Everything you need to know about Death Stranding: Release date, gameplay, and more

Death Stranding baby

Death Stranding was at Gamescom 2019 in a big way this year, with famed creative auteur Hideo Kojima showing off his latest baby with a new trailer, gameplay demo, and series of announcements that, to be honest, leaves us with even more questions than answers about the upcoming PS4 game. How does the newly introduced character of Mama play into all those Death Stranding plot theories? Is the rough around the edges gameplay an indication that the Death Stranding release date might be pushed back? Are there clues laden within the trailer that the game is coming to PS5?  

In any case, you can secure your Death Stranding pre-order right now, but have a read below if you're still unconvinced. We've got all the info you need to know, from the latest gameplay trailer to all the information we have about the story, cast, and more. The big question, of course, is what it all means, and while no-one (this side of Hideo Kojima) knows for certain, here's everything we know, or think we know, about the Metal Gear creator's next big, ambitious project...

Fast Facts

  • Death Stranding release date: November 8 2019
  • Developer: Kojima Productions
  • Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
  • Platforms: PS4 and PC

Death Stranding release date trailer

Buckle up, because PlayStation and Kojima Productions just released close to nine minutes of Mads Mikkelsen flavored footage to obsess over. Hear those sirens in the distance? Don't worry, that's just Reddit bursting into flames. 

The trailer starts with a bloodied Mikkelsen reassuring and crooning to a baby, before we see a photo of our hero Sam Bridges' family. Next we cut to Sam (Norman Reedus) on a motorbike in a lush mountainous region, surrounded by crows. Next there's Lindsey Wagner as a clearly ill president, with Sam declaring "America is finished."

It only gets weirder from there. The Death Stranding trailer suggests Sam's role as a courier will include using gadgets like ladders and climbing anchors to explore the world, and have to avoid enemies chasing him with big electrified spears. Before he goes old school and punches the crap out of them. 

The idea of time travel was explored again too, with what seemed to be a WW1 section, albeit it with more black goo, and visions of both old and young versions of Lindsey Wagner's character. 

Hideo Kojima accompanied the release of the trailer with this message for fans:

 People have created “Walls” and become accustomed to living in isolation.

“Death Stranding” is a completely new type of action game, where the goal of the player is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented society. It is created so that all elements, including the story and gameplay, are bound together by the theme of the “Strand” or connection. As Sam Porter Bridges, you will attempt to bridge the divides in society, and in doing create new bonds or “Strands” with other players around the globe. Through your experience playing the game, I hope you’ll come to understand the true importance of forging connections with others.

Now, please enjoy the latest Death Stranding trailer.

Death Stranding Gamescom 2019 gameplay and story trailers

Hideo Kojima made an appearance at Gamescom 2019 in August to present an extended look at Death Stranding via a six minute gameplay demo, which... uh, well let's just say it's a lot

The demo, which you can watch above, begins with Norman Reedus' character Sam napping with his BB unit, before urinating to make a mushroom grow, catching up with a new character - Ludens Fan - played by Geoff Keighley, then falling off a cliff like an idiot and nursing the presumably concussed BB back to health with a nice little lullaby shake (performed via the DualShock 4's motion controls... remember them?). 

It's seriously weird stuff (to which the internet inevitably reacted about as well as you'd expect), and was accompanied at Gamescom with two new Death Stranding story trailers, the first focusing on the character of Mama (Margaret Qualley), seen breastfeeding an invisible BB before explaining that the connection helps ease the soreness of her lactation cycle. The Freudian alarm bells have never rung so hard. 

The second story trailer, seen above, offers another better look at Deadman - the character played by the likeness of Oscar winning director Guillemo Del Toro (yes, really) - who appears to be some sort of expert on the babies that have played centre stage to all of Death Stranding's promotional material up till now. 

Honestly, we have little to no clue what's going on here, and probably won't until we get to play  the game for ourselves (although even that's looking unlikely), but the trailers are worth a watch purely for their curiosity factor nonetheless. 

Death Stranding Tokyo Game Show 2018 Trailer

Hideo Kojima revealed some new character details in a panel at Tokyo Game Show 2018, including Metal Gear Solid series stalwart Troy Baker as the mysterious 'Man in the Golden Mask' via a short trailer. "Well, shit, I had a special surprise prepped and everything", Baker's masked character taunts protagonist Sam Bridges, "But it looks to me like your hands are full. No biggie. We can always tweak the rules a bit". Baker's character then conjures a giant masked lion / cougar beast from the oily floor, in what we presume is a boss battle. Even this short clip contains enough clues to speculate about in a mini novel, but the key details are that Baker's baby glows red when he uses his mask to contort the oily hands and bodies into a monster, and the reference to the 'rules' feels telling… since there's a theory that Death Stranding (potential spoiler alert) takes place in a form of video-game, where its players are (mostly) aware of their existence in the system. Sure, it sounds absurd, but the clues are there if you care to read on.

