If you watch a new trailer for a Hideo Kojima game, and it isn’t surprisingly long and doesn’t leave you with more questions than it does with answers, have you really watched a Hideo Kojima trailer at all? At the recent State of Play, Death Stranding 2 (or Death Stranding 2: On the Beach, as it’s not officially known) resurfaced with an absolute monster of a trailer, and as most would have expected from a new trailer for the game, there’s a lot to unpack in here.
From details about the game’s premise and its story to tidbits about how it’s building on its predecessor’s gameplay foundations to a multitude of questions about so much of what was shown, we’re left with a lot of thoughts after the new Death Stranding 2 trailer. Here, we’re going to try to go over all of them as cohesively as we can.
It was notoriously difficult to piece together details about the first Death Stranding from its trailers, but thanks to the fact that this is no longer a new IP, Death Stranding 2’s newest trailer is somewhat clearer in the narrative details it’s teasing. Apparently, the sequel’s set several years after the events of the first game, and it’s no longer set in America. After Sam and company brought the UCA’s chiral network fully online, Bridges disbanded, with human porters no longer being a necessity and bots having taken over that role.
Outside of America, however, the threat of the Death Stranding still looms large, and to save humanity from extinction, Sam Porter Bridges is brought back into the fold to continue connecting people, just as he did before. Interestingly, whether or not that’s actually the right path forward is a question that Death Stranding 2 is raising prominently, what with the game’s tagline being “should we have connected?” What exactly that means for the story remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an interesting direction for the sequel to be heading in. And if the thesis here is that connecting the chiral network was a mistake, what will that mean for how Death Stranding 2’s gameplay will shape up? More on that in a bit.
On his mission, which will take him outside of America, Sam is no longer working with Bridges, seeing as the organization has disbanded by now, though he’s still working with a familiar face in the form of Fragile, who now leads a civilian outfit known as Drawbridge. Drawbridge’s primary goal is to continue expanding the chiral network and reconnecting people, and intriguingly enough, according to Fragile, it does so thanks to a patron who, in her words, has “access to plenty of capital and tech”. No one knows the identity of this mysterious benefactor – not even Fragile – but we daresay it’s going to be an important story element in the game.
Another key detail that Death Stranding 2’s newest trailer reveals is that Lou, the bridge baby (or BB) who accompanied Sam throughout the entirety of the first game, is dead. The BB pod that Sam carries with him is completely blacked out (though it does spark to life in a brief scene at the very the end of the trailer), and in a conversation with Higgs (who we’ll speak more about in just a bit), Sam outright asks him if it was him that killed Lou- which means how she died is a mystery to him at this point. Interestingly, however, Higgs suggests in that same scene that there might be circumstances related to Lou’s death that Sam isn’t aware of- so perhaps she isn’t dead at all?
Several new and returning characters grabbed the spotlight in Death Stranding 2’s newest trailer, but the one we suppose we should talk about first is Elle Fanning’s character- because the leading theory is that she’s Lou, all grown up. If that is indeed the case, that would have to mean the gap between Death Stranding 1 and 2 would have to be long enough for her to have grown that much. Or perhaps there’s some weird rapid ageing going on? That’s not something that Kojima hasn’t incorporated into his stories before, after all. Another curious detail about the character is that she constantly seems to have spectral strings attached to her- does that mean she has some mysterious connection to the BTs?
Another character that comes with strings attached – in a very literal sense – is a tiny puppet moving at half frame-rate who has instantly found a massive fanbase within the Death Stranding community. We don’t know what this puppet’s name is, we don’t know how he came to life, and we don’t know exactly how the story will bring him into the fold, but based on the trailer, it looks like he’s basically going to play the same role Mimir does in the God of War games- and not just because he’s hanging below the protagonist’s torso.
Another new character who gets plenty of screentime in the trailer is the captain of the Magellan, the ship that serves as Drawbridge’s base of operations- or, well, at least we think he’s the captain. We see him in on the ship several times, he seems to be in a position of authority, and, well, he’s dressed like a captain, so… yeah, he’s probably the captain, right? He also has a weird, spectral cat made out of tar with him – we’re just going to refer to it as BT cat, for convenience’s sake – and early on in the trailer, we also see BT cat slurping up some tar. We don’t really know what to make of that, but it sure seems worth pointing out.
In addition to all the newcomers, Higgs is, of course, back, as was confirmed in the game’s announcement trailer over a year ago. How exactly is he back, after he very conclusively died in Death Stranding 1? Well, clearly life and death in the Death Stranding universe have very flexible boundaries, so we’re curious to learn how the sequel will explain how he’s back. Something else we’re curious about is why his character’s design is so strikingly similar to that of Amelie in the first game. He’s got that all-red look to him now, his hair looks like Amelie’s, and he even seems to be wearing Amelie’s quipu.
SCENES OF NOTE
Pretty much the entire trailer is full of scenes of note, but there are three extended sequences in there that we want to point out specifically. The first is the one that the trailer starts off with, where we see Fragile and the ship captain cutting a woman out of what seems to be a pod full of more tar. Tar in Death Stranding always goes hand-in-hand with BTs, of course, so does that mean whoever put this woman (whose identity is also a mystery) in the pod was trying to turn her into a BT (or something along those lines)?
The next scene that caught our attention was the one where Fragile is giving Sam a tour of the Magellan. Details of the ship itself are, of course, fun to parse through, but what stands out in that sequence is that both Sam and Fragile have a strange, dull, blueish hue to their skin. As we saw in the first game, that is the colour your skin takes when you’re on the Beach that separates the worlds of the living and the dead. Meanwhile, we also know that Fragile has the ability to jump in and out of the beach as and when she pleases- that was how we fast travelled in the first game, after all. So, putting two and two together, should we assume that whatever technology it was that Fragile used has been applied at much larger scale to the entire ship? Is that how Drawbridge travels from location to location throughout the world? Early on in the trailer, we see a tiny version of the ship flying out of a BB’s mouth, and that imagery definitely very strongly points to travelling through the Beach. In the sequence shown in the trailer, is the Magellan on the Beach, or in the process of teleporting from one place to another, giving Sam and Fragile their dull, blue hue?
And finally, the third scene we want to call attention to – and this is one you probably would expect anyone to talk about – is the one where Joker-makeup wearing Higgs rips out a solo on an electric guitar, which shoots out lightning at a robot that laughs like a baby, before the two engage in a flashy melee brawl that sees Higgs using his guitar as a weapon. Put into words like that, it sounds like a deranged fever dream, but taking deranged fever dreams and turning them into stupidly compelling on-screen sequences has long been Hideo Kojima’s MO, and that is very much on full display in this particular sequence.
Beyond just how bizarre and weirdly cool it is, the scene also stands out because it implies some interesting things- in particular, that aforementioned robot laughing like a baby does. Given how similar it sounds to BB’s laughing noises in the first Death Stranding, and the fact that it’s equipped with an Odradek (i.e. the shoulder-mounted device that Sam used to use to detect BTs in the first game), is Death Stranding 2’s new trailer implying that these robots were made out of bridge babies? Ordinarily, you’d say that’s too weird to be true, but in Kojima land, there’s no such thing as “too weird”.
Death Stranding 2’s new trailer makes it abundantly clear that it’s going to be set outside of America- but where exactly? That we don’t know. Mexico is mentioned a few times, while Higgs says something along the lines of having influence over “the whole continent”, which would suggest that the game is going to have a much wider, globe-trotting scale.
Sure enough, the variety of environments that is showcased here seems to suggest that as well. We saw a lot of grasslands, ruined cityscapes, and snowy mountains in Death Stranding 1, and all of that is coming back (though we didn’t see much of any grasslands in the new trailers), while on top of that, we also see new biomes, like arid wastelands, deserts with massive sand dunes, and more.
