Trailers make us amped for the next huge blockbuster release and can be vectors towards greater exposure for games that may not otherwise get the attention they deserve. Conversely, live-action trailers are typically produced as a way to drum up hype for a game without any gameplay footage, replaced instead with what can only be described as brief film trailers. There have been many live-action trailers over the years, but some of them sacrifice the soul of their games with cheap trailers that fit awkwardly alongside the game being marketed – this list is about those games. So sit back, grab the popcorn or some cheap nasty cinema nachos and gawk as these 10 travesties unfurl right before your eyes in the form of scathing critique.
10. Fallout 76 Official Live-Action Trailer
When on earth did Fallout need a live-action trailer? The answer is unfortunately when it was decided that Fallout should shed everything that made the franchise special and cater to the oversized live-services crowd, which as it turned out was too big of an ambition to grab with both hands and steer properly. This is because Fallout 76 handled live-services like a baby would handle driving a lorry.
The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ is a vintage classic among British songs, but in a trailer about a Fallout game it’s abhorrent. This one promotes Fallout 76’s multiplayer gimmick, where it of course should’ve been nice to experience, but what with the rise of Fortnite turning the big players in the industry into simple monkey see monkey do followers, this live-action folly proved to be as pretentious as a smarmy packet of Walkers crisps thinking it can pole vault.
So the trailer opens with a verdant rural field as an entourage of Fallout 76 enemies surround an uzi-toting lass as she spins and gleefully smiles like she was acting in a shampoo commercial. Then we cut to seeing two brutish mech-armour clad schmucks open-firing on a swarm of robotic drones. Then follow this up with gangs of wasteland wanderers patrolling about like they’re a bunch of stranded and rejected Burberry models. The most egregious offender though is some putz with a barbie-doll blonde afro chewing bubblegum as he gazes at a huge explosion with his comrades by his sides.
Fallout 76 has been showered in a dirt storm due to the quality of the eventual product, but this live-action trailer is the best indicator of Bethesda’s attitude when it comes to Fallout 76. What a disparaging mess.
9. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint Official Live-Action “Squad Up” Trailer
This one is confusing to divulge but here’s the lowdown. Ghost Recon is traditionally a military-based tactical third-person shooter that was once appreciated for its taut and tough yet viscerally emphatic nature, with a tone that belied its brilliance. Yet Ubisoft figured bigger would be better, so in 2017 we got Ghost Recon: Wildlands, breaking a workable and tantalising formula for predictable open-world frolics that conformed with other huge open-world Ubisoft franchises like Assassins Creed and Watch Dogs. Then Ubisoft released Breakpoint over 30 months later and it was received poorly. As is the case with other games on this list, Breakpoint’s live-action trailer is proof of the carelessness taken with the final product albeit with no gameplay shown (other than the players playing the game on their TV in this case).
Breakpoint’s live-action opus unveils with three create-a-character-alikes under heavy fire. One of them, whose hairdo looks like a cross between a Chinese gangster and a brunette fashionista, uses what amounts to an iPad screen to contact a portly chap on his phone while his comrades – a bearded boat hat wearing Neanderthal and a man who decided to enter battle wearing a skinned Ent (you know, those green tree giants from Lord of the Rings) – wait and yell alongside him. Then out of nowhere a nifty looking ride pulls up and a gruffy bearded bloke and boxart cover star exits the car and says what’s up to his homies. If it isn’t clear enough yet the tone and vibes of this trailer are at odds with what Breakpoint presents – at least they fully acknowledge the demographic this one will appeal to.
Maybe some will accuse me of being a sad joyless critic who can’t see the fun out of the stupidity of this trailer, but to retort I love stupidity in videogames. But stupidity in a live-action trailer of a game that’s absent in the final product is a hard sell. In this case, a live-action trailer exists to lure in the uninitiated and those who’re already onboard; when the former group finds out the final game is a tired compendium of routine missions and rudimentary activities bounded together with a boring story and pea-lobed characters, they’ll realise they’ve wasted their time and money. Or they’ll bypass the flaws and ghillie up with their pals in PVP multiplayer sessions until the next entry arrives.
8. Dead Island Live-Action Trailer
Now hold on a minute, give me a chance to explain the inclusion of this one.
It’s true that this live-action trailer for Dead Island is fantastic, showing the invasion of a zombie horde in the most sorrowful and poignant way imaginable earns it plenty of kudos. However, this trailer is deceptive because you go from a dead girl and her family to “there’s a zombie army and you can’t harm me who do you voodoo bitch” in the main game. The contrast between what the live-action trailer represents juxtaposed by the casual frat boy aesthetic of the game is just too big a divide to forgive.
7. RAGE 2 Official Live-Action Trailer
Andrew WK, screaming fiends with terrible mohawks and dazzling with magenta. We get it, the wild and untamed personality of RAGE 2 makes you want to break out and indulge in your wild side… that’s if you support what Bethesda are trying to tell you here – otherwise you’d think this trailer could be an advert for pepto bismol seeing as all that rage could be misconstrued for furious constipation.
