Everything Kojima's said about Death Stranding to date: space whales, humour, and hidden meanings

Death Stranding will be Metal Gear Solid series creator Hideo Kojima's next project, and his first as the head of an independent studio. We've seen two trailers - one featuring a naked Norman Reedus holding a baby, and one starring both Guillermo del Toro and Mads Mikkelsen in a post-apocalyptic hellscape - but just what exactly is it?

We've compiled everything Kojima has said about the game and presented it here for your viewing pleasure. That being said, Kojima is known as a master of manipulation and fake-outs, so don't be too surprised if Death Stranding turns out to be a beekeeping simulator or something.

Now, let's all take a trip back in time, starting with before we even knew what Death Stranding was called, only that Kojima was making... something.

April 2016: Kojima is thinking a lot about what will become Death Stranding's characters

To you and me, Death Stranding protagonist Norman Reedus might just be Norman Reedus (or maybe Daryl, if you're a Walking Dead fan). Likewise, you might see fellow Death Stranding star Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter. But Kojima explained on Twitter that his character designs aren't limited to how the person playing them looks.

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"The role of the story on the theme. The balance with other characters. I consider the movement, the evolution in the game, and how he comes in/out," explained Kojima at the time. He also added "and recently, I also consider if the character is attracted by Cos-Players."

May 2016: Death Stranding won't be open world but will appeal to The Division and Uncharted fans

Kojima tells Famitsu his next game (which still hadn't been officially revealed yet) "won’t [be] an open-world title" but "those that enjoy playing today’s AAA titles such as The Division and Uncharted will be able to play it smoothly."

It's possible that Kojima was simply referring to the visual quality of Death Stranding, given that both The Division and Uncharted 4 were hot-button games at the time, but it could also be a clue into what we can expect in terms of gameplay.

Unfortunately, there's not much overlap between Naughty Dog's mostly solo, level-driven affair and Ubisoft's quasi-MMO open world shooter, so we're still scratching our heads at this one.

June 2016: Kojima wants Death Stranding to be a new genre but people who play action games "will be able to pick it up easily"

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Speaking with IGN at E3 2016 where the game was formally unveiled, Kojima spoke in big picture terms regarding what he imagined Death Stranding's impact to be. Clearly whatever the game is, Kojima wants it to have a lasting legacy.

"Metal Gear was an action game, but it was an action game where you happened to be hiding. There was no genre for that back then, and now it’s classified as a stealth game. In that regard, Death Stranding will also be an action game, but I want to make something new, something different."

And apparently it won't take long for players to recognize its uniqueness: "People that play [action] games will be able to pick it up easily," Kojima said. "After that, like 2-3 hours into the game, they will start feeling like, ‘okay, this is something different, this is something new.'"

There are space whales (probably)

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Kojima's PA Ayako also later clarified some of Kojima quotes in a series of tweets like the one's above talking about whales beaching themselves. The English Kojima Productions Twitter account also rounded up some statements offering up thoughts from the boss: 

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Death Stranding is doing something different with death

While we still know very little about game play Kojima teased Death Stranding might have a different way of dealing with death in game. 

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It would seem that in Death Stranding, "game over" is nonexistent - or at least has a different implication. The second Death Stranding trailer features what have been theorized to be multiple universes or timelines - could the player's "death" in one world simply act as their transportation to another? But the tweets don't stop there…

Kojima goes on to discuss the influence of other creative works: "Kobo Abe, one of my favorite writers, wrote a novella called [Rope] which I read in high school. This book talks about the first inventions of the human race; the 'stick' and the 'rope.'"

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September 2016: It's about something from another world stranded in ours

"Death Stranding" is a pretty cool name, but it's not clear to a layperson what it means. Kojima clarified the game's title during a Tokyo Game Show presentation, explaining that "stranding" specifically references the phenomenon of cetacean stranding, ie beached whales and other marine life being stuck onshore. "This title refers to something from another world stranded in our world," Kojima said.

It'll be online (somehow)

Kojima also said onstage during TGS that Death Stranding will feature an open world and online features, though how far such features extend is currently a mystery. It could be something relatively asynchronous like base management, or something more immediate and competitive.

December 2016: Death Stranding's Decima Engine is built on Guerrilla Game's tech

"Making games is like going into space," Kojima told Gamasutra, explaining the decision to use a modified version of Guerrilla Game's tech to create Death Stranding's Decima engine. "We try to aim high, but the people at Guerrilla aim even higher. We told them let's aim for the Moon, for Mars, and they said well let's go to Jupiter together."

"When we first met Guerrilla, they gave me the source code of their engine. You know, before we signed any contracts or anything, they just gave me this. It's the treasure of Guerrilla, and them handing that to me made me feel very special."

December 2016: Kojima heard the music he'd use for the trailers in an Iceland record store and the lyrics are relevent

Along with his eccentric designs and psych-outs, Kojima is known for his taste in music, often featuring full-length songs in teasers and trailers. He told Glixel that in Death Stranding's case, he was inspired by the Icelandic group Low Roar.
He said that while visiting a record store in Reykjavik, he heard a song playing and "something just clicked." He inquired what the song was and who it was by, and ended up scooping up the band's album. And here's where things get a bit more specific and interesting:

"The meaning of the lyrics and the sound of the track 'I’ll Keep Coming' was a perfect fit for the world of the game," Kojima said. "[Lead singer Ryan Karazija's] lyrics and the sound blend together and through that, what couldn’t be seen becomes visible. He reminds you that this is what music is all about. Words are intended to specify and clarify the world, but the more you listen to his sounds and lyrics, the more they dilute the outline of the world, and expand it."

No, nobody will blame you if you download the song and listen on repeat to try and decipher some more clues about Death Stranding.

February 2017: Death Stranding is a "really new idea" that isn't horror and will have humour

Death Stranding is, let's admit it, pretty grim-looking. But Kojima says that's not going to dominate the tone of the game, nor is it a product of his own mind seeking catharsis. "I don’t have a dark mindset in particular," Kojima told Glixel.

"Death Stranding is not a horror game. I just wanted to make something that looks very unique, something you haven’t seen before, something with a more artistic slant to it. I’m not pursuing a dark aspect to the game."

"Humor is an important aspect to make sure the player can enjoy playing across these peaks and valleys. So we’ll have humor in this game too, but to a degree that it doesn't ruin the world setting. It will be at an appropriate level."

Death Stranding is currently early in production, but it turns out it's not just entering a new phase of development - it's also a new idea for Kojima.

"[Death Stranding] wasn’t an idea that we'd had for a long time, it was really a new idea. I believe you should make something that matches the times, because the world changes every day. There’s new news every day, the people in the world change all the time. Sometimes film directors come up with an idea when they’re a child, and then they make the film when they’re an adult. I don’t think that’s something you should do, because it’s no longer topical."

It also sounds like players expect to see the same mind-messery that fans have come to know and love. "I don't want to use the same tricks again in the future but I would like to continue to break the fourth wall," Kojima said.

And that brings us to today. Whatever the next tease brings, I'm excited. And confused.

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Leon Hurley
Managing editor for guides

I'm GamesRadar's Managing Editor for guides, which means I run GamesRadar's guides and tips content. I also write reviews, previews and features, largely about horror, action adventure, FPS and open world games. I previously worked on Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website.