ByRob Harris, writer at
Sometimes I play video games.
Rob Harris

Have you ever watched an eye-poppingly good-looking demo for a video game and had a niggling doubt that it looks just a little too good to be true?

Often early footage of an unreleased game is, understandably so, a little rough around the edges while still in development. But when a pre-release version of a game looks significantly better than the finished playable product, us gamers are left feeling cheated and more than a little misled.

Uncharted 4: Drake's Disappointment

The recent gameplay debut of Naughty Dog's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is a prime example of developers setting up players' expectations with a stunning trailer, only to fail to deliver on the performance they've promised. Take a look at Reddit user Sloshy42's telling comparison below:

The game doesn't look bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly doesn't look as good as it did 6 months back.

On the left is a shot of Uncharted 4's E3 trailer, said to be running on PS4 hardware. On the right is an in-game shot from the recently released gameplay premiere. The lighting detail isn't nearly as impressive in the actual game, nor are the textures as detailed.

This isn't the first time the series has promised a level of graphical fidelity it cannot deliver on...

Uncharted 3: Sony's Deception

Image credit: scoopdawg
Image credit: scoopdawg

As you can see above, Uncharted 3's pre-release footage was, again, much more impressive than the finished product gamers ended up buying. Don't get me wrong, Uncharted 3 is one of the best looking games on the PS3, so its graphics speak for themselves. Misleading players with unattainable performance levels is at best unnecessary and at worst deceitful.

The Uncharted series is far from alone when it comes to marketing make-believe gameplay footage. Check out some of the industry's worst offenders...

Watch Dogs

When Watch Dogs premiered at E3 2012 it blew gamers away with its stunning visuals and silky smooth frame rate. Unfortunately, the actual game looked like a completely different product! Even on high-end PCs, the game didn't look anywhere near as good as initially advertised.

Forza Motorsport 5

Forza 5's in-game racing fan crowds look laughably bad when compared to their appearance in the trailer. Less 'photo-realistic' graphics, more a disposable camera's cut-and-pasted snaps.

Alien: Colonial Marines

Like Uncharted, Alien: Colonial Marines' lighting suffered a significant downgrade from its early gameplay footage. What was once an atmospheric, moody corridor with fully-interactive breakable glass, became a bright and ineffective 'gamey' environment.

An Unfortunate Trend

I understand that trailers are often created as an aspirational reflection of how the developers hope the game will eventually play, but sometimes they simply set their sights unrealistically high.

When games look as stunning as they do these days, it's not necessary to dupe gamers with unrealistic aspirations that cannot be met. Hopefully, it's a trend that won't continue for long.


Which graphical disparity is the most severe?


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