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Is The Death Stranding Launch Trailer Meant To Be Understood?

In case you missed it, the Death Stranding launch trailer dropped today. It's a nearly eight minute long preview of the game's story, with gameplay clips interspersed throughout. And we're probably not alone in saying: it's one of the least comprehensible things we've ever had the pleasure of viewing. It's a beautiful, confusing mess. And we can't help but wonder: is that the way it's meant to be?

In one sense, the trailer helps us understand what's happening in Death Stranding in the most basic sense. Disastrous explosions have gone off across the country and, and as a result, left America's infrastructure in tatters. The people of the country are disconnected from one another, and it's up to Sam Bridges — played by Norman Reedus — to bring nodes of a communication network back online.

Knowing that alone, you might believe you have a grasp on the story that Death Stranding is trying to tell. And if you've seen some gameplay from the title, you might even have a hint as to what you'll be doing. You, as Sam, will be traversing the open world by climbing up ladders and floating down rivers, all so you can reach those vital network nodes and power them up.

Then you account for the rest of what happens in the Death Stranding launch trailer, and you may wonder: do you really understand what's going on at all? And are you supposed to?

Death Stranding's trailer leaves many questions unanswered

There are those otherworldly beings floating above the beach: the ones we saw when Death Stranding was first revealed in 2016. What are those? At one point, Sam appears to be fighting a large creature made of black goop. What is that thing? We've learned that the aforementioned explosions have brought supernatural beings into our world, and that these beings are very much a threat to humanity. They are, as we hear in the trailer, the vanguard of an "extinction event" that threatens to wipe us from the globe. But what brought them here?

The trailer also leaves us guessing as to how Mads Mikkelsen's character, Cliff, factors into the story. He appears to be a human, but has that same black goop dripping from his eyes as those otherworldly entities. And in one scene, we see Cliff and Sam battling it out. Cliff appears to be an antagonist in Death Stranding's tale, but is he the big bad? Or does that title belong to some other figure?

And what of the babies in the jars? Or the scene where Sam and Fragile (played by Lea Seydoux) touch foreheads, only to have Sam vanish an instant later? Or the apparent "in" Sam has with the President of the United States, who appears ill? All questions that have yet to be answered. But perhaps for good reason. Perhaps we're not really meant to "get it" just yet. And when you think about Hideo Kojima's inspirations — the types of television shows and films he enjoys — that makes a lot of sense.

Mystery may be the point of the Death Stranding launch trailer

Hideo Kojima famously made the team at Kojima Productions watch Twin Peaks while working on Death Stranding. Kojima is a huge David Lynch fan, it turns out, and though he claimed at the time that the watch party wasn't related to Death Stranding, he did say he wanted his crew to "know the direction and the world of Lynch."

You can see that world taking shape in Death Stranding. Unexplained supernatural events. Quirky characters with names like Deadman and Heartman. And the desire to have us understand the most elementary part of the story while still leaving everything else a mystery. In Twin Peaks, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is initially sent to investigate the murder of a homecoming queen in the small town of Twin Peaks, Wa. But he uncovers far more as the tale moves forward: the kinds of things a preview for the show wouldn't have given away.

What we see in the Death Stranding trailer is the kind of Lynch-esque storytelling Kojima clearly wants to emulate. We know the mission we'll embark on as Sam Bridges. We know why we're being sent to do what we're doing. But we also know something is terribly amiss in the world, and that we're going to encounter more than just rivers and mountains as obstacles.

In the case of Twin Peaks, you could only uncover the greater mystery by experiencing the whole story. With Death Stranding, it appears the same will be true. We'll undoubtedly know more about the game and its universe after we play through it. But even then, we might not get every single answer. What fun is that?