There has been a lot of talk about death in 2019, and perhaps most recently the drama that accompanied EA’s decision to axe a poorly received FPS game, Battlefield V.
But death seems to be the operative word for the Japanese development team creating Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, since the game’s trailer premiered in May at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.
Like the Robert Rodriguez cinematic game adaptation of Sin City, Death Stranding focuses on a group of guys in detective gear who have secret motives and dangerous urges for vengeance. At the beginning of the trailer you see in the snow a man with a caved in eye, turned black with blood. His face is pitch black as if a power outage has affected his surroundings. Upon closer inspection, it’s revealed that the eye is pocked with bullet holes as he’s about to die.
Lollipops hang loosely from the protruding eyeball. It seems that the men are being held against their will, and all we see in the past is the cutaway to a person’s face, typically drawn as a face or head – a taunting face, one would think. But no one can be seen, save for an animation of an eyeball awash in blood, unable to move. The camera cuts to a group of men lined up on the ground, arms stretched in prayer. (It could be a Buddhist ritual or a prophecy of death.)
The moment we learn from the trailer that the man with the eye is Norman Reedus (best known as a the show Walking Dead on AMC) is when people started to take the game seriously. Not even a month later, Nathan Fillion – of Firefly fame – was announced as the second cast member of Death Stranding, and less than six months after that, Kojima’s Kojima Productions Studio put out a teaser trailer for the game.
While other projects have graced the screen recently, almost no one has connected to Death Stranding as the project with the most hype this year. It seems like the most real high-concept game. In the gameplay footage released of the game, you get a glimpse of an artificial intelligence character who matches the basic biological structure of humans. Sound technology tells you where the character is looking, so your memory can send you in a new direction where you’ll find other characters.
In another gameplay video, and unlike most games, you get to be the protagonist as you are thrust into the middle of a heated and bloody crime. You watch helplessly as three other characters use you as a blinderer to act out their own fictional crime drama.
The trailers all appear to feature a dark and unsettling storyline as two characters hang their head by a rope and point a gun at each other. Strange events begin to occur involving a character with a crossbow and the shocking imagery of a tag team of people being strangled with a hand of ice. The developer Kojima told IGN that he was taken with the idea of death being the pivot of every game. Kojima brings to the game the ideas of genre (in this case, horror), meaning he is using Death Stranding as a way to venture into something all his own, where a dying actor in the director’s movie, Death of a Director, asked, “What do you want me to do?”
Take The Phantom Pain and the trailer for Death Stranding, and you get Death Stranding. Life and death are the connections. The implied loss of the main character in The Phantom Pain is contrasted with the comfort and safety of life in the game’s latest trailer. No wonder we see people lining up at attention.