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Death Stranding[a] is an upcoming action game developed by Kojima Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation 4. It is the first game from director Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions after their disbandment from Konami in 2015. It was announced at E3 2016, and is set to be released on November 8, 2019.

Death Stranding
Death Stranding cover art.jpeg
Developer(s)Kojima Productions
Publisher(s)Sony Interactive Entertainment
Director(s)Hideo Kojima
Producer(s)
  • Hideo Kojima
  • Kenichiro Imaizumi
Designer(s)Hideo Kojima
Artist(s)Yoji Shinkawa
Writer(s)
  • Hideo Kojima
  • Hitori Nojima
Composer(s)Ludvig Forssell
EngineDecima
Platform(s)PlayStation 4
ReleaseNovember 8, 2019
Genre(s)Action
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Actors Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, Margaret Qualley, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Troy Baker, and Lindsay Wagner provided motion capture, 3D scannings and vocal performances, while film directors Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn are also featured. The title is a reference to the cetacean stranding phenomenon, which the game features themes of.

Contents

Gameplay

 
Pre-release gameplay screenshot of Death Stranding, taken from a trailer shown at E3 2018. Sam, the protagonist, uses a device to uncover several invisible enemies in order to sneak past them

Death Stranding is an action game set in an open world, which also includes multiplayer functions.[1][2] Kojima compared the genre to how his earlier game Metal Gear – now considered to be a stealth game – was called an action game during its release because the stealth genre was not considered to exist at the time.[3][4]

According to Kojima, one of the key aspects of the announcement trailer was the idea of a connection between life and death.[3] He explained one of the main themes through a short story by Kōbō Abe; the first tool created by humans was a stick, meant as protection by putting a distance between oneself and "bad things", and that the second was a rope, used to secure things one finds important. Kojima compared the main "tools" in action games – punching, shooting and kicking – to sticks, and that in Death Stranding, he wants people to communicate through the game equivalent of ropes.[3] While the title refers to the phenomenon of cetacean stranding, "strand" is an alternative term for shore and also stands for strings and connections.[5][6]

When the main character, named Sam, dies, the player is sent to another world, referred to as an upside-down world submerged in water. Kojima suggests that when the player returns to the world of the living, anything they did or any damage that an explosion or the like causes when the player dies remains persistent in the world and does not go away. Another element talked about is the existence of a type of rain, called "Timefall", with the ability to age or deteriorate whatever it hits. Another gameplay element talked about is the player's ability to interact with the environment and wander outside of the character's body, as well as recovering items when they die.[7]

Synopsis

People have created "Walls" and become accustomed to living in isolation. Death Stranding is a completely new type of action game, where the goal of the player is to reconnect isolated cities and a fragmented society. It is created so that all elements, including the story and gameplay, are bound together by the theme of the "Strand" or connection. As Sam Porter Bridges, you will attempt to bridge the divides in society, and in doing create new bonds or "Strands" with other players around the globe. Through your experience playing the game, I hope you'll come to understand the true importance of forging connections with others.

— Hideo Kojima[8]

Development

Norman Reedus (top) and Mads Mikkelsen (bottom) provided voices and motion capture for the characters Sam and Cliff, respectively.

After a lengthy corporate conflict with Konami as a restricted subsidiary,[9][10] Kojima Productions closed in July 2015 and reformed as an independent video game developer and studio in December.[11][12] 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".[13]

Kojima revealed the game at Sony's conference during E3 2016 with the trailer.[14] It was made possible with the technology of photogrammetry and motion capture.[15] It featured Norman Reedus, who will serve as the basis for the main protagonist. The game is the second collaboration between Kojima and Reedus, following the cancelled Silent Hills.[16] 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.[17] One of the two remaining candidates had been used to create the teaser trailer.[14] Guerrilla Games would later be announced as a collaborator on the development of the game, as it was providing their proprietary game engine, Decima.[18] Kojima Productions' meeting room was recreated in the engine as a reference of accuracy, and for the purpose of testing physically-based lighting.[19]

A second teaser unveiled that Mads Mikkelsen would be joining the cast as the game's main antagonist.[18] It also featured a character bearing the likeness of Guillermo del Toro, who had previously collaborated with Kojima and Reedus on Silent Hills.[20][21][19] During this period, a female protagonist was said planned to be revealed[22][19] and that Ludvig Forssell, who previously worked with Kojima on Metal Gear Solid V, was writing the music.[23] An alternate cut of the second teaser included a song from the band Low Roar. Kojima Productions and American media publisher Mondo partnered to release a 12-inch vinyl single of the song under the Death Stranding brand, which was released in February 2017.[24][25]

The game entered full development in 2017.[26] A few days before E3 2017, Kojima announced that the game would not appear during the usual Sony conference.[27] 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.[28]

A third teaser was presented during The Game Awards 2017 in December, where Kojima, Reedus and del Toro made appearances.[29] The next day, the same trailer was shown again at PlayStation Experience, in which also Kojima made an appearance on stage during the event. Mark Cerny commented on the trailer, saying that the game would have gained sense after 4–5 hours of playing and confirmed that the video was captured on PlayStation 4 Pro.[30] The same month, more info from Kojima about the gameplay was revealed.[7] At the same time, Kojima admitted that he was aware of the common belief that would see him proceeding too slowly in the development, but reiterated that this was not the case.[7] 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.[7]

 
Promotion at E3 2018

In February 2018, Emily O'Brien and Troy Baker joined the cast for the game.[31] In May, Sony Worldwide Studios' Shawn Layden, revealed that Death Stranding would be part of four games – along with Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man and The Last of Us Part II – on which the company would deeply focus during E3 2018.[32] 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.[33] On September 18, it was announced at Tokyo Game Show 2018 that Tommie Earl Jenkins would portray a key character in the game,[34] 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.[35][36]

In March 2019, Hideo Kojima said that Death Stranding was slightly behind its release date schedule,[37][38] and that he himself was testing and adjusting the gameplay, day by day, defining that phase of development as "critical".[39]

A trailer released on May 29, 2019 announced the release date of November 8, 2019. It 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,[40][41] with Kojima later explaining that their likenesses were only used and their voice and motion capture are performed by other actors.[42]

In July 2019, after having it shown in preview to the San Diego Comic-Con audiences, Kojima worldwide revealed a trailer dedicated to the character of Heartman, whose face is 3D modeled after Nicolas Winding Refn, who was himself present on the SDCC stage.[43] The following month, Kojima announced that production on the game's Japanese voice overs had finished.[44]

Reception

The game's announcement during E3 2016 was met with positive reception and discussion: from the entrance of Hideo Kojima, introduced by Andrew House on the Sony stage, welcomed with great enthusiasm after his "Hello, hello everyone. I'm back!" exclamation,[45][46] to the teaser trailer itself, especially for Reedus' appearance and interpretation, triggering several reaction videos from the public which were widespread on YouTube. Kojima's arrival and the trailer were chosen by several publications to be one the most discussed moments at the event.[47][48][49]

In the period after the shown trailers and basic game information, fans speculated their theories about the game, its gameplay and its plot, organizing themselves in communities on discussion forums.[15][50] In 2017, Death Stranding was nominated by Golden Joystick Awards in the category "Most Wanted Game",[51] but lost to The Last of Us Part II.[52] 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.[53] During the same month a parody video game of Death Stranding, called Deadly Standing and being developed by "Hodeo Kojumbo", was released for Android,[54] getting mostly jokingly positive reviews from users.[55]

Notes

  1. ^ Japanese: デス・ストランディング Hepburn: Desu Sutorandingu?

References

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