Game trailers are, often, perfect lies. Sometimes they’re just perfect. This is one of those times.
There are so many impressive choices here. The constant time lapse tracking shot through the empty New York, the moments of human tragedy we hear but don’t see and the mournful, driving music all create an atmosphere that’s more post-apocalypse than techno-thriller.
Then, at 2.30, something extraordinary happens. Someone turns and faces the horrors of the city and the trailer shifts gear. Suddenly we can see everyone, because someone has been brave enough to actually look at this vast, impossible tragedy. The imagery, the music and the dialogue all knot tightly together and the emotional impact is extraordinary. The shot of what is presumably the main character’s face over the line ‘Put us all back together’ could have been the standard white male protagonist hero pose. Instead, look at him; he’s tired, scared, saddened by what he’s having to do and the enormity of the tragedy. Look at how he and his team deploy; they don’t want to kill these two men but they will if they have to. Look at the guys they’re facing down; scarred, ill, cobbled together gear and weaponry, as scared and panicked as the man they’re chasing, That’s an extraordinary tonal step change for a game like this and it’s not even the first one in the trailer. This seems to be, or at least is presented as, a piece of rescue fiction. The objective here isn’t just to kill the bad guys, it’s to put a city that doesn’t want to be healed back together. If even half that concept is executed well, The Division is going to be unlike any other game in it’s field.
That’s borne out by how they react to the guys on the truck showing up. There’s no immediate engagement, no guns blazing. In fact there’s not a single shot fired on screen. Instead, the first thing they do is get their principle to safety and the second is dig in. There’s even a character beat encoded into the final shot of the lead; hunched over his rifle, eyes narrowed, not scared anymore. This, protecting someone, is easy. Because everyone saved is one more person who can help with the mission we see in the final image; taking back New York. Saving a city from itself. It’s an amazingly powerful piece of footage and sets standards for the game very high. Regardless of whether or not it meets those stands, here is this week’s Sunday Moment of Zen.