Welcome to the club – the club of the Kojima faithful. This is the club where those of us who have been carefully watching, rewatching, and dissecting the trailer come to meet. Stay awhile, and listen. We’ve got such sights to show you. If you viewed the latest Death Stranding trailer and find yourself completely lost, we’ve got your back.
This trailer breakdown will hit each point as it happens, with context to help you parse what’s actually happening, and help you jump onto the Death Stranding bandwagon. Because if you’re not firmly aboard by November, you may never be. Relax, sit back, and let us begin.
The beginning of the trailer brings us right back to the smiling baby, giving us a thumbs up – we’ve seen this before, and it has since been cemented as something of a joke within the gaming community, or a meme to point to when you need a quick “Wow, look how bonkers Death Stranding is, guys!” – but anyway, it’s a hilarious start to the nearly ten-minute trailer, before a quick cut to Cliff, Mads Mikkelsen’s character.
“BB, don’t worry. It’s okay. I’ll always be with you.” He then begins singing what sounds like an eerie lullaby:
“See the sunset
The day is ending
Let that yawn out
There’s no pretending.”
Before we can see the baby he’s singing to (obviously a BB Pod, containing a “Bridge Baby,” but we’ll get to that later) the scene immediately changes to a photo of what appears to be Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) and a woman who could be his wife, his girlfriend, or some pregnant woman he doesn’t know anything about – possibly the progenitor of “Bridge Babies” or the fetuses we see in what appear to be the artificial womb pods? The older woman in the photo is Bridget, the female president of the United Cities of America.
“Together, you can help us reconnect,” says Bridget to Sam as we see him speeding across the countryside in what appears to be some sort of motorcycle. This is the first real look we’ve had at anything resembling a vehicle in the previous Death Stranding trailers, and judging by its build and the theme of “reconnecting” America, we’re likely going to see several other vehicles if we want to get around with any sort of haste. Bridget and Sam are discussing the mission to make America whole again, but with storms that rage like the one Sam spots off in the distance in this scene, it looks like that’s going to be a much more difficult feat than h previously imagined.
“We don’t need a country, not anymore,” says Sam, who’s already thrown in the towel, apparently.
“We do,” insists Bridget, who’s shown to be losing her hair as she speaks to Sam from a hospital bed – does she have cancer or another illness?
“Bridget, you’re the president of jack shit,” says Sam. It’s unclear if he’s joking or being honest – who knows, at this point. But the line is a fun throwback to Snake Plisken from Escape from New York (and we all know Snake’s connection to Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid).
Over the course of the next few scenes, we see Sam gearing up, presumably at BRIDGES, one of the most important organizations in Death Stranding, one part of the newly-established government in-game, and integral to The United Cities of America. The future of humanity basically rests on BRIDGES’ ability to bring people together with America in the fractured state that it’s in.
As the trailer music is cued up (“Path” from Apocalyptica) we see Sam getting ready to hit the road. His iconic set of “dog tags” go with him, of course, with his special suit to hit the road. It looks like there are various other suits seen in the background that you could potentially choose from in the future as well.
Sam’s all ready to go, and he sets out from BRIDGES into the world. These scenes give us our first real look at gameplay, or how Sam will look as he braves the strange landscape he finds himself in – which is just the United States, still, supposedly – but not for long. As he explores the ruins of North America on foot, he’ll happen across snowy, bitter cold mountains, abandoned buildings, dense thickets, and just about every other type of terrain you can think of, most likely, though not all of them are shown here.
But wait, what happened to the United States to fracture it or destroy it, which is apparently what’s gone on? That part we’re still unfortunately not sure on.
Let’s take a short break. According to Hideo Kojima, this is what Death Stranding is all about at its core.
“People have built ‘Walls’ and become accustomed to living in isolation. Death Stranding is a completely new type of action game, where the player’s goal is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented society. All elements including the story and gameplay, are bound together by the theme of ‘Strand’, or a connection.
As Sam Porter Bridges, you will attempt to ‘Bridge’ these divisions, and in doing so, create new bonds or ‘Strands’ with other players around the globe. Through your experience of playing the game, I hope you’ll come to understand the importance of forging connections with others.”
Alright – back to the trailer.
Some footage is reserved for showing off Sam’s extendable ladder, climbing anchor, and other mechanics that he can utilize when exploring. He has an enormous backpack, which he can presumably fill with all sorts of items. In this quick bit of footage alone, we can see a rope, a ladder, and an assault rifle.
Then, as quickly as the gameplay footage begins, it’s over, and we’re introduced to the game’s primary antagonist: Homo Demens. Homo Demens are a military separatist group working to actively keep the United Cities of America from unifying the fractured remains of North America. Unknown characters here are speaking with Sam about the group, who tend to use “extreme” methods like killing people and leaving craters to achieve their goal, though their purpose is still relatively unknown other than their overarching goal. One of these bad boys licks Lea Seydoux’s character, Fragile, on the cheek.
