I hate how IGN is pushing the idea the game isn't FUN. Seriously, isn't the game fun? And it gets more fun the more you play and unlock things. I was already having fun, but then I saw the concept of Zip Lines and became even more fun. I really like this game. I hope it does well in the end. A bit upsetting seeing a big site like IGN with such strong Agenda against it and make people that didn't even play say the game is painful and boring when it is one of the most addicing games on PS4.
Then i saw them putting an article recently saying something lik "the game only get's good after finish it", and i felt insulted. The game allows you to do most of it in episode 3, so if you want you can do 90-95% of the game from there. The social strand system is in full motion already and it was during ep 3 when i became addicted to the gaming loop. And like you said, Ziplines was just a amazing extra.
I am replaying the game from the beginning, mostly following the main story, at a normal pace, without hurries, trying new routes, reading each email, just savouring the game and i just arrived at episode 3 around 7h. It's obvious now that until then the game is a giant and long tutorial, but it takes so much time, because the game is..., yes, slow, but that doesn't mean you are not having fun while you're playing. Very few games have achieved losing my sense of time like this game does, maybe i'm a victim from some chiralium exposition....
This replaying is making me value/understanding way better the story too, now that i know how it ends. Is making me notice much more what and who the characters are, specially Amelie, by far the most complex character in the game and what characters actually represents artistically. These first few episodes are reminding me, that the writing is indeed really good a the beginning of the game too, only after episode 3 is when i started seeing Kojima doing his usual Kojima things...., most probably on purpose, because he always wants to remind you that you're actually playing a game.
But again, "Narrative" is a construction of various parts: Story/script, storytelling and writing, and in the first two parts, Death Stranding is indeed sublime, only having a few problems here and there with the writing part.
In conclusion, the more i think about the game, the more i think is a masterpiece that will be remembered for years. It has more in common with games like ICO, or Journey than with the common generic action/adventure game, the only difference with those is that it had a triple AAA budget and is generally way bigger and complex. This game is trying to express some things through its gameplay that no other games are even trying and that is something absolutely remakable. If there are people who doesn't want to experience this like there was people who didn't want to experience games like ICO or Journey because they were not "funny games", well, it's their choice, but don't have the courage of saying that this game is bad and you are not going to enjoy it, or worse, that you CAN'T enjoy it.