Usually a good live-action trailer shows us something pretty exciting but what this one gives us is what we saw onstage at Bethesda’s E3 2018 showcase distilled into a 54 second video. And now it’s probably cool and trendy for these triple-A live-action trailers to feature vomit-inducing hairstyles and parade about looking totally ridiculous – if only the games were half as flamboyant then maybe we’d be onto a winner. Alas the best way to appeal to a wider audience through marketing materials is to feature eye-catching mise en scene and music that’s meant to convey the tone.
RAGE 2’s live-action trailer effort here has all the lunacy of a band of seven-year old kids left alone with crayons, messy foods and lots and lots of sugar.
6. Assassins Creed: Odyssey “Choose Life” Live-Action Trailer
One of the very last things anybody should think about when it comes to Ancient Greece is Trainspotting – but Ubisoft chose to flavour Odyssey’s pre-release advert in this way, presumably to inject a modern sense of coolness to it. But it turns out that all Ubisoft have done here is reveal the grimy gluttonous guts on the triple-A videogame industry, turning away and putting a kibosh on the sense of historical significance and prestige that the game did a fascinating job of immersing us with.
A red-caped warrior charges through a cramped marketplace in a frantic yet casual attempt to escape armoured guards as our masculine hero glances over his shoulder to see where his pursuers are, barging past a bearded man as he clambers down a set of stairs. He then proceeds to dive in between a woman relaxing in her furnished stretcher bed when a female figure comes into the fray and spills a vat of stones for the guards to slip up and receive ouchies from. We return to our male hero who does a spot of wall-to-wall climbing and runs under a clothesline before the scenery changes and our man carries a flaming torch light to ignite the darkened area as he ogles at the metal-plated armour and weapons surrounding him. Meanwhile an audio-visual juxtaposition can be recognised where the lyrics roll on about “washing machines, cars and Compact Disc players”, yet we’re a few thousand years away from those luxuries. And thus we arrive at this trailer’s greatest sins – laziness and slapdashery.
Some will no doubt find Odyssey’s “Choose Life” effort as a hip and exciting fast-paced trailer that’ll give you a lot to look at in a short space of time – and that tasty Trainspotting cohesion will delight fans of that British 90s film classic. But when your mental faculties return to you, you’ll likely realise that the attitude of the trailer has very little in common with that of the main game – a sobering reminder that a live-action trailer can look very impressive but some of them will miss the mark because they’re abhorrently stupid. This one takes the cake for being so.
5. Supermarket Shriek Live-Action Trailer
This entry gets some kudos for featuring a reel of gameplay towards the end and, unlike other entries on this list, doesn’t make you want to hammer a nail into your thumb and pull it out – but it’s rather annoying so get in the back.
A young woman enters a supermarket called Super A Foods, cutting to the confectionery aisle where she is met by a yelling announcer exclaiming “SUPERMARKET SHRIEK!”. The bewildered lass looks down towards the microphone and this idiot shoves in front of her as she admits a daunted “uhh”. This is before she is dragged against her will to a flashy bespoke stage where the buffoon once again exclaims “SUPERMARKET SHRIEK!” as a man in a bunny costume and with a gobstopping ball gag in his mouth rides a trolley into her direction then gets off to do a weird shimmy. We star-wipe to a confused woman in a shopping trolley with the microphone once again shoved near her mouth and she again minutely utters “uhh”, then the bunny-suited man drops a goat into the trolley, stands beside her and yells “AHHHH!!!”. After that we’re off to the races. Barrelling down a huge aisle, our previously unwilling guest starts scoring points by grabbing items while screaming like a huge spider landed on her lap as the host joins her screaming. Yes, by now everything is as civilised and harmonious as a citywide riot pitting disgruntled airline workers against armed police and a stampeding onslaught of untamed zoo animals from Ecuador.
Let’s reiterate, this entry isn’t boring but it is very annoying although it has the very same spirit of the game it’s advertising. Perhaps the random weirdness of it all deserves praise, but trying to comprehend anything by lots of noise takes some effort, so this one will grate and your ears will not forgive you anytime soon if you choose to subject yourself to this.
4. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Kill Cameraman
The thumping heart of Call of Duty’s loud and obnoxious fanbase is on full display in this trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Randall Higgins confesses that he is the man behind all those glorious killcam shots, boasting that he’s seen World War II, Vietnam and the future. He explains this all the while pulling exaggerated mouth-agape faces because he’s “seen some shit” in his time as the kill cameraman. To give credit where it’s necessary, the cheese in this one is quite infectious in the same way a midge bite is an itch you’d like to keep scratching. It’s because this trailer is annoying too, but that’s par for the course in a CoD live-action caper.
Starting appropriately and predictably enough with loud gunfire, explosions and screams, we’re introduced to a man who informs us that he holds the kill camera before showing him in action. He can be seen clutching a steering wheel while ziplining merrily across as explosions spit up shrapnel that obliterates the scenery when a still pops up informing us the man is indeed Randall Higgins, after which he confirms his job and asks us what our “dumbass” jobs are. From here Higgins proceeds to take us on a whistle-stop tour of his experiences on the frontlines and even a spot of bother where he is on the toilet and a kill is made, so he has to return to his job with the lingering fear he might excrete himself.
