Not Just Any Port In A Storm
When Sony and Kojima Productions released Death Stranding seven months ago, many were taken aback by the rapid-fire announcement of a Summer 2020 PC release. I personally elected to avoid spoilers, skip the PS4 version, and wait to play it on PC, hoping that the port would be impressive enough to be worth the wait. Having already played for 25 hours, I can say with some confidence that I made the right call.
How Does Death Stranding Run On PC?
You'll notice immediately that Kojima Productions' recommended minimum specs are suspiciously low for such a high-fidelity game. The original PlayStation 4 version of Death Stranding runs at a stable 30 FPS on a base PS4, of course at 1080p resolution. The PS4 Pro is able to run it somewhat smoothly at 4K with HDR, but is still locked to 30 FPS; it appears Death Stranding is well-optimized, to say the least. I'm happy to report that through my playtime, I've seen that trend continue on PC.
For reference, my computer's specs are as follows:
- OS: Windows 10
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.59 GHz
- RAM: 16 GB DDR4
- GPU: GTX 2060 Super
- 500 GB SSD
- 1440p 144Hz Monitor
Death Stranding has been running at a very consistent 60 FPS on my setup, running at 1440x2560 displaying on a 144 Hz monitor. To make sure I was testing the full graphical capabilities, I turned the graphics settings up to their maximum a few hours in and was surprised to see the frame rate stick consistently to 60. I noted actual frame skips perhaps two or three times throughout my playtime, all of them when suddenly falling and tumbling from some height, but overall it hasn't been a problem; had I not been watching for technical issues, I likely wouldn't have even noticed.
The draw distance is excellent - open-world games can live or die on that one factor, but I've never once seen an object, blade of grass, or even a distant city being drawn. The dynamic lighting mostly kicks into effect only when interacting with BTs, but it's still worth mentioning how smooth it is.
My only frame rate drops came when fighting a group of MULEs (raider enemies) in one of their many camps. Death Stranding does just fine rendering enemies on-screen most of the time. I fell into a battle early on where hundreds of enemies appeared together, and it managed to hold 60 FPS without a single stutter. However, when the MULEs raise their light weapons (some kind of staff with an orange beacon on it), Death Stranding takes a massive performance hit.
Strangely, when the MULEs begin to gather for a fight, the game immediately drops to 30 FPS, rather than stuttering its way down slowly from 60. After turning the camera so away from the lights, it immediately kicks back to 60 FPS. I haven't found this to be a major hindrance; Death Stranding is very playable at 30 FPS. Furthermore, put into context, only about 9-10 minutes of my 25 hours of playtime display any kind of a technical issue. Beyond those scant minutes, the port feels quite close to flawless.
Menus work intuitively with a mouse and keyboard, although I recommend a controller overall. I've never played a non-Nintendo game that makes such good use of rumble, and it'd be a shame not to experience it that way. Perhaps most importantly, the much-coveted "Quit to Desktop" button is right there in the pause menu. If anyone else out there is using a Steam Link, I ran Death Stranding on mine and found it to work perfectly, displaying on my 1080p TV without screen tearing or broken anti-aliasing and retaining its consistent 60 FPS. The social features of Death Stranding automatically run through your Steam account, so that profile attaches to your structures online. These small quality-of-life features mark the difference between a good PC port and a great one.
What's New in Death Stranding on PC?
The PC version of Death Stranding comes with a few extra goodies, including some new quests, items, skins, and interactions based on content from Valve's Half-Life and Portal series. Interestingly, it seems that both the Steam and the Epic Games Store version come with this new content, so hats off to Valve for sharing around the wealth. I was surprised at the depth of the new content, and the context in which it is presented.
It appears that in the world of Death Stranding, Half-Life and Portal are beloved video games from before the apocalypse, just as in our world. Strangely, some of the items from those games appear to also be real in the world of Death Stranding, although I'm unable to speak about how exactly they're utilized. Let's just say that fans of Valve's Half-Life universe should keep their eyes peeled for old friends, familiar items, and interesting messages in their in-game mailbox.
Overall, I am extremely impressed with the PC port of Death Stranding. I recommend anyone in possession of both a PS4 and capable PC rig to choose the PC version, if not only for the Half-Life content. In retrospect, I am personally happy with having waited half a year to play a superior version of the game. Here's to hoping Sony puts the same amount of care into their PC port of Horizon Zero Dawn later this year.
TechRaptor analyzed Death Stranding on Steam with a code provided by the publisher. Death Stranding is available now on PlayStation 4 and releases on Steam and the Epic Games Store on July 14, 2020.