Death Stranding is a 2019 action game developed by Kojima Productions. It is the first game from director Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions after their split from Konami in 2015. It was released by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 in November 2019 and by 505 Games for Windows in July 2020. An updated version for PlayStation 5, Death Stranding Director's Cut, was announced in June 2021 and was released on September 24, 2021.
The game is set in the United States following a cataclysmic event which caused destructive creatures to begin roaming the Earth. Players control Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus), a courier tasked with delivering supplies to isolated colonies and reconnecting them via a wireless communications network. Alongside Reedus, the game features actors Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, Margaret Qualley, Troy Baker, Tommie Earl Jenkins, and Lindsay Wagner, in addition to the likenesses of film directors Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn as supporting characters.
Death Stranding received generally favorable reviews, with critics praising its voice acting, soundtrack, and visuals, with more mixed opinions regarding its gameplay and story. The game was nominated for and won several awards, including Game of the Year. By July 2021, the game had sold 5 million copies worldwide. Numerous commentators noted that elements of the game resembled the COVID-19 pandemic, which began within a month of its release.
Death Stranding is an action game set in an open world, and includes asynchronous online functions. Kojima refers to Death Stranding as the first "strand game", an original genre characterized by the game's incorporation of social elements. Kojima compared this genre to how his earlier game Metal Gear—now considered a stealth game—was called an action game during its release because the stealth genre had not been established.
The player controls Sam Bridges, a porter for a company known as BRIDGES. The player is tasked with delivering supply cargo to various isolated cities known as KNOTs, as well as isolated researchers and survivalists, while also connecting them to a communications system known as the Chiral Network. The player is evaluated by the company and recipients based on their performance (including via "likes" similar to social networks), including whether the cargo was delivered, and if it is intact among other factors. These merits are, in turn, used to level up the player's statistics, such as stability and weight capacity, and increase their standing with individual locations and characters (which can improve rewards). How cargo is packed by the player, and the overall weight being carried, affect Sam's ability to navigate through the environments.
The player's main enemies include otherworldly creatures known as "beached things" (BTs), MULE (a cult of rogue, bandit-like porters influenced by an obsession with cargo, who attempt to steal deliveries so they can deliver it themselves), and Demens, MULEs who have begun killing porters to claim their cargo. BTs are surrounded by a rain known as "timefall", which damages the player's armor and cargo by speeding up their deterioration. BTs are normally invisible, but Sam's suit is equipped with a robotic sensor referred to in-game as an "odradek" that points towards nearby BTs, and the player can then scan the area to reveal them.
As Sam is a "Repatriate", he is taken to an underwater world known as the "Seam" if he is killed, where he can "swim" back to his body to revive himself. However, being killed and consumed by a BT also results in a destructive explosion known as a "voidout", which permanently damages the location of the death with an untraversable crater.
As players expand the coverage of the Chiral Network, they can access maps of areas, and use blueprints to produce consumable items and structures with the Portable Chiral Constructor (PCC, a device similar to a 3D printer), including ropes, bridges, and power generators used for charging battery-powered equipment. The Network is also used as the basis for the game's online functionality, where players can leave supplies, structures, and messages that can be viewed and used by other players, although structures will eventually be destroyed by Timefall after some time. The player can also recover cargo lost by other players to complete their delivery. The player does not directly encounter other players in the world.
The game is set in the apocalyptic United States, where a cataclysmic event known as the "Death Stranding" caused "Beached Things" ("BTs")—invisible creatures originating from the "Beach", lands thought to be unique to each person that are typically visited during near-death experiences and are said to be the link to the afterlife—to begin roaming the Earth. BTs cause explosions known as "voidouts" when they consume the dead by necrosis, and produce rain known as "Timefall" that rapidly ages and deteriorates whatever it hits. These events damaged the country's infrastructure, leading its remaining population to confine themselves to remote colonies known as "Knot Cities," which form the remaining "United Cities of America".
