Death Stranding

Release date: November 8, 2019
Platforms: PlayStation 4

Death Stranding E3 2018 Trailer Analysis

A deep look into the details and references in the fourth trailer of Kojima Productions ambitious project and the assumptions we’ve made

Death Stranding gameplay 4K Trailer from E3 2018

Fans had to wait just half a year for Kojima Productions’ fourth Death Stranding teaser, while the game itself hasn’t been released yet. That’s about the same time period that passed between the release of the first and second teasers. It’s worth noting that the last trailer finally can complement the viewers with snapshots of the real game. But we will get back to that later and now, let’s cut to the chase.

The trailer begins from the bottom, literally. From the fetus’ butt we saw in the womb of Norman Reedus’ character in the third teaser. The child turns its face to the camera and again gives the viewer the thumb, with the view sliding back the esophagus, but not to the great beyond like last time, but into darkness sounding a lurching female voice.

The girl behind the scenes — how she looks and who she is played by is still a matter of speculation — addresses the protagonist with the words ‘’Sam Porter Bridges.’’ Some fans suggest, that ‘’Porter’’ in this context is not just a second name, but rather an indication of a profession or organization (who else in such troubled times would manufacture individually marked protective suits). According to the stranger, Sam really makes a living delivering.

As for Sam’s last name Bridges, Kojima himself called him a ‘’blue-collar worker’’ in a statement for the official PlayStation blog. In this perspective, it seems unlikely that the protagonist is the head of the Bridges corporation (United cities of America) that flashes its badges and insignia in the second and third trailers of the game. We will cover the possible connection of the hero with the American government later.

It is noteworthy that the voiceover uses the word ‘’delivers’’ to describe the nature of Sam’s employment. In addition to its main meaning, ‘’deliver’’ (goods, parcels) also refers to giving birth. Considering Death Stranding’s fixation on babies and the cross-shaped scar on Sam’s stomach, we won’t be surprised if this storyline continues further on.

‘’Tears. Chiral allergy,’’ says the stranger, explaining why the characters of the third trailer were crying. According to the Wikipedia, chirality is ‘’lack of symmetry between the right and left sides.’’ There is a second possible meaning to her phrase, which we will cover later.

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Finally, we see Sam taking cover from the ‘’timefall’’ under an arch in a cave with his hood removed and speaking to an off-screen woman in the background. She argues that Sam has something called ‘’DOOMs’’, like herself. Judging by how the conversation develops further, DOOMs are some special ability or a disease, as some fans guess.

Describing his ‘’level’’ or the disease’s stage of development, Sam mentions that he has ‘’extinction factor’’, but admits that the feature is inferior to the one of his interlocutor. The latter, in turn, asks whether Sam can ‘’see them’’ (probably referring to the invisible monsters with human hands), with Sam responding, ‘’No, but I can sense them.’’

It is possible that the opaque conversation between the characters refers to key gameplay mechanics, like the ability to see otherwise invisible creatures (i.e mechanics of enlightenment in Bloodborne) and rebirth after death. There is another dialogue in the trailer devoted to this aspect of the gaming process, but we’ll share our thought on it below.

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Removing the load from his shoulders, Sam drops a photo which he carries with him all the time. When trying to grab the photograph, the protagonist inadvertently exposes his hand to the timefall and faces immediate consequences — the part of the skin hit by a raindrop starts to age noticeably. The tattoo on the back of the hand, by the way, pertains to Norman Reedus himself, so no hidden meanings there.

Meanwhile, the woman offers Sam to work for her. Sam refuses, motivating his decision by the fact that he makes deliveries and nothing else. But, if we are to believe the video’s description on YouTube, this is not entirely true. ‘’With scattered remains of the future Sam embarks on a journey to reunite the fragmented world step by step.’’ What the hero will do to achieve this goal except transporting cargoes, still remains a mystery.

But let's get back to the trailer. The next two minutes of screen time are devoted to the way the protagonist carries parcels on his back and the hardships he faces in his work routine. This fragment displays real gameplay footage from Death Stranding with some camera angles changed.

Full studio version of Asylums For The Feeling

While watching the gameplay sequence, we are treated with the song Asylums for the Feeling bythe Japanese band Silent Poets. Interesting fact: Hideo Kojima stumbled upon the band’s music unintendedly, when he found out that one of the waiters serving him was a music industry veteran. Kojima was given an extract from the song and ‘’an image of Sam walking in the wilderness naturally popped into my head.’’

