Games That Changed After Their Demos

Game development is hard. There are so many things that developers want to incorporate into their games, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Whether it be a new graphics engine or a new advanced lighting technology, developers have to make hard choices about what to leave on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, these choices come long after the games have been revealed to the public, and the final products end up with major differences from what was initially shown.

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At best, people will forget about what was shown and move on. At worst, people will remember every single detail that was promised to them in reveal trailers and game demos and scrutinize the game’s final release if there are any differences. Here are some that definately changed.

8 Halo 2

Master Chief On The Halo 2 box art

After the success of Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001, the eyes of gaming world were focused on Bungie to produce a follow-up one of the most revered first-person shooters of all time. Halo was revolutionary, pioneering what are now standard control schemes for most first-person shooters, and its gameplay was unrivaled by any other similar games at the time of its release. Halo 2 was going to need to go above and beyond.

At E3 2003, Bungie unveiled Halo 2, complete with a live demo. At the beginning, a short cutscene plays with Halo character Sergeant Johnson claiming that the demo is in real time, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The engine that the demo ran couldn’t be run on the original Xbox, and much of the content in the game wouldn’t make it to the final product due to Halo 2’s rocky development. Despite the deception and development trouble, Halo 2 was reworked and launched in 2004 to rave reviews and had the most successful entertainment product launch in history at the time.

7 Bioshock Infinite

1900s Games Bioshock Infinite Booker Elizabeth

Bioshock Infinite’s 2011 E3 demo was stunning. In the demo, protagonist Booker DeWitt walks around the floating city of Columbia, encountering NPCs who intelligently react to DeWitt’s actions. DeWitt also makes use of Colombia’s Sky-Line system, an expansive network of rails that he uses to travel across Colombia’s many floating platforms. And Elizabeth, DeWitt’s companion in the game, is seen showcasing her unique powers, tearing open rips in the universe to help DeWitt in combat.

Unfortunately, many of the features in the demo were stripped back for the final release. The artificial intelligence of NPCs was scaled back, the Sky-Line became much more focused and limited to mission areas, and Elizabeth’s powers and interactivity were dampened. While Bioshock Infinite was met with great review scores, the game’s reputation has worsened over the years, and the dynamic qualities of demo have left players wondering what the game could have been.

6 Watchdogs

Watch_Dogs

When Ubisoft unveiled Watch Dogs at E3 2012, it took the gaming world by storm. The demo looked gorgeous. From the reflections in rain puddles to the lighting of the city streets, every aspect of the game looked beautiful. It was clear that Watch Dogs was going to herald the standard for graphical fidelity on the next generation of consoles

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However, when it was released in 2014, players noticed that the game’s visuals took a significant hit. Reflections in the water were murky, and the lighting in the game looked muted. While the gameplay was virtually same on release as it was in the demo, gamers were still disappointed. The visuals in the final release were a far cry from what gamers saw at E3 2012, and the reputation of Watch Dogs is marred to this day.

5 Anthem

Anthem Exosuit

It’s no secret that Anthem fell flat. Initially reveled at E3 2017, Anthem’s demo showcased impressive lighting, environment details, and dynamic character interactions which gave the game a cinematic look. The game’s world appeared to be massive, featuring large draw distances of landmarks far off in the distance. At first, Anthem was impressive. The game built up plenty of hype before its release, but its release proved to be its downfall.

Similar to Watch Dogs, Anthem received a significant visual downgrade from its E3 demo. The lighting was less impressive, environmental details present in the demo were removed, and characters were less dynamic and interactive in the final release. Furthermore, the scale of the world was dialed back, being noticeably less expansive than the world shown in the E3 demo. What’s more, various technical issues prevented players from progressing. Loot from enemies came at a snail’s pace, and a glitch made an early game rifle the strongest weapon in the game, making gear progression useless. Developer support for Anthem ended in early 2021.

4 Killzone 2

Killzone 2, developed by Guerrilla Games, was first shown at E3 2005 ahead of the launch of the PlayStation 3. At the time, the trailer blew everyone’s expectations out of the water, featuring complicated volumetric smoke simulations and state-of-the-art performance capture technology. However, there was some confusion whether it featured actual gameplay.

Turns out, the Killzone 2 trailer shown at E3 2005 was pre-rendered, only a vision of what the final product might look like. In aftermath, several Guerrilla developers have gone on record stating that Sony is responsible for the trailer being shown at that year’s E3, and that it was only intended to be shown behind closed doors.

3 Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens Colonial Marines

Aliens: Colonial Marines had many bumps in the road during its development cycle. In 2006, Sega acquired the rights to the Aliens franchise and announced a partnership with Gearbox Software to develop the game. Unfortunately, Gearbox found itself unable to handle the project alongside the development of Borderlands 2 and Duke Nukem Forever, so they outsourced the development to a company called TimeGate.

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TimeGate took over development with oversight from Gearbox, and they produced the demo for Aliens: Colonial Marines which was shown at E3 2012. The demo had amazing lighting effects, high detail textures, and exhilarating combat, but when the game came out, it was a mess. According to developers who were interviewed by Kotaku, Gearbox took over development in mid-2012, scraped much of the content, and changed everything. When the game released in 2013, it was heavily criticized for looking and playing nothing like its demo.

Metal Gear Solid 2 box art depicting a stylized Solid Snake holding a pistol with a silencer attached

Directed by acclaimed video game director, Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was set to be the follow-up to Solid Snake’s story that left off in Metal Gear Solid. The demo disc for Metal Gear Solid 2 arrived in March 2001, shipping with copies of a game called Zone of the Enders. The demo saw the return of one the most iconic action heroes in gaming, Solid Snake, and his mission partner, Otacon, and it featured the first full stage of the game. The demo proved that Metal Gear Solid 2 was going significant visual and technical upgrade over the original game, featuring graphical techniques made possible by the power of the PlayStation 2.

When Metal Gear Solid 2 was released in November 2001, players found everything to be the same. Same tight gameplay, same Solid Snake. However, after they completed the beginning portion of the game, Solid Snake disappeared and was replaced with a new protagonist, Raiden. In fact, Raiden was absent from all the marketing material for the game and his existence proved to be quite a shock at the time. While players still got a proper Metal Gear Solid experience with Metal Gear Solid 2, the game ended up nothing like anyone expected it to be.

1 No Man’s Sky

No Man's Sky character Killing Sentinels

When No Man’s Sky was announced in 2013, it was primed to change the gaming landscape forever. Infinite, procedurally generated worlds, unique flora and fauna on every planet, seamless space travel, and more. Everything in No Man’s Sky was above and beyond what other developers were doing at the time, and it was going to be accomplished by an indie studio called Hello Games.

When No Man’s Sky was released in 2016, gamers were not pleased. Many of the features promised to be in the game were simply not there. However, after a comeback no one expected, today, No Man’s Sky is one of the best sandbox games ever made.

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