What Death Stranding news have we learnt since the TGS 2018 trailer?

Hideo Kojima appeared with his buddy Norman Reedus (Daryl from The Walking Dead and star of Death Stranding) at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, April 2019. Kojima confirmed Death Stranding was an 'open world action game', but suggested the key focus was about 'connection' – both to other players and to 'reconnect' the world in the game. This might allude to Death Stranding star Mads Mikkelsen's hint that the game was about 'global player collaboration' with a real-world social media element - a tidbit revealed via our friends at Total Film magazine, which led to Mikkelsen being censured by Kojima himself. Death Stranding will feature a secret area where you control a camera, not the central character, Kojima added, where you'll be able to interact with Norman Reedus - as in the actor, not his character.

This all dovetails with the theory that Death Stranding is a kind of digital simulation / parallel universe with defined rules and players. Theories range from an allegorical vision of death and purgatory, to a VR simulation, or a breakdown of our world's scientific rules, where alternate realities can be explored and time as we know it ceases to exist. This being Kojima, it might not be as simple as "We're in the Matrix' and there are hints of inter-dimensional beings who might have altered our reality as we know it (the floating 'Ludens' characters glimpsed at the end of the debut trailer); with plentiful hints to black holes, scientific theories such as the Dirac equation and Schwarzchild Radius, plus a throwback to the Kojima Productions' launch website (before Death Stranding was announced) which included a mission statement talking about human evolution and the motto from 'Sapiens to Ludens' - which might be a more literal clue than we realise.

The statement ends 'We are Homo Ludens. We are those who play'. On first reading, it feels like an abstract testament to the role of video-games in society… but what if it's literally a founding creed of a new digital civilisation that has transcended our current existence, in a form of transhumanism? Sheesh, I know. You can type this sh*t, but you can't say it, to quote Harrison Ford's words to George Lucas.

Death Stranding E3 2018 gameplay

Death Stranding's E3 2018 gameplay is our first look at what you'll actually be doing when you're playing the game. "The first half and the last sequence in particular are most representative of the actual gameplay", Kojima wrote on the PlayStation Blog. Norman Reedus plays a character called Sam, describing himself as a delivery man. Its still unclear what's happened to the world, which appears in post-apocalyptic ruins but - during a sequence when Sam tried to escape some shadow figures connected to the sky by strands - it's mentioned that while he will come back, the surrounding area will be a crater. There's also some discussion between characters about abilities and it's unclear whether that's character traits in the story or maybe actual character powers in the game. One higher level plot theory is that Death Stranding's characters are quite literally characters in a video-game and aware of this fact (to an extent), and conscious of the way we, as players, directly impact on their existence. That will take some explaining, which we'll get to later.

What is Death Stranding?

Hideo Kojima described Death Stranding's core concept of 'sticks and ropes' at TGS 2016 using these cute drawings.

Hideo Kojima described Death Stranding's core concept of 'sticks and ropes' at TGS 2016 using these cute drawings.

Death Stranding is the debut game from Kojima Productions, a new studio staffed by key members of the former Metal Gear Solid development team. It stars The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus, former Bond-villain Mads Mikkelsen and Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro. The genre is stealth / action, with Kojima telling Japanese gaming publication Famitsu in May 2016: "While not to say that it’s open-world, users who enjoy today’s AAA games (The Division and Uncharted, etc.) will be able to easily enjoy it. When it is announced, you might think ‘that’s not that outstanding’, but you’ll understand when you see it and play it”.

Hideo Kojima has gone further, describing the core concept to IGN in June 2016 as 'sticks and ropes' where sticks represent traditional video-game interactions e.g. punching and shooting while ropes are about connections between players – more on that later. Speaking at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2016, he hinted that Death Stranding would be an open world game with online elements and 'something from another world'. This is where things get much less clear.

Death Stranding plot – where (and when) is it set?

Norman Reedus plays protagonist Sam who appears to work for an organisation called BRIDGES.

Norman Reedus plays protagonist Sam who appears to work for an organisation called BRIDGES.

The plot involves Sam (Norman Reedus), who works for Corpse Disposal Team 6 as part of BRIDGES and the United Cities of America. Sam and his crew are retrieving dead bodies in a (presumably near future) world where animal life appears extinct and the environment is in ruin – see the oily beach of the first trailer. Things get weirder when Reedus and his team are stalked by invisible foes who leave a trail of oily handprints and seem to detect people using sound. These enemies might be linked to the five spectral figures that Reedus glimpses at the end of the first Death Stranding trailer – but more of that later.

