Is Deus Ex 3 a movie or a game?

Because it looks like it would be one hell of an excellent movie. I haven’t seen a cinematic trailer this long, plotty, or robust in a while.

I mean, I’m totally aware that cinematic trailers can be like this. I didn’t expect gameplay footage or anything. But usually when we see these kinds of things, they’re only fifty seconds long. Just a short clip of characters pumping shotguns and saying “Let’s roll!” in Clint Eastwood voices, or giving the camera heavy-lidded angst-eyes while titles and release dates flash by, or talking about why they love Commander Shepherd, or things like that. Clearly prerendered, but framed in such a way that we know we’re talking about a game, here. Even the ME2 cinematic trailer was just a list of squad members presented flashily. The launch trailer was also a list of squadmates, and it even had some in-game sex-scene footage in it. It had the framing logic of an RPG. When we start talking lists of recruitables, we know we’re talking about that kind of game. The Deuz Ex 3 trailer doesn’t have any of that framing logic.

The other type of cinematic trailer we see is the type where everything is patently cutscene footage. But the Deus X trailer feels like it was taken from a larger story, from a whole movie’s worth of story, not from just a few cutscenes. It feels like I’m going to want to play this game in a huge empty room with a bucket of popcorn and an Icee on hand. Which is, of course, kinda tough, right?

Here’s the thing: I’m starting to think that part of the reason we’re so skeptical of game movies (and I haven’t yet seen Prince of Persia, so I could be totally wrong about this) is that it’s not wise to try and make players feel the same way about a game character the same way we feel about a movie character, and vice-versa. Obviously, different strategies are involved in the characterization and the world-building, and so on. The kind of player-character that appeals to people in a game is often flimsy enough to be inhabitable, while simultaneously characterized enough not to feel like a sock puppet. Action-movie heroes are also vehicles for self-insertion, but in a different way: we spend more time regarding them from the outside than from the inside, so they’re shinier on that side, so to speak.

From what I see of these characters in this trailer, they’re the kind of people I want to regard from the outside. Or—I mean—they’re the kind of characters I don’t yet feel like I can regard from the inside, they’ve been polished up so hard.*

What do you guys think? I mean, when it comes to trailers-what-make-me-feel-excited, I think this is right up there among the best. But it doesn’t feel much like a game trailer.

*Except for that giving-orders guy  near the end. His voice acting just screams VIDEO GAME

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23 Comments

  1. This was pretty much my reaction, point-for-point. Good to see I’m not alone.

    I don’t know if “giving-orders guy” refers to the musclebound yelling dude or the sketchy billionaire in that not-so-ivory tower, but both are just a little too weak to fit in the context of a movie (I’d also like to submit the newscaster lady as another example). What’s sad is that these flaws in acting/writing/direction were the only things that indicated to me that it was a game rather than a movie. Shouldn’t we be better than this by now?

    On a brighter note: This trailer promises a really cool action/noir/sci-fi genre blend that I, personally, would really love to see in either movie or game form. Just so long as they can decide which medium they’re actually delivering in before the product is released.

    Reply
    • lauramichet

       /  June 4, 2010

      er, sorry, I mean the billionaire. But yes, I agree– the gameyness of it was all in the kind of borderline voice acting.

      However, yeah: this is going to be one hell of a badass game, if it can live up to the setting and vibe of this trailer. The first twenty seconds of this thing has more self-confident badass STYLE in it than most entire games. I’m installing a steam purchase of Deus Ex now. Got to get in the groove for this.

      Reply
      • Katie, I stumbled upon this post toihgnt, and what a sweet blessing it was. Such an incredible reminder of where our true home is. Bless that dear family and bless you for sharing your talent with the world! Hope you are well.

      • I have been so bewildered in the past but now it all makes sense!

  2. To be honest, I’d be surprised if any of that footage even shows up in a cutscene in the game. That looks like the type of sizzle piece that gets shopped out to outside visual effects companies to try to sell people on the feel of the game before they have anything real to show.

    It’s a great introduction to the world though, it kind of makes me want to go back and finish the first game in the series.

    Reply
  3. I’d prefer it if all of these cutscenes were not in the game, solely because they seem to yank too much control away. Though the content of them suits me fine. However, it kinda bites that they apparently removed the option for a female player character (seeing as Adam isn’t a unisex name like Alex in DX2, unless they call this one Eve OH GOD NO).

    I wouldn’t mind more visceral close combat, though. My girlfriend watched me play the original a few weeks ago and thought the melee fighting looked bizarre, and I had to agree.

    This is also aesthetically AMAZING. And the synths from the beginning are pretty much the same sound as DX1’s which is great; I hate to see iconic game music superseded by more generic orchestral/rock pieces.

    Reply
    • Film State: Hangover 2, The Three Musketeers News on The Hobbit! Film State Št. videoposnetkov: 14 Naro?ite se645 ogeldov Vše? mi je Dodaj v Skupna rabaV strežnik prenesel uporabnik FilmState dne 5. apr. 2011Get the lowdown on all the latest trailers and movie news from the insane brains that brought you Film Riot! In todays episode we watch the trailers for The Hangover II, The Three Musketeers and Midnight in Paris trailer an the epic the most wanted sex liege and liago sex!

