Quick Time Events: Past their Prime, or Aging Wonderfully?

After playing the demo for Asura’s Wrath and discovering its huge dependance on quick time events, I figured it would be a good time to look at the controversial gameplay mechanic in some detail. Quick time events (QTEs) have been around for a very long time. Going as far back as the 80s, QTEs were featured in the gaming classic, Dragon’s Lair. QTEs are button prompts appearing on screen, which are often used to make cutscenes interactive; although, they are also used to add cinematic flair for many aspects of a game from combat to even opening a simple door. Since the last generation of consoles, QTEs have been gaining in popularity among developers. The snag is that there is a very large proportion of gamers who absolutely hate them. Some gamers hate them because it is an artificial way of adding a skill requirement to otherwise straightforward gameplay. Others hate them for being simply unnecessary. So, the question at hand is whether or not QTEs are evolving past their simplistic roots, or if they are an aging mechanic that should be phased out.

Press “Y” to stop being a misshapen human-like blob.

First let’s look at the popularization of QTEs last gen. The modern take on QTEs found it’s roots in a 1999 Dreamcast game called Shenmue. However, the main popularization of QTEs came in 2005 with the releases of God of War and Resident Evil 4. These games were hugely popular, Resident Evil 4 revitalizing the flagging franchise, and God of War starting off an immensely popular series. Resident Evil 4 used QTEs in order to improve tension in various cut-scenes, while God of War primarily used them for combat finishers. At this time in the life cycle of QTEs, they had a very practical purpose. Console gaming was still very limited and QTEs where a great solution to allow players to do cool things that otherwise would require an entire cutscene for. On the downside, cutscene related QTEs often lead to instant death upon failure, turning these segments into a chore instead of an exhilarating experience. The same could be said with the combat finishers in God of War. While it was fun to rip the head off of a gorgon the first time, it soon becomes a chore.

I know he wants me to press a button, but which one?

Unfortunately for QTEs, they have become far less popular this generation. Heavenly Sword was one of the first big releases for the PS3. Like most hack and slash action games since 2005, it borrowed it’s combat style from God of War right down to the reliance on QTEs. Former head of Team Ninja and certified dick, Tomonobu Itagaki, publicly condemned the game based on its boring QTE sequences. QTEs, even in the series that popularized them, received far more of a hostile reaction this time around. In some instances, games have been able to integrate QTEs in such a way that doesn’t interfere with a player’s experience, such as the paragon/renegade choices in Mass Effect 2, and these methods receive far less criticism than the traditional approach of interactive cutscenes. The problem is, unlike last generation, QTE heavy games such as Ninja Blade, are often heavily criticized for their use of QTEs and that is enough to turn people away.

Tomonobu Itagaki: Certified Dick

Finally there are the games that use QTEs as the central game mechanic. Indigo Prophecy and its successor, Heavy Rain, are both games that use QTEs exclusively for their gameplay. These games, particularly Heavy Rain, have been received well by critics and gamers alike; however, this is not because of the quirky gameplay. The most common complaint one will find against games of this nature is that they are nothing more than an interactive movie. This of course can be applied to any game, but it is most pronounced in heavily story-based games, whose gameplay consists entirely of swift button prompts. The soon to be released Asura’s Wrath looks to be another game of this type, which will undoubtably draw criticism from gamers.

Press “X” for crazy!

In the end, QTEs simply don’t fulfil the purpose that they were created for. Tension is often ruined by repetition or frustration, and now that hardware has gotten stronger, more actions that were traditionally the purview of QTEs can be done in-game. Even with games such as Mass Effect 2 trying to use QTEs in a more subtle way, QTEs simply come off as lazy development nowadays. Heavy Rain, and the like, use QTEs in a way to highlight the artistry of the game, but this use of the QTE will never appeal to mainstream gamers. Traditional QTEs will continue to be used to some time as they are too easy a shortcut for developers to ignore; however, I think that as we move into the next generation, QTEs will seem increasingly outdated.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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