The next thing you know, we’re back to gameplay again, and it looks like Sam is being hunted by some strange men wearing yellow hazmat suits. Sam hides in the tall grass while the enemies, armed with electric prods, try to suss him out. The atmosphere is tense, and the enemies have some pretty wide areas of reach. One of them knocks off part of Sam’s equipment, but in the next scene we see Sam beating up on them and speeding away. In this, we can surmise that it might be better not to get tangled up in combat, especially when Sam is carrying such a huge pack and his enemies are sporting electrical prods – hardly seems far.
After Sam escapes and his enemies pursue him in their vehicle, but they soon let up, because it begins to rain. The “BT,” as it’s called, isn’t a normal kind of rain. In Death Stranding, it’s a prophetic warning that there’s something dangerous approaching. And no, unfortunately, we don’t know what BT means just yet.
The trailer cuts to Sam “plugging into” a BB Pod, or the weird baby carrier we’ve seen in so many of the other Death Stranding promo clips and images.
“A Bridge baby, huh?” Sam asks an unknown companion.
“Makes me feel like shit every time.”
“Well, you are plugging in to the other side. Freaks me out, too.” Sam notes that he cannot see BTs in the area, and can only sense them. Thus, the BB is an integral tool to helping Sam stay safe from these bizarre monsters, which present as puffs of black smoke-like material and shape into humanoid-shaped beings. Yes, they resemble the first glimpse at the beings we first saw in the debut Death Stranding trailer in the sky – are these the same enemies?
With Sam’s BRIDGES gear and Bridge Baby going, Sam can use the drone over his shoulder to make scans of the environment to help him figure out where the beings around him are. The creatures leave neon orange handprints as they lumber toward Sam, and eventually it looks like one devours him, or does something equally sinister. Either way, it looks like Sam has had it. As the monsters chase Sam, the ground is corrupted, and he’s dragged underneath the surface. From there, he’s dragged through the ground itself, quite possibly to the “underwater” world Kojima has mentioned in the past since players don’t actually “die.”
But then, the trailer’s ready to explore another realm. We’re in a World War I battlefield, but instead of human soldiers and wreckage, we see the influence of the BT, and the setpieces of war coming into and out of existence like some sort of horror show. We see Mads Mikkelsen’s character Cliff once more, and he surfaces among the soldiers in the field, materializing out of the inky black. Sam is making his way through the trenches, and busts out his assault rifle to defend himself. But it looks like he’s not going to be any kind of match against Cliff as he raises an army of soldiers from the dead – unfortunately, we’ve got no explanation for you here, as to why they’re in World War I, or what’s going on, but it sure looks cool.
Following a brief cut to some additional gameplay, we finally see the dream world that Kojima had mentioned, that resembles something underwater. Sam’s dog tags are replaced with a dreamcatcher here, apparently, in a bid to offer him some sort of protection as he sleeps – is he asleep while “dead?” It’s hard to tell.
The next few scenes are a mishmash of cut scene segments without any sort of context, but you do get to see some of the game’s other characters: Mama (Margaret Qualley), Higgs (Troy Baker), Amelie (Lindsay Wagner), Heartman (Nicolas Winding Refn), Deadman (Guillermo del Toro), and Die-Hardman (Tommie Earl Jenkins). One particular scene of note is where Sam, Deadman, and Die-Hardman are seen peering over a wrapped corpse. We’ve seen it before, but still have no context as far as what it may mean. Meanwhile, the character Mama tries to communicate with a roving spirit with her shoulder drone.
In the next cut, it looks like Sam’s necklace is being shown to have some important implications for the game. On the tags we can see some equations, though it’s not clear at this point what they mean for the game. Meanwhile, we see Nicolas Winding Refn’s character Heartman joining others in the death realm, though there’s no explanation given as to what he’s going there.
And – wait for it – there appears to be a way for Sam to play with the baby in the BB Pod. Yes, it looks like he’s interacting with it. If you like to pet dogs, this may very well be up your alley. Not as good as a dog, because babies are not fun or cool, but…you’re gonna want to do this, probably. Following these quick cuts, we get to see introductions of each character and the actor that plays them before anoter skip over to additional gameplay.
It appears that Higgs has summoned some sort of enormous beast that Sam must go up against, and then the two begin duking it out. Sam’s drone helps keep him safe from the barrage of bullets, but it still looks like a ridiculous fight. Finally, however, the kicker.
Sam’s back in the death realm. Sam is being asked in this bleak scene to “finish what Amelie started” by traveling west. Sam points a gun to his head instead, as he indicates that traveling west isn’t going to save humanity. One character counters: “At least we’ll have hope.”
Near the end of the trailer, the focus returns to Mads Mikkelsen’s Cliff, who’s seen in a Gulf War military uniform. It appears that he’s got some sort of ability to summon the undead, showcased here again as it was earlier in the trailer. Then, we see a quick look at the character Amelie, who states that humanity must indeed come together if they wish to survive. Sam is taken in by the black ink, presumably by the BTs.
Finally, the trailer draws to a close, coming back around to Cliff as she speaks to the baby from the beginning of the clip:
“The whole wide world will be yours to explore. You’ll be able to go wherever you want–even the moon.”
We’re expecting the moon and a whole lot more, Kojima. Death Stranding is set to release on PlayStation 4 on November 8, 2019.