It is still difficult to say how the song’s lyrics relate to the events in the game, however, fans can distinguish several key issues in the song: ‘’silent fault’’, ‘’run out of all the meaning’’ and the process of ‘’dooming’’ himself or someone else. Dooming in the context of this trailer can also be sending us back to the mysterious ability / illness, mentioned in Sam’s conversation with the off-screen woman.

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In the first gameplay scene, Sam walks by a river bank covered with moss (another argument in favor of the Icelandic setting) and here’s where we can spot familiar elements: the inverted rainbow and black threads to the sky. The novelty here is the disappearing and reappearing white strands of the same kind. The difference between the two colors is still a mystery.

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The next landscape scene resembles Mars in a way, with orange-red sand and absolutely bare and boundless land. Sam prefers walking throughout the whole scene carrying what looks like a load weighing dozens of kilograms but is followed by a hovering droid assistant.

As for the scenes, Death Stranding fans conclude that some landscapes from this section of the trailer are reminiscent of the textures in the hidden files of the interactive teaser to Silent Hills(one of Kojima's previous projects). It seems that Kojima has been plotting his new game for years.

In another scene, the protagonist strides toward through the water with a dragonfly hovering in the foreground, at least the realm of insects is represented in these hostile surroundings. Life is also visible when Sam climbs the mountain on a rope when a flock of birds flies away in the background. Does this mean that the world of Death Stranding has not yet completely plunged into chaos?

The description of the teaser makes it clear what happened in the gaming universe, informing that surrounded by death, Sam Bridges must face challenges in a world, completely transformed by Death Stranding. Thus, Death Stranding is not only the name of the project, but also an apparent, and not too pleasant, phenomenon.

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In another snapshot, Sam carries what looks like a corpse on his back in a Corpse Disposal Team uniform, the logo is hard to distinguish from the snapshot’s view, so for now just take my word for it. The harsh terrain is a real challenge for the hero, so he’s constantly forced to correct his center of gravity in order not to lose the burden. It is probable that the weight of the cargo affects the gameplay.

The mission takes Sam to a devastated shopping center, not a futuristic one at that, so the game does grant us at least some sort of buildings. Moving between them, apparently, can be achieved by motorcycle. But vehicles don’t last forever and when waking up after a fall, Sam discovers his bike slipping off a cliff. It’s worth noting that the motorcycle’s design resembles the one of Shotaro Kaneda’s vehicle from anime Akira.

By the way, the cargoes on Sam’s back, which he often carries in bundles, aren’t fastened by straps or ropes. It seems, they are drawn to each other by a complex future technology, which ceases to work in water (unlike a magnet). You can notice this in one of the gameplay snapshots when the main character stumbles and falls head into the river. His suit automatically activates the hood in water, with a life jacket inflating on his chest.

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Not all of Sam’s deliveries go unhampered. Apparently, the game will have a system for injuries, if they’re not minor, they are dealt with directly on the field. When the timecode hits 2:58 we see how Sam courageously tears off a toenail.Death Stranding E3 2018 Trailer Analysis-15The toe keeps on bleeding, drastically portrayed in the shower scene (1:50). Sam keeps a spare pair of boots, carrying them all over the place, but they don’t seem to save him for the long distances. I guess that in Death Stranding clothing and footwear will have a life period, and after its expiration, the gamer will have to search for a new garment.

In the last gameplay sequence, Sam approaches a cliff edge overlooking some sort of camp or settlement, while holding a kind of suitcase in his hand. The case suddenly unlatches and transforms into a futuristic automatic rifle, apparently susceptible to various modifications.

In an interview after the presentation of the trailer, Kojima said that players will have the opportunity to shoot in Death Stranding, but the game designer doesn’t recommend doing that: ‘’When progressing through the game, people will understand that shooting is not the best option, but it is still available.’’

Suddenly a black screen with the inscription ‘’Give me your hand in life’’ in the center appears, paving the way for the next segment of the trailer. In total, there will be four such transitions during the video, and they differ from each other only in the last word: ‘’Give me your hand in life / death / flesh / spirit.’’ Fans have also spotted Biblical motifs here. The same notions appear in the eighth chapter of the Epistles to the Romans: ‘’The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.’’