      Reply
  4. *big sigh*

    Say it with me: A trailer is not the game.

    The big budget games love their cinematic trailers, but they’re so often overdone as to leave the game trailing in their wake. The more cinematic – the less I know of the game. I understand the point of these is hype and getting the message out there. But I’m beyond this now.

    I still like to point at the original Half-Life 2 trailers that simply showed you a slice of the game, humming with vibrant self-confidence. A few cinematic-type trailers turned up towards the end but they were still only edited footage from the game (the Psyche trailer aside). Admittedly some of the sequences as shown were not in the final game, but they absolutely pinned down the experience.

    Do I like this trailer? Yes, it is most impressive. But I appreciate it as an object of art, an affection I have for image and sound working together. Just like Raven’s Singularity trailer which I enjoyed greatly, but yet expect the final game to hand out disappointment. As a game trailer it most definitely fails.

    I am still waiting for someone to play this and tell me how it feels. The first DX was a masterpiece, DX2 less-so, but still worth the ride. I’m glad Sheldon Pacotti is onboard in some way, but as he’s not the principal writer this time, I wonder if the philosophical themes will be as woven into the game as well. This “cinematic” trailer didn’t even tell me much about that, it decided, instead, to sell me Matrix-cool.

    So, does it get me excited about DX3? No, been there done that. I’m neither uplifted nor disappointed (what do expect from big budget trailers?). It’s wait and see, for me.

    P.S. DX3 lead writer is Mary DeMarle, who has Myst III, IV and V under her belt.

    Reply
    • *Ahem* A trailer is not the game. Sort of.

      What concerns me is that a considerable—dare I say profitable—majority of people still associate the two, consciously or otherwise. And since nearly all the money this game is ever going to earn will be made on or near the release date, trailers like this become even more important to the bottom line. To a savvy (and unscrupulous) publisher, it’s not a question of “how can we make a fun game,” but “how can we make a game that will have a cool trailer?” If a game is designed around its own marketing campaign, the end product is almost certainly going to suffer for it.

      Of course, that’s all worst-case speculation. I’m open to the possibility that Eidos still know what they’re doing and/or actually care about their customers.

      Reply
      • Hmm, so maybe a trailer is not the game – but maybe the game is the trailer… interesting point.

        It is true that even the most cinematic teaser trailer is capable of producing a stationary hype wave along the length of the internet which may well translate into first day sales. I recall seeing this type of comment against negative previews/reviews quite often: “yeah, but I’m gonna buy it anyway, i’m really amped 4 this one”.

        Damn it, where the Hell is the off switch on my cynicism engine?

      • Cynicism off switch? Here, I found it. You just had to scroll down a little.

      • Short term memory strikes again.

      • What! You seem to be suggesting that games with awesome trailers are more likely to suck…because the games may have been made with the trailers in mind. This doesn’t make sense, though, since there isn’t any gameplay footage in this trailer at all–what game design decisions could have been made with this trailer in mind?

        In my opinion some of the best game trailers were those crazy Halo 3 ones that had nothing to do with the game at all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1zWeaVZpsM&feature=channel

      • lauramichet

         /  June 6, 2010

        All of this is very interesting… but I am not at all concerned with the game’s potential quality, or even with the possibility that the trailer bodes evil for the game. I was more curious as to why the kind of trailer that would do well for a movie has been attached to a game, since it made me excited for this game in the way I am for movies. Then again, I know that we can’t talk about this kind of thing on the internet without going into “oh no will it suck” territory.

        I refuse to think or even be worried about the game itself.

      • Laura, you know you can’t go changing the laws of the internet, they’re right up there with Newton’s.

        Here’s my take, right this minute. It may change in 3 hours, I don’t know.

        Making a good game trailer, one that really tells you something about the game and piques your interest, is quite hard. A game is an experience; the trailer is a “low-resolution format” that’s purely passive. You’ve got to find some way of maintaining the experience in this format. We’ve got plenty of history with movie trailer crack that leaves the viewer clamouring for more. TV show trailers, same deal. For a game without much story, you can’t go down this route – but for one with a strong narrative (most big budget games, regardless of genre) you can do crack.

        It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a trailer like this. You’re already trying to put together the dots of what you’ve seen, guess how A.W.E.S.O.M.E. all the stuff you haven’t seen could be – extrapolating out the highs to work out the full experience. It’s stimulating your imagination and it doesn’t matter what the attached media property is – you got the hit. You have to see more. Trailers which do show you some of the game in action will still bleed cutscene in an effort to wet the whole thing with more emotional charge.

        But: I’m rarely moved by movie trailers these days either, as they’re often a package of the best bits or even disingenuous (there was a scene in the Alien Vs Predator trailer of thousands of aliens battling predators – turned out to be a goddamn 10 second historical flashback in the film).

