The review embargo for Death Stranding is finally up, which means I'm now allowed to talk about the genuinely disturbing tale of what the hell all those babies are for in Death Stranding, and how they got there in the first place.
The world was given a first look at the bridge babies in the initial Death Stranding trailer, when Sam (Norman Reedus) is on a shore. We got a better look at them in the game's second showing at The Game Awards in 2016, however, when Deadman (Guillermo del Toro) plugs into a baby while a tank rolls overhead.
So, why the hell is everyone running around with infants in the first place? And why are they disappearing?
While all of Death Stranding's mysteries can't be revealed — the strict embargo conditions has asked all press and influencers to reveal only details within the first three chapters of the game before release — you are given a fair amount of detail on the mysterious infants that play an essential role in Death Stranding's world.
They are officially called bridge babies, and as Del Toro's character explains, they're premature infants taken from the wombs of stillmothers at 22 weeks old. He adds that while work on them was developed in secret, and that the Bridges corporation maintains a series of incubators that simulate the feeling of being in a womb. By imitating this environment, the infants are able to "bridge" the worlds of the living and the dead, which enables Sam and anyone using a bridge baby to see BT's, the ghost-like figures that have ravaged the planet since the Death Stranding.
I say "the Death Stranding", because the game is named after what is essentially a cataclysmic climate-esque event. Death Stranding's world exists where all communications and deliveries are automated, the logical progress of how automation is playing out in both those industries today. But in Kojima's vision, that mass automation lead to what's called "drone syndrome".
The game explains what happened from there:
It was too much for some folks to accept, leaving everything to machines and nothing for the common man. And indeed, the oxytocin deficiency and hormonal imbalances we confirmed seemed to back up that assessment. Humanity needed to be part of the process. So laws were put in place, and we stepped back into the picture again.
As often happens, the pendulum swung the other way. After being convinced that society didn't require human input for the basic delivery of goods and services, people became convinced that humans were essential not only to that process, but every fabric of society. The game calls it "delivery dependence syndrome", where people who were unemployed as a result of the automation era became convinced that society would cease to function without them.
That was exacerbated by the Death Stranding, which basically resulted in the worlds of the living and the dead merging and the world becoming encapuslated in a series of chiral clouds. The chiral matter is a little like radiation in a way, and the effect in-game is that planes and drones were no longer operable, forcing society to rely on human carriers to ferry basic goods and services from one location to another.
But without the ability to sense or see the gargantuan, soul-sucking BTs — the eerie characters seen hovering off the beach in that first Death Stranding trailer — it wasn't possible for goods and services to get from one location to another. So the Bridges corporation worked to develop these babies, take them from their braindead mothers, and transfer them to portable pods that continue to tricking the baby into thinking that it's just having a normal life.
Who comes up with this stuff?
As you'd expect from a Kojima game, there's also mechanics around keeping the baby happy. If you try and swim with a BB on, or you're surrounded by BTs and have to continually scan and sneak your way out of trouble, the poor baby will eventually start to freak out. But you can press a couple of buttons to bring the baby in full view, whereby you can rock the DualShock controller back and forth to calm the baby as if it's being rocked by its actual mother.
Part of me genuinely hopes someone took a behind-the-scenes video of whenever this idea was first floated, or explained to the team. No wonder Mads Mikkelsen was stumped when Kojima tried to explain what was going on.
There's an awful lot about Death Stranding to process, and you'll be getting a full dose of that now the review embargo's officially up. But out of all the news, let's just appreciate for a moment that there are people weird enough to roll with an idea like this and then somehow not lose the backing of a major first-party platform.
It's not the only weird idea Death Stranding has, for sure, but it's up there.