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13 games that failed to live up to their trailers

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.

Dead Island

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.

Fuse

This is another one I feel a little bad for including, because it has very little in common with the final game. Insomniac debuted this concept under the title as Overstrike, showing off the trademark zaniness the developer is known for. But in order to bring it to market with EA as publisher, it had to rework the game as Fuse.

Fuse was a much more serious sci-fi story of corporate espionage, and despite what EA's market testing told it, gamers were absolutely unmoved by this all too familiar theme and aesthetic. Whereas Overstrike, with its psychotic ranga, looked balling. Alas!

Fable 3

For the record, I love Fable 3, and it's one of my favourite games of the last generation. But I bow to the general consensus that derides it: many of you felt it didn't live up to its hype.

Part of the hype was this absolutely smashing trailer. Just watching it again now I am rendered helpless before my nostalgic, post-GFC revolutionary feelings. It's uncomfortable now, as the intervening years have delivered us several real-world revolutions in territories genuinely suffering under powerful regimes.

Rage

Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake and "that other one". This is history's judgment of Rage, a property that suffered unenviable comparisons to the totally unrelated Borderlands and rather more uncomfortably familiar Fallout.

The technology behind Rage is as impressive as you'd expect from John Carmack, although id Software's mytserious failure to get it working nicely on PC did it no favours, but the game itself just doesn't have the spark that old school shooter fans expected. Was it the uncomfortably generic feeling post-apocalypse setting? The flimsy narrative? The not-quite-satisfying gunplay? Who knows. I'll tell you what we do know: we were very, very excited about Rage right up until we weren't.

Call of Juarez: The Cartel

You've probably forgotten this one even existed, and that's probably not a bad thing as those who remember it tend to wince and reach for the brain bleach. Almost universally derided, Call of Juarez: The Cartel displayed several major flaws and failed to capitalise on its promise.

Some of that promise can be seen in the game's trailers which painted a picture of a setting we're dying to explore properly in game form, especially with such hard-ass companions as these. I doubt we'll see this series much in the future, although digital spin-off Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was surprisingly good fun.

Brink

Oh bless, I hate including this one, but Brink fell on its butt because it was pretty much pants. It had so much promise, thanks to an absolute boat load of good ideas from the minds of a team of hardcore shooter fans, and it just didn't deliver.

It launched in a heck of a state, and a messy launch day is a death knell for a multiplayer game - especially a new property - and its high concept gameplay didn't quite gel with the mass audience a multiplayer shooter needs in order to stay competitive. You'll hear fans swear by it, but for the average punter, Brink is far from the delicious, supple shooter this trailer promised.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2

To be fair to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, it's not bad. It's just not as good as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Few things are. Part of the problem was lack of ambition and vision. The first Force Unleashed game took risks, boldly adding to the Star Wars lore and rewarding fans. The second did not. It also seems to have been rushed, arriving on PS3 and Xbox 360 in an alarmingly unpolished state (meanwhile, the Wii version was significantly improved, with a better story and multiplayer mode).

It's hard to tell a stirring tale of growth when your character begins a game as powerful as he left the last one, I guess, and the team seems to have run out of level ideas about half way through the first game, leaving little steam for the sequel. We were so hyped, and we were so underwhelmed. Try watching the trailer and remembering how you felt about this one before it ever arrived in your hands. Sadness.

Final Fantasy 14

Final Fantasy 14 is one of the most interesting projects of the last generation, and a perfect example of the development approach that Square Enix is now working hard to revolutionise. The publisher's second attempt at an MMORPG, and following in the footsteps of the Final Fantasy franchise's most profitable game to date, FF14 should have been a blockbuster.

Unfortunately, it sucked. There's no explaining it away. When it launched, FF14 was appalling in every way. Years of patching made it just about bearable but there was never much to recommend it over the many, many alternatives. Square Enix was absolutely right to trash it and start again with a whole new game - A Realm Reborn - which is by all accounts extremely good. I guess it finally lives up the promise of the dramatic trailer above.

These are just our choices for the best trailers for worst games; there must be dozens more. Let us know your own disappointments.

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