Ties that bind – the mystery of Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding
It’s been nearly two years since Hideo Kojima completed Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain and parted bitterly with Konami over a contract dispute. It was, and will forever be, Konami’s mistake since the company has been on the fast-track to shitsville for quite a while now.
And now with the Metal Gear series finally concluded and Konami off his back, just what does Kojima do after dedicating nearly 30 years to one franchise? Death Stranding was the answer, and yet since being revealed last year, we still have no idea just what the mother-loving hell it’s about.
Two trailers have been released since; the first featuring a digital likeness of The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus and the second featuring likenesses of both director Guillermo Del Toro and actor Mads Mikkelsen. No gameplay was featured, just the three characters exploring their parts in a darkly surreal universe in which all things are connected by mysterious umbilical cords.
Imagine a David Lynch movie mixed with the sci-fi military stylings prevalent in all of Kojima’s Metal Gear games. The director himself hasn’t divulged any story details besides what has been implied in the trailers, and some people have managed to theorize enough to stoke the over-growing hype and mystery surrounding the game.
Hopefully Kojima doesn’t allow too much hype to foment; he did that with Metal Gear Solid 2 and the story of the finished game didn’t come anywhere close to what gamers had been allowed to imagine with the demos and trailers leading up to its release. Instead, we got Raiden…
Anyway, what is known for certain about the game is that it will be an open-world single-player game akin to Metal Gear Solid 5. Fingers crossed on that because MGS5 remains the most superbly refined and balanced open-world game I’ve played yet. But as the first game in a new franchise, Death Stranding won’t share MGS5‘s burden of having one of history’s most ridiculously convoluted backstories weighing it down.
Based on a scholarly examination of the imagery shown in the trailers, the game seems to take place in a distant future setting in which humanity, as symbolized by Norman Reedus’ character, has transcended time and space and inhabits a limbo-like dimension in which all things, past and present, living and dead, continue to exist against conventional logic and nature.
Quantum physics stipulates that all things are connected, but in the game’s universe, that ‘connection’ has been made real with grotesque Cronnenberg-esque umbilical cords that bind both things and people such as Mads Mikkelsen’s character. He is revealed in the second trailer commanding a squad of literal ghost soldiers, all of them controlled by the cords that bind them to him even across the gulfs of death.
I love zombies, but even I wouldn’t call these creatures zombies. They are The Dead; revenants unburdened by the flesh yet allowed to exist in the material world by Mikkelsen who ends the trailer with a sinister smirk perfected from playing Hannibal Lecter. Guillermo Del Toro features heavily in the same trailer as an awkward little man possessing a newborn baby in a futuristic capsule. Upon attaching his own umbilicus to the capsule, the baby awakens and commands an unknown power over the surreal environment.
Perhaps it’s because the little tyke is fresh out of the womb and more closely connected to the very source of all knowledge and creation. Maybe he’ll be an in-game item or weapon to be used in the finished game. And yes, I realize how messed up that sounds, but that is a common theme in most dark sci-fi tales. Nothing is sacred and everything is exploitable, even the very fabric of existence as shown in Death Stranding‘s trailers.
Lately, there have been rumblings about a possible showing of the game in the coming weeks, but I won’t hold my breath. Regardless of the ridiculous amount of talent involved, Death Stranding seems an extraordinarily heavy undertaking that can easily fall into development hell. After all, Kojima doesn’t have Konami covering his back anymore. But at the same time; they’re no longer holding him back either.
Even being optimistic, I wouldn’t expect the game to be out any earlier than 2019.
Image Credits: Kojima Productions