I had a pre-roll ad for the new Ultimate Edition of Gears of War before a Datto video pop up the other day, and it got me thinking a bit about gaming commercials. For me, that first Gears of War ad, with Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” still is one of the all time greatest commercials for a game. So today, to kinda take a breather from Destiny talk, as well as a take a break before we hit the crazy season, I thought I would pick out a couple really strong commercials from the last few years.
GEARS OF WAR – “MAD WORLD”
I said that this was the one that got me thinking about this topic, so I think it’s the perfect place to start. It’s maybe a little hard to think about this ad now – with the continued success of gaming as an industry, gaming ads have had to step up the quality of ads. This commercial, for a brand new franchise, was a little different. It was short – the original run was only about 30 seconds. It wasn’t showing cut together gameplay footage, with some dubstep in the background. Instead, it focused on the emotional side of a game that was already heavy on the cheesy testosterone. We knew about chainsaw machine guns and all the action that was coming, but this trailer decided to forego that side of the game. Using a song that is airy and simple and has a decidedly depressing feel to it really helped create the sense going in to that first game that the world really is ending. The Locust have overrun us, and this is the last ditch effort to stop them – and we might not make it. All of that in a really short ad – it was a fantastic way for the franchise to open. So much so, that they’ve essentially remade the commercial for the new Xbox One anniversary edition.
HALO 3/ODST – BUBBLE SHIELD/LIVE ACTION
There’s two classic Halo ads that I really can still remember as being just ahead of their time, and still resonating with the fanbase. First up was the Halo 3 ad, showing off the Bubble Shield for the first time. Sure, it was a CG trailer, but the scale of the battle being shown, and the fact that Master Chief was clearly hopelessly outnumbered, really I think helped cement the fact that this was the end of the story. Now, we know now that Master Chief wasn’t done with us yet, but at the time, Halo 3 was all about Finishing the Fight. This particular trailer really I think helped give that feeling – Chief was pulling out all the stop on this battle. Shortly after Halo 3, we got the side-game ODST. It’s a horribly underrated game I think – it’s short sure, but fills a super important role in fleshing out the storyline in Halo. It’s got a really cool story telling mechanic too – seriously, it’s part of the Master Chief Collection now, I fully recommend playing it. And as part of the ad campaign for it, we got one of the best live-action trailers I’ve ever seen for a game. Showing the process of becoming one of the ODST soldiers, before culminating in the actual drop into combat. I still think it’s one of the better live-action trailers out there, even almost 8 years later.
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS
Sticking with the idea of live-action trailers, I very clearly remember the Black Ops live-action trailer. It was a bit of a shift in tone for the series, it took into account the rather crazy setting that is online multiplayer, while also acknowledging the popularity the series had hit. This was the first one that really featured a bunch of celebrities in the action. They’ve used this formula a couple times again, usually when they start talking multiplayer. It’s a trend that’s caught on – Madden NFL has really taken that idea and run crazy with it. This year’s ad in particular is just crazy – it’s about 5 minutes and is honestly pretty entertaining.
There are always a ton more ads to look at – and I know that I missed a whole bunch. But that’s one of the best part of gaming – it is just like music or TV or movies, everyone likes different things. I picked a few ads that I really loved – hell I actually went and downloaded that Gears of War ad way back in high school to show my friends. And I also neglected to mention trailers – the Fallout 3 reveal trailer was awesome, but it wasn’t a TV ad. Trailers are a whole different beast and there are way more amazing trailers than commercials I think. As we get into the last couple weeks before the new crop of games is unleashed, we’ll start to see a bunch more great commercials and trailers. Just keep your eyes peeled, and maybe don’t skip that YouTube ad immediately.