'Death Stranding': The 7 strangest things about the year's oddest game

"Death Stranding." Sony Interactive Entertainment / Supplied

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Everyone knows tough guys aren’t afraid to cry. And yet, there’s still something unsettling about seeing The Walking Dead’s chief badass Norman Reedus shedding tears.

Maybe it’s because he’s naked. Lying on a black sand beach. And, uh, cradling a newborn baby.

Welcome to Death Stranding, a post-apocalyptic action-adventure game that stars the voices and dead-on digital likenesses of Reedus, Lea Seydoux (Spectre), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal), director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) and a host of other familiar faces.

Sprung from the feverishly ingenious mind of Japanese game auteur Hideo Kojima — creator of the Metal Gear Solid series — Death Stranding releases Nov. 8 for the PlayStation 4. But it has been making waves for years, thanks to preview trailers showing off surreal, WTF-worthy imagery — including a weeping, butt-naked Reedus holding a tiny babe.

Even by Kojima’s standards, this is a weird one. How weird, you wonder? Here’s a spoiler-free look at some of the stranger things you’ll see and do in your first dozen hours with Death Stranding.


In Death Stranding you play as Sam (Reedus), a courier who crosses a desolate, post-apocalyptic U.S. making package deliveries. In the game’s early going, this involves trudging long distances with piles of boxes teetering on your back, as you desperately try to keep your balance and avoid faceplanting in the rocky dirt. Call of Duty it ain’t.

Sam (Norman Reedus) and Fragile (Lea Seydoux) have a head-to-head chat about package delivery, Sony Interactive Entertainment / Supplied


The game is set several years after an apocalyptic event called the Death Stranding, which unleashed sinister, ghostly spirits across the land. One way to spot them is through a sensor attached to custom-engineered fetus called a Bridge Baby, which porters like Sam keep in a jar strapped to their chests. Sometimes your baby gets stressed and starts crying, and you have to take him off your chest and rock him to calm him down.

Sam (Norman Reedus) and Deadman (Guillermo del Toro) discuss Sam’s so-called Bridge Baby, a fetus-in-a-jar that can detect phantoms in “Death Stranding.” Sony Interactive Entertainment / Supplied


Sam’s blood contains a natural ghost repellent, and his bodily fluids can be used as weapons against the spectres. If you use the toilet in your private quarters, you’ll be rewarded with test tubes of your urine and fecal matter to lob at phantoms. These biological grenades are respectively categorized as No. 1 and No. 2, because how could they not be? (To be honest, throwing your poop would probably be a good human repellent, too.)


While Death Stranding is a single-player game, the structures you build — ladders, bridges, roads and the like — will appear in some other players’ game worlds, and vice versa. You can reward one another by giving these buildings thumbs-up “likes,” the same kind of uncomfortably addictive social currency as it is in real life.

Where Sam (Norman Reedus) is going, he doesn’t need roads. Just ladders. Sony Interactive Entertainment / Supplied


To boost his stamina, Sam gulps down cans of Monster Energy drink — apparently the company survived the apocalypse. To replenish his health, he can eat live, larva-like slugs called cryptobiotes. Not sure which sounds grosser.

What do fiery, undead soldiers have to do with delivering packages? You’ll have to play “Death Stranding” to find out. Sony Interactive Entertainment / Supplied


Digital de-aging, all the rage in movies, is used here to have 70-year-old Lindsay Wagner appear in both older and younger forms. (She plays the president of the United States, as well as the president’s daughter.) The younger Wagner looks like she’s fresh from an episode of the ’70s TV show The Bionic Woman — which younger gamers have probably never seen.

A digitally de-aged Lindsay Wagner plays Amelie, the president’s daughter and occasional blood-weeper. Sony Interactive Entertainment / Supplied


The weirdest thing of all about Death Stranding? It’s actually really good. The more you play, the more you learn about this strange new world and Sam’s place in it. The gameplay constantly evolves with new ways to carry goods and fend off enemies, making package delivery strangely exciting.

The story is bizarre but interesting, and not nearly as obtuse as some of Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid games. And let’s face it, as far as naked crying dudes go, you could do a lot worse than Norman Reedus.

Rogue couriers called MULEs will try to hunt Sam down and steal his packages. It’s like a post-apocalyptic FedEx vs. Purolator war. Sony Interactive Entertainment / Supplied