Death Stranding - Everything you need to know about Hideo Kojima's mysterious game

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Fast Facts

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

Death Stranding is a game that raises so many questions. What's going on? Why is Norman Reedus naked? Why does he have a baby in his throat? You know, the normal questions. With every trailer that Kojima nad co put out, there are more questions added to that list, and that's just one of the reasons it's one of the most highly anticipated games of all time. 

What we do know is 'explosion in your adrenal gland' exciting. Hollywood stars in major roles, creator Hideo Kojima's first chance to experiment since his massive Metal Gear Solid series. The use of Decima, the same game engine that super-powered open-world adventure Horizon Zero Dawn. We've scoured the internet to bring you everything we can from official interviews, trailers, and even cryptic tweets and Instagram posts, so you can obsess over every clue until Kojima is ready to tell us more. 

The Game Awards trailer for Death Stranding raised more questions than it answers, but Resident Kojima/Metal Gear Solid Expert, Dan Dawkins, thinks he’s got it sussed

Global Editor in Chief, Dan Dawkins, speaks Kojima. He understands his brain more than anyone else we know - and definitely more than anyone else on the GamesRadar+ team. So when the Game Awards trailer for Death Stranding dropped, it was like the best form of catnip for Dawkins. And you can see why above.

The trailer starts with talk of the Big Bang and the Cambrian Explosion, followed by showing Norman Reedus’ character Sam lying on a very familiar beach - but no baby hands this time, or nudity for that matter. Instead, he’s wearing weird, rubbery clothes adorned with the word “Porter”. 

But this time, Sam’s not alone. He’s got two colleagues with him, one of which is trapped under a piece of equipment. He’s actually really, really not alone as there’s a massive, invisible, mysterious monster hunting them and it can hear them breathing. Aaaaaand, Sam’s alone again apart from the baby that’s now living inside his throat and is capable of giving us a cheeky thumbs up. 

Umm. What? Dan, help us out please. 

Check out the full Dan Dawkins analysis below:

Kojima actually explains some points of the gameplay trailer

Oh thank God Kojima. We’re getting too many greys from trying to figure out what the heck is going on in Death Stranding. In an interview with IGN, Kojima has actually explained some of what’s going on in that Game Awards trailer. 

Ageing

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

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. 

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 the heck is going on or 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. So maybe we know about as much as del Toro, which is a rather strange feeling indeed.

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.”

Secretive Kojima, secretive.

Death Stranding's first trailer, and naked Norman Reedus 

When it comes to Hideo Kojima's next game, Death Stranding, trying to follow the fan theories and crumbs of information sometimes feels like being in your own augmented reality game. One that's built on a foundation of Horizon Zero Dawn, starring Norman Reedus, Guillermo Del Toro, and, um, throat babies? In classic Kojima style, our glimpses of the game thus far have either been tantalizing Twitter clues or - as we just saw at The Game Awards 2017 - masterpiece trailers that set the internet on fire. Sure, we still don't have a specific release date - or any real idea of what the game actually looks like or how it plays - but that doesn't stop us from getting all funny downstairs every time it's mentioned. We've braved every corner of the online world to bring you the hot details from official interviews, trailers, and even cryptic tweets and Instagram posts, so you can spend the rest of winter warming yourself by the light of Kojima's genius. 

After the trailer was shown, Kojima revealed only a few tidbits at various press calls. In an interview with Wired, he pointed out the importance of the umbilical cords that are so prevalent in the trailer, and talked gameplay.

"What people are playing today in open-world action games, or linear action games, it will compare naturally to them," he said. "It will feel familiar. But after an hour or two of playing, you will start to feel something different, something new that you haven't played. The story is about connections, what you call 'strands' in psychology - how people are connected." 

He referred to the gameplay as a "new system," and cryptically referenced the work of author Kōbō Abe. "[Abe] mentions that the first tool that humanity invented was the stick, to keep away bad things. Right now, looking at today's online games, you see a lot of sticks - pistols, weapons, things that are the equivalent of the first tool. Abe, in his novel, mentions that after the stick, mankind invented something that keeps things that are important close to you - the rope."

