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Death Stranding release date, trailer, cast and gameplay

Death Stranding is an upcoming third-person game containing strong action, stealth, and RPG elements. According to the developer, the game does not fit into an established genre but will instead forge a new style. Set in an open world, the story picks up in the aftermath of several mysterious explosions and the accompanying supernatural events known as the Death Stranding. Spectral creatures now haunt the landscape, and the planet balances on the edge of mass extinction.

Announced in 2015Death Stranding will be the first title from Hideo Kojima and the now independent studio Kojima Productions following their separation from Konami. Though details about the game remain sparse, Kojima drew upon a short story by Kobo Abe to highlight one of its central themes. "He states that the stick is the first tool that mankind created to put distance between himself and bad things — to protect himself. He states that the second tool mankind created is a rope. A rope is a tool used to secure things," Kojima explained. "I want people to be connected not through sticks, but through what would be the equivalent of ropes ... But of course you will be able to use the sticks too." So with that all cleared up, let's dive into everything we know about Death Stranding.

Death Stranding's release date and pre-order bonuses

Death Stranding comes to PlayStation 4 on Nov. 8, 2019, earlier than many fans expected. The title entered full production in 2017 following Kojima's decision to collaborate with Guerrilla Games and use their Decima engine. This is the same engine that powers all of Guerrilla's games, including Horizon: Zero Dawn. "Unfortunately, Kojima-san needed to leave his technology with his former employee," said PlayStation architect Mark Cerny regarding Konami. "So we went on a quest to find an engine for his game." 

Anyone who pre-orders Death Stranding will receive the PS4 Dynamic Theme, Death Stranding PSN avatar (Nendoroid Ludens), and four in-game items: Gold "Sam" Sunglasses, Gold Hat, Gold Armor Plate, and Gold Speed Skeleton. According to the official website, players will "unlock in-game items via story progression," suggesting that they will not have immediate access upon release. You can purchase a physical or digital copy of the Standard Edition from most major retailers for $59.99. 

Collector's, Digital Deluxe, and Special Editions for Death Stranding

Beyond the standard game, Sony has three editions on offer, all of which come with additional pre-order content and items. Priced at $69.99, the Special Edition includes the full PlayStation 4 game, a custom steelbook, a digital download of the Death Stranding music album and Behind the Scenes video, and the in-game item Gold "Ludens Mask" Sunglasses.

For $79.99, you can purchase the Digital Deluxe Edition, which features a digital copy of the full game, a digital download of the music album and Behind the Scenes video, all ten Death Stranding avatars, and the following in-game items: Gold "Ludens Mask" Sunglasses, Gold Power Skeleton, Gold All-Terrain Skeleton, and Gold Armor Plate (Lv. 2).

Retailing for $199.99, the Collector's Edition comes with the same bonuses as the Special and Digital Deluxe Editions. You will also receive a BRIDGES Cargo Case, Full-Sized BB Pod, and a Nendoroid More Ludens Mini Figure. The Collector's Edition is sold out at Best Buy, Target, and GameStop, so if you see it available from another retailer, grab it while you can.

Death Stranding's insane trailers

Kojima Productions has released a number of trailers for Death Stranding, including the E3 2016 Reveal, TGA 2016 Teaser, TGA 2017 Teaser, E3 2018 Teaser, TGS 2018, and Release Date 2019 Reveal. Besides announcing the release date, the latter highlights Death Stranding's open world gameplay, including new environments, motorcycle riding, and high-stakes gunfights. It also introduced two new characters, while providing the names for those seen in previous videos: Mama, Heartman, Cliff, Fragile, Deadman, Die-Hardman, Higgs, and Amelie.

A special message from Kojima accompanied the trailer's release, providing more insight on what players can expect from the game. "People have created 'Walls' and become accustomed to living in isolation," said the developer. "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." 

Death Stranding assembled a star-studded cast

Norman Reedus, best known for his portrayal of Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, brings Death Stranding's main character, Sam, to life. Mads Mikkelsen, who has established a name for himself playing villains like Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, Kaecilius in Doctor Strange, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal TV series, plays Cliff. Based on the trailers, Cliff will likely act as one of Death Stranding's main antagonists. 

The game also boasts a strong supporting cast, including Léa Seydoux (Spectre), Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers), Tommie Earl Jenkins (Jersey Boys), Troy Baker (The Last of Us), and Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman). All provided motion capture, 3D scannings, and vocal performances. Death Stranding also uses the likenesses of film directors Guillermo del Toro and Nicolas Winding Refn, though other actors provided the voice and motion capture for their characters. As Kojima Productions has revealed new cast and characters with each trailer, additional talent may be introduced as Death Stranding's launch draws closer.

