If you don't know who Hideo Kojima is, it's time to pay attention. He's the creator of the world-renowned Metal Gear franchise, known best for his works with the mainline series Metal Gear Solid.
Well, he left Konami, the company that controls the Metal Gear IP, and is now doing his own thing under independent label Kojima Productions. Their first work is Death Stranding, a forthcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive that not even Kojima himself can easily explain. Here's everything we know about it so far.
What is Death Stranding?
That's a good question. Kojima has mentioned that there will be elements of action, adventure, RPG, stealth, and open world gameplay involved. That's a pretty long list, but he contends it's not right to try and fit the game into any of these categories as he instead opts to treat the game as its own genre. An official description has painted a clearer picture of what Death Stranding is, or at least what it's about.
In the near future, mysterious explosions have rocked the planet, setting off a series of supernatural events known as the Death Stranding. With spectral creatures plaguing the landscape, and the planet on the verge of a mass extinction, it's up to Sam Bridges to journey across the ravaged wasteland and save mankind from impending annihilation.
The story so far
In typical Kojima fashion, we're left with a lot of nonsensical trailers which challenge the player to piece together their own conclusions about Sam (the main character) and what's going on in the world around him. As attention-grabbing as these trailers are, they just don't tell us much of anything. Hell, some scenes show naked babies trapped in capsules which are attached to characters via mechanical arms (or, worse yet, down Sam's throat), and those babies are eventually sent floating up a river. It's just plain weird and creepy.
Then there's the Timefall rain mechanic, which seemingly both wears on the world and gives it accelerated growth, and it'll also affect Sam one way or another. We don't know how. We don't know why. We just don't know.
And it's not because we aren't trying to know, either. Even Kojima's own team has mentioned that they are sometimes confused when he is explaining his vision for the game and the story. We reckon it'll be one of those things we'll just have to play through before we know what the hell is actually going on, but we're still holding out hope that they'll be a little less tight-lipped before the game's launch.
The human connection
Interestingly enough, Kojima took a lot of inspiration from a Japanese novella called Rope for the premise of Death Stranding. In that written work, the concept of mankind's earliest tools was boiled down to two simple things: sticks and ropes.
The thinking here is that the stick is the object you would use to keep unpleasant or violent things away from you. Think of it as your weapon, even if all you ever do with it is keep someone at arm's length. That's not to say you'll be tasked with trying to cut through the apparent skeletal armies present in this game using nothing but a tree branch, but we know that the main character will heavily rely on one.
Then there's the rope, which is the item you use when you want to keep things close to you like your beloved pet dog on a leash. This is the part where we get a tad confused, though early murmurings from Kojima suggest that the "rope" will shape the concept of "strands" in this game.
So what are strands? Good question. Here's what Kojima has to say about some of its themes and naming conventions:
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.
Life and death
Kojima's theme for Death Stranding thus far seems to surround the cycle of life and death. In most games, death typically means either game over or you're zipped back to a checkpoint to try again.
But death will take on a whole new meaning in Death Stranding, with the player instead being taken to some sort of purgatory realm whenever they die. It's not yet clear what you can do in this realm, but we do know you'll be free to explore it and return to your living form anytime you wish.
Kojima says their desire for changing the role of death in video games stems from the industry's long misuse of the mechanic. He noted that death checkpoints were designed for arcade machines to keep people popping quarters into the slot, but the gaming industry has largely failed to move on from the mechanic even as arcade machines have become a dying breed. While it's just as vague and cryptic as Kojima wants it, it still leaves us wondering what, exactly, death will mean in this title.
Kojima has been particularly chatty when it comes to the technology behind it. He revealed that his team met with over 30 studios to find the perfect engine for Death Stranding.
They eventually landed with the engine Guerilla Games created for Horizon Zero Dawn. Their choice was based on a number of factors, including an engine with great graphical capabilities and one that supports open-world development. Many engines fit that bill by default, but Guerilla's won the ticket due to their willingness to collaborate with Kojima on further developing the engine. In fact, the two have even gone so far as to co-brand the engine with the name 'Decima.' The specifics of what and how they've changed it aren't really important, just as long as you know it'll look good (there's PS4 Pro 4K + HDR support) and play great.
An all-star cast
Not one to shy away from cinematics, Kojima is pulling top talent to help drive the narrative in Death Stranding. The main character, Sam, is portrayed by Norman Reedus. You may know him as the actor for the character Daryl on AMC's The Walking Dead. We also know Mads Mikkelson and Guillermo del Toro will be along for the ride, along with Léa Seydoux from Blue is the Warmest Color, and Lindsay Wagner from The Bionic Woman. Troy Baker (every video game ever), Tommie Earl Jenkins (Jersey Boys), and Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) round out the cast.
When can you play it?
Death Stranding is due out for PlayStation 4 on November 8, 2019 and can be pre-ordered now. Players looking for a little extra can shell out $70 for the Special Edition or a whopping $200 for the Collector's Edition. But the Collector's Edition comes with a figure of that pod baby, so maybe it's worth it.
Updated October 2019: We've updated this article with the latest information.
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