What is Death Stranding about? Even after a deeper-dive showcase at E3 2018 , it's almost impossible to say. Broadly sci-fi, featuring elements of trippy horror, the first game from Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's new studio looks set to meld the techno-future trappings of the Metal Gear series with his own mind-bending Silent Hill horror, too.
But at this point, it's almost all entirely conjecture. Sony and Kojima are playing up to the mysterious nature of the game, letting very few details be revealed. As the first game from Kojima Studios, there's a lot riding on its success, and the PR campaign to drum up interest is already creating a fever-pitch of anticipation.
After his well-publicized departure from Konami, Kojima announced Death Stranding at Sony’s E3 2016 presentation and made something of a massive impression.
While the entire gaming planet tries to piece together the bread crumb trail to find out what exactly we're all waiting for, let this article guide you through everything there is to know about Death Stranding so far.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Honestly, who really knows. It’s the debut title from Hideo Kojima’s new studio Kojima Studios.
- When can I play it? Sometime in the next 2 years.
- What will it cost? Likely to be around $60/£45/AU$59
- What can I play it on? PS4
Death Stranding trailers and screenshots
The Tokyo Game Show 2018 trailer revealed voice-acting veteran Troy Baker has joined the cast as the mysterious villain The Man in the Golden Mask.
#TGS2018 Troy Baker's character introduced! pic.twitter.com/IT74ZU7dY3September 23, 2018
E3 2018 brought Death Stranding gameplay to our eyes and left our minds somewhat confused.
Before E3 2018, Death Stranding featured at the Game Awards 2017. Coming in at nearly eight minutes long, this isn't a quick watch and unfortunately it doesn't answer many of the questions we have about the game (actually we think we have more). Watch it for yourself below:
The reveal trailer that was shown at E3 in 2016 may have been more than 3 minutes long, but it didn’t reveal much about the game at all other than that it would star The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus.
A second even longer and 4K trailer was shown at The Game Awards at the end of 2016. This trailer starred Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen and Guillermo Del Toro and although it didn’t give us any more of an idea of what the game will actually even be about (in fact leaving us more confused than we were before) it did send expectations soaring.
From what we can guess, the events of the second trailer take place before the events of the first, since the baby being transported in the incubator (in the second) is almost certainly Norman Reedus (as seen in the first trailer). They have the same handcuff and stomach scars.
As for what this means we have absolutely no idea. Bear in mind Kojima has, in the past, been a fan of including footage in trailers that never made it into the final game. Anyone remember the 'Grand Theft Auto' exchange from the first MGS3 trailer?
Death Stranding release date
There’s no definite release date just yet but Kojima did tell fans during the 2016 Tokyo Game Show that Death Stranding would be out before 2019. During a recent interview at the 2017 Game Awards, Kojima seemed to be happy with the development progress of the game, stating that a lot of work had been done with the Decima engine.
In an interview with Dengeki PlayStation (via Wccftech) at the end of 2017, Kojima said that development of the game was going well: “Development on Death Stranding is going well enough that [Sony Interactive Entertainment] told us, ‘We have never before seen a game being created at such a fast pace.’ We are planning an announcement that will further surprise everyone in 2018.”
However, that runs counter to what a leak from an Amazon UK listing revealed. It put Death Stranding down for a release of March 29, 2019, which would see the game slip well beyond that 2018 aim. For a game that no-one is still all that sure of in terms of how it will play, let alone anyone having actually played it, this feels realistic.
That said, there's lots to suggest this was little more than a retail placeholder from Amazon. For instance, it appeared alongside a listing for The Last of Us 2 on the same date – competition that would seem bizarre for two first-party Sony titles to generate against each other. With March 29 2019 the end of the financial year, it's more likely simply a system default listing.
The most recent update on development came from Kojima at Tokyo Game Show 2018, where he revealed at the team is "in the phase where I’m holding the controller the whole day, embedding new elements while playing the game".
In addition, Kojima revealed that the voice actor strikes have held up development as he was unable to record with Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen during that period - so recording is still taking place now.
What do we know so far about Death Stranding?
Death Stranding is in a 'critical phase', according to Kojima
Thanks to a tweet by Kojima, we now know the game has reached an important phase of development and is even capable of running on the PlayStation 4.
The following tweet by Kojima (roughly translated by MSPoweruser), explains that while Death Stranding is fairly far along in development, there's a lot of polishing to still be done.
"Death Stranding is not yet in the debugging stage, but is currently having all the game elements and tools from different development systems combined into the game," Kojima writes. "It’s a process that involves connecting the parts, adding feeling, looking over the production, the specifications, looking out for trouble, taking things out and adding things in.
