“Once there was an explosion, a bang which gave birth to time and space. Once there was an explosion, a bang which sent a planet spinning in that space. Once there was an explosion, a bang which gave rise to life as we know it. And then came the next explosion…”
Even in its nascent state, Death Stranding, the debut title from Kojima Productions, has captured our imagination with its Lovecraftian creatures and apocalyptic themes – its haunting visuals and A-list cast. And how can we forget about that peculiar little baby?
Earlier this month, The Game Awards brought forth the latest (and potentially greatest?) cinematic trailer for Death Stranding, and Reddit hasn’t been the same ever since. With no mention of a tangible release window, each mind-boggling promo has only fanned the flames of speculation, leaving Internet conspirators poring over potential story clues and Hideo Kojima’s bustling Twitter feed. And some of the resulting theories prove that, yes, there is method behind the madness.
I’ll Keep Coming
The E3 reveal was abstract – conceptual, even – while its TGA follow-up brought Guillermo del Toro and Mads Mikkelsen, two favourites of Kojima-san, into the fold. But Death Stranding’s third trailer, one peppered with subtle gameplay clues, circled back to focus on Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead. He plays Sam, the central protagonist and, presumably, a porter working for Bridges: United Cities of America…but more on that later.
In celebration of Death Stranding and, in particular, Hideo Kojima’s madcap game design, I’ve compiled all of the weird and wonderful fan theories surrounding Kojima’s PS4 exclusive – including my own. Truth be told, I’ve attempted to parse Death Stranding before, only to fall down a rabbit hole of science fiction and talk of the Schwarzschild radius. But attempting to suss out Kojima’s strange and often deeply cinematic oeuvre is all part of the fun, so without further ado, let’s get started.
A Nuclear (Cosmic?) Explosion Ripped Open An Interdimensional Portal
This appears to be one of the more plausible theories kicking around as it would explain why human beings like Sam (Reedus) are able to exist on the same plain as their alien neighbors. What’s more, the web-like logo for Bridges: United Cities of America contains a map of the States with a potentially alarming hole where Delaware, New Jersey and Washington D.C. ought to be.
This, coupled with the fact that the web-like pattern originates from said crater (portal?) lends credence to this potential plot point. Even the name itself may be a reference to an interdimensional bridge (again, portal?) that formed soon after the explosion that Sam refers to in the latest trailer – an explosion which will be our last.
Humans Are the Last Remaining Energy Source
Even after only three trailers, it’s pretty clear that Hideo Kojima is gunning for hard sci-fi when it comes to Death Stranding – the far-future tech, the alien worlds…you name it. And one of the genre’s most common themes is the conservation of energy, whether it’s related to Earth’s dwindling resources or a whole new form of energy that’s uncovered far beyond our solar system.
Meanwhile, Death Stranding, with its allusion to interdimensional travel and black holes (see: the Dirac equation), may well take place on an alien world devoid of energy, or a far-future Earth ravaged by a nuclear explosion.
Out of luck and out of time, this theory supposes that Sam (and Guillermo del Toro’s character in the previous trailer) uses those high-tech baby chambers as a source of energy, as we see Sam’s four-pronged robot detector spring to life soon after he connects to the foetus via some form of man-made umbilical cord.
This Matrix-styled plot point is arguably one of the more plausible Death Stranding theories out there, as the idea of being tethered to life has become a recurring theme across all three trailers.
Clones Are a Thing Now
Which brings us to cloning. Three years ago, soon after the release of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar – a mindfuck in its own right – Kojima tweeted out a photo of Cess Ivory’s 21 Days (h/t Reddit), a story from a Yukinobu Hoshino’s Stardust Memories anthology.
It chronicles the harrowing journey of a lone biologist who winds up stranded on an alien world. To make matters worse, the planet’s environment rapidly ages its inhabitants, leaving our protagonist with little choice but to raise a clone of herself until help arrives. Sound familiar?
That tenuous line between life and death has evidently been woven into the fabric of Death Stranding, what with all the babies being carried around by their carriers. But what if that bond is stronger? What if the babies are actually miniature clones of our characters?
Once Corpse Disposal Team 6 encounter those Lovecraftian monsters, one of the unnamed crew members tosses his baby (his CLONE?) to Norman Reedus’ Sam, before stabbing himself repeatedly, further proving that Death Stranding’s cosmic enemies are only interested in humans if they’re still alive and kicking.
The baby (or babies?) is crucial, then, and according to Hideo Kojima himself, that chirpy infant ”relates to game mechanics as well as the story as a whole.”
Couple this with Low Roar’s haunting “I’ll Keep Coming,” which played over Death Stranding’s baffling reveal trailer, and Kojima’s latest venture may well incorporate cloning (and perhaps time-travel?) into its narrative.
For even more Death Stranding theories, check out page two.