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Death Stranding: an explainer for Hideo Kojima’s inscrutable new PS4 game

Everything you need to know about the year’s most anticipated game Hideo Kojima’s long-anticipated game, Death Stranding, is out on the PlayStation 4 on November 8th. The star-studded action game utilizes actors such as Norman Reedus, Guillermo del Toro, Mads Mikkelsen, and Léa Seydoux to tell a long and winding story about the state of…

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Death Stranding: an explainer for Hideo Kojima’s inscrutable new PS4 game


Everything you need to know about the year’s most anticipated game

Hideo Kojima’s long-anticipated game, Death Stranding, is out on the PlayStation 4 on November 8th. The star-studded action game utilizes actors such as Norman Reedus, Guillermo del Toro, Mads Mikkelsen, and Léa Seydoux to tell a long and winding story about the state of mankind and human connection in a post-apocalyptic future.

The buzz around the game, as well as understanding what it’s actually all about, takes a little bit of unpacking for those who haven’t been following along. How do you explain what is definitely the most bizarre game of the year?

First, the basics.

Who is Hideo Kojima?

Death Stranding is unmistakably A Hideo Kojima Game, so let’s first talk about the man himself. Kojima is one of gaming’s auteurs, the man who birthed the Metal Gear and all of the hijinks that ensue in the Metal Gear Solid series. He was a longtime employee of Konami — arguably the best-known man of the company — until a very messy split in 2015. This breakup is important because it is undeniably the seed from which Death Stranding sprouted.


Death Stranding

Image: Kojima Productions

In 2014, Kojima was officially collaborating with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro to create a new game for another of Konami’s wildly popular series, Silent Hill. Called Silent Hills (I know), it was set to star Norman Reedus and was announced by way of an interactive demo dubbed “P.T.” The “Playable Teaser” was a standalone experience that only unmasked itself as a Silent Hill promo when the player completes it and is revealed to have been Norman Reedus’ character the whole time. P.T. was an immediate success, even snagging a spot on The Verge’s sister site Polygon’s Top 10 games of the year. Anticipation for Silent Hills was high.

Then Konami canceled it.

Kojima and Konami’s relationship was rocky long before the official cancelation. It was preceded by rumors that Kojima would leave the company after the September 2015 launch of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Despite what would end up being credible rumors about Kojima’s impending departure, Konami continued to insist that all was well and that the developer was simply on vacation. Konami also made the baffling choice to yank P.T. from the PlayStation Store, which has, in turn, bestowed it with a sort of legendary status — the kind that allows people to sell PlayStation 4s with P.T. installed for exorbitant amounts. Kojima was not allowed to accept an award for Metal Gear Solid V. Finally, solidifying the breakup, he spun up his own studio outside of Konami and announced his new title — Death Strandingthe following year. Both del Toro and Reedus returned to work with him.

What’s a “Death Stranding”?

The Death Stranding is the event that kicked off the game’s apocalyptic world as it exists today. The human population was decimated. The gate between life and death became a little loose. Ghostly BTs now roam the world, threatening anyone who stumbles across them.

What’s a BT?

BT stands for “beached things,” and they are gooey shadow monsters that will murder you with their… mouths? If they catch you. They are bad, and you should not let them catch you. Thankfully, you have a “tool” to help you called a BB.

What’s a BB?

BBs, also known as “bridge babies,” are tank babies that help you sense BTs. They stew in what I’ll lovingly refer to as a fancy tech pickle jar. Once they’re strapped in, they’ll alert you to a BT’s presence by activating a metal claw that sort of flaps to indicate which direction they’re in. It makes just as much sense to you as it does to me trying to explain it. They’ve got a whole thing going, but naturally, it’s wrapped up in the game’s larger mysteries.

What do you actually do?

You play as Sam (Reedus) who is basically a futuristic Amazon delivery guy. He runs packages, so players have to learn how to balance heavy loads by distributing weight, scouting routes, and generally getting things where they’re going safely. The game has a fair amount of resource gathering and structure building as well as some stealth-action sequences when you encounter BTs. Much like if you see a T. rex in Jurassic Park, fast movements are not encouraged, nor is breathing if you can help it. BT encounters usually mean you’re trying to creep away as quietly as possible until you get some, ah, special upgrades.

