The first time the world was introduced to Death Stranding, video game auteur Hideo Kojima’s first new title since getting quietly dumped by Konami (which published his Metal Gear Solid games), it was with a teaser that primarily involved Norman Reedus waking up naked on a beach covered in dead sea life, cradling a tiny baby that then disappeared into an armful of oil, and then standing up to see that he was being watched by a group of shadowy figures floating in the sky. It is one of the most singularly bizarre trailers in gaming history, partially because of its weird imagery and partially because it seemingly offered literally no information about what kind of game Death Stranding was going to be.
As someone who has played and reviewed Death Stranding now, allow me to say that the teaser actually contains a whole lot of information about what kind of game Death Stranding is, because it happens to be one of the most singularly bizarre games ever made. A lot of its weirdness is best experienced for yourself, since there are some slow burns that pay off later into the story, but I’ve gathered some of the strangest stuff that happens in the first few hours of the game so you can get a sense of just how bizarre this all is.
Before that, though, here’s the basic premise: You play as Sam Porter Bridges (Reedus), a deliveryman in a post-apocalyptic America who has been tasked with establishing a futuristic wi-fi network between survivor shelters in the wasteland. Along the way, he has to deal with terrorists and invisible ghosts called BTs. Luckily, he has a baby in a pod strapped to his chest that can see the BTs, which is pretty weird and we’re not even at the list yet!
Hideo Kojima loves being self-referential (more on that later), but Death Stranding is surprisingly light on overt references to the Metal Gear Solid series. Well, in a way. A big part of the narrative in those games involved your super-spy character having quick conversations with his support team via tiny little radio called the “Codec.” In Death Stranding, shortly after meeting the character played by Guillermo del Toro (his face, not his voice) he sends you a message on your wrist computer that brings up a screen that literally says “Codec” and serves the exact same purpose.
As noted in the review, this is less of a big deal than it seemed like it would be pre-release, but yeah, Sam can fight the BTs using grenades synthesized from his own bodily fluids. You can use a toilet in Sam’s private room to pee and poop, with the former giving you Type 01 grenades and the latter giving you Type 02 grenades. Yes, really. Also, when you… make Type 02 grenades, Sam sits behind a privacy screen emblazoned with an ad for his AMC show Ride With Norman Reedus. Sam’s blood is collected automatically when he sleeps, and the blood grenades are a more effective weapon anyway, so you never really have to make pee grenades.
You can pee if you don’t have something to drink, and the one and only thing Sam Bridges likes to drink is Monster. His aforementioned private room is stocked with actual Monster cans early in the game (you can later unlock beer), and there’s an automatically refilling water bottle attached to his gear that provides refreshing and energizing sips of Monster on the go! You do a lot of walking in Death Stranding, and if you go too long without a break, Sam’s stamina will run down. Luckily, if you take a swig of Monster, it’ll shoot right back up. To be clear: In the game, it is explicitly depicted as Monster that he’s drinking, not water. You pick Monster from the item menu and everything, and the rainwater or whatever that the bottle is collecting to replenish your supply is somehow converting it into Monster-brand energy liquid.
Guillermo del Toro isn’t the only famous person on your support team: There’s also Nicolas Winding Refn, Margaret Qualley, and Lindsay Wagner. Also, Léa Seydoux plays another post-apocalyptic delivery person, and Mads Mikkelsen pops up as a mysterious figure (saying anything else would be a spoiler). You can also meet Conan O’Brien out in the wasteland, where he gives your character a sea otter hat, and there are still more famous people than that. Part of the fun of meeting a new person in the game is wondering if they’ll be someone you recognize, and if the game tells you that someone is a “film director” or a “musician,” they’re probably a film director or musician.
Like all big open-world games, Death Stranding has a big list of hidden collectibles you can find hidden away in forgotten corners. In a clever twist that ties in with the game’s setting of a post-apocalyptic America, the collectibles in Death Stranding are little USB sticks containing information about things that were culturally relevant to pre-apocalypse society. Kojima likes to have a direct hand in design stuff like that, though, so it doesn’t take long to figure out that this is specifically stuff that Hideo Kojima thinks is culturally relevant—like, say, a cool motorcycle, the movie Godzilla, or a Low Roar album that literally says in the description that it’s an album Hideo Kojima likes (meaning that, in the universe of Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima existed and liked the band Low Roar).
There is more to Death Stranding than the stuff that’s really weird (and there is… more stuff that’s really weird), so go back and check out the review for more information about what to expect from thIS thing that everyone’s going to be arguing about now.