Ever since its first announcement, people have been asking, "What is Death Stranding though?" Despite several videos and appearances since then, it seemed that we were no closer to plumbering the true depths of Hideo Kojima's latest madness. Instead, it was all throat babies, Mama, Guillermo Del Toro, and urination. Where was the game?
In a hands-on preview, GamesRadar has finally sussed out the game behind Death Stranding. Kojima has previously said that Death Stranding was a game about connections, but now we know how those connections are made. Lots of walking.
"Death Stranding is a game about walking. As Sam Porter Bridges (or as you probably know him, Normal Reedus trapped in the uncanny valley), you are tasked with walking from the East coast of America to the West, reactivating various communication nodes along the way in an effort to spread a message of hope to a nation that has become fragmented and disconnected, taking the idea of unity to pockets of an isolated populous that trades in ambivalence rather than love. That is Death Stranding," says GamesRadar's Josh West.
"To be honest, after seeing this section of the game, I'm not entirely unconvinced that this isn't a game built around the synchronization viewpoints of Assassin's Creed, or the lighting of the beacons in The Lord of the Rings. The best way to visualise these systems is to consider what happens to the map in any of the Assassin's Creed games once you scale a tower, take in the view, and get assaulted by a battery of waypoints," he adds.
Sam walks his way across the "United Cities of America," connecting the various settlements in a new communication network. Sam is a telecom worker writ large, fighting back against a world that has retreated into its hovels following an attack by Homo Demens. The latter group is a rough collection of malcontents that thrive by returning from the "Other Side". Their leader Higgs, the Man in the Golden Mask, opposes your actions, having previously captured Amelie, the daughter of the President. It's Sam's job to finish her task of spreading a message of hope.
The necklace Sam sported in the first teaser trailer for Death Stranding? That's called a Q-PIP, a key used to unlock the Cryon communication terminals that Sam finds in the wilds of the US. Sam is a telecom worker writ large, the Verizon guy if he had to traverse miles of dangerous terrain to hook up your FIOS.
So it's been a lot of weird nonsense and teases to explain something pretty simple. It's The Postman, the famous 1997 Kevin Costner bomb that you've in all likelihood never seen. West goes on, "The rest of it is all noise—a collection of gamification and esoteric sci-fi concepts to introduce conflict. Death Stranding is a game about a pilgrimage, about activating communication relays, and about delivering parcels to isolated corners of America in an attempt to establish social strands—building bonds with your fellow man in an effort to inspire hope in a dying society," says West.
There are still other questions that remain, about the babies and the Other Side, about characters like Cliff, Fragile, and Heartman, about all the other systems that unpin Sam's trek across the post-apocalyptic landscape. How much stealth and combat are in Death Stranding? We don't really know at this point, and the November release date feels like it's right around the corner.
Up until this point, we've mostly bandied about in speculation. We've asked what death is like in the Death Stranding universe, analyzed various trailers, talked about the game's unique take on the undead, and glimpsed just a bit of characters like Mama. Death Stranding is coming to PlayStation 4, and only PlayStation 4 at the moment, on November 8, 2019.