Do you remember back in the day when pre-rendered cutscenes were the coolest shit ever?
I sure do.
Back in the early days of CD based gaming, pre-rendered cutscenes, that is, ones produced outside of the in-game engine; seemed almost like a reward for playing some games.
Remember booting up Final Fantasy VIII for the first time?
Still don’t like that game, but damn that’s a good opening.
In most cases, cutscenes were used to bookend the gaming experience and/or highlight set piece moments that likely couldn’t be produced in-engine.
In keeping line with the (eventual) point of this article, Resident Evil games serve as a good example of this style of implementation for pre-rendered video, though the majority of the minor cutscenes were also produced in-engine.
I know I’ve used that clip before, but I don’t think I need a reason to justify re-using it.
On the other hand though, many other games, particularly in the early and mid-90’s, went so far as to “wow” gamers through essentially structuring the entirety of their gameplay around FMV.
For example, the early multi-platform game Braindead 13, in the tradition of Dragon’s Lair, was essentially one long interactive cutscene:
As was Cyberia, though with several shooting and adventure segments interspersed throughout.
In retrospect, many of these videos served to break up the flow of the gameplay of the games they inhabited, but back in the day, just the act of seeing full-motion video on a game console was akin to bearing witness to black magic.
Maybe it was just the fact that I was very young when it came to prominence, but to me, FMV in games was a big fucking deal.
Now that I’m older and decidedly more curmudgeonly and cynical, know that FMV has it’s ups and downs.
Perhaps one of the biggest “downs” that comes to mind, pertains to it’s use as an advertising tool.
It’s funny, for as long as I can remember, videogame advertising has been obsessed with finding ways to reel people in without showing a pixel of the actual product.
Similar to a horror movie with a shitty-ass monster trying to sell itself by teasing but not showing said sad-ass monster in it’s advertising, videogame advertisers are a sneaky lot that get off on deceiving their audience.
It’s very likely that it’s just a cultural trend that just happened to grow up with me, but for whatever reason, most of the game ads I can remember throughout my life, both print and video; have done well to conceal the nature of the in-game product they were selling.
Hell, in the 90’s, it was far more common to see totally fucked up and insane imagery as game advertisements than it was to see screenshots of the actual games.
Guess that’s to be expected for an era when words like “radical,” “tubular,” and “EXTREME” passed as colloquialisms.
Now that I think of it, even the cover art of most American games was deceiving to some extent, often adopting an art style that was contrary to that of the (very likely Japanese produced) in-game product.
The point I’ve been trying (and failing) to lead up to with all of this, has to do with the new trailer for Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.
In short, I thought the imagery was stunningly rendered, the action sublime, and all in all, I really liked it.
I’m still cautiously optimistic about the game, as though I love the setting of the game, (between #2 and #3, my favorites) as well as the concept, at the end of the day the thing just won’t work without decent gameplay mechanics.
That being said, while this trailer did nothing to address my concerns regarding the gameplay, it did do well by my in the sense that it did what many other pre-rendered trailers have failed to do in recent days:
It showed off actual gameplay mechanics, in the context of a pre-rendered video.
Allow me to explain.
Remember that super-duper overhyped pile of sappy bullshit that was the initial trailer for that super-duper overhyped plate of fuck-sauce that was Dead Island?
Remember how, with the exception of the location, the zombies, and maybe a homemade bludgeoning instrument or 2, absolutely nothing in that trailer was featured in the actual game?
Well, that my friend is an example of a game company trying to sell it’s “meh” product with an overproduced ad campaign.
While it’s entirely possible that Capcom is essentially trying to do the same thing with Raccoon City, I appreciate the fact that they took the time to inject their fancy FMV trailer with a few nods to the actual gameplay.
How did they do this, you say?
With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, that’s how.
I don’t know if you’ve been following the development of Raccoon City with the same fervor I have, but if you’re at all in the loop, you’ll have noticed that many of the sillier and less organic moments in the trailer reflect actual elements of the gameplay.
For instance, there is a sequence wherein one of the Umbrella commandos notes that a man’s blood trail is going to attract zombies and other creatures.
Later on, a pheromone grenade is tossed during a battle, leading to one of the soldiers spouting exposition regarding it’s function in attracting monsters.
Throughout the trailer there are instances of melee combat peppered throughout.
Towards the end, there was a sequence where a soldier grabbed hold of a zombie and used him as a human shield.
All of the techniques listed above were confirmed to be usable in-game in some capacity long before this trailer dropped.
Not only that, the underlying story behind the trailer, the clashing of Umbrella and government sponsored troops amidst a battlefield of T-Virus creatures, fits the mission statement of the game to a “T”
In short, I’m proud of Capcom for putting their name on a trailer as beautiful and informative as this one.
Sure, the script was kind of shitty, (what Japanese-written English script isn’t?) but at the end of the day, I’m just happy the damn thing at least tries to exposit some of the gameplay mechanics despite the decidedly pre-rendered nature of the video.
Pre-rendered video trailers are a double-edged sword in many ways.
They are useful for building hype, in that they are often beautiful and cinematic in nature, however too often they pay far too little service as to the actual nature of the product they are selling.
In a perfect world, movies and games would be advertised strictly with materials cut directly from the source material, however when budgets get inflated to the point they’re at nowadays, I can see why production companies feel the need to put together these fancy ads on the off chance they might get a few more buyers than they would otherwise.
All it takes is a bunch of dumbasses thinking this represents what they buy when they pick up World of Warcraft: