We waited all night for Kojima's new game and he did not disappoint us
I cannot even pretend to have composure right now. I've just watched the first narrative trailer for Hideo Kojima's newly announced game, his first under the new, non-Konami-controlled Kojima Productions: Death Stranding. I may be, in the parlance of our time, losing my shit.
Despite what could charitably be described as an awkward-sounding title, this was absolutely everything we could've expected out of the classically bombastic and experimental Japanese auteur. It sees the return of Norman Reedus, first teased to us at the end of P.T., Kojima's "playable teaser" for the cancelled Silent Hills collaboration with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and horror mangaka Junju Ito, in a role I can only describe as archetypal. We come upon Reedus's naked form on an oil-soaked, ruined beach, connected via an artificial umbellical cord to a tiny baby. The baby vanishes, and we see a cross-shaped surgical scar across Reedus's abdomen.
Is Reedus's character meant to be transgender or is this some Junior with Arnold Schwarzenegger nonsense? It's best not to even guess because I don't imagine much of what we see will factor into the game in a material, narrative sense -- not in the way we think, at least. And it's best not to expect particular sensitivity for gender politics out of a game director like Kojima. But it's fascinating to look at -- raw, sickly, yet spiritual. What happened to the ocean? What about the handcuff around his wrist? Who or what are the figures in the sky? What does Death Stranding even mean?
We don't know. This is, at the moment, nothing but pomp and circumstance, a way of reintroducing Kojima to players after his falling out with Konami and the months spent teasing his new studio and mascot. He even greeted audiences with those words when he appeared on stage, no elaboration necessary: "I'm back."
He's back; Reedus is back. Yoji Shinkawa -- long Kojima's art director on the Metal Gear Solid series -- is back, according to a poster Kojima tweeted immediately after the reveal. Hopefully del Toro and Ito are back as well -- but we don't know a damned thing about Death Stranding besides its name and the face of its protagonist (and knowing Kojima, who's to say the latter won't turn out to be a twist as well?). We didn't see a single frame of gameplay, although Kojima did preface that the footage we saw was all rendered in-engine. Is this Silent Hills with the Konami serial numbers filed off, or something entirely new? We'll have to wait and see.
In the meantime, I'm appreciating that Kojima is, indeed, back -- in all senses of the term, for good and bad. There are a lot of things Kojima's done in his past games I've found in questionable or downright poor taste, and I won't join the legion of fans insisting he is in some way unassailable or above criticism. But I also find his unique style comforting, the way a British cozy is comforting: the rhyme and reason of it seeps into your bloodstream without you realizing it, and you may not understand why something in a Kojima game is the way it is, just that it is, undeniably, his vision.
(Incidentally, the silly "I'll Keep Coming" motto Kojima tweeted in conjunction with his new studio's mascot? It comes from this song, played with the trailer, performed by Low Roar.)