As CoD live-action fares go, this one stands out for how boisterous it is. Yes it is entertaining and yes it is lunacy incarnate, but there is no better trailer to define Call of Duty’s Hollywood cinematic flare than this overzealous gambit, and therefore takes home a Bronze award for its 3rd rate acting and zoological mannerisms.
3. Call of Duty: WWII “The Resistance” Live-Action Trailer
Oh hello again Call of Duty, nice to see you like putting your feet up and roasting your marshmallows in this worst live-action trailers list. This time out there seems to be absolutely no relevance to the World War II setting besides the gameplay footage shown off here for The Resistance DLC.
Ok so for this anti-magnum opus we start out with three blithering idiots in a room where the lights are shut off and only a blinking light illuminates from the background – supposedly to make us think the trio (two men and a woman) are in some top-secret meeting. Spearheaded by a David Mitchell lookalike and featuring another man who looks like Snoop Dogg’s stunt double and a woman dressed like she should be teaching in a primary school as her day job, the group hatch an imbecilic plan to protect their identities for no reason other than to reveal CoD’s DLC duh. The two men of the trio enter a lift where they are surrounded by fellow office workers as they embark on a new life and shed what they knew in their old lives whilst making doot-doot noises and covering their mouths like a couple of children trying to mimic the sound of a dial-up internet connection. A guy who has clearly attempted to see if pruning shears are good for a fashionable haircut witnesses the two clowns dooting and does nothing until the men start to ask where their petulant noises are coming from, to which this trainee IT consultant replies “it’s coming from you guys… you’re beeping” – yes these men may as well be microwave ovens. Next we’re taken to a bar table where David Mitchell lookalike and Ms primary school teacher are situated and the latter munches on a piece of paper with some nondescript gibberish on it right in front of the waitress.
Afterwards we see mini Snoop Dogg attempting to conceal his identity by saying to a besuited gentleman that his name is classified, he then pops on some glasses and says it’s “double classified”. When we return to the secret meeting room the lights are on and an uninformed colleague walks in with his Magnum P.I moustache leading the way. He asks why the lights are turned off before our classified trio build an anaemic excuse about a colleagues 40th or 42nd birthday, to which Maggy laughs and responds “there better be cake” before leaving after which a reel of gameplay is shown off. Before the trailer concludes we get back to the buffoonish trio where mini Snoop (revealed here as Brian) fails to say the correct password and he isn’t let in by the other two because they think he’s been compromised and an imposter is trying to gain entry… and that’s the end of this brainless piece of advertising media for Call of Duty: WWII.
What more can be said here that hasn’t already been said? Time to look at the next entry in this list.
2. Beyond Good and Evil 2 E3 2017 Live-Action Trailer
Oh how 2003 seems like a distant memory, a time where a modest videogame released on shelves featuring a determined investigative reporter who had a boar as an uncle – don’t get me started on how Jade exists as a human. Anyway, the game was an endearing success, so it only feels natural to pine and want for a sequel. Then E3 2017 happens and Ubisoft decided to discard modesty and give us a live-action trailer featuring a funky cool monkey, lots of swearing and a brash and more audacious opus. The problem with this trailer isn’t nestled within what it shows us, but more of what it represents in the grand scheme of things concerning the triple-A videogame industry. Beyond Good and Evil wasn’t trying to act like the coolest game on the planet, it wasn’t trying to bend down and satisfy the gaming industry at large. Beyond Good and Evil had its own vision and its own sense of style and was at heart a prideful and distinctively able adventure that was indeed capable of being its own thing.
As cool as Beyond Good and Evil 2 looks, as brash and as epic as it thinks it is and as cinematic as it tries to be, there is no heart from what we’ve seen so far – all there appears to be is perpetual pandering to conventional tropes. Yes, Beyond Good and Evil 2 will likely sell shedloads based on its brazen personality, but it will sacrifice its own soul for the money Ubisoft wants to make out of it. As it is right now it’s befitting there’s a primate in this trailer because if it stays as it is it’ll end up being a huge pail of monkey piss in comparison to the original game.
1. Sea of Thieves “Be More Pirate” Live-Action Trailer
Sea of Thieves is an Xbox exclusive, so it was extra important that eyes were fixed upon its trailers when they were released. Honesty has to be echoed here for a second, this Sea of Thieves trailer is exceptional… exceptionally bland that is.
This “Be More Pirate” trailer may as well be renamed “Be More Banal” because all there is to behold is a museum tour guide’s flights of fantasy. The tour guide states he always wanted to be a pirate, so much so he stabs a sharp knife into the flesh of a banana, draws said knife like it was a sword, passes through a darkly lit room with sprawling kraken tentacles and disturbs another kraken inside the display tank by banging on the glass and screaming like a possessed monkey.
Before the trailer ends this wannabe pirate states “we all have a legend to be told” – kinda sucks that Sea of Thieves was nowhere near legendary, and maybe trailers like this explain why.
So there we have it. Live-action trailers can be good, but they can equally be annoying. What do you think of this list? Are there any we’ve missed out? Let us know in the comments.