We live in a time where technology is becoming absolutely amazing with the things it can accomplish; Planning Mars missions, building AI’s like SIRI into our devices and, most importantly, the capability to create bigger and better video games.
As games have developed so have the stories behind them. What was once “Mario save the Princess” became “Mario save the Princess from Bowser”, became “Mario save the Princess from Bowser in space n 3D planets because you’re our saviour”, finally became *Insert cut scene of storytelling here*. It’s truly remarkable how games have come from moving left and right to blow up spaceships to moving left and right and forwards, and backwards to blow up spaceships because you are someone of importance to the galaxy. Thanks to technology we now have games that craft stories to give them more purpose and for them to deliver their purpose onto us, the players, for us to fulfil.
However… In an attempt to merge story and gameplay, the infamous “quick time event” was created. But are quick time events bad?
This is a question I’m going to answer. The short answer is yes, depending on the level of how cinematic they are and for what reason they are cinematic. Let me now give you the long answer, so you might understand what I mean.
Games that are too cinematic often suffer from poor gameplay or levels. Not always, but sometimes. Take, for example, Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare. “Press F To Pay Respects”. Was a button really needed for this? Was it important to the gameplay or story? No. If you wanted an emotional funeral moment then allowing the player to walk around the funeral and discover Kevin Spacey for ourselves would have been far more immersive and effective. Now take Halo 4 as another example. “Press RB to plant grenade” (Or RT to fire machine gun if you play the MCC). Halo 4 built up the power of its primary villain, the Didact, to a level unparalleled by any single person, even the player… But he’s killed by the worst grenade in the game… In a quick time event.
In my Halo 4 example, rather than having an awesome one on one fight with the Didact, in which the player defeats him by getting through his various stages and health bars, the player is stripped of all freedom and told exactly what to do and when to do it in order to complete the game. In Advanced Warfare the player is forced to pay respects to some dead guy we knew for five minutes who’s death was emotionless, because we also saw five hundred other soldiers on our side get ploughed down in the very same battle, in the previous level.
This is my gripe with quick time events; They take away the players freedom for the sake of a “cool” cinematic moment. Halo 4 wants us to think “Wow how cool was that grenade kill” instead of “I wish I could have killed the bad guy my own way”, and Advanced Warfare wants us to think “Aw, I’m so sad that what’s-his-face died”, instead of “who’s funeral am I at again?” They put the player on rails with no control. The player has no option other than to do what the quick time event tells them or they fail.
But not all quick time events are bad in games. Some games do them perfectly. Take Ryse: Son of Rome. In Ryse you can execute enemies by performing quick time events. But whether you get the buttons right or wrong doesn’t effect the animation; You get the kill even if you miss every button. However if you get all the buttons right, and in short time, you receive extra points and health regeneration for the kill. This type of quick time event does not limit the players freedom because the player has chosen to enter the event and the event does not impact the over all story of the game. Furthermore it compliments the gameplay because, if the player is quick at hitting the buttons and gets them all correct, they receive health and bonus points. Most importantly it doesn’t put you on rails. Can you see how unlike the examples I used from Halo 4 and Advanced Warfare, Ryse is able to use cinematic quick time events without sucking the players freedom away? This is because the quick time events in Ryse compliment the gameplay rather than pandering to the story.
There are some quick time events, however, I can excuse in games that are bad by my definition. The way I described bad quick time events could lead you to believe I think games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us or various other choice based games are bad, but that’s not what I think. This is because, I would argue, the core gameplay of those games revolves around the in-game choices we make as we play the story and that the quick time events are just filler so we don’t get bored by overwhelming amounts of dialogue. However, I will admit that in TellTale’s latest release, Guardians Of The Galaxy, I would have preferred to (SPOILERS) fight and kill Thanes myself rather than quick time him to death.
So though quick time events may not be inherently bad, there are definetly right and wrong ways to go about implementing them into games. Some games do them better than others and others fall flat on their faces… *Cough* Advanced Warfare *cough*. Despite my bias hatred for them in general, I do have fond memories of kicking ass in God Of War. Even so, I do think games should stick to letting the player maintain their freedom to do whatever they want, even if it means sacrificing a cinematic moment because gameplay is more important that a brief, momentary spectacle.