Just what is the gameplay in Death Stranding?

In Death Stranding, you play as Sam Porter Bridges, a delivery man tasked with traveling across what remains of the United States. With the government, now known as the United Cities of America (UCA), in shambles, mankind's survival depends on our ability to come together. You must complete a variety of objectives while protecting your supplies from bandits and other threats. As the game progresses, you work your way from the east to the west coast, connecting isolated settlements to the Bridges chiral network, a massive data transfer and communications system.

Sam will have to contend with Beached Things (BTs), spectral creatures that roam the landscape, as well as Timefall, an otherworldly rain that alters time and can cause the human body to deteriorate in seconds. You will also have to overcome more mundane obstacles, such as monitoring Sam's bodily functions, including relieving his bladder, and traversing cliffs using special equipment. You can also engage in melee combat with your fists or weapons, which appear to be part of a progression system. To provide accessibility for players of all levels, Kojima revealed that Death Stranding would include a Very Easy mode alongside Normal and Hard settings for action game enthusiasts.

Death is not final

Life and death play a key role in Death Stranding, which does not use traditional "Game Over" screens. Upon dying, you're transported to a purgatory of sorts, an upside-down realm where you must find your way back to the land of the living. "I want people to realize that when they die in the game, that isn't the end," Kojima told IGN back in 2017. "At that point, you're not dead or alive. It's the equivalent of that screen that says 'Continue?' and a counter ticking down towards zero."

While in this other place, you can explore in first-person, wandering outside your body and using Sam's unique abilities to perform actions such as collecting items. After returning to your body, Death Stranding transports you back to the world at a point following your death, not before, as is often the case in video games. "Death will never pull you out of the game," asserted Kojima. Even so, death can have lasting consequences. When taking on foes, you're encouraged to find a non-lethal approach as, according to the game description, every death carries weight. 

Death Stranding has asynchronous online elements

Death Stranding will include an asynchronous online component, allowing you to trace the paths taken by other couriers and share supplies and safe houses, all without ever physically encountering one another. Like much of the gameplay elements and story, the details surrounding how this online component will work are nebulous.

"The whole concept of playing the game, as I understand, needs collaboration from different people from different parts of the world. Which is also on another level of fantasticness," Mads Mikkelsen told Total Film. This supports Kojima's emphasis on connecting players. It also mirrors comments made by Norman Reedus in 2018: "The concept is so mind blowing, because it's not like 'Kill everybody and win the game!' It's a connecting thing. It's like the opposite. It's so ahead of its time, and there're elements of social media in it, and the idea is that... So many games and so many parts of millennial culture are being alone in a room, and you lose contact – physical contact – with people. This is after that and the re-establishing of that physical contact."

Rumor: Death Stranding is a timed PlayStation 4 exclusive

When Sony and Kojima Productions first teamed up for the project in 2015, the announcement mentioned that the then unnamed Death Stranding would debut on PlayStation 4 with a PC launch to follow. The details of this remain unclear. When Kojima revealed that Death Stranding would use Guerrilla's Decima engine, arguments surfaced in the community over whether the developers would follow through on their PC promises. 

By using Sony-owned technology, some felt Kojima had sealed Death Stranding's fate as a PlayStation exclusive. Others argue that Kojima received the engine's source code with no strings attached, preserving the terms of the original deal. "Before making any contracts or anything they just gave me this," said Kojima in a 2016 interview regarding Guerrilla's engine source code, which the company presented to him on an USB drive. But the term "before making any contracts" is not the same as "no strings attached," despite how some fans have interpreted the statement. Sony and Kojima have not confirmed whether they still plan to release the game for PC.

Theory: Death Stranding has a black hole

The announcement trailer shows dog tag-like items on a chain around Sam's neck, which display equations. Fans have noted that the front tag seems to include an engraving of the Schwarzschild metric, which is related to the radius of a black hole. The second tag displays what appears to be the Dirac equation, which relates to wave functions and special relativity. 

Some Redditors have posited that a black hole would explain much of the phenomena established in the trailers and game descriptions. Specifically, black holes could tie into the explosions Sam refers to. As black holes have often been associated with time travel and travel to other dimensions and realms, this could explain the upside down world you enter upon death and even Timefall, the time-altering rain that plagues the landscape. The spectral entities seen in the trailers might also have once been denizens of an alternate world or reality, with the Death Stranding events acting as a bridge between these worlds.

