By Adnan Riaz
Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima has achieved it all. At the age of 52, the iconic Japanese developer has a legendary reputation among his fellow peers, critics and fans for the accomplishments he has attained throughout his illustrious career. The recent recipient of the Development Legend award, adding to the numerous honours he’s already obtained, Kojima is one of the finest auteurs and visionaries to have emerged in the gaming industry’s history. It’s hardly unsurprising that Kojima has no intention of stopping any time soon, even after the public humiliation he endured from publisher Konami leading up to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s release in September 2015.
The much-beloved Metal Gear Solid franchise has taken the gaming industry – and Hideo Kojima’s reputation – to dizzying new heights with the release of each instalment. Kojima’s first biggest test outside of the post-Metal Gear Solid era was meant to be Silent Hills, sparking the rebirth of the popular horror franchise through his collaboration with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. The potential of horror being utilised by these two acclaimed creators was evident in Silent Hills’ playable demo, P.T., delivering a one-of-a-kind experience through the combination of intricately designed puzzles and its ominous spine-chilling atmosphere. Silent Hills wasn’t meant to be, however, as Konami cancelled the project and Kojima bowed out from a company that he had single-handedly helped in keeping relevant in the gaming space.
Even after the demise of Silent Hills, a string of horror titles emerged from the influence that P.T. had, which included Bloober Team’s Layers of Fear and Lilith Ltd’s Allison Road (now cancelled, unfortunately). Silent Hills is dead and buried, but it seems that Hideo Kojima’s real challenge now looms with his latest project: Death Stranding. Under the banner of his independent studio, Kojima Productions (formerly a subsidiary of Konami), Kojima’s Death Stranding is a console exclusive to PlayStation 4, following a partnership that was struck between Sony and the Metal Gear Solid creator. Death Stranding, which is also expected to come to PC at some point, is proving to be as enticing and ambitious as Silent Hills was, but it will also be another opportunity to see what Kojima’s capable of outside of the Metal Gear Solid realm.
Not only did Hideo Kojima enter Sony’s 2016 E3 press conference in spectacular fashion — the ‘Voice of God’, as he once credited himself as, strutted down from the top of the stage — he also debuted the world premiere of Death Stranding. I could hardly believe he was in a position to show off anything so early in development, let alone footage from the title running in real time. The trailer was like any other Kojima trailer: a well-shot, well-edited masterpiece. From the trailer opening with a verse from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence to Icelandic band Low Roar’s “I’ll Keep Coming” setting the atmosphere and keeping the tempo going, it truly showed Kojima was still in his element.
One of the biggest surprises of the trailer was Hideo Kojima revealing that The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, who had worked with him on P.T., would be the main character of Death Stranding. That’s right, the Kojima-Reedus collaboration is finally going to happen. The crowd’s reaction at E3 said it all: a combination of people gasping, shock, surprise and excitement of a naked Reedus crying whilst holding a baby. Reedus’ unnamed character is covered with child-sized handprints, has a stitched-up cross on his stomach and a necklace consisting of what looks like USB sticks or mini-tombstone markers. Reedus is also wearing a handcuff on one of his wrists, suggesting that his character was responsible for some kind of wrongdoing and is now a fugitive on the run.
The trailer’s final shot has Norman Reedus standing on the beach (still naked), surrounded by hundreds of perished sea creatures and looking up at five floating figures in the sky. The figures eventually fade, but are these the God-like creatures watching over the world of Death Stranding? Have they casted some sort of judgment on Reedus? The trailer did little to explain what Death Stranding actually is, though it’s probably part of the mystery and, as a result, Hideo Kojima perfectly teased his title in a way that had people talking about it for weeks and weeks.
There’s little doubt that from seeing Death Stranding’s first trailer, Hideo Kojima hasn’t been affected by his departure from Konami and he’s absolutely relishing the challenge awaiting him. While the details on the title are scarce — and presumably a long time away from release — Death Stranding is truly showing how far Kojima can push gaming once again from the director’s chair. Death Stranding’s shots, reminiscent to those used in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, reiterate how far his camera work has evolved, as well as raising the standards once again in an ever-changing industry.
Recently, Hideo Kojima had Ludens, the mascot of Kojima Productions, feature in an animated “logo movie”. It’s probably safe to say that it’ll be added to the beginning of all Kojima Productions-developed titles, but it’s a taste of Kojima upping his game to the next level. Should we be worried about Death Stranding in any way? The simple answer is no.
Adnan Riaz is a University of York alumni and soon-to-be M.A. Journalism student at Manchester Metropolitan University. When he’s not gaming or writing, Adnan’s normally found on Twitter complaining about writer’s block, sharing his thoughts on Manchester United and showing his support for the King in the North. Follow him: @AdnanRiaz9