What's the deal with...Cinematic Trailers?

This World is a Stage?

I understand that pretty much since the beginning of this generation of consoles that games have been pushing to become just like the summer movie blockbusters. Think about this, how many reveal trailers have you seen lately for AAA, big publisher games that contain actual game play? This trailer is usually released after the fact of a fully-rendered, and potentially completely unrepresentative of the game, video. Sure, these clips present characters, conflict, and setting to a certain degree but what about the most important aspect of a game? You know, the actual game play?

For example:

Released: May 31, 2012 (notice when the "gameplay" trailer is released)

Don't get me wrong. I am a huge fan of the original game. This trailer got me super-excited for this game but what is it really? Am I going to be fighting thousands of enemies on a battlefield a la Dynasty Warriors? Will I be transforming into a massive smoke dragon similar to Bayonetta's hair familiars? While in this form, will I be fighting a giant golem similar to God of War's Ares fight? Is any of this, besides Alucard and Gabriel staring at each other, going to be in anything but a pre-rendered cut-scene?

To be honest, it doesn't seem fair to present what could be amazing game play in a trailer that neither confirms nor denies that these moments will actually happen. As a gamer, I will feel cheated if I have to watch, or....ugh...quick-time event (this is a point of interest which I will be discussing later), what could be awesome and interesting game play mechanics. All of the games mentioned above are fun and unique because they took a chance with some audacious gameplay. And, as a fan of LoS, I expect LoS2 to take some similar steps. I am not saying I truly think all of these ideas are necessarily good ones but I do think, if all the mentioned examples are included, it could make one hell of an awesome, if schizophrenic, game.

I just want some truth and transparency. Any kind of actual indicator of how the game plays would be nice.

Released: Dec. 10, 2012 (told ya!)

Hm....

Well, I saw a few QTEs. I saw taking out a weapon. A couple sword slashes. And...more movie trailer style cut-scenes (one part recycled from the ending of LoS). What irks me is the title of this trailer, "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Gameplay Trailer." The ratio of gameplay to cut-scene is as unbalanced as Fei Long in SSFIV AE 2012. LoS is known to borrow extensively from the God of War series in the combat department. I can see that a similar combat style will be returning but why should I care? There is nothing in this trailer that engages my interest enough (besides the story but that was piqued by the first trailer) to drop $60 on this game.

And so I ask:

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via farm5.static.flickr.com

On the Other Side

Nintendo, in general, tends to go in the opposite direction of the other Big Two, in regards to trailers. They almost exclusively focus on gameplay. The Mario Wii U trailer is entirely gameplay (not that Mario games are known for their depth of story or suited for epic trailers). 3DS trailers seem to rarely show anything but gameplay (even if the gameplay is talking heads and text), going as far as to include the outline of the screen to further entrench the gamer's perspective of actually playing the game on the system.

The Mirror of Fate trailer is an interesting exception. The majority of the trailer, shown on a screen within a screen, is cut-scenes (which are all actually from the game) with a few shots of gameplay at the end. Was this gameplay included because this game was on a Nintendo system? It doesn't seem that Sony and Microsoft have any qualms of eliminating any trace of gameplay from their trailers.

Nintendo, I feel, uses this method to keep up the appearance that gameplay is focus of their games and system. This is especially prevalent in the core Nintendo titles. While a nice idea, it is limiting in its execution. Nintendo goes too far in the opposite direction in order to distinguish itself from Sony and Microsoft. I find most of the core Nintendo titles' trailers underwhelming. The only charge I get out of the trailers is when they announce a new sequel of the tried-and-true franchises.

Finding the Balance

The Monster Hunter Ultimate trailer offers a classic example of good balance. It introduces the world, the game mechanics, and has a hefty dose of actual gameplay to back up its claims. What I find engaging about it is that you clearly know a game is being advertised. It is distinctive. It is, for lack of a better word, gamey.

But it is also fairly basic. While I enjoy the trailer, I don't necessarily feel completely engaged. It doesn't necessarily build an air of mystique around it. It essentially says, "Here I am. I am fun and interesting." It tells you exactly what to expect and has nothing to hide.

What sets a trailer apart is taking the actual gameplay and raising it to a level of utmost epic-ness. Without exaggerating too much, a great trailer makes the gameplay bigger than life. To drive this point home, I want to present a trailer (actually at the time of its release, it was still called a "commercial") that actually changed my life:

First off, it hasn't aged well. But imagine a 12 year old kid seeing this on TV. It's mysterious. It's engaging. It's epic. You aren't just playing a fighting game. You are saving (or ending) the world. I remember right where I was when I saw this commercial. I only saw it once but I was obsessed with MKII ever after. This is what a game trailer could be. Because, like the Monster Hunter trailer, it is not trying to hide the fact that it is a game. And, like the best movie trailers, it is using real(ish) cinematic drama to create the illusion of an experience, like we, ourselves, are part of this on-going drama.

Now I don't think that game trailers peaked with this artifact of the 90s. In fact, I was particularly impressed with this trailer:

Kratos tears through actual in-game enemies at a actual in-game location using actual in-game actions, all while a dramatic camera follows him. It is also important to note that, after the initial moment with the raven, the perspective changes to first-person prior to moving to the most familiar third-person viewpoint. Then, towards the end of the trailer, the viewer finally sees the scale of Kratos' battle. Suddenly, the trailer's focus changes from being a cool-looking game to being a thing to be experienced. You will play this game on a huge screen. You will turn the sound up super-loud. You will think of nothing else until you complete your first play-through. Then, you just might play it again. You have just been manipulated by masters and, yes yes yes, it felt so good.

The best part is that the trailer is truthful. With a few exceptions, Kratos' moves can all be performed by the player in the final product. There is a segment of the game where you are actually on the back of a giant god. It delivers on all these fronts. It doesn't just present story. It doesn't just present gameplay. It strikes a wonderful balance between style, substance and gamey-ness that many publishers should take into account before presenting their wares to their audience.

So, I now put it out to the community. What trailer do you think had the most egregious misrepresentation of the actual gameplay?

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