What’s with all of these celebrities?

Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, and Margaret Qualley lend their likenesses and acting talents to main characters in the game. There’s also Guillermo del Toro and Lindsay Wagner. While del Toro appears as a character in-game, he’s voiced by someone else. Wagner voices a character modeled after her today, but she also lends her face — as a young woman — to another character who is voiced by a different actress. Other celebrity cameos, including Conan O’Brien, are sprinkled throughout.

Reedus and del Toro’s involvement is a holdover from Silent Hills when both were involved in Kojima’s take on it, while Kojima has long been a fan of Wagner. As for Mikkelsen, Kojima’s love of the actor’s work is extensive, exhaustive, and welldocumented.

As for how he got everyone on board, Kojima typically pitched them in-person on the game’s concepts.

How long is the game?

Death Stranding is very, very long. You’re looking at around 50 hours to complete the main story, which involves lots of lengthy walks, delivering a truly staggering number of packages, and watching multiple hours’ worth of overly dramatic cutscenes. It also has multiple end credit sequences. But that’s not the whole game, as there are also plenty of side quests that pad out the experience quite a bit. (For the most part, they involve delivering more packages.) Once you finish the main story, the world opens up so that you can go back and complete any quests you may have missed.

One last question: why does Norman Reedus pee in the game?

I wouldn’t dream of spoiling that surprise for you. Let’s just say Kojima is very big on recycling in this game.

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There’s a new Amnesia game, and it’s probably terrifying

Fantastic 2010 horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent is getting a sequel this fall. Developer Frictional Games just announced Amnesia: Rebirth with a short trailer and a little detail on the new project. According to a synopsis, Rebirth follows a new protagonist named Tasi Trianon through the Algerian desert. Some trailer art implies that it…

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There’s a new Amnesia game, and it’s probably terrifying

Fantastic 2010 horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent is getting a sequel this fall. Developer Frictional Games just announced Amnesia: Rebirth with a short trailer and a little detail on the new project. According to a synopsis, Rebirth follows a new protagonist named Tasi Trianon through the Algerian desert. Some trailer art implies that it takes place in the early to mid-20th century, instead of The Dark Descent’s 19th century Prussia.

The trailer and description suggest that some familiar Amnesia elements are back, including monsters shrouded in darkness, weird glowing machines, interfaces that mess with your head, and — as the name implies — a protagonist piecing together their past. (Part of The Dark Descent’s backstory involves Algeria as well.) Unlike Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, which was set in the Amnesia world but created by outside studio The Chinese Room, this is being developed by Frictional itself. It’s a world the studio hasn’t visited since Justine, the combination Amnesia expansion / Portal 2 Easter egg / Marquis de Sade homage from 2011.

Frictional’s most recent title was Soma, a survival horror game that was terrifying in more subtle and less mechanics-heavy ways than The Dark Descent. We don’t know how much Rebirth will hew to the original Amnesia formula, but the trailer doesn’t rule out some reinterpretation of it.

Amnesia: Rebirth will be released in “autumn 2020” for PC and PlayStation 4. Here’s the full description:

Amnesia: Rebirth is a new descent into darkness from the creators of the iconic Amnesia series. Set in the desolate landscape of the Algerian desert, the game will focus on new character Tasi Trianon as she sets out on a harrowing journey through devastation and despair, personal terror and pain, while exploring the limits of human resilience.

You can’t let out a breath. The creature is only inches away. Its sole purpose – to feed off your terror. And so you crouch in the dark, trying to stop the fear rising, trying to silence what lies within you.

Retracing Tasi’s journey and pulling together the fragments of a shattered past will be the only chance to survive the pitiless horror that threatens to devour you. Time is against you. Still, you must continue, step by step, knowing that if you fail you will lose everything.