These colonies have since relied on the services of a company known as BRIDGES, whose porters brave the BTs, bandits, and terrorists to deliver supplies to the cities. Bridges also performs various governmental functions on behalf of the UCA. If they achieve a mental connection to a "Bridge Baby" (a "BB")—a premature child reflecting a state between life and death—it is possible for a person to sense the presence of a BT. Porters carry a BB with them, which is stored in a pod simulating the womb of a "stillmother". A condition known as "DOOMS", depending on its severity, also allows a person to naturally sense, see, or even control a BT, as well as granting a variety of powers, such as teleportation or travel to other people's Beaches. There are also individuals known as "repatriates" who can travel back from "the Seam"—a place between the world of the living and the Beach—upon death. As such, these individuals can effectively return from death, though their deaths will still cause voidouts if killed during contact with a BT.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (February 2021)
Freelance courier Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) is transporting cargo to Central Knot City but is interrupted by Timefall and takes shelter. He receives assistance from Fragile (Léa Seydoux) in evading a BT. Sam arrives at his destination but is told that one of the city's citizens has committed suicide and their corpse is on the verge of necrosis. Due to being both a repatriate and having DOOMS, Sam is given an emergency assignment to accompany the disposal team to an incinerator to safely dispose of the corpse. However, an encounter with BTs hinders the disposal team's progress, and the corpse causes a voidout that destroys Central Knot City.
Sam revives in Capital Knot City and meets Deadman (Guillermo del Toro/Jesse Corti),[N 1] a doctor from BRIDGES who tasks Sam with delivering morphine for the dying President of the UCA: Sam's adoptive mother, Bridget Strand (Lindsay Wagner/Emily O'Brien).[N 2] Bridget pleads with Sam to rejoin BRIDGES and help realize her dream of "reforming America", and then succumbs to her illness. Sam transports Bridget's body to be incinerated but refuses to incinerate BB-28, a Bridge Baby that had been marked for "retirement" due to its involvement in the Central Knot City voidout. With BB-28's assistance, Sam is able to evade a horde of BTs and return to Capital Knot City. Sam decides to take BB-28 as his own Bridge Baby; against UCA instructions to treat Bridge Babies purely as pieces of equipment, Sam gradually forms an emotional bond with BB-28, and eventually nicknames it "Lou".
Upon his return to Capital Knot City, Sam receives a message from his estranged sister Amelie Strand (also Wagner/O'Brien).[N 2] She tells him that over the past three years, she led an expedition across what is left of the continental United States, making contact with the remaining cities and survivor settlements, and setting up terminals that would allow them to connect to the Chiral Network: a system that facilitates instantaneous communication and data transfer across vast distances using the Beach as a medium. However, upon reaching the last city on the West Coast (Edge Knot City), Amelie was captured and held hostage by an anti-UCA terrorist group called the Homo Demens to guarantee Edge Knot City's independence. She tells Sam that he must follow the path of her expedition and use a device called a Q-pid to connect every terminal she left behind into one continent-spanning network, thus "reforming America". As this pilgrimage ends at Edge Knot City, Sam can then rescue Amelie and return her to BRIDGES so she can take Bridget's place as the President of the UCA. Sam reluctantly accepts the mission.
Following the instructions of Die-Hardman (Tommie Earl Jenkins), Bridget's personal aide and the current Director of BRIDGES, Sam begins his journey from the east to the west coast of North America. Along the way, he delivers valuable cargo to the various Knot Cities and settlements; helps to research the Death Stranding with the assistance of BRIDGES staff such as Mama (Margaret Qualley), Heartman (Nicolas Winding Refn/Darren Jacobs),[N 1] and Mama's twin sister Lockne (also Qualley); and thwarts destructive plots by the Homo Demens and their leader, Higgs Monaghan (Troy Baker). While connected to Lou, he experiences memories depicting Clifford Unger (Mads Mikkelsen) and his hospitalized wife and BB child. Sam is infrequently pulled into Clifford's Beach; there, he is forced to fight against a BT manifestation of Clifford called the "Combat Veteran", who relentlessly seeks his lost BB.