"I’m playing the game on PlayStation 4 every day. It’s a critical phase."
DSはまだ難度調整やデバック段階ではなく、ツールや開発機上で出来たバラバラのパーツをひとつのゲームに組み上げていっているところ。PS4の実機で毎日、実際に僕がゲームを直接プレイしながら、パーツを繋げ、操作感や演出、仕様、不具合を修正、肉付けと削ぎ落としをしている過程。重要なフェーズ🌈 pic.twitter.com/h30KIec9q0March 24, 2019
Tribeca Film Festival
The Tribeca Film Festival is set to host 'Tribeca Games Presents: Hideo Kojima with Norman Reedus' next month, a panel which will - according to the event's description - see director Kojima and Death Stranding star Norman Reedus discussing the "boundary-pushing new game" (via GamesRadar).
In addition the panel will be hosted by Geoff Keighley, founder of The Game Awards. So you know there's going to be some juicy details emerging.
Troy Baker is a villain
Veteran voice-actor Troy Baker (who voices Joel in The Last of Us series) stars in Death Stranding as the enigmatic antagonist The Man in the Golden Mask. Baker was introduced in a teaser trailer shown during Tokyo Game Show, with his skull-masked character summoning a black tar-like demon to take on Norman Reedus' character.
E3 brought a brand new trailer, few answers and even more questions. The trailer for the game had the most revealing description we've seen yet, stating the game is about Sam ‘Porter’ Bridges, a delivery man who must journey across a vast world so that he can “reunite the shattered world one step at a time.”
We also got look at two more famous faces who will make an appearance in the game – Léa Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner.
It'll be at E3 2018
Sony has confirmed the time and date of its E3 conference as June 11 at 6pm PT/ 9am BST. And Sony Worldwide Studios boss, Shawn Layden, has confirmed during a PlayStation Blogcast that Death Stranding will feature. Layden said that Sony has decided to "refresh and remake its show" and that fans can expect "deep dives" into games like Death Stranding and Spider-Man, with updates on how development is progressing.
Hideo Kojima has been doing some teasing on Twitter with a brand new screenshot and an E3 countdown. As you'd expect, the screenshot raises more questions than it answers. Hopefully we'll get a little more to go on when E3 rolls around.
+1 on the T-minus 3 weeks. #E32018Decima×Kojima=DS. pic.twitter.com/OxNrqaxQJSMay 22, 2018
At the moment, we don’t know all that much about Death Stranding other than that it’ll be an open world action title starring Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen.
It’s not likely, however, to be the standard open world action fare we’ve grown used to, not that we’d expect anything standard from Kojima.
According to Kojima his first title with Sony is going to be “slightly more edgy” and in an interview with IGN he stated that though he wants “to create something that’s what people expect” he also wants to bring “something new that people haven’t seen before.”
Unfortunately, this raises more questions than it answers.
We do know that Kojima is planning to do something different with the game’s mechanics, most notably around the concept of dying and involving the baby that has appeared in every trailer. Kojima told IGN his plans for the mechanics of Death Stranding were inspired by a Japanese short story.
In the story it’s stated that the first tool mankind creates is a stick for protection but that the second tool mankind created was a rope to keep things close and secure. “Most of your tools in action games are sticks” Kojima explained, “You punch or you shoot or you kick. The communication is always through these 'sticks.' In [Death Stranding], I want people to be connected not through sticks, but through what would be the equivalent of ropes… But of course you will be able to use the sticks too.”
Unfortunately we haven’t seen any gameplay that would give us a better insight into how this rope approach will actually work.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Sony Interactive Entertainment America's President, Shawn Layden, admitted that he's played Death Stranding and that the game is, indeed, "up and running."
After Hideo Kojima appeared at this year's E3 without any new information about, or footage from, Death Stranding, rumors began to circulate that the game is in for an extremely drawn out development process.
However, the mysterious game is apparently far enough along that Layden has played some prototype levels, though he admits "I couldn't explain to you what the game is..."
When asked if the game is as revolutionary as is being promised, Layden says it's "all that and more!" after what The Telegraph calls a "thoughtful pause."
Layden isn't the only person that's struggled to get to grips with Death Stranding; at a Q and A session at the E3 Coliseum, Kojima himself said that his own team didn't understand the game: "I started explaining a year ago to the team what I wanted to make. No one got it!"
Before this, the game's star Mads Mikkelsen admitted he "got lost" when Kojima tried to explain the game's plot to him.