In the next scene, Sam squats to the ground to pick up the fallen photo, and suddenly the skin on his hand, shoulder and neck starts to swell and turn red. This is the body's reaction to the presence of the invisible monster with human hands walking near Sam. It is interesting that plants, that are not affected by the timefall, start to die away rapidly when approached by the creature that leaves ‘’oil patterns’’ behind it

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The creature goes away, and Sam tries to pick up the photo once again but is stopped by a woman's hand, which belongs to his interlocutor in the beginning of the video. Her name in the game is still unknown, but the character is played by French actress Lea Seydoux (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). Spikes on her shoulders, most likely, signal the presence of danger nearby.

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Lea’s character, apparently, is able to see the monster invisible to Sam and she rushes him to keep his mouth shut and stop breathing, for there is at least one dangerous creature left nearby. Leaving a mark on the wall of the cave, the oily hand patterns (which are also sticky) jump to the ground and pause near the heroes, continuing their journey afterwards.

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Notice that Sam’s and Lea’s characters are staring in different directions. The protagonist gazes at the prints on the ground, while his companion is looking at the cave’s dome, where the monster is actually located, as it seems. By the way, the cross-shaped scar, which we saw in the first trailer, is visible on Sam’s stomach. So presumably, an operation for retrieving the child has already taken place.

The creature leaves, and a tear slides on Lea character’s left cheek — another manifestation of chiral allergy. Together, the heroes approach the cave’s exit and look at the sky. Not quite visible due to the overall brightness of the scene, five transparent human figures float in the air, similar to the ones we saw in the first and third trailers. After a few seconds, the figures dissolve, and the spikes on the heroine’s shoulders return to ‘’tranquil’’ mode.

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One more transition frame, now with the word ‘’death’’, and on goes the next scene. Covering herself with a futuristic umbrella, which seems to twitch twice for an unknown reason, Lea’s character asks Sam whether he is going to the city (pay attention to the buildings far away). Without waiting for an answer, the girl advises the protagonist to be more careful, ‘’These things never stay gone for long,’’ she says. With a high degree of probability, it seems that she is referring to the invisible creatures with human hands.

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There was no time to discuss the costume of Lea’s character in the last scene, so let's pay attention to it now. Judging by the insignia, the girl works for a company called Fragile Express, which even has its own slogan Handled with love. Apparently, this is another delivery organization, presumably, interested in Sam’s services, judging by the dialogue in the beginning of the video.

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Then Lea’s character explains how the timefall works. ‘’It fast-forwards whatever it touches. But it can’t wash everything away. The past just won’t let go,’’ she says, hinting at the photo that Sam finally got hold of.

Lea’s character bids farewell to her companion by pronouncing his full name Sam Porter Bridges. Perhaps the whole phrase is a playful formality, rather than a sincere gesture — just calling him Sam would be enough. There are no enemies nearby, but at the end of her remark, thorns start to burst out her shoulders again. Perhaps she can activate them manually or by the power of thought.

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The photo shows Sam in a business suit and a young pregnant woman, embraced from the behind by a smiling older lady. It is obvious that the photo is of great value to the protagonist since he carries it with him even in this post-apocalyptic world as a reminder of his past.It is noteworthy that, judging by the situation, the photo was taken not in some random place, but in the Oval Office of the White House. This can mean that at least one person on the photo has direct ties to this place. It’s obviously not the pregnant woman, Sam’s here on his blue-collar mission, and that leaves the old lady.

We'll find out which actress was she played by at the end of the trailer, but for now, let’s highlight the maternal love demeanor with which she embraces Sam and the pregnant woman. I won’t be surprised if the protagonist or, perhaps, the pregnant woman are her children or at least close relatives. This is partly proved in the end of the video, but for now, let’s move to the next scene.

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Another transition, now with the word ‘’flesh’’ and we face Sam hiding in a shattered factory building wearing a Corpse Disposal Team suit. Heavy timefall rain and a whole bunch of hostile creatures lurk outside. This is proved by the person who is speaking to Sam on the intercom: ‘’Chiralium density is still increasing,’’ he says

It is possible that the word ‘’chiral’’ in Death Stranding refers not to the scientific phenomenon mentioned earlier, but to the very creatures, invisible to Sam's eye. In this case, the phrase chiral allergy in the first dialogue of the trailer can mean not ‘’chiral allergy’’, but an ‘’allergy to chiral creatures’’. The word χειρ, which is the basis for the concept of chirality, was used by ancient Greeks to define the most recognizable chiral object — the hand.