Upon reaching Edge Knot City and completing the Chiral Network, Sam fights and defeats Higgs upon Amelie's Beach. Higgs reveals that Amelie is an Extinction Entity: a godlike being manifested by the universe to trigger mass extinction events (such as the "Big Five"). However, Amelie is conflicted over how to carry out her cosmological duties, and whether it would be more humane to end all life on Earth (the "Last Stranding") rather than perpetuate cycles of growth and inevitable extinction. Amelie is revealed as the true leader of Homo Demens, having manipulated the completion of the Chiral Network to enable the Last Stranding. It is also revealed that Amelie and Bridget are the same person, due to Bridget's soul becoming separated from her body during early experiments into the Beaches, and given the alias "Amelie" as a cover story.
With the help of the allies he made on his journey, Sam reaches Amelie and convinces her not to initiate the Last Stranding. Amelie decides to slow down the inevitable extinction of humankind as much as she is able but must separate herself and her Beach from the world forever. Sam is then rescued from his own Beach by his BRIDGES allies, returning to the world of the living. In the aftermath, Die-Hardman becomes the President of the UCA, and Fragile resolves to rebuild her company. However, Sam is told that Lou is dying. Although UCA law demands that dying BBs are incinerated, Sam follows the advice of Deadman and removes Lou from its pod in the slim hope of saving its life and allowing it to grow as a normal human child. In doing so, Sam connects with Lou one last time and discovers that the memories he has been viewing are actually his own: he is Clifford Unger's son, who had been transformed by Bridget Strand into one of the first BBs, accidentally killed alongside Clifford during a botched escape attempt, and resurrected by Amelie (which triggered the first Death Stranding). The spirits of deceased BBs help to save Lou's life, and Sam burns his UCA cufflinks in the incinerator, thus going "off the grid" to live a peaceful life raising Lou (whose full name is revealed to be "Louise").
After a lengthy corporate conflict with Konami as a restricted subsidiary, Kojima Productions closed in July 2015 and reformed as an independent video game developer and studio in December. The same month, Hideo Kojima announced his partnership with Sony Interactive Entertainment, at the time led by Andrew House, to make a new PlayStation game.
Kojima revealed the game at Sony's conference during E3 2016 with the trailer. It was made possible with the technology of photogrammetry and motion capture. It featured Norman Reedus, who served as the basis for the protagonist. The game is the second collaboration between Kojima and Reedus, following the cancelled Silent Hills. Kojima and Mark Cerny, lead system architect of the PlayStation 4, spent two weeks in January 2016 looking for a game engine on which to develop the game. One of the two remaining candidates had been used to create the teaser trailer. Guerrilla Games would later be announced as a collaborator on the development of the game, as it was providing their proprietary game engine, Decima. Kojima Productions' meeting room was recreated in the engine as a reference of accuracy, and for the purpose of testing physically-based lighting.
The game entered full development in 2017. A few days before E3 2017, Kojima announced that the game would not appear during the usual Sony conference. In June, information came from Shawn Layden, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America, affirming that Death Stranding was in fact in a playable alpha version, but he had not been able to categorize the game in a specific genre. The official soundtrack of the game, Death Stranding: Timefall, was released through RCA Records and Sony Interactive Entertainment on November 7, 2019, and features artists such as Chvrches, The Neighbourhood, Major Lazer, and Bring Me the Horizon. A teaser was presented during The Game Awards 2017 in December, where Kojima, Reedus and del Toro made appearances. Kojima also revealed that the team was unable to do any performance capture or voice-over for the third trailer in time for E3 2017 due to the 2016–17 video game voice actor strike, so it was delayed until the Game Awards.
In February 2018, Emily O'Brien and Troy Baker joined the cast for the game. At the event, a new trailer was shown, showing gameplay for the first time. It also revealed that actresses Léa Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner were to be a part of the cast. On September 18, it was announced at Tokyo Game Show 2018 that Tommie Earl Jenkins would portray a key character in the game, and that Akio Ōtsuka, Kikuko Inoue, Nana Mizuki and Satoshi Mikami, veterans of the Metal Gear series, along with Kenjiro Tsuda, had joined the game's Japanese voice cast. In March 2019, Hideo Kojima said that Death Stranding was slightly behind its release date schedule, and that he himself was testing and adjusting the gameplay, day by day, defining that phase of development as "critical".
