By Marty Mulrooney
The Art of Death Stranding explores the art of legendary Japanese video game designer Hideo Kojima’s latest award-winning project, which Alternative Magazine Online’s review described as “one of the most beautiful experiences of this console generation.” It’s a lavish hardback coffee table book filled with hundreds of pieces of concept art covering nearly every character, costume, item of equipment, location and creature featured in Death Stranding on PlayStation 4, published by Titan Books in the UK.
The first thing you’ll notice when holding The Art of Death Stranding in your hands for the very first time is just how substantial and handsome it is. Hefty in terms of both size and weight, this is the coffee table book to beat in 2020 – for video game artwork, at least. Over 250 pages long (with gold trimming!), wrapped in an ultra-soft dust jacket and measuring 27.9 x 2.5 x 31 cm in size, this is one seriously attractive accompanying tome for fans of the game.
Of course, it’s the inside of a book that counts and thankfully, The Art of Death Stranding delivers. Concept art that clearly inspired and influenced the game is also joined by early and unused concepts, offering a fascinating insight into the development process. In terms of layout everything is kept nice and simple, with the book essentially split into two halves: ‘Characters’ and ‘Locations’.
The first half – ‘Characters’ – dedicates its pages to each of the main characters, such as Sam Porter Bridges and Heartman, while also making room for enemies such as BTs and MULEs. It also includes art detailing the game’s various vehicles, weapons, structures and mechs. The second half – ‘Locations’ – covers everywhere Sam (and the player) visits in Death Stranding, from the ill-fated Central Knot, to Amelie’s beach.
Although the imagery on display – including artwork by acclaimed artist Yoji Shinkawa, who previous worked with Hideo Kojima on the Metal Gear Solid games as lead character and mecha designer – is consistently stunning, there initially seems to be a disappointing lack of text. However, almost every image is accompanied by a small text description and the word count does quickly add up.
Some of the insights shared are fascinating; for example, BTs were initially conceptualised to be ‘born’ from the sky (rather than swimming up from the ground, as they do in the game), one of the early vehicle designs was based on a classic hot rod, and there was even a location called Hound Knot City which was designed but only appeared in the finished product as unnamed ruins.
It’s a shame more detailed commentary isn’t included – the individual images aren’t attributed to specific artists, and the dark nature of a lot of the artwork doesn’t quite do some of Death Stranding‘s lusher green environments justice – but overall, this is the best video game art book I’ve come across in a number of years, and I couldn’t be happier to add it to my collection. Like the unforgettable experience that inspired it, The Art of Death Stranding comes highly recommended.
9 OUT OF 10