Cutscenes. Which on paper sound like horrible additions to video games. Games have one thing for them that no other art form can touch, Interactivity. Cut scenes take out the strongest part of gaming and turn it into a television show for a few minutes. Let us explore why.
Perhaps there are layers to the story that we aren’t visible through just gameplay. The cut scene use to be a treasured moment when the graphical curtain would peel back and show a highly rendered reward. Final Fantasy seven and onward just wouldn't function without their videos. The series in particular uses them as breadcrumbs to drive forward the slower and sometimes repetitive gameplay.
In a modern era of in game renders, do we need classic cinema? Does the story not unfold itself better in games like Half Life or Bioshock because of the first person immersion? Are we bound even in storyless shmups to watch minutes of droll conversation?
Maybe it’s about setting the tone. Skyrim does a decent job of showing you what the game is about in the opening act. Who doesn't love long walks to various dragon infested locations? Modern Warfare 2's intro spins us on our heels. Expecting to Rambo our way through a tutorial level, we are instead shown just how weak a soldier can feel. The game defines itself on reminding us that death is only a misstep away from the intro onward.
Some become parodies in length and pacing. Xenosaga as a trilogy has a over thirty hours of just people talking. No control, just more than a day’s content of Chaos talking about his most recent hair cut. It stretches past most animes at that point. So perhaps Xeno would have functioned better just as a serial.
Other games use their Vlogs as a reason to exist. No one can honestly say they were more focused on the combat part of Persona. That game turns social media into the core dynamic. Sure you may disguise that you were playing it for the strategic dungeons, but we all know it was about that next sweet, sweet conversation with Yukiko.
Hotline Miami crosses a bridge, where the rare occurrences where the game takes control out of your hands are after exhausting victories. The only moments that can truly be classified as cutscenes are handful of eerie dream sequences that ask the player just why they are murdering countless thugs. The question lingers as you return to the next breakneck speed gameplay.
Let us quietly discuss Quick Time Events because if developers hear us even whisper about them they will infest our every action all over again. Justifying your cutscene with button presses is rarely a good idea. Resident Evil 4 handled it well, because Resident Evil 4 handled everything well. The knife fight with Krauser was an awesome start to a boss fight, and running from boulders should feel that frantic. Outside of the iconic zombie killer though, I struggle to think of another game that handled them with class. Heavy Rain was hardly more than a drawn out press button now simulator, and functions far better as a let’s play than a game. They’ve recently scarred The Order 1886, and I doubt it will be the last to suffer. QTE’s feel as if they were born of a tired designer thinking pressing the elevator button multiple times should make it come faster. If only that were true for the first Mass Effect.
Should the Cut Scene be defining? How many games do we remember by their dramatic moments? Some are praised for their gameplay, but many Role Playing Games seem singularly focused on their polished high moments. Rose colored glasses take their hold, as games I remember being in awe of, are really hard to push through a second time years later. How many of us have bothered with Bioshock Infinite more than once? Maybe that is a poor example, I don't think I would bother sitting down for the Sixth Sense again either.
Perhaps I am being too hard on Cutscenes, after all they are Video Games.
They are also really easy to edit into saying silly things.
Totally a good way to blow over thirty hours.