A trailer released in May 2019 introduced Margaret Qualley as Mama and Nicolas Winding Refn as Heartman. Several character names were also revealed: Cliff (Mikkelsen), Fragile (Seydoux), Deadman (Del Toro), Die-Hardman (Jenkins), Higgs (Baker) and Amelie (Wagner). O'Brien, Jesse Corti and Darren Jacobs are credited for voice-over work in the trailer. Del Toro and Winding Refn both received a "Special Appearance" credit, with Kojima later explaining that their likenesses were only used and their voice and motion capture are performed by other actors. The same trailer also revealed the release date of November 8, 2019. In an accompanying blog post, Kojima explained that the game's core theme was "the true importance of forging connections with others", referring to the player's goal of "reconnecting" an isolated and fractured society, to bridge its divides, and to "create new bonds or 'Strands' with other players around the globe." Certain themes and elements of the story were influenced by Kojima's childhood and the deaths of his parents.
During Gamescom that year, two more trailers were shown: the first showed one of the key elements of the video game, a BB (Bridge Baby), with the participation of the character "Deadman", played by Guillermo del Toro, the second introduces the character "Mama", played by Margaret Qualley. Furthermore, a 6-minute gameplay trailer was shown, which introduces in detail various game mechanics, such as the possibility of urinating and delivering packages to isolated delivery stations. This video also features the participation of Geoff Keighley, Canadian journalist and video critic, as a hologram that interacts with the main character Sam in the delivery station.
During the Tokyo Game Show conference, Kojima showed and commented live a 83-minute video dedicated entirely to the general features of the gameplay of the game. There Kojima proclaimed that he was open to developing a sequel to further solidify the "strand game" genre. On September 26, 2019, Kojima Productions announced that the game had gone gold, meaning that development on it had finished. In October 2019, it was announced that the game would be released on Microsoft Windows in mid-2020 by 505 Games, confirming rumors about a PC version that had existed as early as 2015. It was released on July 14, 2020. The same month during a segment of Conan, comedian Conan O'Brien revealed that there is a character modeled after him in-game, with O'Brien having been digitally modeled during a visit to Kojima Productions' studio.
Japanese writer Junji Ito appears as the model of The Engineer, which is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal. The film director was modelled after Jordan Vogt-Roberts, while director Edgar Wright provided his likeness for Thomas Southerland. Hirokazu Hamamura also made an appearance as The Collector. Liam O'Brien and Sam Lake is credited as the voice actor and model of Veteran Porter, respectively. Phillip North is portrayed by Tommy Wirkola.
The game's announcement at E3 2016 was met with a positive reception. In 2017, Death Stranding was nominated by Golden Joystick Awards in the category "Most Wanted Game". In June 2018, during the days following the E3 press conferences, Death Stranding reached the top ten in the most watched video game trailers on YouTube, with more than 4.5 million views.
Upon release, Death Stranding received "generally favorable" reviews, according to review aggregator Metacritic. Publications noted a range of reactions from reviewers across the board, with the game being praised for its unique concepts, lasting appeal, graphics, voice acting, and soundtrack, but also being considered to be bloated, frustrating, and slow-paced. Russ Frushtick of Polygon described Death Stranding as "the most advanced walking simulator the world has ever seen", and as being "composed entirely of fetch quests", but that it was "pretty damn fun once it gets out of its own way". Frushtick argued that the game "felt like two games in one", consisting of "a wholly unique open-world adventure with asynchronous cooperative multiplayer that allows me to feel like I’m part of a community, building a world from scratch" and "a long, confusing, deeply strange movie." Rating the game 7 out of 10, Game Informer's Matthew Kato wrote that the gameplay "really is as simple as it appears to be, and the elements around it – the story, combat, and lackluster mission objectives – aren't satisfying enough to anchor the title and get players invested." Gaming journalist Jim Sterling called Death Stranding "Hideo Kojima at peak indulgence" and found the game to be "annoying" and "boring", criticizing the game's intricate systems and details, which they felt did not enhance enjoyment but instead were implemented for the sake of realism or to "show off". Despite this, they praised the online social features, as well as certain segments that "[build] a nice little atmosphere". It is the fourth Kojima-directed game but only the 26th overall to be awarded a perfect 40/40 score by Japanese video game magazine Famitsu.
