Death Stranding - new trailer analyzed, Mads Mikkelsen confirmed, and everything you need to know

Fast Facts

  • Death Stranding release date: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Developer: Kojima Productions
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Platforms: PS4 and PC

***UPDATE: Thanks to The Game Awards (TGA) and the PlayStation Experience (PSX), Hideo Kojima has dropped a few actual news bombshells for Death Stranding. Both Guillermo del Toro and Mads Mikkelsen will be appearing in the game in varying capacity, and Kojima Productions will be using Decima - the engine powering Horizon: Zero Dawn - to build the title.

Kojima Productions is dead; long live Kojima Productions. After a long and tumultuous falling out with Konami, Metal Gear Solid director Hideo Kojima has gone independent, and with Sony's help, has announced his first project with his new studio. It's called Death Stranding, and it looks as cryptic and inscrutable as the drip-feed of hints, quotes, and confirmations that have been revealed in the months following its E3 2016 announcement.

Death Stranding is still several years away, as Kojima has only just begun conceptualizing the game's design, story, and characters, in addition to building the team who will actually make the thing. That's not stopping Kojima from making up for lost time, though, as he's given several interviews over the past few months, detailing his vision for his first independent game. What's Death Stranding all about? It's hard to say this early, but we've been able to glean a few details that should give you a better idea about what to expect when you finally play it half-a-decade from now (or whenever it finally comes out). 

Death Stranding cast includes Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, and a cameo from Guillermo del Toro

If you follow anything Hideo Kojima does for any length of time, you start to budget for corkboard and quantities of red twine. The enigmatic director loves to lead fans down a rabbit hole of cryptic messages and tantalizing tweets, and connecting the dots can be almost as interesting as the games themselves. Case in point: there's a good chance that Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen will make an appearance in Death Stranding alongside Norman Reedus.

How do we know this? First, Kojima tweeted out a behind-the-scenes image of some motion capture work, where a man in an orange hoodie stands out of focus in the background. Then, an Instagram user posted a selfie they took with Mikkelsen, who was wearing a similar orange hoodie, and one of the comments mentions that he's working on a video game. Kojima has also posted an image of him hanging out with Mikkelsen at San Diego Comic-Con, and even came out on stage at Tokyo Game Show during Sony's press conference accompanied by a series of cartoon images of Norman Reedus, director and PT collaborator Guillermo del Toro, Kojima himself, and a figure who looks a lot like Mads Mikkelsen.

At The Game Awards on December 1, 2016, Hideo Kojima took the stage to accept his Gaming Icon award, as well as provide a new trailer of his totally-not-ready-for-another-five-years action game. The trailer is deeply strange (head here for a deep dive into what it could mean), but two of its characters will be played by director and ex-Silent Hills collaborator Guillermo del Toro, and Mads Mikkelsen, confirming the previous rumors. 

At a PSX panel on December 3, 2016, Kojima confirmed that Mikkelsen will be providing the likeness and voice for his character, who will be Death Stranding's antagonist. Guillermo del Toro only provided his likeness - Kojima didn't want to fill up his schedule too much, so while he will appear in the game, his character will be voiced by someone else. Kojima also confirmed that Norman Reedus will be Death Stranding's protagonist.

Kojima Productions' English Twitter account also recently announced that additional casting is still underway, teasing fans about the potential of a female lead to star alongside Norman and Mads. Nothing concrete yet, though KojiPro did ask fans to speculate over who it should be, so there's a good chance there'll be another high-profile star to join them. 

Death Stranding's engine is the same one powering Horizon: Zero Dawn

At the same PSX panel, Hideo Kojima confirmed the engine that Death Stranding will be using. It's called Decima, and it's the official name for the engine powering Guerrilla Games' Horizon: Zero Dawn. Kojima stated that the TGA trailer was running in real-time in 4K on a PS4 Pro, and knowing how good Horizon: Zero Dawn looks on even a standard PS4 Pro, this seems more plausible now.

But the partnership between Kojima Productions and Guerrilla Games doesn't end there. KojiPro will be opening up a satellite studio within Guerrilla Games called Kojima Productions Amsterdam, where they will work together directly to get the most out of the engine for Death Stranding.

Death Stranding is a PlayStation console exclusive

Almost immediately after Hideo Kojima's contract with Konami ended, Sony announced that it had brokered a partnership with the newly-separated Kojima Productions, and that it would be funding and publishing its next game exclusively for the PlayStation 4. It's not completely exclusive, though, as Kojima's next game will likely come to PC as well. This partnership just means that, unfortunately, Xbox One owners will be left in the lurch. 

Kojima Productions is made up of long-time Metal Gear collaborators 

Hideo Kojima may be at the helm of his studio, but he's not the only Metal Gear alum working on Death Stranding. Long-time art director and collaborator Yoji Shinkawa - the man responsible for designing Metal Gear's iconic characters and mechs - has jumped the Konami ship to join Kojima, as has Metal Gear producer Ken-ichiro Imaizumi. Novelist and 'Metal Gear expert' Kenji Yano - who was largely responsible for the planning of the MGS series' novelization and was recently interviewed in Famitsu about his interpretation of the events of The Phantom Pain - has also joined the staff. Lots of Metal Gear people heading up the studio, so that must surely mean... 

Death Stranding has nothing to do with Metal Gear. Nothing. Let it go. 

In separating from Konami, Hideo Kojima no longer has the rights to work with any of Konami's licenses and properties - this includes Castlevania, Boktai, Zone of the Enders, and of course, Metal Gear. Those of you holding out hope that Death Stranding is some kind of secret expansion for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain or stealth sequel need to dash those hopes right now. Kojima and company are working on a brand new game, totally divorced from Metal Gear lore, and producer Ken-ichiro Imaizumi has flat-out confirmed on Twitter that it has nothing to do with Metal Gear because Kojima Productions doesn't own the rights to the series. There. All cleared up. No chapter three here. Move along.

