Ever since its haunting reveal at E3 2016, we’ve laid eyes on four – count ’em, four – teaser trailers for Death Stranding, and we’re still no closer to understanding the minutia of Kojima Productions’ maiden title. Not that Hideo Kojima would have it any other way.
The latest arrived during Sony’s somewhat eclectic E3 showcase earlier this week, where we caught a sneak peek of Death Stranding gameplay running in real-time on Guerilla’s Decima engine – the same tech that powered Horizon Zero Dawn. But we’re a ways away from Thunderjaws and talk of the Old Ones.
Because while Aloy’s mystifying adventure finds beauty in the apocalypse (or post-post-apocalypse, as Guerrilla points out), Death Stranding is all about Sam ‘Porter’ Bridges, a delivery man who must journey across a vast, primordial landscape in order to “reunite the shattered world one step at a time.”
Or so says the official description for trailer #4, which is arguably the most revealing and indeed substantial one thus far, not least because it proves Death Stranding is much more than just some abstract, half-formed dream from the creative genius behind Metal Gear.
A Chiral Allergy?
Also, full disclosure: I have now had the pleasure of writing three speculative articles concerning Death Stranding for PlayStation LifeStyle (one’s here; and the other’s there) and I’m beginning to feel like Charlie Kelly ranting and raving about the Pepe Silvia conspiracy from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I even got a paper trail to prove it.
All that aside, let’s get into the weeds of what is arguably one of, if not the most intriguing PS4 exclusives currently in active development. We know Death Stranding to be a futuristic action game with survival elements, but the above trailer brought us closer to its moment-to-moment gameplay, its beautiful, Prometheus-like landscapes and the invisible netherworld that always appears to be within arm’s reach.
Monday’s E3 showreel also introduced two new, equally mysterious characters brought to life by French actress Léa Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner. The first is a delivery person of sorts, and works for a company called Fragile Express. Her sleek, black outfit (dat umbrella doe) is unique in that her retractable spikes react to any nearby creatures, similar to how Sam’s shoulder-mounted flower machine detects the shimmering beasts that inhabit this most desolate world before it’s too late.
He can’t see them, but he can sense ’em, and the initial dialogue infers that Sam’s “DOOMs level” means he has the extinction factor. Léa Seydoux’s unnamed character appears to be more advanced in this regard, as she’s knowledgable enough to know that a cryptobyte (?) a day keeps the Timefall away.
Introducing Seydoux and Wagner
Timefall, as the name suggests, is the term given to Death Stranding‘s precipitation, and deems that anyone (or anything) caught up in the rain ages rapidly – plants grow exponentially, only to wither and die in a matter of seconds, while exposed humans turn into crippled pensioners faster than they can say “Hideo Kojima.”
We see Timefall affect Sam’s outstretched hand as he reaches toward a personal photograph which, incidentally, looks to be a memory he shared with Lindsay Wagner’s mystery character. Upon closer inspection, the wrinkled photo appears to have been captured in the Oval Office, indicating that Wagner’s newcomer was once the President of the United States, or some other high-ranking official with access to Washington’s corridors of power.
This would explain why a sharp-dressed Wagner says, “You still don’t know who I am, do you?” to Norman Reedus’ baffled protagonist at the tail-end of trailer #4.
Death Stranding E3 2018: An Analysis of Trailer #4
Now, here’s where things really get crazy. If Lindsay Wagner’s DS character really is (or was) the Commander-in-Chief, and Sam is actually a clone as previous trailers have inferred, could it be that she’s actually playing Sam’s mother? The original photo showed a much older version of her character, while the one standing on the ash-grey beach, next to the cetacean stranding, seems to be around the same age as our own Sam Bridges.
Life as an Energy Source?
And there’s that name again – Bridges. Assuming this theory is correct, and Lindsay Wagner’s figure and President Bridges are one and the same, then she could be in charge of the entire Bridges operation, one founded in the hope of united the cities of America. Or at least, those that remain.
Because with its bleak netherworld and elements of time travel (or should that be time distortion?), Death Stranding evidently takes place in a world under great environmental distress. Rumor has it that this can all be traced back to a nuclear explosion that ripped open a tear in time and space (“and then came the next explosion…”), thereby explaining why large chunks of the United States are missing from the Bridges logo, which features a spider’s web spanning outward from Washington D.C. Ground zero, perhaps?
Treading that fine line between life and death seems to be part of Sam’s vocation, then, and a brief radio transmission tells us that should he encounter a Chiral (the tentative name given to those inky-black apparitions), he’ll trigger a “voidout,” which is likely the spooky and surreal event that occurred during Death Stranding‘s TGA 2017 trailer, where we saw Sam come face-to-face with a giant, kaiju-like monster before being plunged into purgatory.
All of this aligns with Hideo Kojima’s previous comments about how his PS4 debut handles character death. It’s unconventional (surprise!), according to the seasoned dev, and it’s looking increasingly likely that each “voidout” leaves behind a giant, yawning crater, which, if true, may well dovetail with Kojima-san’s comments about Death Stranding‘s online elements.
Once There Was an Explosion
And that brings me to my final note from Death Stranding‘s fourth trailer. Though Kojima is yet to detail the game’s online component in great detail (again, surprise), leaving a crater behind every time you die draws comparison to Dark Souls, in which there are traces or at least echoes of other players scattered across this strange and desolate world.
It’s still a single-player experience, mind you, and it all centers around Sam “Porter” Bridges, who is not your typical hero. Or so says Kojima-san:
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. This is something you’ll intuitively understand once you play the game and control Sam. Herein lies our challenge, to create both a new form of gameplay and a hero that has never been done before.
Abstract, yet utterly mesmerizing. Familiar, yet totally alien. For better or worse, this is Hideo Kojima operating on his own accord, without fear of studio meddling or being forced to compromise in the name of red tape. Hell, as I mentioned before, one could even go so far as to claim that there is no title quite like Death Stranding currently in development.
And given Kojima’s tendency for quirkiness and style, not to mention his deft art of foreshadowing, Death Stranding‘s fourth teaser trailer has undoubtedly served up enough fodder to keep us speculating in the weeks and months to come.
Because at this rate, the only thing I truly know about Death Stranding is that I’ll buy it on day one.