The 12 most useless game trailers

...and 5 retro trailers that make just as little sense


Call of Duty 2’s trailer approaches the Uncanny Valley with its pre-rendered footage from the first person perspective. You (the viewer) pilot a tank and are hit with a missile. As you climb out, a Nazi attacks you, whom you promptly disarm. And then you look up just as a bombardier lays waste to your assailants. BUY CALL OF DUTY 2 NOW!


The gameplay will never look as good as that trailer. And despite how awesome the game is, the scripted events never reach that level of intensity. Activision’s notorious CoD trailers duped many gamers and parents into thinking that’s how the game actually looked. In fact, viewers complained in the UK of false advertising and the Advertising Standards Authority demanded that TV networks remove the commercials from airing. Activision’s side of the story: “The footage was intended purely to communicate the subject matter of the game rather than to represent actual gameplay.” Yup.


The most important RPG of 1997 debuted commercials on network television during primetime consisting entirely of CG cutscenes.


This bit of advertising marked the incredible difference between the PlayStation and the N64 - namely how the awesome might of the CD-ROM could render glorious CG cutscenes (this was of course before cutscenes were bothersome as shit). The marketing campaign for FFVII was a wake-up call for gamers throughout the United States. People of all ages literally wanted this game because of the graphics showcased. FFVII was going to look that good. So why was it misleading? Well, only gamers - having followed Fantasy’s release in Japan a year previous - knew the actual gameplay wasn’t that detailed. But alas, it didn’t matter at that point.


A multi-award winning $10 million campaign featuring no less than eight live-action commercials. The first of which - Starry Night - was featured on Monday Night Football a full ten months before launch date. Next came the “Believe” campaign, depicting an incredibly detailed diorama (RIP Stan Winston) of the final battle between humans and the Covenant, as well as harrowing tales from veterans of the war. Finally, three live-action shorts were filmed by Neill Blomkamp - signed director for the now-dead Halo movie - and were shot to look like a gritty, war film… had Halo been made in the late ‘80s. All were incredibly entertaining.


Let’s get this out of the way: the advertising was successful. Halo 3 grossed $170 million on launch day, the highest gross for any entertainment product in the United States on day one. As of January 2008 (ten months ago), Halo sold 8.1 million copies. So why is the ad campaign misleading or useless?

Because Microsoft was selling you on a mythos at this point and not a game. Besides its too-short campaign, Halo 3 is widely criticized for not being “epic” enough - something the ads overwhelmingly promised. Not only that, but the Halo series never feels gritty or realistic. It’s a candy-coated war game where the stakes of humanity’s fate are never fully realized. The ad campaign may have been hugely successful, but came off more bloated than a dead whale.


The in-game models of this Dreamcast cult fave line up outside a dance/strip club in order to watch series protagonist, Ulala, dance on stage. She then blows away an alien and says “Bad dancing. It’s a killer.”


Sega’s commercial does nothing to tell us what the game is about or even the genre it’s based in. Technically, Ulala’s quote at the end of the TV spot is true of the Simon-esque rhythm-based gameplay, but how the hell would you know that? The one second of gameplay shows her shooting an alien. It could be a turn-based RPG for all we know. Sega did get one thing right though: placing Ulala on a stage like that sets her up as one smokin’ character to be desired. As far as in-game babes go, she’s pretty hot.

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