From Assassin’s Creed to The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, no property is assured of living up to the hype generated by beautiful marketing.
Cinematic or heavily edited trailers are a great way to get gamers excited about a product long before it’s in the kind of shape required to show raw gameplay. Unfortunately for those of us on the receiving end, these trailers can often give a false impression of the quality of the finished game.
Whether it be through thematic disconnect, deceptive editing or just plain fibbing, here are 13 of the more egregious examples of trailers that oversold the games we ended up with.
This is the classic example – the game people automatically cite when you talk about misleading trailers. Dead Island’s first trailer is a work of art, magnificently put together to seize your attention as you puzzle out what’s going on, and then grab your heartstrings and pull. It gets better with repeat watches and inspired dozens of remixes reversing the action to help us make sense of what we were seeing.
The trailer suggested a touching, emotional exploration of the genuine horror of zombie outbreak, but the game we got was a long way from that. Whether intentional or not, TechLand’s first-person melee adventure was hilariously stupid. It’s not that it was exactly bad – although many people will tell you it is – it’s just that’s its a long, long, long way from this stunning cinematic. The second game’s marketing is much more in-line with the franchise’s actual tone.
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
When Activision won the license to adapt the AMC TV show The Walking Dead, it had two options. It could pour huge amounts of money into building an experience to rival Telltale’s excellent adventure series, or it could knock off a shooter designed to appeal to the huge mainstream crowd who found TellTale’s slow-paced, low-interaction experience off-putting. Guess which one it chose?
Developer Terminal Reality fronted some great ideas when it started talking about this project, saying zombies would hunt the player based on sound and even smell. In the end, this turned out to be all talk – The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct released to abysmal reviews. It has almost no redeeming features.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations isn’t bad, although it’s far from my favourite game in the franchise. But it’s not the game this beautiful trailer promised, is it? As a long time franchise fan, all that Altair talk necessitated several changes of underwear. Meanwhile, in game, he popped up for what felt like about 35 seconds, and we didn’t learn anything particularly meaningful about his journey. Boo.
We could probably throw a number of Assassin’s Creed 3 trailers in here for good measure, but we’ll cut Ubi some slack. It’s pretty good at trailers, generally, which isn’t always a good thing I guess.
Duke Nukem: Forever
Maybe it’s not fair to talk about a Duke Nukem trailer being misleading given that the whole project was a shit show from start to finish. But gosh, the sheer excitement this trailer brought about! Duke Nukem Forever was releasing at last, and everyone rejoiced.
Now it’s like remembering something embarrassing you said to your crush back in high school; a painful wince that makes you roll over at 4:00AM and wish to have lived a better life. We should never have demanded Duke Nukem Forever come to market. We should not have gibbered in excitement over this video.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
For almost every trailer on this list there are counter-arguments to be made – that the game wasn’t so bad, that the trailer was merely meant to communicate a “concept”, that nobody set out to be misleading and we should be generous, whatever.
But Aliens: Colonial Marines has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit for false advertising, after Sega copped to misleading promotional materials. It’s quite hard to argue with that.
Final Fantasy 13
The Final Fantasy series introduced us to glorious FMV cinematics and for that we will be forever grateful, but as beautiful as these cutscenes are, they often bear little relation to the finished game.
As the first game of the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, Final Fantasy 13 had a lot to prove, and although at first the gorgeous graphics and unusual battle system blew us away, as time wore on hindsight kicked in and we began to regret our enthusiasm for this 20 hour corridor simulation. The science fiction design and female protagonist that won our hearts in this trailer proved a hollow compensation for the loss of freedom and depth earlier entries offered.
Next: seven more trailers that got us way too excited about their disappointing subjects.