If this sounds confusing, don't worry, since Kojima admits that his team didn't understand the plot of Death Stranding when he first explained it. Lindsay Wagner said Hideo Kojima took three hours to explain the game and sell her on the role, during an E3 2018 interview with Geoff Keighley. If you're trying to piece together the game's chronology based on each trailer, Kojima claimed that trailer 3 (E3 2018) is the earliest and set after the game's prologue. This might explain why Reedus is still clothed and doesn't have the C-section scar from the debut trailer.

Death Stranding's release date

Death Stranding will be released on November 8, 2019. 

Death Stranding gameplay – the concept of 'timefall', stealth and carrying objects

An image of the spinning baby from Death Stranding

On the back of the third Death Stranding trailer shown at The Game Awards in December 2017, Hideo Kojima spoke to IGN to expand on gameplay concepts including 'Timefall' and what happens to your character when you die. He spoke about how traditional arcade games let you insert a coin to continue by taking you back in time to before the point of death. In Death Stranding however, death doesn't take you back in time but into a transitional state (or purgatory) that players experience in the first-person. “At that point, you’re not dead or alive. It’s the equivalent of that screen that says ‘Continue?’ and a counter ticking down towards zero”, Kojima explains.

Confused? We've captured the key gameplay ideas from the third Death Stranding trailer under a few headlines below:

Ageing via Timefall

If you’re wondering why all the plants are dying and one of the men starts rapidly ageing, it’s because of a thing called Timefall - aka rain from another world. 

“Most people in the game are aware of the rain - and well, Norman [Reedus’ character, Sam] is quite unique in this regard.”

Death and first-person purgatory

At the moment when the big monster emits a flash of bright light, you might be wondering if that’s the point at which you die. Well, Kojima’s new game has quite a fluid way of looking at death:

“At that point, you’re not dead or alive. It’s the equivalent of that screen that says ‘Continue?’ and a counter ticking down towards zero,” said Kojima. “So as you saw in the trailer, you saw the crater, and when you come back, it’s still there. Most games would’ve taken you back to before the crater was made. So depending on the player, you might have a lot of craters all over the place - it depends on each player.”

It seems like Death Standing’s version of death is a bit like Dark Souls. “Death will never pull you out of the game,” added Kojima. 

The role of the baby

The baby appears in Norman Reedus' throat giving the thumbs up – note the tiny handprints on the esophagus wall.

The baby appears in Norman Reedus' throat giving the thumbs up – note the tiny handprints on the esophagus wall.

Kojima confirmed to IGN that the baby Norman Reedus cuddles in the first trailer is the same as the baby in the container held by Del Toro (in trailer 2) and the baby who appears in Reedus' esophagus doing a thumbs up sign (!) during trailer 3. " “The baby relates to game mechanics as well as the story as a whole.”, Kojima said. The baby has a name, but he won't share it yet. 

"It seems plausible that Death Stranding will be concerned with time, parallel realities and relativity"

Sam and his Corpse Disposal team have shoulder-mounted spinning arms that rotate when that person comes into possession of the baby. There's a lot of speculation about the role of the baby, from suggestions it is Sam's child (or a metaphor for his real life baby), and / or a form of transference device, allowing its holder to travel across parallel universes or altering the perception of time. Further theories get really wild, but it seems plausible that Death Stranding will be concerned with time, parallel realities and relativity.

Sounds ludicrous? This excellent video from RagnarRox does a great job of examining Death Stranding's potential themes - such as Einstein's concept of relativity and its link to the Schwarzschild radius and Dirac equations found on Sam's necklace - with the focus on evidence rather than wishful thinking.

Death Stranding cast – which actors are confirmed so far plus confirmation of two female characters

Early design sketches revealed a female character and this outfit appears similar to that worn by Léa Seydoux

Early design sketches revealed a female character and this outfit appears similar to that worn by Léa Seydoux

Norman Reedus plays protagonist Sam, Guillermo Del Toro appears to be a government agent for BRIDGES working for the United Cities of America (many speculate that BRIDGES is a government department with links to the game's theme of 'ropes', with ties to the connections between players, or even time and dimensions) and Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen is a mysterious soldier decked in what appears to be WWII garb who controls a skeleton army with puppet-style strands, who are in pursuit of Del Toro's (worried looking) character.

Looks might be deceptive, since Mads' character isn't the game's primary antagonist, at least not according to what he told a crowd at a Saudi Arabia Comic Con. “No, I’m not a villain. I am a character in there that you can kind of decide what he is, but he’s not a villain", Mikkelsen explained. In a more recent interview with French site premiere, Mads explained that his background in dance made motion capture work on Death Stranding easier.