Though, he would have to say that if it were all a ruse, wouldn't he? (It's not. Stop it.) 

Death Stranding's reveal trailer is strange, inscrutable, and Kojima as hell 

Oh, geez. Where to begin? The William Blake quote splashed on screen while the snarling throb of Low Roar's 'I'll Keep Coming' builds as the trailer fades in? The naked Norman Reedus clutching a baby to his bosom on a desolate beach covered in the corpses of deceased crustaceans and whales? Or when the baby disappears and Naked Reedus watches as oily handprints cover his legs? How about the part when Naked Reedus stands to gaze into the ocean, where five cross-shaped objects hover off in the distance, hundreds of feet in the air? This was the trailer shown at Sony's E3 2016 conference - a confounding and fascinatingly cryptic glimpse at Kojima Production's first project outside of Konami.

Hideo Kojima is known for for telling stories grounded in real-life history and philosophy while simultaneously embracing mysticism, heady science-fiction, and rad anime poses, but his first post-Metal Gear game appears to be heading right off the rails almost immediately and in the most spectacular fashion. But what does it all mean

Death Stranding's gameplay compared to Uncharted, will be open-world with online elements

Even with the weird, moody trailer and Kojima's penchant for subverting player expectations, Death Stranding will likely begin in a familiar place, at least from a mechanical standpoint. When speaking with Famitsu, Kojima likened its gameplay to that of recent AAA fare like Uncharted or The Division - just with a healthy dose of that trademark Kojima Flair. "When it is announced," Kojima said, "you might think ‘that’s not that outstanding’, but you’ll understand when you see it and play it. The genre is action."  

More vague statements about Death Stranding's genre and gameplay have come out of TGS 2016, as Kojima took the stage during Sony's press conference to dish a little bit more about the mysterious game. He reiterated that one of the major themes is how psychological strands connect people together, and how "In Death Stranding, there is [the] story game and world view; it's all connected by strands." He confirmed that Death Stranding will be an open-world game "with a degree of freedom", and that "there are some online elements", though what that actually means is anyone's guess.  

Death Stranding's story is about the connections we share with other people 

Nothing concrete has been shared about Death Stranding's story or how you'll move through that story, but there are a few meanings we can imply from the bizarre title. 'Stranding' is a term used to define animals or boats that have found themselves beached out of water. The strange title begins to make a lot more sense then, once you take into account all the whale-shaped globsters currently hanging out on the sand on a day that makes a Pacific Northwest winter look downright cheery. 

But it wouldn't be a Kojima game if that's only as far as it went. In an interview with Wired, Kojima describes Death Stranding as a game about how people are connected - "what you call 'strands' in psychology," as Kojima puts it. Not a whole lot of details about what that means, other than that it's a "new system" that will feel "familiar" for the first few hours but then "you will start to feel something different". It might have something to do with the strange umbilical cord that connects Naked Reedus to Oil Baby in the trailer, but right now, he could be talking about literally anything.

As for the 'Death' part? According to Kojima, he wants to "shake up the notion of dying, putting another quarter in, and coming back" by "giving a different twist" to the way games have handled player failure for years.  Perhaps that Low Roar track in the trailer has some sort of connection to its gameplay?

Death Stranding's release date exists… but it's a way off

Ha. Release date. Cute. According to a recent live-stream at San Diego Comic Con 2016, Death Stranding is still very much in the pre-production phase of development. The trailer wasn't built in the game's eventual engine, but it was running in real-time, so you could theoretically pause the video at any point and move the camera around. The studio is close to locking an engine down and production will officially get off the ground soon, but Kojima hasn't even finished the script yet: 

"I’m in a preliminary stage of the script because there are elements that I don’t know yet how much I will be able to put in there. I’m not working on the details, on the specifics yet. No dialogue yet, the plot... there’s no real plot. I’m working on the setting and what things will be be."

At Tokyo Game Show, Kojima Productions' English Twitter account confirmed that there is a set release date ("Duh, how else would we be able to budget?" the tweet muses), and that we would see it released "Before the Tokyo Olympic games", which are slated to begin in the summer of 2020. It's great to see that Kojima's next game is close to officially kicking off, but considering Kojima Productions only just found proper office space, don't expect anything concrete for a while.

Kojima Productions' mascot has nothing to do with the game 

There's been a lot of speculation surrounding Ludens, that space-faring skeleton man Kojima Productions has been teasing for a while. Turns out there's nothing much to see here: despite getting a full rundown, including the origins of his design and the philosophy behind his inception, he's just a logo. A sick looking logo, sure, but he won't actually appear in Death Stranding (other than the short little video you'll see each time you load the game).

 Oh, and it's Kojima in the suit. In case you were wondering. 

Related Death Stranding news

Here's everything we know about Death Stranding's Guerrilla Games produced Decima engine
Death Stranding trailer confirms Mads Mikkelsen as a soldier literally connected to skeletons
Death Stranding is an open world game with online elements and "something from another world"
Death Stranding has "a new form of co-op", female hero and release date teased
Wait, is Mads Mikkelsen appearing in Death Stranding?
Kojima thinks you'll like his next game if you're into Uncharted or The Division
Here's what Death Stranding is actually about, according to Hideo Kojima
Death Stranding's production report sounds like it's all early days so far according to Kojima
Kojima Productions' new game: Everything you need to know
Sony announces deal with Kojima. It's official

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.

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