Death Stranding: What The Heck is Hideo Kojima’s Latest Game?

Hideo Kojima is almost universally regarded as one of gaming’s greatest designers, and the success of the Kojima-created Metal Gear series is strong evidence for that assertion.

After leaving Konami in 2015, Kojima reformed his eponymous production studio as an independent firm and started work on a new game called Death Stranding. As of this writing, almost nothing is known about the game… except that it features dead whales, baby dolls, naked Norman Reedus, and evil Mads Mikkelsen. There’s a bar joke in that sentence somewhere.

Aside from those few eyebrow-raising details, Kojima has stayed pretty mum on his latest game. He’s insisted that it’s not a horror title, but that’s hard to believe when given a trailer depicting a post-apocalyptic world and possessed children’s toys.

As usual, Kojima has kept his discussions on what inspired Death Stranding very abstract, revealing only that he was inspired by a “connection” between life and death. Apparently the titular stranding phenomenon of whales beaching themselves figures into it somehow, too.

Mads Mikkelsen's facial animations for Death Stranding is outstanding.

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Death Stranding certainly has some very interesting ideas, but those ideas seem scattershot without as-yet-unrevealed context. The trailers depict everything from Norman Reedus nude on a beach to a slime-covered tank rumbling through a ruined city.

Showing all of these disparate concepts off may not help audiences get the idea of what the game’s supposed to be about, but it’s certainly gotten them talking. The only other particularly noteworthy detail is that Norman Reedus’s character has physics equations written out on the dog tags he wears. Physics hipster.

Given that Kojima took inspiration from themes of life and death, and the post-apocalyptic world shown off in Death Stranding’s trailers, it’s possible that this title will be some kind of survival adventure game.

Players could conceivably fight to survive in a world that’s overrun with slime-covered vehicles and baby dolls that scream at Mads Mikkelsen. Alternatively, the game might focus less on the minutiae of survival and be more abstract, presenting environments as metaphors for death and life instead of something that the player has to actively struggle through.

Perhaps the clues to Death Stranding’s design lie in Kojima’s previous series, Metal Gear. For anything that can be said about the series’ storytelling, most Metal Gear games are masterclasses of atmospheric environments and stealthy gameplay.

Death Stranding certainly has the former down in spades. Given that Norman Reedus is what looks like the sole protagonist, perhaps Death Stranding will indeed be a stealth title.

Alternatively, maybe everyone is overthinking the Death Stranding trailers. Maybe the game is just Norman Reedus waking up on a beach to find that all of his whale friends have committed suicide, and in his grief, he transposes their imagined personalities onto a baby doll that he carries with him into the city.

Meanwhile, Mads Mikkelsen is angry that there are no more whales to hunt, and intends to seize Reedus’s doll and use it in some hairbrained scheme to restore the souls and life-force to the whales. No doubt the key to doing so lies in the equations on Reedus’s dog tags.

That last one has to be the correct theory, right? Kojima’s ambitions have been cracked at long last! Now all gamers have to do is wait for Death Stranding’s eventual release. The game only entered development this year, so it’s probably going to be a while. In the meantime, the trailer for Death Stranding is worth checking out.

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