Death Stranding involves players delivering packages to different cities and outposts, but traversing the beautiful landscape is not devoid of danger. Beach Things, or BTs, and Mules, groups whose sole goal is to steal packages from porters, make Sam's time in the world arduous. The player gets tools to combat these threats, but avoiding confrontation is always encouraged. Some of the weapons even aid in silent disposal of enemies. Mules can be dealt with loudly if the need arises, but real trouble stirs if a BT spots Sam.
9 Completely Different: Setting
Metal Gear takes place from 1964 to sightly beyond 2014. It uses anachronistic technology and some of the games' time periods were slightly ahead of their release, but never more than ten years. Death Stranding, on the other hand, is set far into the future where advanced tech helps the characters live in this radically different world. It is also set in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Society still exists, but it is fractured and the areas between cities are nearly uninhabitable.
8 Like Metal Gear: Stressing Story
Kojima's output over the past ten years has included far more game play than his earlier outings. From 2010's Peace Walker and onward, his works came packed in with plenty of side activities and ways to add replay value. At the same time, story never takes a back seat. While one can spend hours upon hours in Death Stranding's world without encountering a cutscene, game play and story are always intrinsically linked. When cinematics do occur, they are just as refined and polished as they were in The Phantom Pain.
7 Completely Different: Game Play
The old series coined the term "Tactical Espionage Action". Players entered an area, completed an objective, and then left. Death Stranding is about making deliveries. While one feels small similarities in the way one moves Sam and Punished Snake, everything else is a large departure.
The tools at one's disposal in Death Stranding are for maneuvering harsh terrain and carrying giant loads of cargo, as opposed to weapons of death and stealth in Metal Gear.
6 Like Metal Gear: Stressing Non-Lethal Play
The idea of a stealth game was birthed by the MSX's technological limitations, the old computer could only show a small amount of sprites on screen at once. Because of this, the first Metal Gear's design encouraged players to avoid confrontation. The sequels followed suit, though lethal means were made more viable. In the recently released game, there is a narrative reason why Sam should avoid killing Mules at all costs which is briefly explained during the introduction. Death Stranding goes a step above its predecessor in this department, however, by making the game play focused on getting from one place to another, rather than having any interaction with enemies.
5 Completely Different: Using Actors' Likenesses
Metal Gear occasionally casted notable names in roles, but most of the time they were hard working voice actors who gained recognition for other animated parts. It wasn't until Metal Gear Solid V when Kiefer Sutherland got involved. Even then, they didn't use the actor's face for the Venom Snake role, though they did use performance capture. For his new game, most of the actors' real faces were used for their respective parts. Some of his friends gave their likeness to a character, but were voiced by someone else, like Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn.
4 Like Metal Gear: Yoji Shinkawa
Yoji Shinkawa served as art director for every mainline Metal Gear Solid. When Kojima was forced out of Konami and formed his own independent studio, Kojima Productions, Shinkawa went along with him, becoming the art director on Death Stranding. One can see the artist's signature style in the way technology looks and characters' designs. Kojima's games always have a uniquely beautiful aesthetic, and Shinkawa is largely responsible for this.
3 Completely Different: Building The World
Metal Gear was noted for the many ways players could interact with the world, but they never really changed the landscape. Death Stranding is all about rebuilding the United States, and this seeps into the game play mechanic of building roads, bridges, and other structures to make traversal easier. The real genius is the social aspect where players can use tools left by others to make their journey more comfortable. The feeling of contributing to someone else's structure or receiving likes is magical, and something no other medium can accomplish.
2 Like Metal Gear: Characters
One still feels the mark of Hideo Kojima's writing in the story and the characters. People often have ridiculous names that make no sense in a real world setting but have a logical connection to the story. Some introduce themselves with a small monologue in a similar manner to villains and bosses in Metal Gear.
People rarely talk like they do in real life, but that's not really the point or the goal. Some bemoan the lack of subtlety in the writing, but others love the characters' philosophical musings.
1 Completely Different: Themes
The saga around Big Boss, his children, and The Patriots was often about escaping a system and discussed the potential dangers and things humanity could lose by becoming connected. In a western dominated society, cultures and languages could disappear. The goal established within Death Stranding's introduction is connecting the United States. It's a stark contrast to the prior series, and optional reading material within the game even discusses things society has lost due to the world's current fractured state. It doesn't come off as a denial or reversal of philosophy, however. Both series and their stories could stand side by side without contradicting each other. After all, in Metal Gear Zero and The Patriots are forcing the world to come together, while the new game's titular event forcibly tore it apart.