        I’ll be honest – if this was a movie trailer, I wouldn’t be interested. The first thing I’d be thinking is Jesus, someone is trying to do the Matrix again, let it die already and make something new. It looks derivative. There’s not enough obvious story here to warrant interest in the movie “Human Revolution”; this is clearly pushing action, and thus interest in a *game*. If I was being more generous, it might be an action movie where you shouldn’t ask too many questions of the plot.

        The last movie trailer that got me excited was Inception.

      • And here you are, another thought – more positive.

        Like veret suggested right at the start here, the trailer promises an exciting, vibrant world to engage in, one you haven’t seen before, or at least not done so well before (this is not your grandpappy’s Deus Ex). Maybe that’s what works here; it’s selling a unique game environment and context and coupled it with action blockbuster excitement.

      • @Harbour:

        The only laws of the internet I know are Godwin’s and #34, and I devoutly hope neither of them apply here.

        I like that you’ve put your finger on the passivity of game trailers, but I don’t think that “low-resolution” really does justice to the gulf between the trailer and the game. A movie trailer still has all the elements (moving pictures and sound) that make up a movie; it’s just shorter and less coherent. Games have something like that too: Demos. Strip away the interactivity from a game, though, and what you end up with is a closer equivalent to a movie poster than any trailer.

        I think the best way to represent an upcoming game would be to just make the demo as concise and accessible as possible; this way customers will get a (relatively) accurate sense of what they’re getting. But this will never happen if publishers can get away with just doing trailers.

        It’s interesting that your mind leapt to the Matrix here. I was getting a strong sense of Blade Runner (tone), with a little Ultraviolet (tech) and just a dash of Veronica Mars (colors) — links are provided for the culturally impaired. Anyway. I was reminded of two movies and a TV series, you were reminded of a movie trilogy, and I bet nobody here was reminded of a single game. That should drive Laura’s original point home pretty nicely.

        Which leads me to your last point. I am indeed sold on the game’s unique environment, so that’s good (some of you have read my rant on how games without compelling environments tend to suck). But that’s all a game trailer can really do; we know that we never get to do any of the pre-rendered stuff, so who knows how the game is going to play?

        @Kent:

        Sort of. Ish. It’s more of an exploration of How Not To Do It than any actual prediction. And it is at least possible, since a large pile of money spent on the flashy-but-unhelpful trailer means that much less has gone into development. It’s just that games are often at their weakest when they try to be movies, so I’m a little uncomfortable seeing this trailer lean in that direction. But again: I was just covering the “what could go wrong” angle, not the whole picture.

      • @veret: The demo angle did cross my mind, but I had already spilled enough words. The problem with demos is that they are much heavier on the effort on the part of potential consumer than trailers have become (all hail thee youtube and cousins) due to download time and installation. Maybe future developments along the lines of OnLive or the browser being the platform of choice would resolve this (I shuddered as I wrote that). Trailers remain the easiest way to reach an audience. As well as those ridiculous press releases (Laura umbrage: https://secondpersonshooter.com/2010/04/16/having-a-minor-crank-about-games-pr/)

        I could have cited a few other influences I spotted, but I was snipping wordage again. RPS linked this today: http://www.gamingdaily.co.uk/2010/deus-exja-vu/

        I showed the trailer to Mrs. HM, a big fan of the original Deus Ex, but she had the same reaction as me: nonplussed. Very nice trailer, but didn’t really sell us the package, because it didn’t show us the package.

        Last thing veret- I think we’ve written more words on this page than Laura and Kent combined, so I say we kick them out and take over the site. Kent is still suffering from illness and we could easily take him.

      • Holy shitola. XCOM trailer causes massive internet bust-up on RPS comments shocker. No wonder no one wants to show the game in a trailer any more. (Personally, I was intrigued, did not feel like I was being fondled and touched in uncomfortable ways a la the DX3 trailer cinematics)

  5. P.P.S. I love cool trailers. Here’s a recent trailer I dig which is more music video:
    http://www.electrondance.com/?p=19

    Reply
  6. I feel like you’re mostly right, Laura. This trailer very obviously mimics long-established standards for action movie trailers, with an immediate introduction of its visual aesthetic and the first two-thirds exposition, last third sizzle structure used by more or less every film in the genre. That said, this one does seem to spend a bit more time detailing the specific abilities of the protagonist than your typical movie preview would.

    I feel like this sort of trailer might not work so well for a game though. As you say, it’s been designed to imply a measured progression of distinct narrative beats, which is mostly not how games tell stories. In a movie, the protagonist would have exactly one scene with the important sky-scraper man, or perhaps two counting a climactic second meeting at the film’s close. A 10+ hour game will probably see you accepting dozens of similar missions from him, diluting the impact of each encounter.

    I’m not convinced that the distance between action movie heroes and action game heroes is as great as you claim, but oh well.

    Anyways, here’s a couple of film trailers for comparison (from Blade Runner and the Matrix, respectively):

    http://bit.ly/cA9uMx
    http://bit.ly/aZQXxN

    Reply
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