The Bureau: XCOM Declassified may be targeting a slightly more niche audience than other 2K games, like BioShock Infinite, but you wouldn’t know it from the level of sophistication surrounding its marketing campaign.
Along with the normal slew of trailers featuring gameplay that come with any major release, 2K Marin went beyond the normal routine and commissioned a live-action trailer directed by Henry Hobson. It was so successful that 2K went back to the director for an entire series of trailers, this time starring Dominic Monaghan. The two recently sat down and discussed the filming of the videos – which were more of a Web series than traditional trailers.
Although you may not know his name just yet, Hobson is well known in both Hollywood and throughout the gaming industry, primarily for designing main titles. His credits include the opening title design for The Hangover Part II, The Lone Ranger, and The Last of Us. He recently began pre-production for his feature film directorial debut on the upcoming film Maggie, starring Abigail Breslin and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has also directed other live action game trailers, including one for Resistance 3 that garnered a lot of attention. So when 2K needed a director for a one-off live action trailer, they went right to Hobson.
In April, 2K unveiled the trailer “Burn Room,” a live-action clip featuring a flesh-and-blood Agent William Carter, the star of the game. In just over three months, the clip has been viewed nearly 5 million times on 2K’s YouTube channel alone, making it one of the most successful game trailers of all time.
Following the success of the trailer, 2K commissioned a six part live-action series that showed the events leading up to “Burn Room,” which, like the game, are set in 1962. For Hobson, it was the period nature that attracted him to the project. As a fan of period shows like Mad Men and the BBC’s The Hour, it was a “no brainer” when 2K came to him with the project and offered him the job.
As for Monaghan, who is a gamer himself, he was approached by a friend at 2K who mentioned the possibility of doing something live action for The Bureau. At the time it was little more than an idea, but following the success of “Burn Room,” 2K reached out to the Lost and Lord of the Rings star and sent him the script. He liked the idea and was filming soon after. Despite the unique nature of the project, Monaghan approached it like any other acting job.
“It’s not a huge amount of difference in terms of how I approach stuff. When I was on set for this, there was no difference in terms of how I prepared, if I were doing a feature or a TV show or anything. Games are really on a level with the major TV shows,” says Monaghan.
Two months after the debut of “Burn Room,” the story continued with “Orbit the Clown,” a clip that introduced us to Kevin and Anne Cole just as something ominous is beginning in their small New Mexico town of Pima. Kevin’s father (who is also Anne’s husband) is revealed in the next clip, “The Choice,” to be a Bureau agent named Ennis Cole, played by Dominic Monaghan. We hear the sad fate of his family, leading to a choice for the audience to make via Twitter: Should Cole grab a bottle of alcohol, or a gun?
The inclusion of Monaghan gave depth to what may have otherwise been a forgotten role. The character is on screen for only a few minutes, and beyond the attention that Monaghan’s name alone attracts, he does a lot with a small amount of time. In less than 10 minutes of screen time, you are introduced to Ennis Cole, learn of his loss, and follow him into a dangerous situation.
“When Dom came on board, it enabled us to tell a more emotional story and to tie people in to what happens next,” Hobson says.
More than 20,000 people voted for Cole’s fate, and the next trailer/short film, “The Decision,” revealed that with 51-percent of the vote, the audience chose “bottle.” There may have been some confusion here, as Monaghan said that he thought that many people were under the impression that by taking the gun, Cole would be committing suicide, which wasn’t the case.
In the unaired alternate clip, Cole does take the gun. Instead of doing himself harm though, he vows to dish a little out. That leads into the next trailer, “The Chase,” which leaves Agent Cole’s fate in question. There was one more clip following “The Chase,” titled “The Interrogation,” where Agent Carter returns to pummel an unseen captive. If you want to know what happened to Monaghan’s Ennis Cole, check out the final trailer, “Aftermath,” below. There are also 17 Easter eggs, which tie the series together, scattered throughout the video, ranging from a telephone number to radio station signs.
“I think the word cool gets thrown around too much these days … but this was a genuinely cool project,” says Monaghan.
The live action trailers are done, but you can check out our hands-on preview of the game, and then look for The Bureau: XCOM Declassified on August 20.