Death Stranding is a truly bizarre game filled to the brim with some of the weirdest things experienced in any medium of entertainment. Babies in glass tubes that help you see invisible monsters and rain that makes you age are just the tip of the iceberg in Hideo Kojima's newest project. And yet, the thing that continuously kept me weirded out the most was the abundance of product placement found in almost every nook and cranny of Death Stranding.
This isn't a blink-and-miss-it appearance for some of these goods either, as they're built in to the very fabric of Death Stranding. The most prominent example of this are the Monster Energy drinks that Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) carries around on his person throughout the entire game. Out and about and getting fatigued? Have Sam slam an Monster Energy en route to regroup and continue his journey to unite America.
Of course, Monster Energy cans are also part of the interactable decor that adorn Sam's private quarters whenever he has some down time in between deliveries. Truth be told, we're not entirely sure what the liquid is that BB is swimming in, but it wouldn't be surprising to find out that it's Monster Energy fluids. Seriously, the energy drink is far and away the most prominently placed product in the game. There's just no escaping it. Even the sunglasses seen in-game are from J.F. Rey, and Sam's outwear is branded ACRONYM (who made a Death Stranding J1A-GT Jacket for Kojima).
The ads do not stop there either. If players decide to have Sam make use of the toilet (conveniently located within the shower) then the view of him doing his business will be obstructed by ads, one of which is a banner for AMC's hit new show Ride with Norman Reedus. So if anyone had forgotten that Reedus was, in fact, portraying Sam Bridges then Death Stranding will find ways to constantly remind you – shattering the fourth wall in the process.
Other examples of product placement are less jarring. Models of Kojima Productions' mascot, Ludens, are scattered throughout the game, although the one gamers will see the most is a charm attached to the BB pod. There are other mentions of a Ludens Nendoroid (a chibi-like branded figure), while collectibles like soundtracks for other games such as God of War are present and accounted for. These make a little more sense in comparison, and they don't feel anywhere near as hamfisted in their implementation.
Now, it's clear that Hideo Kojima and his games are heavily inspired by real-world films, so much so that Kojima Productions will make movies in the future. Films have product placement all the time, and it's not unheard of to see those marketing tactics extended to games. Even then, these fly in the face of how films use them. For example, Iron Man may drink a Coca-Cola once, but it's not the ONLY thing he consumes and it's not a core focus for the character. Furthermore, Tony Stark isn't ever seen standing next to posters or plugs for other projects starring Robert Downey Jr. and that's because it completely removes viewers from the experience.
Hideo Kojima's team worked to create this massive and immersive world in Death Stranding, and the narrative (as out-there as it may be) feels like a breath of fresh air, so it's unfortunate to be ripped out of the narrative and setting every time Sam needs to regain energy or enter the shower. In that light, the product placement is even more bizarre than the tubed fetuses or any of the other plot points in the game.
Death Stranding launches for PS4 on November 8, 2019. It will also arrive on PC in Summer 2020.