5 Of The Most Deceptive Game Trailers Ever Aired

Sometimes I think we’re all a little too excitable when it comes to videogame trailers, much in the way Lenny was with rabbits. We hug them and squeeze them and adore their every frame till what we’re left with come release time is a lackluster product and the fixings for a stew. Conventions such as E3 only seem to fan the flame, devoting large chunks of time to unveiling the latest preview, and multiple TV and internet promotions make it all but impossible to avoid. Yes, in recent years especially, it seems like nothing sells first class tickets for a ride on the hype train faster than a really shiny trailer.

I’m not putting anyone down here, yet, because being so easily enticed is completely understandable. Companies utilize psychology by overloading trailers with emotional triggers and exhilarating action sequences to the point where you’re tempted to hit the replay button eight times. But what happens when what we see is far from what we get? Sometimes, while swan diving into piles of gold coins, Scrooge McDuck style, game companies amaze us with a killer trailer, only to deliver something either completely different, less refined, or a sad combination of the two. In order to more effectively point a few fingers, I’ve put together a list of the worst offenders of the modern age (because you all seem to really dig numbered paragraphs).

#5. BioShock Infinite

What They Showed Us

Staring down a rifle scope, we see a beautiful, teary woman in the midst of being lynched by a zealous priest and an angry mob. Before we can give the murderous preacher a new whole to breathe from, a glass encased heart blocks our view, and we find ourselves face to face with what we came to know as a Handyman. A short display of the the rail system and vigors (plasmids) ends with the protagonist, Booker, saving the woman and facing off against a blimp.

What We Got

Let’s get one thing straight right now: while it was good due to the mechanics and pace, Infinite was excellent because of its story. This is but one of a handful of games capable of giving me the same thrill had it just been a movie. With that being said, I went in head first under the wrong impression, all because of the trailer. In no way does anyone try and hang Elizabeth, and, if anything, the actions of each antagonist are done for the sake of recovering her from me. Apart from that, and the apparent discrepancy in ages (from looking like an adult to appearing as a preteen), the trailer also showcased Booker using his powers not only on enemies but also on allies, which was something omitted from the game entirely. Who hear would have loved to blast Elizabeth into the air to collect some ammo from the rooftops of a trash bin?

#4. Halo 3

What They Showed Us

Whether it was the melancholic overture or the horribly detailed agony on the faces of the soldiers, this has to be one of the most chilling trailers I have ever seen. Shot after shot focuses in on the wounded, dead, or dying human soldiers being mowed down by Covenant forces. Towards the end, the camera focuses on a single Brute amid the hectic fighting, and help up by the creature’s mighty paw is the limp form of Master Chief. When all seems lost, 117 lifts up his head and the words “Believe” appear on screen.

What We Got

First of all, as pretty as Bungie’s toy collection probably is, it would’ve been nice to see some damn footage or a live action trailer to prove that the game wouldn’t be played out like a Warhammer board game. Secondly, where was that battle in Halo 3? That looks freaking awesome! This is a perfect example of a company that, knowing their franchise in infallible, realizes they can release a trailer about ANYTHING with Master Chief and still fill out all the pre-order forms they have printed in the back.

#3. Brink

What They Showed Us

Regaling viewers with the classic story of a struggle between the haves and have-nots, Brink did it’s best to create a dichotomy between the militant Ark leaders and the rebel Ark refugees, possibly in the hopes of pushing the audience to actively side with one or the other. The debut trailer showed us not only the makings of a decent story, but also the fast paced shooting and parkour mechanics that Brink built itself up from.

What We Got

Summing up my experience with Brink can be done with three complaints. The single player campaign played EXACTLY like the multiplayer sessions, the parkour mechanics must have been modeled after the moving capabilities of Jabba the Hutt, and the class system meant about as much to the gameplay as changing the color of your hairstyle. With all that, Brink disappointed every poor sod who paid full price instead of waiting till it hit the bargain bin a week after release. An accurate trailer for Brink would have depicted a dog doing its morning business on the sidewalk, because that’s exactly what Bethesda packaged into the cases before mailing them out.

#2. Dead Island

What They Showed Us

Where the Halo 3 trailer left me with a sense of dread, the famous Dead Island teaser left me wrought with despair. I’ve seen but a few things that even came close to being as dark as seeing a little girl’s reverse fall through a high-rise window, playing over the events that had led to her zombie transformation by way of a nasty throat wound. The music, slow motion, and gritty realism of the game casts the most somber tone ever established in the history of gaming media. Dead Island would surely be an emotional heartbreak worthy of me upping my Prozac prescription.

What We Got

Except it wasn’t. While the scenery was spooky with it’s deserted maps and bloodstained walls, Dead Island couldn’t seem to keep the tone straight, and the fact that you could kill almost every zombie chorus-line style with your super kicks definitely didn’t help either. Due to the controversy surrounding the animated death of a child in the trailer, any mention of the girl, or the broken window she flew out of, was omitted from the game, because God forbid we have any REAL feelings while playing, right Dead Island?

#1. Borderlands


What They Showed Us

As we stand atop a cliff, overlooking a vast and unforgiving land, a woman to our left warns us of the many dangers native to the planet, Pandora. The screen flashes to motoring bandits, awesome beasts, and a hallway full of guns, all rendered in stunning detail and clarity. It looked as though the FPS-RPG I had been waiting for had finally arrived.

What We Got

What. The. Hell. Did the advertising branch of 2K actually bother to stick their heads into the computer lab to see how the project was going before rushing off and publishing such a drastically obvious bait-n’-switch? At what point did the creative team decide that realistic texturing was harder than cel shading, and did they bother to tell absolutely anybody before packing it all up? Don’t get me wrong, Borderlands is a fantastic game, but imagine how different it would have been had everything looked as it did in the trailer. The humor and tom-foolery the franchise is now known for would have fallen flat on its bum, instead leaving us with a stern faced shoot-n’-loot that probably would’ve kicked just as much, if not more, ass. As it is now, the world will never know what Borderlands could have been.

Johnny Ohm

Johnny's first love was writing, his second was beer, and his third was The Elder Scrolls. He is resigned to his fate as a bitter critic who uses the crisping drawer to keep his lagers cold. You can contact Johnny via Twitter or ouija board.


  1. Uhm, I have to say something to #1 Borderlands. you are giving them crap for a cinematic teaser trailer that is not in cel shaded?

    Were the author even aware of, that the game itself, was not made with cel shading in mind to begin with. They showed a bunch of early footage from the game, before they changed it all and made it cel shaded. To me it was way better before they changed it though.

    1. “They showed a bunch of early footage from the game, before they changed it all and made it cel shaded. ”

      You’ll see that I address this further down the paragraph: “At what point did the creative team decide that realistic texturing was harder than cel shading, and did they bother to tell absolutely anybody before packing it all up? “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button