Without mechanics what do you have in a game? Not much, really, except maybe a book. Mechanics are celebrated just if a game includes them regardless of quality. Cinematic experiences, romance, Wii fit motion board enabled, the list goes on. They are all ingredients in the soup of games, which is why when you mess one of them up you can spoil the whole thing. It’s like overusing bad and/or convoluted metaphors to fill out space. I doubt any of these mechanics are going away any time soon so we might as well get more critical of them so they can at least start moving in a better direction.
- Quick-time Events
For the most part I absolutely hate these. I hate losing control during a game to watch my character do something cool instead of being allowed to do it myself. It’s just so goddamn unfulfilling. Whats more it’s so overused its starting to feel outright lazy on the developers part. Why make decent game play when you can just put in a QTE and anyone can look cool at the push of a button! Except it almost never feels like that with the exception of:
Done Right: Asura’s Wrath
I’ve talked about this game before and I stand by that its the best done QTE’s I know of. Hell the end of the game is more of a deconstruction of QTE’s than anything else. In Asura’s Wrath the QTE’s are done with dramatic sound ques and heavy movement so it actually feels like you are still doing something, as opposed to pressing X and watching your character go on a 45 second dance routine attack. It’s kind of like Dragon’s Lair in that sense, which is a game that also deserves some credit.
Done Wrong: Bayonetta, Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, No More Heroes
That’s right I’m taking a shot at my beloved Bayonetta. But its true, there are too many QTE’s in Bayonetta that, if failed, will result in your death and thus having to repeat part of a fight. Same with Lords of Shadow. LoS is a worse offender though since it is guilty of one button resulting in a lengthy action sequence. No weight, not feeling to them, just complete removal of player from the equation so you can watch a cutscene. In Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z and No More Heroes, though, QTE’s are pretty much the only way to defeat an enemy and it becomes a huge chore to do. NMH does at least do the QTE’s so that the input is related to the finishing move, but its still annoying.
- Cinematic moments
Atmosphere is an essential part of a good game ever since games evolved past the Atari. Audio cues, ambiance, camera angles, all the stuff that’s typically for other mediums like movies. Games these days seem to want to be movies more than games. And why not? People remember a well done scene that manages to strike up some emotions in them.
Done Right: Shadow of the Colossus
This game is really the best. Everything is timed well and given the right level of impact. All the colossus’s had their moments but most of all I’ll remember the giant bird colossus. Watching that giant beast swoop down at you and then grabbing onto its wing, clinging for dear life as it rises into the sky, and the games orchestral music comes on really completing the moment. Best of all, at no point of this were you robbed of control. Other fights momentarily stop to show a quick scene of something that changed with the colossus, but they keep it short. This is why SotC gets so much props, it does such a great job of being memorable.
Done Wrong: Splatterhouse (the reboot)
Like with comedy, repetition ruins dramatic effect. Splatterhouse was guilty of the QTE problems too but I felt it belonged here because the cutscenes happen so goddamn often. The game pours crap enemies on you to make it more gory as you chop through them and ensure the “splatter” part of Splatterhouse is fulfilled. To top it off you get to watch the same cutscene over and over again as you kill them. I hope you like watching a zombie have its arms pulled off because you’ll be seeing it a few thousand times.
- Sex Scenes
Boy this ones full of tragedy. Sex has been around in games since the old days because when has porn not been profitable? In my day we had Leisure Suit Larry and the sex came with a heavy dose of Animal House/Porky’s style comedy that typically failed to both titillate and entertain. People love sex but do we really need it in games? I’m no prude but what does it add? A good sex scene is hard as hell to pull off well and usually just looks ridiculous. Plus thanks to Rule 34 I can see characters involved in nearly any ultra-specific sexual fetish. The only thing more essential to human nature is eating and even that barely works in games. Was my Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas experience any better because I had to feed CJ every couple minutes like he’s my goddamn Tamagachi (kids ask your parents if you don’t know what that is).
Done Right: n/a but closest we get is Mass Effect 1 or maybe The Witcher 2
Honestly I wouldn’t say any game does sex scenes at an acceptable level but the closest I felt they ever came (tee hee) was in the first Mass Effect game when Shepard has sex with the Asari Consort. It’s a pretty mild scene and really short but in that short time you do get to see Shepard and the Consort being tender with each other which makes it a fairly accurate representation of sex. Overall the scene is short, sweet, and understated in a good way, it doesn’t feel dirty or exploitative. Sure its still weird and flawed but its the best I think we can get. Also the Witcher 2 but more for comedy reasons on my part.
Done Wrong: Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Dragon Age, Mass Effect
Magna Cum Laude continues the Larry tradition of comedic sex only without the comedy. It doesn’t help that MCL is a total abortion of a game on every front so its no surprise that the games sexual selling point is also terrible. Mass Effect gets the dubious honor of being on both sides of the fence here, as does its medieval counterpart Dragon Age. Weird, stiff moving polygons crashing into each other and even weirder melodrama make most of the sex in these games goofy as all hell. But judging by how ga-ga people on Bioware’s forums go for relationships and sex scenes what do I know? I know that most people have terrible taste and thanks to the internet weirdo deviants infest fan bases in alarming numbers.
Well that’s my time folks. I’ll be back at the end of April as the next month of my real life is going to be crazy with time-consuming events. I’m sure no games are coming out in the time I’ll be gone so stay frosty!
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Kimo is a contemptuous old coot. With experience in video games dating back to 1988 and a schizophrenic range of games he boasts an impressive range of knowledge of gamings best, and worst. Dwelling in the desolate wastes of the American Midwest he brings to Z1Gaming a perspective that looks for positive qualities in even the worst games.