The reveal trailer for The Last of Us Part II is a masterclass in teasing a very specific audience: fans of the original game. The trailer uses excellent pacing and shot selection to maximize the tension/suspense, then pay it off in ever increasing waves of excitement.
The reason this trailer was able to do this so successfully was partially due to the existing fans of the first game, and also the fact it debuted during a live show at PlayStation Experience 2016. The captive audience watching the trailer with no introduction meant they went in with no foreknowledge of what to expect other than a PlayStation game; this gave the trailer the element of surprise and curiosity.
The trailer is about 4 minutes long, but it's broken up into sections which each have their own arc of suspense which captures the audience, holds onto them, and then rewards them. Let's look through each of these segments shot by shot. The important thing to consider when analyzing each segment is:
What does the audience want to know?
If you keep that in mind, it'll become clear just how smartly the trailer plays to each question.
The first question is: What is this game?
Cut to black.
This ends the first segment. Cutting to black after the Fireflies logo reveal is like declaring the logo reveal was the high point of the segment; cutting to black after the big reveal is the trailer dropping a microphone.
The logo for Naughty Dog then appears after a beat of black. Anyone who played The Last of Us of course already knew the game is made by Naughty Dog, but the logo confirms it for people who didn't play the original game. The Naughty Dog logo also feels to me like the studio shouting to the audience: "That's right, we're back!!!"
Cut to black.
The second segment begins on the shot of someone's shaking hand covered in blood; their clothing appears to be smeared with blood. The tattooed arm settles on the strings of an acoustic guitar.
Second question: Who is this character? Is it Ellie?
The following shots stay on a tight angles of the hands adjusting the guitar. A full 30 seconds is spent on these three closeup shots of the guitar player. The trailer knows the audience wants to know whether or not it's Ellie, so it takes its sweet time before revealing it is Ellie playing the guitar. We hear her start singing, but the camera angles still stay tight.
Third question: What does Ellie look like? How old is she?
As Ellie sings we get some shots of rundown surroundings. We also see injuries on her body; blood streams down her face, but we still don't get a full view of her face. After Ellie starts singing another 30 seconds pass, and there's a shot of the hand of a body on the ground; in the background we see the silhouette of a blurry figure emerging.
Fourth question: Who is this figure? Is it Joel?
There's a closeup of the figure's feet walking towards Ellie, but we're still not sure who it is. The camera tilts up to reveal the figure is holding a revolver; this was Joel's weapon of choice in the first game. We still don't know for sure whether or not it's Joel. The figure walks past a dead body in a bathroom. There's a slow pan as the figure stops outside the room Ellie is in. We still don't see the figure's full face, but we can see he has a beard. Is it Joel!?
It's been about a minute since the blurry figure appeared, and we hear him ask: "What are you doing, kiddo?"
The camera angle is still wide, we still haven't had a good look at Ellie's face. Joel asks: "You really going to go through with this?" Ellie turns away from the camera as she sets aside her guitar.
"I'm going to find, and I'm going to kill. Every. Last. One of them."
Just under 30 seconds after Joel revealed himself, we see a closeup of Ellie's entire face with a look of determination.
Cut to black.
The music of Gustavo Santaolalla starts playing. This is yet another exciting reveal for the fans; the composer of the first game has returned for the sequel.
A logo starts to reveal itself starting first as a blurry blob. It takes its sweet time to reveal that it says THE LAST OF US. Even to the last moment, the trailer is still playing with the audience. Even though we've long known this is a Last of Us game, seeing the logo just makes it that much more real. The final reveal below the logo:
Of course, we knew it's a sequel to the first game, but this not only tells us the naming convention they're using for this sequel, but "Part II" also implies there's a possibility for additional parts in the future.
That is a VERY well made teaser. They clearly understood who their audience is, and what they wanted to see. This helped them carefully design the moments with waves of suspense followed by rewards every step of the way. Had the sequence of shots or camera angles been chosen with less thought, each reveal wouldn't have been nearly as gripping or rewarding.
There are lessons to be taken from this even if the trailer you're making isn't a linear story. Just do your best to be aware of the questions that exist in the audience's mind. If you're making a trailer for a sequel, there are questions before the first shot even shows up. But if you're starting from a blank slate with a new and original game, the shots which start the trailer are what inspire the questions which it's your choice to then answer or not depending on what it is you want the audience to know when the trailer is finished.
Simply ask yourself: "What does the audience want to know now?" and then design your shot selection around how to either tease them with the information or reward them. Then move onto the next question, and reward them in a way which is increasingly exciting and fulfilling. If you succeed they'll both feel satisfied, and yet still want to know more!