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Death Stranding: Breaking down the latest E3 2018 trailer

Your complete guide to all things Death Stranding, including the latest trailer.

CNET screenshot

The newest Death Stranding trailer just dropped at Sony's PlayStation event at E3 2018, and if you've been following the entire convoluted saga, you can skip ahead. But for those new to Hideo Kojima's new project, follow along the long, strange story.

Kojima has set a high bar for weirdness with the twists and turns fans loved in the Metal Gear Solid series. Since departing the franchise, Kojima has set his sights on a new project: the PlayStation 4-exclusive Death Stranding. Outside of Kojima Productions and the halls of Sony, concrete details about Death Stranding are sparse. 

The occasional interview and stunning trailer have offered some ideas about what Death Stranding will actually play like, but until then, we only know what it feels like. And what it feels like is a bizarre trip through horror, ecological concerns, parenting, invisible monsters and Norman Reedus.

After combing through trailers, teasers, fan speculation and rumors galore, this is everything we know about Death Stranding's world, the famous faces involved and a few gameplay elements.

What did the E3 2018 trailer reveal?

Gameplay! Or at least, what looks like gameplay. You can never be too sure with Death Stranding, but from what we saw in the E3 2018 trailer, Death Stranding will have exploration elements and gorgeous vistas that bring to mind the best elements on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.


Climb, climb, climb.

CNET screenshot

Throughout the trailer, we saw Sam Bridges, played by Norman Reedus, and other unnamed characters roaming around the wilderness accompanied by their adorable robot buddies and carrying packages, supplies and in one stark instance, what appeared to be a covered corpse. Looks like Death Stranding isn't holding back on the whole death thing.


What's clear from the gameplay segments of the trailer is that Death Stranding will tackle loneliness and sacrifice. These explorers are shown stumbling, falling into water currents and trying to keep heavy burdens balanced as they cross over chasms. And the effects of their struggle is on full display: One wanderer tears out their toenail while Sam looks vacantly into the distance, his bruised body sitting exhausted in a shower. It's pretty intense stuff, which is only broken up by the weirdness inherent in every Kojima project.


Umbrellas get weird in the future.

CNET screenshot

Toward the trailer's conclusion, we got a pivotal sequence shows off elements that will be familiar to fans of Metal Gear Solid. Sam, baby in tow, tries to sneak past ghostly phantoms. His efforts succeed at first, but he's swiftly grabbed by the interlocked figures and dragged somewhere. Toward death? Toward life? Toward Death Stranding? Who knows, but it all-but-confirms that stealth, an element frequently vital to Kojima's formulas, will play a part in Death Stranding.

What about the game's universe? Well, there's some time weirdness, in case things weren't complicated enough.

"The time fold fast-forwards everything it touches, but it can't wash everything away. The past just won't let go," a newly revealed character played by Léa Seydoux tells Sam as he stares at a photo of people he presumably can no longer reach. Has he been fast-forwarded? Is he trying to live in the future? Get back to the past? Either way, when Sam is killed, he's not actually killed, a fact that may be tied to time-travel madness.

"Sam, if one of those things eats you, it'll trigger a [unintelligible] down. You'll come back sure, but the surrounding area will still be a crater," an unnamed person tells him over the radio after we seem Sam cornered by the aforementioned ghost monsters. In that stealthy effort to escape them, Sam activates his baby (yes, you read that correctly) and heads out. Maybe the baby helps make him invisible, maybe the baby prevents the creation of that crater... either way Sam dies at the end. But we know for sure he's coming back.

Speaking of returns, the final shot of the trailer shows what appears to be a younger version of Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner, who looks just like a woman in the photo Sam was holding. She's standing at a beach in front of several beached whales, so she may be in a past during an ecological disaster, or in a dream or perhaps whenever the creatures dragged Sam? Seriously, at this point it could be anything.

Either way, Kojima called both Wagner and Seydoux's character's the games "heroines." Here's hoping he's learned a thing or two since the whole Quiet controversy from Metal Gear Solid 5.


Here's lookin' at ya, dead whales.

CNET screenshot

Get comfortable with confusion

Death Stranding is the first game from Kojima Productions, a studio founded by legendary game developer Hideo Kojima. After a rocky departure from Konami, where he built up the Metal Gear franchise, among other projects, Kojima started his independent studio and revealed the first title would be exclusive to Sony's PlayStation 4. The reveal trailer premiered during Sony's 2016 E3 conference, and sets the stage for the weirdness we're delving into.

Still confused? Don't worry. Ever since its initial announcement, Death Stranding has been shrouded in mystery. Kojima is famous for his unconventional promotional methods (at one point pretending to be part of a non-Metal Gear studio making a non-Metal Gear game) and for building strangeness into his games (see any Metal Gear ever), and Death Stranding is no exception. It's important to note that much of what we've seen so far is ripped directly from the game's cutscenes, as confirmed by Kojima.