Though it's comfort to know that the game has gotten to the point in its development process that Layden is able to get hands on with it, it's less comforting that so many people close to Death Stranding are so perplexed by it. Or maybe that's exciting? We have to say we can't wait to find out more.
Though Kojima has been coy, he’s given some nice teases into what we can expect from Death Stranding in terms of tone and gameplay modes.
At the Tokyo Game Show, Kojima told fans the game would have a female protagonist and would feature online co-op play.
We know the game will run on the Decima engine which was created by Horizon: Zero Dawn developers, Guerilla Games. Kojima praised this engine during PSX 2016 as being an excellent engine for creating open world games, something that Horizon: Zero Dawn’s reception suggests has an element of truth to it.
Though its unsettling trailers suggest otherwise, Kojima has said that Death Stranding won’t be as dark as some fans are expecting. It’s certainly not a horror game, he told Glixel, and it would have comedic moments which isn’t entirely surprising considering the overarching tone of the Metal Gear series.
An impressive cast
We already knew Death Stranding had some big names attached to it including Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen . But now we know they'll be joined by writer and actress Emily O'Brien and the voice of video games, Troy Baker.
O'Brien recently posted a picture to Instagram which showed her alongside Baker and Reedus, with a caption stating "Honored to be working alongside these two fine lads on [Hideo Kojima's] new project Death Stranding."
While Baker is well known for his starring roles in video games such as The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite, O'Brien has had roles on both TV and in games, featuring in Telltale's Guardian's of the Galaxy and Batman: The Enemy Within as well as Rock in a Hard Place.
Players won't die
In a recent interview with IGN, Hideo Kojima was slightly more open with details than he usually is. The strange underwater sequence from the 2017 Game Awards trailer for example? That's apparently a kind of purgatory where players will go and freely explore when they die in the game, though Kojima notes that "death will never pull you out of the game."
The game apparently explores the themes of life and death and it's for this reason that Kojima would like to explore the traditional death mechanic in games and let players know that in-game death isn't the end for them when it happens.
In this underwater area, he explains, “you're not dead or alive. It's the equivalent of that screen that says 'Continue?' and a counter ticking down towards zero.” When players decide they're ready to leave and return to the game world, they won't be returned to a point before their death. Instead the game acknowledges their defeat and coming back to life is more of a reincarnation than a respawn.
There's a weird time rain
During the trailer shown at the 2017 Game Awards, fans noticed there's a strange kind of rain that has an effect on time. In makes plants grow in wilt and makes human bodies age and degenerate when it touches them. The rain is apparently called Timefall and it has a big role to play in the game's story.
What's the deal with the babies?
There's been some seriously strange recurring baby imagery in the footage we've seen for Death Stranding that's included Norman Reedus cradling a baby while standing nude on a beach as well as having one living inside his throat. According to Kojima in an interview with IGN, the baby is apparently the same baby and it's a part of the game mechanics as well as the overarching plot. We assume it's related to the idea of not ever finitely dying but Kojima didn't confirm this.
There will be online elements
We already knew there would be online co-op elements in the game after Kojima confirmed it at the Tokyo Game Show, but in a recent IGN interview he acknowledged that he's been keeping up with recent players reactions to things like microtransactions.
“I think there are a lot of people out there who still enjoy single-player games, aside from some microtransactions." This suggests that while the game will have online co-op elements, they won't make up the entirety of the game.
What could it all mean?
Though the game’s trailers don’t tell us much about how we’ll eventually play Death Stranding, they do reveal some important thematic elements.
Quotes from William Blake, the repeated appearance of ruined dolls, and the inclusion of what looks like oil (but could very well be ink) and dead sea creatures suggests Kojima will be exploring the fractious relationship between man and the natural world and the impact it has on us and future generations.
The littering of dead crabs on beaches and tanks with definitely living tentacles coming out of them suggests to us a post-apocalyptic world over-run with robotic sea creatures which would certainly be interesting. After all, Kojima is working closely with Guerilla Games whose Horizon: Zero Dawn game focused on robotic dinosaurs.
There’s also a curious mix of futuristic technology and elements of the past in the game’s various trailers.
In the second game trailer though Mads Mikkelsen is wearing a modern army uniform and appears to be using some kind of cable, the undead soldiers around him are wearing WW2 era uniforms and the game world outside of the tunnel he’s in is almost certainly from the second world war time period.
Whether this mix of past and future will manifest itself as time travelling or simply alternate universe science fiction isn’t clear.
Safe to say, as a Kojima title, there’s a lot of mystery and symbolism at play here and fans online are tearing through what little materials there are to try and find out more information about the game.
We’ll keep updating as more solid information becomes available.