Death Stranding's second trailer, and a big budget cast 

Hideo Kojima fans know that the Metal Gear Solid creator has a passion for movies that would make him a killer bar trivia team member, so it's no surprise that he's chosen famous faces for the Death Stranding trailers we've seen so far. The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus was the star of the teaser, and Hannibal actor Mads Mikkelsen and director Guillermo Del Toro appeared in the stunning second sneak peek at The Game Awards in December 2016.  

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.

Not long after the second trailer, Kojima spoke to Glixel, and confirmed that despite its dark themes, Death Stranding wouldn't be the a Silent Hill-style spookfest fans were hoping for from the doomed P.T. "Death Stranding is not a horror game," Kojima said. "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."

Death Stranding teases across cryptic tweets, Instagram posts, and behind-the-scenes photos 

 Kojima's pre-E3 2017 tweet - see below - contains a mysterious cobweb image with the word 'Bridges', which alludes to a badge worn by Guillermo del Toro's character. The badge looks like a revised outline of the US map, with the tagline 'United Cities of America.' 

Kojima's office birthday cake, shared on Twitter this August, also featured a cobweb. :thinking emoji: 

Kojima Productions has also shared behind-the-scenes snaps, taken at the Sony Interactive Entertainment Visual Arts Service Group (VASG) studio in San Diego. 

Who else could star? Way back in September 2016, Kojima Productions' English Twitter announced that additional casting is still underway, teasing fans about the potential of a female lead to star alongside Norman and Mads. It asked fans to speculate over who it should be, but we've haven't heard anything about a female character yet.  

Death Stranding's engine traces back to Horizon: Zero Dawn

Kojima and Sony have confirmed the engine that Death Stranding will be using. It's called Decima, the official name for the engine powering Guerrilla Games' Horizon: Zero Dawn. Kojima stated that The Game Awards 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.

"The best situation is to create your own engine - then you have full control over it - but that would take us another five years," said Kojima. "We’re using Guerilla’s engine, but we’re not creating the same type of game as them, so we need to add to and modify it. We’ll take those modifications that we’ve made and give them back to Guerrilla, and together we'll create an even more powerful engine."

 Death Stranding's story might be about black holes 

 So Death Stranding definitely has a weird vibe about it, the trailers filled as they are with dead whales, fetuses inside containment pods, and a sticky black ooze coating everything in the world. There's a good chance Death Stranding will feature a healthy dose of sci-fi in there along with all the freaky horror show elements, too - and we may have gotten a huge hint via Norman Reedus' Instagram account.  

Yep

A photo posted by @bigbaldhead on May 22, 2017 at 5:12am PDT

As you can see, back in May Norman reposted a video of a 3D model of a naked man being slurped up into a tiny hole in a wall, the video quoted with a simple, declarative "Yep." 

Now, it could be that this video has nothing to do with Death Stranding at all - Reedus could've just seen something cool and wanted to share it. But the trailers currently have more than a few hints that point toward the existence of black holes in Death Stranding's narrative. The equation for the Schwarzschild Radius we mentioned earlier? It's used by scientists to calculate the radius of a black hole. And in the TGA 2016 trailer, Mads Mikkelsen's gun has 'BLACKHOLE' engraved on the scope. Coincidence? Or have we stumbled onto something big here?

Death Stranding is exclusive to PlayStation 4 (for now) 

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.  

Death Stranding is being made by a team 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 Kenichiro Imaizumi. Novelist and 'Metal Gear expert' Kenji Yano - who was largely responsible for the planning of the MGS series' novelization and was interviewed in Famitsu about his interpretation of the events of The Phantom Pain - has also joined the staff.

Death Stranding has nothing to do with Kojima Productions' mascot

There's been a lot of speculation surrounding Ludens, that space-faring skeleton man Kojima Productions had 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 up the game).

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

Death Stranding's release date

Kojima has spoken about the release date in the most Kojima way possible: via a tweet that referenced a movie.  

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