Death Stranding is a game that has remained shrouded in a mysteriously mysterious layer of mystery since being unveiled at E3 2016. For everything we learn about the Kojima-developed title, there is so much more we have yet to understand.
The picture became clearer than ever yesterday, when we got a nine minute trailer that showed off gameplay, dived into the ambitious sounding story, and even finally revealed a release date of later this year (November 8).
Join me now, good reader, as I attempt to make sense of the nine solid minutes of weirdness that Kojima subjected us to last night. Will I lose my mind in the process? Very probably. But first; the trailer.
Right? RIGHT? I honestly have no idea what to make of this game yet. I’m aware there are scores of people who are convinced this is a must-buy and that Kojima has “done it again”, but all I’m seeing so far is a fairly bland looking AAA game with ladders and a story that makes the Metal Gear series look like bloody Sesame Street.
Let’s start with the gameplay elements spotted in the trailer, if only because that’ll be much easier to make sense of. The game’s official description tells us that Sam Bridges (Norman Reedus) must “brave a world transformed by the Death Stranding. Carrying the remnants of our future in his hands, he embarks on a journey to reunite the shattered world.”
It’s unclear exactly how he does this or what it really means, but it looks like it’ll involve a lot of travelling. We see a lot of Sam on foot, and also get a few shots of him riding a cool motorbike with glowing wheels. I’m not sure if this’ll be the only vehicle we get to use, or how often we can use it, but I like the look of it.
We also get a look at a very AAA radial menu from which Sam can clearly select various items for traversal. Among them, he whips out a ridiculously large ladder which can be used to climb to new areas and cross large gaps, but I’d wager more traversal items will be unlocked as you progress.
Stealth also seems to be a big part of Death Stranding, which isn’t too surprising given that this is a Hideo Kojima title. We see Sam hide in long grass to avoid human pursuers, and at one point he emits a pulse from one of the crates he’s carrying on his back, which seems to distract the enemies hunting him.
There’s a quick glimpse of some fairly generic looking melee combat in the trailer too. It mostly involves Sam battering his attackers with a suitcase. The desperate nature of the combat implies to me that going head to head with enemies is intended as a last resort.
Human enemies appear to be put off chasing Sam when the rain falls, by the way – but that’s because the implication is that something much, much worse comes out when it rains.
At one point in the trailer, Sam creeps a rain soaked forest full of horrible looking ghostly creatures known as BTs. The implication here is very much that if you’re spotted by even one of them, then you’ve screwed it. They’ll quickly overrun you, and drag you into some black goo which seems to… take you back to World War I?
Honestly, I’m trying my best here, I really am.
After being pulled back to WWI (or a warzone of some kind, at any rate) we get a little glimpse of Sam using an assault rifle and crouching behind cover as he presumably fights to find a way back to his own time (or place).
The implication that time and/or space travel will be in the game certainly permeates throughout the trailer, especially with the existence of the “Bridge Babies”, the name Death Stranding has given the babies in jars that have dominated so many of the trailers for the game up until this point.
It seems that these Bridge Babies will play a key role in the game, as it looks like Sam needs to be connected to one in order to use certain abilities, namely the handy ability to scan and spot the creepy BTs.
With that in mind, I’m not sure if it’s the Bridge Baby or the BTs that actually transport Sam back to the past, as the end of the trailer sees Mads Mikkelsen’s character Cliff talking to one of the babies, saying it can “go wherever you want, even the moon.”
So, what’s going on with the story of Death Stranding? I still couldn’t tell you, but here are the major beats that happened in the trailer – if you can make full sense of them, you’re a better human than I.
The start of the trailer sees Cliff chatting to a Bridge Baby. The camera is from the baby’s perspective, and as others have pointed out, each new cut in the trailer seems to be the baby’s blinks, further suggesting these babies have some kind of superhuman, maybe even multidimensional powers.
We then cut to Sam talking to a woman in a hospital bed, in what looks like the White House. Is this woman the president? It certainly seems so, as she asks Sam to “make America whole”, before Sam calls her the “President of Jack-shit.”
This implies that whatever is going on in the world of Death Stranding hasn’t quite destroyed everything yet, but it’s clearly on the way to doing so, as the “President” tells Sam; “if we don’t all come together again, humanity will not survive.”
While we don’t know who or what has caused all this bother, we do know that a militant separatist group described as “Homo demons” are kicking up all manner of trouble in America. They’re shadowy extremists that go around towns murdering people, and will be chasing down Sam over the course of the game.
Towards the end of the trailer, we get a whole lot more STUFF in quick succession that makes a whole lot less sense, including a bunch of characters crying various liquids (actual tears, blood, and oil), before Cliff rises up out of some water (or oil?) with what looks like a squad of undead soliders.
In a menacing and immensely awesome shot, Cliff lights a cigarette (without the use of any kind of flame), before taking a drag and setting fire to himself and his undead cohorts. Worringly, it doesn’t look like they feel any pain.
Intriguingly, an offscreen character speaks over this disturbing scene, and seems to refer to Cliff specifically as “a good connection to the other side.” What does this mean? I wish I knew, I really do, but it sure is mysterious.
So that’s pretty much what I managed to gather from the Death Stranding trailer. No doubt there are many more devoted fans out there who will make so much more sense from what we’ve just seen, but for now I think I’m intrigued enough to pick the game up when it launches in November.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.