'Shenmue III' Explores the Uncanny Valley in First Teaser Trailer

Meet not their lidless gaze.
August 21, 2017, 11:36pm

There's something a bit unsettling about the Shenmue III trailer that dropped today. Like, haunted doll unsettling.

The Shenmue series was originally meant to be a massive multi-part epic, but only ever got two installments deep before fizzling out entirely. This explains why, 15 years later, fans were eager to contribute to a Shenmue III Kickstarter that was announced during E3 2015, raising $6 million in the span of a single month.


Now don't get me wrong, 80% of that trailer is gorgeous. The lighting is warm and radiant, the scenery rich and detailed, the colors vibrant and beautiful… But the characters. The characters just don't look right.

For one thing their hands are almost always shown in loose fists, almost like little action figures, which makes them look almost baby-sized compared to their bodies. Their faces are meanwhile perhaps a little too old-school, clinging to the cartoonish shapes and rigid lack of expression that were once a necessity because of where the technology was at. Held up against surroundings that literally glow with current-gen good-looks, though, it just makes Ryo and co. look out of place.

And then of course there are the eyes. Flat, unshaded, looking like they're set way too far forward in their sockets. They almost look painted on. Doll-like. Fixed on the middle distance, uncanny and dead.

Mass Effect: Andromeda had some issues of its own with glassy-eyed stares and it took a post-release patch to resolve, so there's a chance some of these issues may yet be ironed out. It's also likely that some aspects are an intentional nod to the first two Shenmue games and may just take some getting used to on the part of players, like the "classic" face designs.

Those eyes, though…. There's no getting used to them.