A few hours I after I wrote the last entry, the second live-action promotional trailer for Deus Ex: Human Revolution was released. DX:HR has taken a well-deserved ribbing for its hyper-aggressive marketing, including what may be the record for most trailer footage. As noted earlier, I’ve avoided these later gameplay trailers.
Typically, live-action trailers (or their much more common breathren, CGI trailers) take a lot of crap, because they don’t actually tell you how the game will play. “Show me the gameplay!” goes the standard dismissal. And they often accomplish little; they spoil, but they don’t inform the buyer. They’re the worst of both worlds.
But the DX:HR adverts fall into what I’d call “world-building adverts,” more commonly used with film (the Watchmen adaptation had a series of them). They don’t spoil the plot of the game because they don’t deal directly with it; the protagonist is absent. Instead, they use the language of film to establish the themes and setting of the game, serving as narrative hooks. They aren’t complete, and I wouldn’t buy a game off them in absence of any other information, but I’d like to see more of them. They DO communicate something: namely, that someone is actually putting effort into the story and presentation. Halo shorts aside, you pretty much never see these for game with contempt for their narrative. And the more specific they are, the better. The trailers in question show us that Deus Ex will be taking a multi-facted look at a morally complex issue (as it should, given its pedigree) and that it’s putting actual thought into the science in its science fiction. This is what I want all trailers to be.
As far as gameplay trailers go, I’d rather just play the demo.