In 2015, video game auteur and Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's silence was deafening. After spending much of the year going through a lengthy struggle with Konami - releasing Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain to critical acclaim, only to be barred from attending the Video Game Awards to receive his own accolades - Kojima has finally broken free and created his own independent studio. Kojima Productions is dead; long live Kojima Productions, and its first title is called Death Stranding. And based on the small glimpse we've seen, it's the kind of concept that could only come from the eccentric mind of Hideo Kojima.
Officially announced at E3 2016, Death Stranding is still several years away, as Kojima has just begun conceptualizing the game's design, story, and characters, in addition to building the team who will actually make the thing. That's not stopping Kojima from making up for lost time, though, as he's given several interviews over the past few months, detailing his vision for his first independent game. What's Death Stranding all about? It's hard to say this early, but we've been able to glean a few details that should give you a better idea about what to expect when you finally play it half-a-decade from now (or whenever it finally comes out).
Almost immediately after Hideo Kojima's contract with Konami ended, Sony announced that it had brokered a partnership with the newly-separated Kojima Productions, and that it would be funding and publishing its next game exclusively for the PlayStation 4. It's not completely exclusive, though, as Kojima's next game will likely come to PC as well. This partnership just means that, unfortunately, Xbox One owners will be left in the lurch.
Hideo Kojima may be at the helm of his studio, but he's not the only Metal Gear alum working on Death Stranding. Long-time art director and collaborator Yoji Shinkawa - the man responsible for designing Metal Gear's iconic characters and mechs - has jumped the Konami ship to join Kojima, as has Metal Gear producer Ken-ichiro Imaizumi. Novelist and 'Metal Gear expert' Kenji Yano - who was largely responsible for the planning of the MGS series' novelization and was recently interviewed in Famitsu about his interpretation of the events of The Phantom Pain - has also joined the staff. Lots of Metal Gear people heading up the studio, so that must surely mean...
In separating from Konami, Hideo Kojima no longer has the rights to work with any of Konami's licenses and properties - this includes Castlevania, Boktai, Zone of the Enders, and of course, Metal Gear. Those of you holding out hope that Death Stranding is some kind of secret expansion for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain or stealth sequel need to dash those hopes right now. Kojima and company are working on a brand new game, totally divorced from Metal Gear lore, and producer Ken-ichiro Imaizumi has flat-out confirmed on Twitter that it has nothing to do with Metal Gear because Kojima Productions doesn't own the rights to the series. There. All cleared up. No chapter three here. Move along.
Though, he would have to say that if it were all a ruse, wouldn't he? (It's not. Stop it.)
Oh, geez. Where to begin? The William Blake quote splashed on screen while the snarling throb of Low Roar's 'I'll Keep Coming' builds as the trailer fades in? The naked Norman Reedus clutching a baby to his bosom on a desolate beach covered in the corpses of deceased crustaceans and whales? Or when the baby disappears and Naked Reedus watches as oily handprints cover his legs? How about the part when Naked Reedus stands to gaze into the ocean, where five cross-shaped objects hover off in the distance, hundreds of feet in the air? This was the trailer shown at Sony's E3 2016 conference - a confounding and fascinatingly cryptic glimpse at Kojima Production's first project outside of Konami.
Hideo Kojima is known for for telling stories grounded in real-life history and philosophy while simultaneously embracing mysticism, heady science-fiction, and rad anime poses, but his first post-Metal Gear game appears to be heading right off the rails almost immediately and in the most spectacular fashion. But what does it all mean?
Even with the weird, moody trailer and Kojima's penchant for subverting player expectations, Death Stranding will likely begin in a familiar place, at least from a mechanical standpoint. When speaking with Famitsu, Kojima likened its gameplay to that of recent AAA fare like Uncharted or The Division - just with a healthy dose of that trademark Kojima Flair. "When it is announced," Kojima said, "you might think ‘that’s not that outstanding’, but you’ll understand when you see it and play it. The genre is action."
Nothing concrete has been shared about Death Stranding's story or how you'll move through that story, but there are a few meanings we can imply from the bizarre title. 'Stranding' is a term used to define animals or boats that have found themselves beached out of water. The strange title begins to make a lot more sense then, once you take into account all the whale-shaped globsters currently hanging out on the sand on a day that makes a Pacific Northwest winter look downright cheery.
But it wouldn't be a Kojima game if that's only as far as it went. In an interview with Wired, Kojima describes Death Stranding as a game about how people are connected - "what you call 'strands' in psychology," as Kojima puts it. Not a whole lot of details about what that means, other than that it's a "new system" that will feel "familiar" for the first few hours but then "you will start to feel something different". It might have something to do with the strange umbilical cord that connects Naked Reedus to Oil Baby in the trailer, but right now, he could be talking about literally anything.
As for the 'Death' part? According to Kojima, he wants to "shake up the notion of dying, putting another quarter in, and coming back" by "giving a different twist" to the way games have handled player failure for years. Perhaps that Low Roar track in the trailer has some sort of connection to its gameplay?
Ha. Release date. Cute. According to a recent live-stream at San Diego Comic Con 2016, Death Stranding is still very much in the pre-production phase of development. The trailer wasn't built in the game's eventual engine, but it was running in real-time, so you could theoretically pause the video at any point and move the camera around. The studio is close to locking an engine down and production will officially get off the ground soon, but Kojima hasn't even finished the script yet:
"I’m in a preliminary stage of the script because there are elements that I don’t know yet how much I will be able to put in there. I’m not working on the details, on the specifics yet. No dialogue yet, the plot... there’s no real plot. I’m working on the setting and what things will be be."
It's great to see that Kojima's next game is close to officially kicking off, but don't expect to actually see anything concrete for at least another year or two.
There's been a lot of speculation surrounding Ludens, that space-faring skeleton man Kojima Productions has been teasing for a while. Turns out there's nothing much to see here: despite getting a full rundown, including the origins of his design and the philosophy behind his inception, he's just a logo. A sick looking logo, sure, but he won't actually appear in Death Stranding (other than the short little video you'll see each time you load the game).
Oh, and it's Kojima in the suit. In case you were wondering.