I know almost nothing about Death Stranding, the upcoming video game from Metal Gear Solid developer Hideo Kojima, but I am completely in love with it. I’m a cynical guy, the kind who’s spent the past few days irritating my co-workers with my grumpy hot takes about Fallout 76 (what's the point of a Fallout game without non-player characters to tell a story?!). I’m unmoved by most things and tend to treat hype with suspicion. When No Man’s Sky failed to live up to the lofty expectations it set, I shook my head and said “I told you so.”
And yet, Death Stranding has absorbed me in it’s hype machine. I gobble up every scrap of information, watching every trailer repeatedly to glean new knowledge about the game. I scour Kojima’s twitter account looking for hints and clues to what, exactly, Death Stranding is.
The typical hype and release cycle of video games follows a familiar pattern—game is announced with a cinematic teaser trailer. At this point, we usually get a rough release date, something like “Coming next year” or “Summer 2019.” What follows is a series of interviews with developers that lead to a trailer with in-game footage that gives us a clear understanding of what players will actually do in it. Once that trailer is out, there’s a steady drip of information detailing specific features in the game, more footage, and some behind-the-scenes stories about how the game was made. Often, the pre-release hype cycle is so comprehensive I feel like I played the game before it even came out.
That’s not the case with Death Stranding. There’s been four trailers since the game was first announced in 2016 and they’ve largely served to build up the world and reveal the actors Kojima has cast in the game. In the first trailer we got naked Norman Reedus. The second trailer gave us Guillermo Del Toro hiding a baby from Mads Mikkelsen. The third trailer showed what appeared to be a Kojima-style cinematic and revealed some monsters.
Which brings us to the most recent trailer revealed during Sony’s E3 press conference. This is the first trailer that seems to show in-game footage, which centers around Reedus trudging through beautiful landscapes with vacuum sealed bodies strapped to his back. We learned the invisible monsters mess with time and that the babies allow Reedus to see them, kind of? Oh, and two new actors are introduced: Lea Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner.
Two years into the promotion for this game and we don’t know how it plays, what it’s really about, or its release date. Sony is showing an incredible level of trust in Kojima. This is a developer who managed to largely deliver on his lofty promises and that’s the only reason I’ve let the hype consume me. The only other developer who gets away with this is Rockstar entertainment who, just months away from the release of a major title, has shown only a teaser trailer and a cinematic trailer with no in-game footage. The difference is that we can make a pretty good guess at what the next Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto will play like. Rockstar has been making these games for decades and these are sequels. Kojima, on the other hand, has been mostly tethered to Metal Gear's sneak-and-shoot formula for 30 (!) years. Is Death Stranding just another stealth game? We don't have a fucking clue.
There is something thrilling about being excited about a game and knowing nothing about it. It’s nice to have trust in developer to delivering their vision without having to constantly calibrate expectations because I have no idea what to expect.
That’s the best part about being a Kojima fan. He makes it very easy to turn my brain off and take the ride.