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Destiny 2’s live-action trailer is much better than it has any right to be

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How did they pull this off?

The live-action trailer for Destiny 2, despite being a live-action trailer for a video game and featuring one of the most played-out songs in pop culture, is very good. If you haven’t yet seen it, give the whole thing a quick watch before we move on.

The trailer was directed by Kong: Skull Island’s Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and benefits greatly from the vocal talents of Nathan Fillion as Cayde-6. Destiny 2’s marketing seems intent on leaning into the game’s humor and personality, and that’s a wise move after the somewhat cold nature of the first game. These characters aren’t fighting to save the world, they’re fighting for puppies. And that makes a difference.

While we’re on the subject of puppies, the tension you feel waiting for the puppy to blow up before the trailer cuts to Cayde-6? That’s the sort of thing that makes this trailer feel much more fun than its competition. A joke loses most of its humor when you have to explain it, but this cut heightens the tension while at the same time transitioning you from our world to the world of the game. It does all this without losing the humor, and that’s a neat trick.

It’s also regional, at least to an extent. Here are some of the things they blow up in the U.K. edit of the trailer:

The tea and fry-up are replaced by an over-specific Starbucks-style drink in the American edit:

There are a few other differences — did you know they call ketchup “red sauce” in the U.K.? — and it’s neat to know this level of thought and detail went into the trailer as a whole.

How the ad succeeds

There are some people who will always criticize live-action trailers for not focusing on the actual game, but their utility comes from their ability to communicate how a game “feels” to play. Bungie and Activision would like you to believe that playing Destiny 2 feels as good as watching this trailer.

So the humor is highlighted, because they want you to think the game is funny and lighthearted. The action highlights the different classes and shows how they work together as part of a fireteam. You’ll never be able to pull of combos this seamlessly, nor will your play ever be edited this cleverly, but the idea is that the game will feel this good while you’re playing it.

This isn’t how the game looks when you play it, it’s how the game looks in your head when you tell yourself or others stories about your adventures.

The trailer’s tone is light, and there is no time wasted when getting to the first joke. The music begins as soon as the trailer does, it’s not used as a way to indicate a shift in tone. This is the tone. The focus is on personality and jokes in those opening moments, and the color palette is bright and vibrant. It’s dense, but fun to watch.

Compare all this to the first game’s live-action trailer, release two years ago.

Destiny has come a long way, and so far it seems to be for the better. This is a good trailer.