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Industry vet Geoff Keighley is skipping E3 for the first time in 25 years

Yet another big name has dropped out of E3 2020. Today, veteran broadcaster Geoff Keighley, who has hosted and produced the E3 Coliseum for the last few years and has long been a fixture of the event, announced that he wouldn’t be attending the show this year. No specific reason was given, but you can…

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Industry vet Geoff Keighley is skipping E3 for the first time in 25 years

Yet another big name has dropped out of E3 2020. Today, veteran broadcaster Geoff Keighley, who has hosted and produced the E3 Coliseum for the last few years and has long been a fixture of the event, announced that he wouldn’t be attending the show this year. No specific reason was given, but you can read Keighley’s statement in full below:

For the past 25 years, I have attended every Electronic Entertainment Expo. Covering, hosting, and sharing E3 has been a highlight of my year, not to mention a defining part of my career.I’ve debated what to say about E3 2020. While I want to support the developers who will showcase their work, I also need to be open and honest with you, the fans, about precisely what to expect from me.

I have made the difficult decision to decline to produce E3 Coliseum. For the first time in 25 years, I will not be participating in E3. I look forward to supporting the industry in other ways and at other events in the future.

The news comes as E3 continues to struggle to show its relevance in the modern media landscape. Earlier in the year, Sony announced that it would be skipping the convention for the second straight year, and E3’s organizers have also struggled to regain the confidence of the media after doxxing thousands of attendees last year.

Meanwhile, other events have popped up that fill some of the video game press conference void, including Keighley’s Game Awards. Last year’s edition was filled with major announcements, including the official reveal of the Xbox Series X — the kind of bombshell that would historically happen at E3.

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IRS backtracks on whether video game currencies are taxable

On Wednesday, the IRS quietly changed a provision on its website that said transactions of virtual currency like Fortnite’s V-bucks were taxable and may have to be reported on tax returns, as reported by CNN. The provision had been on the IRS’s website since at least October, and you can see it right here, thanks…

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IRS backtracks on whether video game currencies are taxable

On Wednesday, the IRS quietly changed a provision on its website that said transactions of virtual currency like Fortnite’s V-bucks were taxable and may have to be reported on tax returns, as reported by CNN.

The provision had been on the IRS’s website since at least October, and you can see it right here, thanks to the Wayback Machine. On the archived version of the site, bitcoin, Ether, Roblox (likely referring to Robux from the game Roblox), and V-bucks are listed as specific examples of a “convertible virtual currency.” The IRS defines a convertible virtual currency as one that has an equivalent value to or acts as a substitute for real currency. The IRS’s website now only lists bitcoin as an example of a convertible virtual currency.

However, the IRS’s inclusion of video game currencies was apparently a mistake. IRS chief counsel Michael Desmond told reporters today that the issue was “corrected and that was done quickly—as soon as it was brought to our attention,” according to Bloomberg Tax. Desmond was apparently emphatic that there isn’t anything else to read into the situation, according to the author of Bloomberg Tax’s story, Ally Versprille, who questioned Desmond on Thursday:

Desmond said he wants to leave it at that. He said people shouldn’t read more into the gaming currency issue than what is now out there. “It was a website. It was a correction to the website. That’s where it is.”

— Ally Versprille (@allyversprille) February 13, 2020

Despite Desmond’s comments and mentions of video game currencies being removed from the IRS’s websites, there was some confusion about whether they needed to be reported because the IRS hadn’t explicitly exempted them, according to tax experts who spoke to Brian Fung, the author of the CNN article. Jerry Brito, executive director of the nonprofit cryptocurrency research firm Coin Center, said on Wednesday that the IRS’s policies still didn’t entirely rule out that people might need to report video game currencies.

But the IRS finally made it clear on Friday that you don’t have report video game currencies that don’t leave the game (or become “convertible”). Here’s the IRS’s full statement, shared by Fung on Twitter:

The IRS recognizes that the language on our page potentially caused concern for some taxpayers. We have changed the language in order to lessen any confusion. Transacting in virtual currencies as part of a game that do not leave the game environment (virtual currencies that are not convertible) would not require a taxpayer to indicate this on their tax return.

Update February 14th, 3:34PM ET: Added IRS statement and adjusted language throughout to reflect statement.

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