Death Stranding: Release date, cast, and everything else you need to know about Hideo Kojima's game

Death Stranding trailer 1 - naked Norman Reedus and the meaning of "I'll keep coming" 

After Death Stranding's E3 2016 debut trailer, 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."

The first trailer's soundtrack is provided by Icelandic band Low Roar and called 'I'll keep coming', which Kojima describes as 'the perfect fit' for Death Stranding. The MGS creator tweeted out early images of Norman Reedus with the words 'I'll keep coming', which might have a more literal meaning. It appears that Reedus isn't affected by Death Stranding's Timefall upside down / purgatory events in the same way as other characters, being 'reborn' in different environments or universes. IGN asked Kojima if the strange tear running down Reedus' face in trailer 3 was related to this ability, which he diplomatically swerved for fear of saying too much.

Death Stranding  trailer 2 - WWII, upside down rainbows and a big budget cast 

Hideo Kojima fans know that the MGS creator has a passion for movies, so it's no surprise that he's chosen famous faces for the 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 in December 2016, Kojima confirmed that Mikkelsen will be providing the likeness and voice for his character. 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."

The most notable revelation in the second trailer concerns the baby and 'transference theory' based on overlapping the running of trailer one and two. Del Toro switches on the baby tank and the baby in Reedus' world disappears at the same time, claims the theory. Some have gone further, synchronising all three trailers, and while there is merit in comparing parallel - and likely connected - realities the timings are edited to make them look more coherent.

Death Stranding trailer 3 from The Game Awards 2017 – a working theory about what it all means

Global Editor in Chief, Dan Dawkins, is obsessed with Metal Gear Solid and Hideo Kojima's back catalogue. He has pored over Hideo Kojima's work more than anyone else we know, assembling two years of Kojima's tweets back in 2012 to build a solid prediction for MGS5 (i.e. it would star Big Boss in the 1980s and be partly set in Africa outlining his conflict with Major Zero) before the game was even announced.

When the Game Awards trailer dropped, he wasted no time in donning the tinfoil hat to construct an overarching plot theory that you can listen to above. It's a little out of date (recorded in Dec 2017) and talks in broader strokes than a purely evidential argument, but the core concepts hold: especially about how the game might be an analogue of how people play and interact in the digital world as we know it – perhaps in a more literal way than we realise, with humanity reaching a new stage in its evolution. Yes, quite.

What is the significance of BRIDGES?

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: 

BRIDGES might relate to the game's theme of connections and ropes. Is there a government department dedicated to bringing people - or even parallel realities or universes - together? Before this gets very speculative, we'd urge you to catch up on Kojima's use of Homo Ludens and its link to a novel called The Time Wanderers. In this sci-fi tale, Ludens are post-human characters with special mental powers, who perform experiments on humans and claim to be above their morality.

If you want to get even crazier – and maybe even spoil everything so CLICK WITH EXTREME CAUTION – there was a 2016 Reddit post claiming to know the plot of Death Stranding, and how Norman Reedus' in-game journey might link with the events of The Time Wanderers. The details don't all align, in hindsight, but the plot arc sounds very plausible.

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 the recent E3 2018 demo is 'Captured from a PS4 Pro'.

Kojima Productions and Guerrilla Games partnership 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 has clear links to black holes

Death Stranding's trailers are filled with dead whales, fetuses inside containment pods, and a sticky black ooze coating everything in the world. There's a clear science fiction vibe and we may have gotten a huge hint about where it all leads via Norman Reedus' Instagram account in May 2017.

Yep

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

Reedus 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 - in fact, we're getting horror flashbacks to Under the Skin - 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? We suspect not.

Consider the opening monologue from Death Stranding trailer 3:

Once there was an explosion. A bang which gave birth to time and space.
Once there was an explosion. A bang which sent a planet spinning in that space.
Once there was an explosion. A bang which gave rise to life as we know it.
And then came the next explosion. An explosion that will be our last.

The explosions can be easily linked to the big bang and the evolution of mankind. In fact, this is done quite brilliantly in this 'Evolution Event' video by RagnarRox. The big question, is the nature of the fourth - or final - explosion. Has mankind made a discovery that will forever change our destiny? Or has the explosion been imposed on us by visitors from beyond our world? At the extreme… are we talking about the apocalypse, or possibly even the biblical concept of Rapture? There is a theory that the mysterious five floating figures are 'angels' delivering judgement on humanity.

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. 

Death Stranding is being made by a team of long-time Metal Gear collaborators  

Yoji Shinkawa produced all the artwork and characters for the MGS series and has a distinctive brush sweep style.

Yoji Shinkawa produced all the artwork and characters for the MGS series and has a distinctive brush sweep style.

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.

Click 'next page' as put all the evidence together to propose a working theory for the plot and themes of Death Stranding.