Trailer Failure

This article contains story spoilers for Gears of War 2

Did you catch the advert for Halo: Reach on the telly, earlier this year? I did. It was certainly quite affecting, a tad emotional and a more than a little bit moving. If I wasn’t such a macho, strong-willed slab of masculinity, I might have welled up a little. It carried the sort of intense reverence that can only really be achieved with a bit of slow motion, a gunned down female soldier and a choir of girls going ‘mmm’ a lot.

So I sat down to play Halo: Reach, armed with an Xbox 360 controller and a family bucket of Kleenex, ready to blubber like a baby. I mean, if the trailer was any indication, this game was going to be more emotional that the crossover universe of Marly & Me and Old Yeller. I was expecting to be moved. Moved to tears, to be specific – whether it be a welling at the eyes, a single Indian tear down my cheek or full on tear-duct eruption. I wasn’t fussy, I was just expecting some water works.

So imagine my surprise when the game turned out to be as moving as a novelty party hat. It’s Halo – a game about shooting squabbling traffic cones and sniper rifle wielding geckos and buffoons in ape costumes with novelty sized hammers. It’s about rolling warthogs at 100 mph and never quite finishing the fight. I only cried once, but that was because the hay fever season was still upon us at the time.

We’ve been seeing this a lot this generation: game trailers and adverts that seem to imply cavernous depths of reverence, meaning and emotion, but fail to deliver on those promises. The trailers offer gut wrenching music, the game offers gut-spewing violence. I mean, how exactly did Sia’s Breathe Me or Gary Jules’ Mad World evoke the temperance or mood of Prince of Persia or Gears of War in any way?

At least Gears of War 2 could almost live up to its trailers, the ones with buff soldiers sitting in windy fields, listening to vaguely emo indie-rock ballads. It really tried to cut you with an emotional chainsaw, and smush you with a Hammer of Reverence.

Then again, Gears of War 2’s most emotional moment – where Dom offed his suffering wife – fell a little flat, for some reason. Maybe it was Dom’s comically over-sized pistol, which seemed to eclipse his wife’s head a couple times over. Maybe it was the fact that Maria’s face texture hadn’t loaded yet, making her look like a polished heap of Plasticine. Or maybe it was just because the scene of marital-mercy killing was bookended by five hours of utter vile stupidity, juvenile humour and grim violence. Chainsawing out a monster worm’s heart, brutally eviscerating about 100 enemies and just the general hilarity of controlling a man with a neck the girth of a Californian Redwood.

Still, it’s closer to some emotional resonance than anything that happened in the original Gears of War. I’m not sure what happened to that statue head Marcus was blubbing over in the Mad World trailer. Must have missed that bit.

And yet we get lured in, thinking that these games are going to have memorable, emotional and heart-felt stories, because the trailer has uplifting music and uses slow-mo like the camera effect was on sale for half price. Is it false advertising? Probably not. But is it deceitful to the audience? Absolutely.

Getting potential customers to think your game is “epic” or “emotional” with plinky plonky piano music, humming choir girls and ample slow-mo is a cheat more devastatingly powerful than the Konami Code. So unless the final product has the narrative balls to back up the immense reverence of your trailer’s soundtrack, tone it down. Consider this your final warning.







3 responses to “Trailer Failure”

  1. Mark P avatar

    Hay fever season, my eye! I bet you’d just reached the bit with the forklift!

    I kid, that was a good blog. At least the Black Ops trailer “There’s a Soldier In All Of Us” said it like it is!

  2. Age avatar

    “So imagine my surprise when the game turned out to be as moving as a novelty party hat.” Brilliant.

  3. DelTorroElSorrow avatar

    I always thought the Gears of War trailers were BRILLIANT.

    Then again I’m a Gears fanboy…

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