One particular scene shows Sam running across a rocky plain at nighttime while a breathtakingly massive moon hangs in the sky. Death Stranding loves its moon-related imagery (as does Kojima Productions as a whole, in fact), and there were plenty of theories in the lead-up to the first game’s launch that speculated that players would be going to the moon. We have a feeling that those theories are going to pop back up for Death Stranding 2 in the coming weeks and months.
Death Stranding was very much an anti-combat game, in that not only did it heavily de-emphasize combat mechanics, the combat mechanics that it did have sucked. Interestingly though, its sequel seems to be going in a different direction, and there are multiple things in its new trailer that suggest that it might be a more action-oriented game- like, for starters, the whole “should we have connected?” motif. If you’re not connecting going forward, does that mean the core gameplay is going to take on a different approach as well?
To that point, at one point in the trailer, while looking at Sam’s rifle, Higgs remarks how Sam has “traded in that rope for a stick this go-around”, suggesting Sam is going to be focusing less on connecting people and taking a more aggressive approach instead. Earlier in the trailer, when Fragile is showing Sam around the ship, she also shows him walls stocked full of weapons in its armoury, which, assuming that this is from an earlier section of the game (why else would she be giving him a tour of the ship?), could suggest that players are going to have a wider selection of weapons available much earlier in the game.
Another section of the trailer that hints at a stronger emphasis on combat shows Sam fighting against the bots that, as we mentioned earlier, that now occupy Bridges’ old role of making deliveries within areas that are within the chiral network’s coverage. The fact that Sam is fighting these robots in the first place raises some interesting questions about the story what it is, and could also explain how Death Stranding 2 could be more action-focused- because Sam wouldn’t be fighting humans. At one point in this scene, it’s also confirmed that players will be able to manually take off their backpack before entering combat, which is a huge deal, because that wasn’t a thing in Death Stranding 1, and you always had to lug around massive loads while trying to engage in fights, which was clunky as hell, to say the least.
Oh, and a final, slightly unrelated note on the robots- why are they suspended in the air like BTs? Are BTs somehow finding a way to effectively hack the chiral network and take control of them? Is that why Death Stranding 2 is seemingly implying that reconnecting people was a mistake- because the Death Stranding is now using the network to become an even bigger threat?
OTHER GAMEPLAY DETAILS
To wrap up, let’s quickly go over a few more gameplay tidbits that we spotted in the new Death Stranding 2 trailer:
- Unsurprisingly, Sam is going to be walking around a lot once again in Death Stranding 2, but like the first game, vehicles will have a role to play as well. In the new trailer, we see a redesigned bike and a new truck that has its driver’s seat on the outside and a sort of crab-like shell on its back. Meanwhile, in the original announcement trailer in December 2022, we also saw Fragile riding a unicycle-type thing, which we’re assuming will be usable in the game (or hoping, at least).
- Dynamic weather is seemingly going to be a thing in Death Stranding 2. At one point in the trailer, we see a flash flood coming in amidst heavy rain and washing away a bridge (presumably) built by Sam. Whether we can expect more types of weather conditions that will come with dynamic and unpredictable obstacles and challenges remains to be seen, but the idea is certainly an exciting one. It also looks like nighttime exploration is going to be added in, based on a shot where we see Sam walking along a highway at night.
- BTs will seemingly work a little differently in Death Stranding 2 than they did in the first game. We don’t see them a lot in the new trailer, but the one time that we do, they don’t fade out of view even when Sam is moving around, unlike in the first game. Does that mean they now have a stronger presence in the world of the living?
- Death Stranding 2’s open world might have more civilization and signs of life than the first game’s map did. At one point, as we see Sam walking down a mountain, we can see multiple smoke plumes in the distance. Whether or not that’s necessarily pointing to more civilization in the world remains to be seen, but they’ll certainly function as organic waypoints in the open world to draw players’ attention to some sort of point of interest.