Somehow, I don’t think that head-in-hands laughter was the reaction Capcom was hoping for when its new Resident Evil 6 trailer started airing the other night. That’s the reaction it got from me though. Perhaps my response was amplified because I’d just been playing the very game it falsely claimed to promote, and so by that point knew exactly how flagrantly inaccurate a representation said promo was.
As the apologetic Hallmark card of a trailer seeped anaemically onto my TV screen, I’d just come away from another of the lengthy Resident Evil 6 sessions that had taken up most of my evenings last week. I’d been playing the hell out of Capcom’s latest for the purpose of a seriously in-depth preview I published the other day. My express intention had been to really get under the skin of the game’s new, significantly altered systems, gameplay flow and tone, so by that point I knew exactly what Resident Evil 6 was all about. And the game I saw being advertised in trailer was not the game I had been playing. It was nothing like it.
Above: Killing zombies is now art. And how did we possibly enjoy it beforehand?
Watch the new Resident Evil 6 trailer. Take it in isolation, as a singular taste of a supposed work you theoretically know nothing about. Hell, assume you know Resident Evil as a series, but don’t know a lot about the new game. What are you now hypothetically expecting from this one? A morose, poignant, genuinely upsetting horror game? A fatalistic tale of human frailty and existential defeat? A tragic musing on the power of the human spirit in keeping the physical body alive, a bit like a cross between The Walking Dead, Monsters and Weekend at Bernie's?
Yeah, good luck with finding that in Resident Evil 6. I think the whole situation is crystallised beautifully by the staccato tagline that the trailer so slowly, intermittently sobs into your ears, as if a gin-soaked divorcee sitting at the bottom of her stairs in the dark. “When our weapons failed, our hiding places were diminished, and they drew near, we turned to hope. But she had fled”
One point I’d like to raise about that, knowing the game as well as I do now. In Resident Evil 6, weapons never fail. Weapons are always the solution. Weapons not failing, but instead being a frigging awesome end to all of your problems, is the fundamental tenet of Resident Evil 6. Similarly, hiding places do not diminish, because the game doesn’t insult you by giving you any hiding places in the first place.
Above: While I was writing this article, Resi 6's press pack arrived in the office. It pulls the trite old 'poignant family polaroids of happier times' trick. The actual game's happiest times come from shooting the heads off things
In the rare circumstances that a problem in Resident Evil 6 cannot be solved with weapons (say, you’ve solved so many problems already that you’ve run out of ammo), then that problem can instead be solved by punching it in the face, suplexing it to the ground, and then stamping on its throat as if aggressively trying to force the last dregs of toothpaste out of the tube. This isn’t a game about timidly facing an all-consuming evil with a nauseous cocktail of terror and fragile dignity swirling around one’s stomach. It’s a game about facing evil with a pocket full of grenades and then punching it right in its stupid eldritch face.
So why do a trailer like this?
It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened. If fact the move to this kind of trailer has pretty much defined the marketing of games throughout this whole console generation. It all started just after the launch of the Xbox 360, with Microsoft’s 'Mad World' trailer for Gears of War. That one, I didn’t have a problem with. In fact I quite liked it. Say what you like about Gears being a series about tree-necked gun-bros fist-bumping each other with their big meaty fists full of guns. The first two games at least have a nice undercurrent atmosphere of mournful defeat trickling away under the surface. And I reckon the first trailer picked that out well. But that was before this sort of approach became such a tediously predictable and clumsily executed ‘thing’.
Above: The only version of this trailer I can now stomach to watch
Since then, sad trailers for balls-out action games have become the fallback cliché of lazier, less imaginative marketing men the industry over. They’ve become an increasingly over-cooked tradition for the Gears of War series. Halo 3’s live-action trailer was so embarrassing that I can only bring myself to post Consolevania's razor-sharp parody of it here.
And then there was another one for Halo: Reach. And then the infamously nothing-like-the-final-game-but-actually-way-better-so-hey-at-least-we’ll-always-have-the-trailer promo for Dead Island. And now Resident Evil is trying to be all poignant too.
Why is all of this happening? Seemingly, it’s because big triple-A games are increasingly desperate to portray themselves as more culturally worthy than they perhaps really are. And that sort of unnecessary thinking leads to an unfortunate implicit statement from the games industry. The statement that it’s a bit ashamed of the products it puts out. And it really shouldn’t be.