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Sam can’t sit out the timefall, for he needs to drop out of sight before the creatures find him. A voice on the intercom warns him that if one of the creatures eats him a ‘’voidout’’ is triggered. ‘’You’ll come back, sure, but the surrounding area will still be a crater,’’ he says. Thus, this conversation describes what Kojima said commenting on the third trailer. The death of the protagonist from the hands of the invisible creatures will entail catastrophic consequences. Why? Apparently, these beings are consumed with an insistent desire to harm people.

Sam finds, what in his mind is a way to get out of his unenviable position. He fixes an incubator with a baby on his chest and connects the wire from it to the robot-detector on the back. The child wakes up along with a mechanical hand-lantern. This is strange since in the third trailer holding the vessel with the baby was enough to activate the detector. However, the difference may be that in the last trailer the fetus was initially asleep, and in the one earlier it was already awake.

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With the activated robot lantern Sam rushes outside, where a pack of visible levitating creatures awaits him. This explains who the CDT officer was shooting at in the third trailer after the man in the hood disappeared. Courtesy of the fetus and the detector behind him, the CDT officer was able to spot the levitating creatures and shoot in their direction.

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The creatures have a human-like appearance and umbilical cords stretching toward the sky. Interestingly, some of these monsters have a thread leading to a small clot, quite possibly a proprietary fetus.

The protagonist tries to sneak past the monsters unnoticed, even trying to close his mouth with his hands. Does this mean that the invisible creatures and the levitating figures are the same thing? But his efforts are unsuccessful and he gets spotted. An oily puddle appears at his feet, attracting the intangible creatures flying towards him from all sides. When reaching the black liquid, these creatures acquire distinct forms and the ability to drag the hero down, where he appears to be dying. But, as we already know, in Death Stranding death is not the end.

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In the next scene we see Lea’s character holding some sort of maggot, apparently, in the game’s universe they are called cryptobiots, and says: ‘’A cryptobiot a day keeps the timefall away.’’ She puts the maggot-like cryptobiot in her mouth and starts chewing it with a crunchy sound. Apparently, the consequences of the timefall in Death Stranding can be avoided — at least for a while — by consuming these insect-like creatures.

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And finally, in the last scene of the trailer, we hear an off-screen voice of the American actress Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man). With a reproachful voice, she addresses Sam: ‘’You're late. Still don’t know who I am, do you?’’ At this stage, it turns out that the characters met on the beach strewn with sea creatures’ remains in the first trailer.

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Wagner’s character turns her face to the camera, and we see the same, but much younger lady, who was between Sam and the pregnant woman on the photograph. Kojima calls the rejuvenation of the actress (in real life she is 68 years old) a forced measure, which the developers chose to take to preserve the game’s integrity.

Wagner character’s question suggests that Sam should know her with the photo being the main evidence, but something went wrong. Judging by how Sam responds ‘’Who are you?’’, he forgot. Is it amnesia, or perhaps he didn’t remember her in the first place? It is possible that this can be explained by the age of Wagner’s in-game character. If Sam really is her son, then he couldn’t recognize his mother at such a young age.

Wagner’s character carries a necklace, which isn’t quite visible in the trailer. Fortunately, soon after the presentation, three new Death Stranding posters were published with the characters of Norman Reedus, Lea Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner respectively. But the posters with female characters have no threads hanging from the Death Stranding logo. The reasons for this decision of the authors still remains a mystery.

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Let's go back to the necklace. It consists of fourteen chains with one or more balls on it, except one, and eight chains have a drop-like end. It is noteworthy that the versions of this adornment in the trailer and on the poster are mirrored against each other.

The two most popular assumptions here are that this adornment is an example of the ancient quipu writing and counting system, or an encoded melody for a music box. The last theory has already been tested: according to some fans, the played motif reminds the song Give Me An Answerby Iceland-based band Low Roar.

If the latter is true, then the encrypted message is a sophisticated joke: Kojima is aware of the fans’ attempts to find the meaning of Death Stranding and, apparently, is not shy of teasing the gaming community for their love of analyzing even the smallest details. In his message on the official PlayStation blog, Kojima sends a straightforward message to his fans: ‘’This game is being woven together through numerous strands and human connections, including strands with you: the fans. The picture that forms on this tapestry is already beautifully drawn in my mind, and is right now, being woven together with the utmost care.’’ We still have to wait until the opening of this exhibition of paintings called Death Stranding.

John Davis