Summer Game Fest Trailers - The Good and The Bad (and The PC-only)

Summer Game Fest Trailers - The Good and The Bad (and The PC-only)

Matt Lorrigan

I really love getting excited about video games. It wouldn’t feel like summer without a downpour of delicious video game trailers and extravagant presentations, and even with E3 cancelled for the second time in three years, we’re still getting a bevy of juicy gameplay reveals, CGI cutscenes, and, say it with me, ‘World Premieres’. With publishers able to utilise digital presentations and social media to announce their products at any time of the year, there’s really no more need for this summer rush; and yet, the summer trailer season persists. Summer Game Fest is here, and we’re still calling it E3 season. E3 is dead, long live E3.

Things kicked off in a big way yesterday with Geoff Kieghley’s Summer Game Fest Showcase, followed by Devolver Digital’s amusing annual Devolver Direct. We didn’t get quite as many megaton announcements as some viewers might have expected, but what we did get was a selection of excellent trailers - and a few rubbish ones as well. But what separates the best video game trailers from the slightly naff ones? And will some of those cool looking PC-only titles come to Xbox? Let us break it down for you below.


The Good

The Callisto Protocol

During the first half of The Callisto Protocol’s showing at Summer Game Fest, it really felt like it would be heading into the ‘bad’ pile. The horror title from former Dead Space devs only got an extended (and bloodier) version of a trailer that we’d already seen, followed by a nice but short interview with studio head Glen Schofield. And then. Then we got our first extended look at uncut gameplay footage. The Callisto Protocol not only looks brilliantly scary and atmospheric, but basically looks like a new Dead Space game, and, on that front, we couldn’t be happier. Minimal UI with health and ammo displayed in-universe? Check. Industrial sci-fi setting that feels grounded and grimy? Check. Impactful weapons, gruesome sound effects, and even more gruesome baddies? Check check check. The Callisto Protocol was already high on our most anticipated lists, and this trailer pushed us over the edge. Roll on December!


Goat Simulator 3

It would take something special for an entirely CGI video with no gameplay to make it onto our list of good trailers. But luckily, Goat Simulator 3’s trailer was exactly that. Playing on the fact that the original Goat Simulator game launched with a trailer that riffed on Dead Island’s legendary announcement trailer, Goat Simulator 3 was announced with a trailer that satirises the trailer for Dead Island 2 instead. This is a reference that only those of us who have been following video game news for nearly a decade would get, but it landed perfectly, and also managed to show off some of what to expect from the silly goat sequel. Excellent work.


The Plucky Squire

Debuting during the Devolver Digital Direct, The Plucky Squire is one of the most accomplished video game trailers out there. In this single short trailer, Devolver manages to set up the game as a playable story book (which looks great in its own right) before throwing us a curveball as the titular little cartoon squire jumps out of the pages of the book and into the 3D world around him. In the space of 69 seconds (nice) we already have a fantastic understanding of how The Plucky Squire will play, but we’re still left wanting more. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the art design is gorgeous, as well. This is an upcoming indie that we won’t be forgetting about anytime soon.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

The Modern Warfare II gameplay reveal proves that you don’t need to be that interested in a game for it to have a good trailer. I haven’t purchased a new Call of Duty game for a while now, but Modern Warfare II’s campaign still looks brilliant. The fact that it’s so obviously calling back to the excellent ‘Crew Expendable’ level of Call of Duty 4 might come off as a little derivative to some, but for the wider gaming audience, it absolutely works. Modern Warfare II might just look like more Call of Duty, but this is still an excellently paced trailer, full of gameplay, and some near-photorealistic visuals, which will never not be fun to watch.


The Bad


I may have absolutely no authority when talking about video game trailers, but I still have one golden rule - if you’re announcing a new game in a brand new franchise, you absolutely have to include some gameplay. Stormgate is a perfect example of what happens when you break this rule. Sure, the CGI trailer shows me some cool looking sci-fi elements mingling with demons, but what sort of game is it? Is it a sidescroller? A third-person shooter? Sure, we got a few details and a couple of screenshots in a developer interview afterwards, but by that point, we’d already lost a lot of interest. Oh, so Stormgate is an RTS? Show us that upfront so we can get excited! With ex-Blizzard developers behind it, I’ve no doubt that Stormgate will be something interesting, but this is a poor trailer to reveal it with.


