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Sneak-peeks: the art of teasing

For every game that comes out each year, you can safely assume there is going to be one to five related teasers or trailers. Not all of them will be worth it, and as sifting through the noise becomes more and more of a hassle, some are starting to innovate. And, when it comes to standing out, you can always expect BioShock to lead the way.

Hello, world. 

Some are short movies of incredible quality where nothing is explained, others seem to be the result of a brain storming session where the only thing was “Holy Sh*t, look at that huge budget of ours!”, and (too) few are relevant, innovative, good-looking and teasing at the same time. And then there is BioShock Infinite’s latest video.

To say that Irrational Games’ latest project is expected is a gross understatement. BioShock (2007) is the best rated-PC game of the last 15 years, ranking 96/100 on Metacritic (ex-aequo with Half-Life and Half-Life 2, according to Valve’s plan for world domination). Quite surprisingly, Truth for Legend is up to the task.

Trailers seem to have three main goals they try to achieve. The first one is to show new content. The second one is to impress and stimulate the player, one way or another. Yet, the last one is not to reveal everything –tease, rather than strip down.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to fill in all of those requirements to be a good trailer. The first Halo 4 trailer we saw in 2011 felt more emotional than anything displayed at E3 that year. 4 years after the Master Chief’s last words (“Wake me, when you need me”), hearing Cortana’s voice, echoing, “Chief, Wake up, I need you !” was an amazing player stimulation, taking full advantage of our feeling of nostalgia. However, no one had any clue regarding the actual content of the game.

Similarly, when Ubisoft unveiled the Watch_Dogs project, it was mainly consisting of a foreplay video setting in the context, and a full-fledged gameplay session. This time, there was no visual fireworks, or deep, intricate plot accompanied by a Christopher Nolan soundtrack, merely the gameplay itself. Again, it was  more than enough.

And still, if Truth from Legend doesn’t have epic proportions, it manages to surpass the huge majority of trailers. Sure, it might not be impressive, but it’s adequate.

And it’s adequate because it does more than just tickle the player’s HD-Graphics-cerebral area, it announces the game on several levels, and does so in a unique way. While the Beast of America trailer was much, much more Uncharted-oriented, dazed, confused and fed us pretty visuals, it feels like Truth from Legend is the trailer BioShock deserves.

Even though the series is categorized as a FPS, the real thing about BioShock is the universe. When you first set foot in the fictional city of Rapture, created by the Objectivist entrepreneur Andrew Ryan, something felt really, really right. The details, the coherence, the scope of Ken Levine’s imagined, anachronic city -video games had never seen anything like that before.

BioShock isn’t only about shooting people (well it’s A LOT about shooting people, cause that’s always fun), it’s also about alternative possibilities. What if the Industrial Age of the 1950s gave birth to a man powerful and wealthy enough to build his own realm ? The answer is Rapture. This ‘possible-turned-real’ made BioShock famous, and that’s exactly what’s the Truth from Legend  trailer is about.

The content shown in this trailer is two-sided. On the one hand, you’ve got the brief history of how Columbia, the city in which the game will take place, came to be. You’ve got Zachary, likely to be a key character in the game, and you’ve got the plot twist, the sudden disappearance of the city. That’s content right there, but not only. Setting the city in a historical context echoes the American-Way-of-Life era of Rapture. Introducing Zachary reminds the player of Andrew Ryan, lead role in what might be the greatest plot twist in videogame history. And the escape into the clouds is the symmetrical reflection of Rapture’s sinking. The content shown here is shown is rational, as well as emotional.

And it’s not only what is shown that matters. It’s how it’s shown. The trailer’s visual appearance is not merely catching on the Instagram and ‘retro’ trend. Irrational Games is using the format dedicated to curiosity –TV documentary- to acknowledge the player’s own curiosity. What we see here is less trailer than it is response to an implicit fanbase request (“We want to discover a new place”), and turning a two-minutes-long trailer into the testimony of a renewed player-universe relationship is amazing.

All in all, the game’s obvious objective is to shoot people. The trailer’s obvious objective is to establish a one-way communication canal towards the player. Truth From Legend is more than that. It is original and accurate in its format. It knows what the player consciously and intuitively expects from the series, and delivers it with style.

Now March 26 feels awfully far away.


@kasipierre / Gamertag: Niijuro666 / Steam ID: FatFrench666