Death Stranding was also subject to review bombing on Metacritic. In December 2019, the website removed over 6,000 negative user reviews to prevent "potential score manipulation", judging them to be suspicious.
In its debut week, Death Stranding was the best-selling physical game in Japan, with Famitsu reporting that the game had sold 185,909 copies. This made it the most successful debut for a new intellectual property in Japan for the current generation of consoles, overtaking previous record holder Judgment. Death Stranding remained in the Famitsu top 30 best-selling physical games chart for five weeks, until December 15, having reached over 253,000 physical copies sold at that point. As of March 2020[update], the game's sales in Japan have reached 262,827 physical copies and an estimated 136,279 digital copies, for an estimated total of 399,106 sales in Japan.
In the UK, the title debuted at number two on the physical sales chart, outsold by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Its sales made it the second biggest PlayStation exclusive debut of the year, behind Days Gone. According to Media Create, Death Stranding also debuted at number one in the physical sales chart for both Taiwan and South Korea. The game also topped the Italian and French selling charts. It placed second in the Switzerland charts.
On the PlayStation Network, the game has reached an estimated total of 3 million players, including an estimated 390,000 monthly active users, as of April 2020[update]. According to SuperData Research's estimates Death Stranding sold 477,000 digital copies in its first month on Steam.
In April 2021, publisher 505 Games' parent organization Digital Bros announced in a financial that the PC release had generated €23 million ($27 million) in revenue as of December 2020[update], making it the company's highest-grossing game in 2020. As of July 2021[update], the game has sold 5 million copies worldwide for the PS4 and PC platforms.
|2017||Golden Joystick Awards||Most Wanted Game||Nominated|||
|Gamers' Choice Awards||Most Anticipated Game||Nominated|||
|2019||The Game Awards 2019||Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Best Game Direction||Won|
|Best Art Direction||Nominated|
|Best Audio Design||Nominated|
|Best Performance (Mads Mikkelsen)||Won|
|Best Performance (Norman Reedus)||Nominated|
|Best Action/Adventure Game||Nominated|
|2020||Guild of Music Supervisors Awards||Best Music Supervision in a Video Game||Nominated|||
|23rd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards||Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Achievement in Animation||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Character (Cliff Unger)||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Character (Sam Porter Bridges)||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Audio Design||Won|
|Outstanding Technical Achievement||Won|
|Adventure Game of the Year||Nominated|
|20th Game Developers Choice Awards||Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Best Visual Art||Nominated|
|SXSW Gaming Awards||Trending Game of the Year||Nominated|||
|Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award||Nominated|
|Excellence in Animation||Nominated|
|Excellence in Musical Score||Won|
|Excellence in Narrative||Nominated|
|Excellence in Technical Achievement||Won|
|Excellence in Visual Achievement||Nominated|
|16th British Academy Games Awards||Animation||Nominated|||
|Game Beyond Entertainment||Nominated|
|Performer in a Leading Role (Norman Reedus)||Nominated|
|Performer in a Supporting Role (Léa Seydoux)||Nominated|
|Performer in a Supporting Role (Troy Baker)||Nominated|
|Webby Awards||Best Music/Sound Design||Nominated|||
|Golden Joystick Awards 2020||PC Game of the Year||Won|||
Numerous commentators noted that the game's story and gameplay resembled the COVID-19 pandemic. The game's prescient similarities to the coronavirus crisis has drawn comparisons to the way in which a previous Kojima game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001), had anticipated 2010s phenomena such as fake news and echo chambers. A Chinese man designed a Death Stranding-inspired suit to protect his child from COVID-19. A parody game set in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by COVID-19, Walking Simulator, was released in March 2020.
- Additional Work by Guerrilla Games
- Del Toro and Refn are the physical models of Deadman and Heartman, who are voiced by Corti and Jacobs.
- Wagner provided the likeness for Bridget and Amelie and voiced the older Bridget; O'Brien voiced the young Bridget and Amelie.
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26. [PS4] Death Stranding (Limited Editions Included) (SIE, 11/08/19) – 4,729 (253,475)
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2019, Semaine 45
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