Familiar (digital) faces

Norman Reedus is the most obvious face of Death Stranding. He's prominently featured in two of the trailers and is credited as Sam, the only named character. What's up with Sam? Well, let's hear it straight from Kojima himself:

Sam is unlike any other hero you may have seen in games before. A typical hero is usually some sort of elite or someone with a military background. Sam is not. He is a working man of sorts — a hands-on professional. Someone with a skillset akin to a blue-collar worker.

Reedus and Kojima previously worked together on the canceled Silent Hills project. If you're lucky enough to know someone with that project's demo, P.T., still installed on their PS4, drop everything and play it.


Digital Reedus has seen some things.

Kojima Productions

Reedus elaborated on his experiences with Kojima and teased the weirdness to come in an interview last year with CNET:

"It's mind blowing. He's a genius. He came out to San Diego for Comic-Con, and he had some stuff on an iPad that he wanted to show me. I sat in a little restaurant at a booth watching this iPad and the things he'd created, and I was just blown away. I was like, 'Whatever you want to do, let's do it. I don't even know what you're talking about.' It's unreal. People will do whatever he wants because he's a visionary."

But Reedus isn't alone. Actor Mads Mikkelson appeared in the second trailer as what appears to be an antagonist to Reedus' Sam. That same trailer also featured none other than Oscar-award-winning director Guillermo del Toro as some sort of suit-wearing baby-holder. Little else is known about their roles, but like Reedus, del Toro's partnership with Kojima stretches back to Silent Hills.


Something tells us Mikkelsen will probably be a villain...

Kojima Productions

Troy Baker and actress Emily O'Brien are also reportedly involved, according to a since-deleted Instagram post from O'Brien. Even if you don't know his name, you'll recognize Baker as the voice of Joel in The Last of Us, Booker Dewitt in Bioshock: Infinite and Pagan Min in Far Cry 4, among others.

It's an intrguing cast, and Kojima said as much in a blog post.

"Although it wasn't my initial intention, we now have a cross-generational, international cast...Across countries, time and generations, we have come together to realize this vision. Coincidentally, this theme is strongly connected with that of the game, and is a theme I strive to realize as a game creator."

What else do we know about its gameplay?

Kojima helped create the stealth-action genre with Metal Gear, so his area of expertise is well defined. But he's strayed into horror with P.T. and tried bizarre concepts with Boktai (a game that required you to take your Gameboy into the actual sun), so there's no guarantee Death Stranding will be MGS in a new universe.


So long, tactical espionage action.


One interesting thing Kojima has persistently hinted at are "ropes" and "sticks." Citing a Japanese play titled "The Man Who Turned Into a Stick," Kojima has said that he has focused on the idea that humans first invented ropes and sticks. Sticks are for protection, to create space between a person and harm, while ropes tie people to things they treasure.

"Most of your tools in action games are sticks. You punch or you shoot or you kick," Kojima told IGN upon the game's reveal. "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."

In a later interview, Kojima hinted at Death Stranding's death mechanics. Players will be placed in an interactive purgatory, where they can gather items before being brought back into the game world.

"Death will never pull you out of the game," Kojima said, meaning that in Death Stranding, death... will never leave you stranded.

And while Kojima has confirmed that multiplayer will be a "big part of the game", the shape it will take is a total mystery. Given the popularity of the Dark Souls series and its imitators, it's easy to see a similar blend of uncontrolled cooperative-competitive mode taking hold in Death Stranding. Less so the standard competitive multiplayer suite seen in Metal Gear Solid 5, 4 and 3.

And what's up with those babies?

After gameplay, the world of Death Stranding is the other element we know the least about. Let's run through just some some of the disparate elements that have been a part of its trailers so far…

  • Tube babies
  • Invisible monsters
  • WWII weaponry
  • Spooky skeletons
  • Scientific research teams
  • Whales
  • Dead whales
  • Upside-down whales
  • Giant humanoid creatures
  • Dystopian imagery
  • Male childbirth?
  • Pollution, especially oil
  • Chattering backpack robots

You only have to go as far as the Death Stranding subreddit to see the rampant speculation about what any of those elements actually mean for the game's story and world. We know those aforementioned babies have a particularly important role in the story and gameplay -- Kojima has already said as much.

Yep, that happened.

Kojima Productions

But knowing that only raises further questions: Are the babies a rare resource? Vessels for some sort of alien power? Is there something unique about them that has implications for the cast or the world as a whole? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So... where is all of this going? What does it all mean? Are we just going to get an endless series of trailers or will Death Stranding actually get a release date? We'll update this page as more information emerges, so keep checking back.

mads-mikkelsen-death-stranding patient for E3.

Kojima Productions

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