The E3 2018 gameplay reveals a new character played by Léa Seydoux, who appears to be helping Norman Reedus – albeit with a different set of abilities. The characters talk about being on different 'levels', which aligns with the theory that have classes much like a video-game character. Seydoux's character looks similar to the 'female Ludens' design sketch, once rumored to have been played by Emma Stone, and later Diane Kruger.

Kojima Productions' Happy Holidays 2015 card featured Yoji Shinkawa artwork of a 'mysterious female character' (these are the words Kojima used in his tweet).

Kojima Productions' Happy Holidays 2015 card featured Yoji Shinkawa artwork of a 'mysterious female character' (these are the words Kojima used in his tweet).

During TGS 2016, Kojima Productions' Twitter account made reference to casting a heroine to star in Death Stranding. Back in 2015, Kojima Productions shared a Happy Holidays card with a 'mystery female character', drawn by his long-time collaborator artist Yoji Shinkawa. In 2018, Kojima Productions shared a New Year card with a female character wearing the Kojima Productions Ludens outfit. You can listen to a more detailed analysis of the mystery character in this video from respected MGS YouTuber YongYea - there's a compelling case that both pieces of artwork are of the same person, based on the hair, eyes, arm sleeve, and right leg.

Kojima Productions Happy New Year 2018 card.

Kojima Productions Happy New Year 2018 card.

Fan speculation initially suggested the character might be played by La La Land's Emma Stone, based on the physical resemblance and a slightly implausible link to a Lionsgate (the company that owns Summit Entertainment who produced La La Land) beanie hat in a motion-capture picture that Kojima shared. Mads Mikkelsen seemed to enjoy the Emma Stone rumour, when quizzed at the Saudi Arabia comic-con. “I can’t talk about that, but I really like that rumor. That’s a lovely rumor”, he said.

"There are other cast members who we have yet to be revealed", Kojima wrote on the PlayStation Blog. Previous rumors have linked Idris Elba, Ryan Gosling and Benedict Cumberbatch to Death Stranding roles, although Kojima was alleged to have cooled on the Sherlock star. As fanciful as these names sound, it would be a surprise if Death Stranding didn't continue to add celebrity talent. Kojima wrote about the process of recruiting the cast so on the PS Blog: "Across countries, time and generations, we have come together to realize this vision. Coincidentally, this theme is strongly connected with that of the game, and is a theme I strive to realize as a game creator."

In more concrete news, voice actor Troy Baker (Ocelot in MGS5) and actress / writer Emily O'Brien (Camille in League of Legends) have joined the Death Stranding cast with Baker playing The Man with the Golden Mask from the TGS 2018 trailer. Stefanie Joosten (Quiet from MGS5) has also been discretely revealed as the character being carried by Sam in the TGS 2018 footage. Obvious likeness aside, the telltale clue is the Dutch flag on her suit (Joosten's nationality), and a still of this image was RT'ed by Joosten's manager.

Former Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner has a key role in Death Stranding

Lindsay Wagner, the 68 year-old actor and former Bionic Woman, made a surprise appearance in Death Stranding's E3 2018 demo. Well, surprise might not be the right word for people who've followed all the leaks and theories so far… but we'll get to that. Wagner appears a little younger in the game than she does in real-life (and she looks fantastic in real-life), and seems to appear on the oily beach seen in the first Death Stranding trailer. "You're too late. You still don't know who I am, do you?", Wagner tells Reedus' character, Sam, before turning to face the camera.

Before we get into the really wild theories, it's worth noting that Wagner's character appears in E3 2018 key art with an upside down light corona (similar to the upside down rainbow in the second Death Stranding trailer with Del Toro), and her necklace is curiously prominent. Could it represent a waveform? A DNA sequence? Or – as some Reddit posters speculate – the ancient Incan form of communication Quipo that Kojima has previously tweeted about? Before you laugh that off, consider that Reedus' character Sam wears necklace pendants containing the Dirac equation and Schwarzschild Radius. 

Guillermo del Toro considers himself “a puppet” in Death Stranding

Guillermo del Toro is one of the famous faces behind the characters of Death Stranding, but that doesn’t mean he knows what Kojima is up to. 

“In Death Stranding I’m just a puppet,” he said in an interview with IGN. “I don’t know what [Hideo Kojima’s] going to make me do. He’s supposedly going to show me the gameplay at some point in the next couple of weeks.”

This was just before the major gameplay trailer reveal at The Game Awards too, which was basically a mini teaser movie that confused more than explained.

In a Reddit AMA, del Toro reinforced that idea too. 

“[Kojima] scanned my body and face for the model over an entire day in Toronto,” he explained. “He needed it for a digital avatar (and for blackmail, perhaps) and then he sent me the teaser you all saw. That’s it. He sends me toys and gifts every few weeks but no clues. I am dying to know.”

Click 'next page' to read about the key themes of each trailer as we piece together the clues about Death Stranding's big picture.