Game advertising is a wacky business. We can picture tireless, cocaine-fueled pitch meetings where PR people strive to find a way to advertise a particular title. It seems as though every commercial boils down to either: gameplay, pre-rendered footage posing as gameplay, a bat-shit insane live action concept, or a amalgam of all those concepts.
Success relies on how much hype is generated. And that’s where things get tricky: do we give AAA games like Gears of War or Final Fantasy a pass just because we’ve bought into said hype? Because they’ve triggered an emotional response? Or are we genuinely excited despite coming away from certain ads with zero idea of how the game is played?
These are the questions we dare to pose, but are way too lazy to answer. Instead, we’ve collected a bunch of trailers and commercials that do little to showcase the game or have generally misled us into thinking gameplay would be similar. Behold!
Pensive protagonist Marcus Fenix explores the bombed-out (and rainy) city streets of Sera. He finds a half-destroyed doll head before escaping an unseen menace. Escaping the Locust, Fenix crashes through a wall before duking it out with a Corpser. All set to Gary Jules’s moody cover of “Mad World.”
In the entirety of Gears, Fenix never once appears gloomy or reflective on his situation as a gung-ho killing machine. You never run away from a Locust fight, yet you do fight a Corpser (giant monster in the trailer). Nothing is wistful or even subtle in the world of GoW. Where are the exploding heads? The curb stomps? And that pandering “innocence amongst chaos” shot of Fenix uncovering the doll head? This trailer might as well have been directed by Steven Spielberg in black and white, with Fenix wearing a red dress.
The main squad of Marcus, Dom and Cole take a breather in a sepia-toned grass field. Marcus appears relaxed and melancholy under the loneliest tree, Dom clutches a picture of his wife and Cole takes in the sight of a flower through his sniper scope. Then the boys load up for more battle in the caverns beneath Sera. Just as they open the doors, the screen goes black. Set to Devotchka’s “How It Ends.”
Epic has repeatedly stated how besides their gameplay videos, these TV trailers are meant to provoke an emotional response. And to be fair, this trailer does an excellent job. Even burly soldiers need a brief moment of respite from all the killing. Maybe even a hug or two. But we refer you to our previous point: in the world of GoW, there are barely any reflections on one’s own mortality. So sad sap Dom can’t find his wife and a few people eat it over the course of the game. So what? GoW is about wiping out everything that moves and continuing on for more carnage. With its hipster music and existential mood, Gears shouldn’t feel like the ending of a Scrubs episode.
A series of irritating 30-second spots featuring the titular Rabbids failing at banal activities like cooking Thanksgiving turkeys, closing doors when pooping, milking cows and vacuuming among others. The Rabbids usually look at the focal point of the commercial - like a cow for example. They next emit a terrible scream and then we’re shown gameplay footage of the Rabbids dancing in unison.
We’re guessing these commercials work for only mothers* and babies. “Oh man, look at all that fun!”
*Buys one of the first Wii party games, endangers industry.
Security cam footage shows drop pods ripping through a cityscape. And then the city goes boom. (At least, that's what we think happens. We just see a bunch of shit raining from the sky at the same time a nuke melts the metropolis) Next, the cameras pick up a dropship containing a UNSC Orbital Drop Shock Trooper blasting through a building wall. The solider makes it out, but evades the roving Covenant force and then heads into the destroyed city.
With Halo Wars, a new Peter Jackson-designed property, talk of Bungie moving on to something that’s not Master Chief related and rumors of a new squad-based Halo game, this teaser clears up absolutely nothing about the next game in the future war franchise. For a game that’s now supposedly one of 2009’s biggest titles, we get two minutes of CG establishing… what exactly? Let’s see: there’s a solider involved and it’s a prequel to Halo 3. There’s absolutely no sense of how Recon will play and what we get is a little more than a flat trailer for a seemingly blah FPS. Yes, more info was cleared up almost immediately, but if you want to generate excitement, how about including some next time?