Theory: Horizon: Zero Dawn is a shared universe with Death Stranding

Players can collect three rare items in Horizon: Zero Dawn: Stranded Figure, Stranded Shackles, and Stranded Necklace. All three items have appeared in Death Stranding trailers and serve as an Easter egg for the upcoming game. Once you've obtained the set, you can trade them to the Mystery Boxes Merchant for a Mysterious Box containing Warm Socks. Though initially dismissed as a useless item, one Redditor believes the item may transfer between games upon Death Stranding's release, and will help Sam during his perilous journey.

Another Horizon: Zero Dawn player discovered in-game murals that appear to reference events in Death Stranding, such as the baby in the incubator and the glimpses provided of the massive spectral beings. These features, along with the decision to use the same engine, have led some fans to conclude that the two games share a connection, and may even take place in the same universe.

Theory: Death Stranding is inspired by Egyptian mythology

Several fans have noted possible references or parallels to Egyptian mythology in Death Stranding. "The other world (underwater land) is the Duat, or underworld," asserts one theory. "It is day when the real world is night. If you're wondering why it's day when he returns, he returned with the sun like an Akh. The proximity to the dead enables a crossover between the two worlds." The same poster compared Cliff to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead. "I think Mads may be a trick villain, because Osiris is no more evil than the Grim Reaper."

Another Redditor suggested that most of the main characters have Egyptian counterparts. A third noted the possible significance the skull mask worn by Troy Baker's character, a common element in the Egyptian mythos. Specifically, they claim that his mask resembles an Egyptian death mask, while his cloak resembles an uraeus, an important royal symbol.

Theory: Purgatory and Human History

Some fans believe the death realm Sam visits is purgatory. Throughout the trailers, you see whales, floating corpses, and the shadow of a strange creature. The 2016 Teaser Trailer shows a rusty tank filled with whale intestines and what appear to be World War II-era planes and uniforms. One Redditor believes these items were collected from the upside down world. "Purgatory may contain all human history in itself," they suggest. "Trapped souls from every era and primitive weapons they used to kill each other."

Other Redditors have presented similar theories. "Seems to be littered with those locked in a loop of constant battle. Truly purgatory... Meaning you're sent here if you break connections instead of forming them," suggested one user. Based on Cliff's posse of skeletons over whom he seems to wield control, it's possible he may even be the master of this death realm, which complements the theory that Cliff is actually Osiris. With Kojima at the helm, the truth will likely prove far more complex.

The Chiral Network and the United Cities of America

The Briefing trailer, first revealed to Gamescom 2019 attendees, established Sam's mission: to to reconnect the fractured settlements of the United Cities of America using the Bridges chiral network. Amelie, the daughter of the UCA's former president, started this work, carrying her mother's message across the country; however, she was taken captive by an extremist group in Edge Knot City, which appears to occupy the area of real-world Los Angeles. These separatists, known as the Homo Demens, keep Amelie confined to the city limits, though they've allowed her to continue working with the UCA via projection. The Homo Demens have no interest in connecting to the other settlements and hold Amelie as collateral to keep the rest of the UCA out of their territory.

During the briefing, Amelie and Die-Hardman explain the situation to Sam in what looks like the Oval Office, pleading with him to take up the former president's dream of America and reconstructionism. Though he refuses, it's clear that he later accepts the mission, embarking on a journey to connect the terminals created by Amelie's associates to the chiral network in a final bid to save the human race.

Bridge Baby (BB)

Babies have played a recurring role in Death Stranding, with the first trailer back in 2016 showing Norman Reedus cradling an infant in his arms. In this post-apocalyptic setting, these "Bridge Babies" power the sensors of Bridges operatives, allowing them to detect BTs while in the field. Essentially, the BBs act as conduits between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Sam visits the latter area upon death, moving through it and taking actions that affect both realms before returning to life.

Bridge Babies are taken from the wombs of brain-dead women called "stillmothers." Even after this removal, they maintain a connection to their mother, allowing them to tap into the power of the death realm. Bridges operatives carry the BBs in pods, containers that simulate the environment of the stillmother's womb. Similar to batteries, you must recharge Sam's BB during your travels by bringing it to special chiral network terminals that provide a direct connection to the stillmother. No Bridge Baby has ever lasted longer than a year, and the player will have to monitor their stress level, soothing Sam's BB as you head west.