Aliens: Dark Descent

The debut trailer for Aliens: Dark Descent suffered from a different problem to Stormgate. This is a new game in an existing IP - Aliens, if you hadn’t worked that one out - but its CGI trailer made it look like so many of the Aliens titles that have come before. If you watched the majority of this trailer assuming it was going to be another squad-based third-person or first-person shooter, you certainly weren’t alone. And even though Aliens: Dark Descent did eventually show off gameplay, we wouldn’t be surprised if you blinked and missed it, considering how short it was. We’re actually quite excited for a top-down single-player Aliens shooter, but this wasn’t the best way to show it off.


Gotham Knights

Okay, this might be more of a personal gripe than anything else, but I’m utterly baffled at why WB Games decided to show off more Nightwing gameplay during Summer Game Fest. We literally got fourteen minutes of Gotham Knights gameplay focused on Nightwing and Red Hood exactly a month ago, and every time we see more of Gotham Knights, I feel like we’re barely seeing anything at all. Remember when Gotham Knights was first shown off, and we got that brilliant walkthrough of Batgirl and Robin taking on Mr. Freeze? Sure, the game didn’t look perfect, but at least it looked exciting. Nothing I’ve seen since that first trailer has made me any more hyped for the game, this Nightwing trailer included. Hopefully we’ll see more of Gotham Knights soon, but I can’t help but feel like this trailer didn’t need to be at Summer Game Fest at all.


The PC Only


One of the most frustrating things about watching these shows as a console player is seeing trailers for really cool looking games, only to find out they’re only in development for PC. First up on our “god I really hope this comes to Xbox” list is Witchfire, a first-person shooter in a dark fantasy world. The mix of demonic enemies, steampunk firearms, and elemental magic is exactly ‘my shit’, and the trailer is just pure gameplay from beginning to end. By the time the action winds up and the title appears, you just want to jump in yourself. With the creative leads of Painkiller and Bulletstorm behind this game, we’re really hopeful that Witchfire makes its way to consoles in the near future.


Skate Story

Devolver Digital knows how to put together a good trailer, doesn’t it? With an intriguing graphical style and excellent-looking boarding gameplay, Skate Story is already set up to appeal, but this latest trailer for the title combines some excellent slow-motion shots, cracking music, and creates an electric, fast-paced atmosphere. The simple line reading “Coming to PC in 2023” in the video’s description nearly broke my heart, but it’s worth watching the trailer anyway. This will surely arrive on Xbox eventually…right?


So that’s our rundown of some of our favourite - and least favourite - trailers of Summer Game Fest so far. All things considered, it was a good showing - I don’t think any of the ‘bad trailers’ actually look like bad games, after all - but let us know what your favourite trailers were down in the comments below.

  • I didn’t even see the show due to work but to find it so underwhelming was a let down. Trailers are cool and all but announcements are better and while I know that this is already between different dates and publishers, I am still more of E3 mentality.

    Having said that Calysto and MW2 are day one no brainers. Routine and Aliens would be my next 2 most anticipated.
  • Completely agree on that Stormgate trailer, the whole time I was watching that I was confused as hell just trying to get my brain to remember if this is an existing franchise or is it something I'm supposed to know, only to be completely baffled when it was revealed to be a RTS game.
  • Interested in Callisto and Squire. Nothing else looked that great, tbh. Hopefully the MS/Bethesda showcase will bring the hype.
  • I dunno... I often find most of these events pointless to a degree, because they are more often than not, lackluster than interesting. It's why I usually wait until afterward when everyone's seen what's revealed, and then I just cherry pick what may look interesting.

    Finally acquired a Series X last week, so I'm interested in Callisto, but taking that with a pinch of salt.

    As for CGI trailers... I find them annoying, in my opinion. I want to see the actual game in action, how it plays, how it looks, etc. Anybody can make an exciting CGI trailer. For me, As soon as I see a CGI trailer, you've got about 10 seconds to show me gameplay or I'm moving on.
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