Death Stranding Trailer Analysis | E3 2016

Death Stranding‘s trailer was very abstract and mysterious, to say the least. Let’s see if we can get some meaning out of the collection of images Kojima prepared for us.

When Hideo Kojima revealed the trailer for his new game, Death Stranding, it set the gaming world aflame with questions. Later on, Kojima shed some light on the mechanics of the game, claiming it’s going to be an action game. The driving force behind the game will be making connections in some way. He explains, in a Wired interview, that stranding and strands are a way to represent connections between other players. Kojima said, inspired by a novel he read, that games are either driven by humankind’s two main inventions: sticks or ropes. Sticks are weapons that drive people away, and ropes bring people together. He wants to make a game that focuses on ropes.

Furthermore, the imagery of the trailer is not related to his time at Konami, he confirmed. “Part of the trailer is based on the song ‘I’ll Keep Coming.’ I will keep coming; Norman Reedus and Kyle Cooper will keep coming back; waves are a big theme. As for Konami? I thought people might link it but there’s no connection in there,” He stated to Eurogamer.

With that said, let’s look at the trailer and try to extract some meaning. The trailer opens with some lines from a William Blake poem:

Death Stranding Blake
The lines are taken from the poem titled Auguries of Innocence. The rest of the poem uses other powerful lines such as:

[blockquote]“A dog starvd at his Masters Gate

Predicts the ruin of the State”[/blockquote]

and

[blockquote]“He who shall teach the Child to Doubt

The rotting Grave shall neer get out

He who respects the Infants faith

Triumphs over Hell & Death”[/blockquote]
The Word ‘Auguries’ means ‘an omen.’ The poem heavily emphasizes the decay of society in the future, much like what we see later on in the trailer. Two other famous Blake poems, “The Chimney Sweeper” – there were two of them titled in the same way – featured a child chimney sweeper and the sad, dark life they lived as they were exploited as cheap labor sources; who else can fit down a chimney to sweep it but a child? Blake wasn’t a stranger to using the form of poetry to comment on societies ills, and it’s very appropriate for Kojima to channel the 17th century poet for his new project. The Metal Gear Solid series touched on anti-war, anti-nuclear weapon issues through the medium of video game narrative, and it looks like he continues to do so with Death Stranding.

After the Poet’s words fade away, we’re greeted with a gray sanded beach littered with the corpses of sea life. A hand print impression materializes in the sand and then is filled with oil. This happens several times – in a pattern, as if an invisible person is crawling – until we reach the nude body of a man. The decaying sea life and the oil filling the hand print impressions seem to have a big connection. The man we see lying on the beach is either the cause of all the destruction or another victim, however, I believe further imagery will place him as a cause.

We see that the man has a pair of handcuffs hanging off one wrist, pointing to a possibly criminal past. It’s interesting that the handcuffs themselves look very futuristic. This coincides with the omen aspect of the aforementioned Blake poem. This vision of a ruined world could be the future of ours. The strongest image in the trailer is a infant crying and squirming on the beach. The infant is attached to the man with an umbilical cord that looks more like a computer cord than anything organic.

Death Stranding Handcuff

There’s a meshing of organic life and technology, and perhaps when these two elements collided, it created the world we see. The dead crabs from the beginning of the trailer also had these types of umbilical cords. As Kojima said in the aforementioned interview, the strand represents a way to connect with everything. All of these dead creatures being connected by the same type of apparatus is very curious.

The man, revealed to be Norman Reedus, clutches the baby to his chest and cries. In a few moments the baby disappears, and fresh hand prints appear on the man’s thighs. Reddus’s hands are also covered in what look black oil. The hand prints on his thighs are smaller though, suggesting they’re coming from the baby. Additionally, more hand prints are silhouetted over the man’s dirt covered body.

The hand prints seem to be a very important image in this trailer. The one’s we see in the beginning to trailer presumably belong to Reddus’s character, and the smaller ones probably belong to the infant. The one’s on the man’s body look to be oddly shaped and deformed, with elongated fingers. Perhaps, this is the shape of the hand of something not human, or they were malformed as the hands were applied frantically. Either way, these hand prints already point to three different presences in the trailer.

The baby’s hand prints crawl into the sand, similarly to how the prints crawled up to Norman Reedus’s body during the start of the trailer. When I first saw this video, I assumed dog tags adorned the man’s neck, however, the pieces of metal look too thick to be traditional military dog tags. They look like locks or some kind of storage system, while in other promotional materials for the game – on the Kojima Productions website – equations can be seen. Other, more mathematically inclined, observers have revealed that the equations center around black holes. More information can be found here. If I know my Stein’s Gate well enough, black holes in fiction usually relate to time travel. Could Reedus be from the past, seeing the future of our world? I also get a feeling this may have to do with some kind of alien invasion.

Death Stranding equations

Either way, there are five of them hanging from his neck. When we pan down, we also see a cross shaped scar in his stomach. Something has been taken away or ripped from him. The scar looks healed and slightly faded, so it must have happened sometime in the past. It also might be useful to assume that the scar has something to do with the infant.

We get a close up of Reedus staring off into the distance, narrowing his eyes. He seems to be observing an unfamiliar land, analyzing it. The camera pans out and we see the full extent of the damage that was hinted at near the start of the trailer. The beach is littered with huge piles of dead fish. Dead whales are piled up near where the water meets land. There looks to be other, large pieces of debris in the ocean, as if the sky was literally falling into the water. Further out in the water, we see hosts of corpses. The part of the beach that doesn’t have dead sea life on is a small clearing round the character’s body. Most mysteriously, however, there are the figures in the sky.

Five humanoid figures float high in the sky. Because they’re too high and far away we can’t see any features. The appearance of five figures and the five objects around the man’s neck may have some connection. During IGN’s Post-E3 show, the commentators bridged a connection between the five figures and the five games in the Metal Gear Solid series, which seems plausible enough. However, as stated before, Kojima said there are no connections between the trailer’s imagery and his time a Konami. Eventually, the figures disappear and the title appears.

death stranding figures

The main images are: oil, hand prints, an infant connected to the man with a wire umbilical cord, a handcuff and thousands of corpses of sea creatures. We can see that there was some kind of environmental disaster, caused by many people. The hand prints from three different sources are present. The infant quickly disappears, and Reedus is shocked by into reality. The infant may be a hallucination. The insertion of technology into organic life forms may also be a significant indicator of the cause of the disaster. The five figures floating in the sky seem to stand a judges to the destruction and death below them; some kind of alien presence, perhaps. Kojima is showing us a possible future for mankind, a future of mishandled technology, decaying in a puddle of black oil. It’s interesting and though provoking.

Death Stranding’s trailer sticks out in my mind as one of the highlights of the E3 show, carefully crafted to be mysterious and warrant speculation. The game has just started going into development, and we probably won’t see it in its completed form for a couple of years. For now, the trailer will have to suffice. There’s a lot more to see in it that I didn’t cover here.

What are your speculations for Death Stranding?

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