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Good Idea, Bad Idea: Quick-Time Events

Wether you are slaying a scantily clad goddess in the midst of a gold-wrought temple, or seing how your well-equipped and full of incriminating murder evidence apartment is destroyed by mayan gushes of wind, there is no better gimmick in an action game than quick-time events... right?

One mights say that God of War put them in the spotlight in recent years, by meshing quick-reflex but not impossible to hit sequences with a stylishly choreographed action-death sequence (hopefully full of innecessary violence). Since then, a vast majority of action games have included said events into their gameplay, in order to build a more exciting sequence, or having a sparkle of shine in a dull surface. Yes, Quick-Time Events are a double-edged weapon.

GOOD IDEA: When a quick-time event drags you INTO the action, and more than a finishing move itself, is a battle in its entirety.

PERFECT EXAMPLES: Resident Evil 4, Indigo Prophecy.

The re-imagining of the zombie slugfest franchise saw fit to incorporate quick time events. Pretty much all of them take you by surprise, turning any suspicous looking silent hallway (not to mention every single cutscene) into a paranoid grasping of the controller. All of them work well since they let you see the action, as well as living the feeling of being chased by a gut-loving boulder. Yet the best of all quick-time events has to be the Krauser VS Kennedy Knife Fight. The button sequences are well inter-meshed into the cutscene, so that it lets you SEE it, as well as fight through it. Even more so, nobody expected that the A button turned into a B button halfway into your trachea (you know you love to hate that one). Making the QTE actually a battle in itself, and not merely a gimmick to end a fight.

Yet the perfecting example of this, albeit a bit ironic really, is Indigo Prophecy. The game itself plays in its entirety like a QTE. It never gets repetitive, it always relays the tension of moving sideways a building, or fighting your way through the spiritual wilderness. Even though there are only two QTE in the game (dual-stick shooting and left-right trigger finger killer), the game does a fine job of intermeshing them through the whole of it. Not only that, but in a true movement of integration, you have actually up to 6 chances of screwing up. Its not a gimmick that you have to get right in one shot (allowing for a dirty memorization trick), but it actually builds a battle by having a life bar depending on how many times you screw up. But the irony comes from...

BAD IDEA: When a quick-time event extracts you from the action itself, and doesnīt let you see it.

PERFECT EXAMPLES: Heavenly Sword, Indigo Prophecy

... the fact that it doesnīt let you see all the time what you are doing. Donīt get me wrong, the game is great, original, and fresh; yet it is quite ironic, the fact that the display of the dual sticks is embedded in front-center, in an attempt to maintain your eyes on the action. Problem is: I am more concentrated on not screwing up the sequence, than in the sequence itself. All I see is green, blue, yellow, red; and it takes me out seeing what I am actually doing.

Another experience with this was Heavenly Sword. A great rental at its appalling 6 hour length, the game (in a loyal rip-off of Kratos bloodbath) features impressive sequences with fairly simple QTE. And they are so randomly interspread that instead of a "Didnīt see that one coming", it spurts a "I spilled my Dr. Pepper on the floor!" On the upside, they donpt kill you if you screw up, but actually makes you do it wrong: instead of Nariko gracefully landing, she falls painfully.

All in all, QTE are a steple of the action genre, with few remarkable exceptions that can do without it (Devil May Cry). When wisely integrated into a narrative, they prove to suck one in; when used as nothing more than a gimmick, the most it can aspire to is a well designed choreography that youīll miss out for focusing on the buttons themselves.
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About Terror Playerone of us since 5:30 PM on 06.11.2007