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The 5 Best Trailers for Upcoming Games

It was a natural progression for video games, just as it was for films. In Hollywood, a successful trailer can make or break a movie. The film might be terrible but a good trailer can still fill seats, while the opposite is also true, and a bad trailer can hurt the best of films. The same is becoming more and more true for video games as well.

It has only been in the last few years that publishers have begun to see video game trailers as more than just ads. There was almost a checklist of things to show: Gameplay, Story, Graphics. Once you got those out of the way, the ad was finished, and gamers had an idea of what to expect. But over the last few years that has gradually changed, and the trailers for upcoming titles have become more and more impressive.

There are a lot of reasons for that shift, but one of the most obvious is the ability to download trailers to the current generation of consoles. When someone on their Xbox 360 can hit a button and watch dozens of upcoming trailers for games, it makes a difference which ones look the best.

So below are five of the best looking trailers for upcoming titles. Some of them are a mix of gameplay and cutscenes, while others are shifting towards something different. The clip for Dead Island, for example, was developed specifically as a trailer, and doesn’t actually exist in the game or show anything from that particular title–the same is true for Risen 2: Dark Waters. And if the fairly staggering response that the Dead Island trailer received is any indication, expect many more clips like it in the future, as video game trailers continues to shift from advertisement towards art.

[Warning: Some of the following trailers may not be suitable for all ages.

BioShock Infinite

The BioShock games have always placed a heavy emphasis on the aesthetics of their environments, so it really shouldn’t have come as such a surprise that the announcement trailer for the next game in the series would look as cool as it does, but color us surprised anyway. The franchise returns to its original developer, Irrational Games, following 2K Marin’s BioShock 2, and Irrational is taking the series in a whole new direction.

The failed utopian experiment that was the underwater city of Rapture is no more, and the setting of 1960-1970 is has also been changed. In its place, BioShock Infinite heads back in time to 1912, when the floating city of Columbia stood as an example of America’s potential. Naturally, things go badly in the floating metropolis–it wouldn’t make much of a game if they went well. You play as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton man tasked with rescuing the young woman Elizabeth, a psychic who plays a crucial role in the civil war raging in the clouds. As the pair try to escape through the war ravaged city, they are stalked by the beast known as “him”, Elizabeth’s robotic, bird-like jailer for the last 12 years.

BioShock Infinite will be released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012.

Dead Island

Few games have gone through such a journey as Dead Island. Two years ago, developer Techland’s zombie project was forgotten by most after years of delays pushed it into Duke Nukem territory. Publishers came and went, and the game seemed doomed to limbo. Then the game found a new publisher in Deep Silver, who brought the game back to life. But even then it was a minor title from a small publisher and developer. Right up until the trailer hit.

Within a day of this trailer debuting, it had over a million views on YouTube. It is difficult to estimate the total number of views now, as it has spread over the internet like wildfire, but over 10 million is a very conservative guess. The result was that the game gained a lot of attention, so much so that it started a bidding war in Hollywood over the rights. The funny thing is, for as awesome as the trailer is, it shows nothing of the actual game. The video was made only for the trailer, and does not show anything of the actual gameplay or even cutscenes. The actual game is a melee based zombie combat action title, which just proves that a good trailer can make all the difference.

Dead Island is due on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on August 1.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The third Deus Ex title is actually a prequel to the other two, which means that it has a completely different look and feel from the other games in the series. Combining RPG and FPS aspects, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is set in 2027, when robotic augmentation is becoming commonplace. In terms of aesthetics, that gives the game a slight cyberpunk vibe, mixed with a Baroque flair intended to conjure images of the Renaissance period.

The world of the future is a dangerous and violent place, but it is not without its beauty and awe as well. In the trailer below, the developers from Eidos Montreal have put together a clip that looks and plays like a theatrical trailer, with a heavy emphasis on the style of the game. Playing as a recently augmented Adam Jensen, you travel the world to investigate a conspiracy. But unlike most FPS titles, you choose how you want to play. It is possible to complete the entire game without killing a single enemy (except for bosses). But when you have swords built into your arms and have futuristic weapons, where would be the fun in that?

Deus Ex: Human Revolution hits the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on August 23.

L.A. Noire

The line between movies and video games continues to blur, and no game coming out is a better example of that than Rockstar’s L.A. Noire. Set in 1947 Los Angeles, L.A. Noire is a series of detective stories that you must solve as you progress through LA’s seedy underworld. This isn’t like Rockstar’s previous games where a problem could generally be solved with a rocket launcher—the cases are in-depth and complex.

Recently, L.A. Noire became the first video game ever to be screened at the Tribecca film festival. Audiences watched as a case was played out before them, and a small part of the 2000+ page script was shown off. You play as Cole Phelps, an LAPD officer who works his way across the desks of the LAPD, while solving various cases in different departments. It is very much like a crime noir movie that you control.

L.A. Noire hits stores on PS3 and Xbox 360 on May 17.

Risen 2: Dark Waters

Deep Silver may be on to something with the trailers. Following the success of the trailer for Dead Island, the publisher once more went with a trailer that is not actually part of developer Piranha Byte’s upcoming action RPG, Risen 2: Dark Waters. But it is very cool.

The game is a sequel to the PC only Risen. Technically, Risen was also available on Xbox 360, but it was a mess of a game, and not worth mentioning. A great deal of care, however, has been spent on making sure the upcoming console version of the game is up to code. The sequel returns you to the pirate-based fantasy setting were giants roam the depths, and you must find out why they have come if you have any hopes of stopping them.

Risen 2: Dark Waters is scheduled to be released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 later this year.

Ryan Fleming
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Fleming is the Gaming and Cinema Editor for Digital Trends. He joined the DT staff in 2009 after spending time covering…
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