Sep 11, 2016
Love them or hate them, quick time events are pretty common in video games nowadays. You can’t go through a AAA title without button mashing as the protagonist sprints away from a boulder/landslide/polar bear. But do QTEs make the gaming experience better? Or do they merely restrict creativity, and simplify the entertainment value?
Quick time events have sparked controversy in recent years. When they appeared in the recent reboot of Thief, there was massive fan backlash. Eidos saw the response, reconsidered their position, and chose to remove QTEs from the game. Valerie Bourdeau of Eidos stated that “to begin with, there were very few instances of QTEs in the game; in fact there was only one in that whole hour-long E3 demo. However, given the strong reactions it evoked in the press and the community, it was an easy decision to do away with them entirely. So we’re not doing it. No quick time.”
This shows the power of the community, and the instant dislike fans had. It also doesn’t help that this is a franchise which spans back a long time, and to tarnish it with quick time events that older fans do not expect seems insulting. Of course, to include a QTE in the first place, the developers must have thought it added something to the game, so there is no true right and wrong. I’m sure a QTE could make for some awesome action sequences. Perhaps it’s purely the fact that for this QTE in question, it’s the fact that the camera switches from first person to third person, which ruins the immersion, when the game is based upon stealth and secrecy.
If you need any convincing about why the QTE has become hated by many, then check out Spiderman 3’s infamous QTE below.
What matters is how prevalent quick time events have now become, which is considered a worrying factor. They replace the need for compelling gameplay, in a number of instances. They often feel as though they were implemented as an after thought.
Again, for Resident Evil 5, there was this baffling sequence where Chris Redfield…punches a boulder? It’s around 10 times the size of him, and it is simply inhuman. Surely there was a better option open to the developers than this? It both confuses and amazes me that someone actually thought this could go into a well loved franchise.
So when does a QTE work pretty well? One of my favourite and most memorable instances was a very minor event. In Assassin’s Creed 2, Leonardo offers a hug to Ezio during a cut scene. If you’re quick enough to press the action button, you can choose whether or not to accept his offer of a bro-hug. Although barely even a quick-time event worthy of mention, it adds that something special to an otherwise bland cutscene; and most importantly, renders the game and characters to be a lot more memorable. It sticks out in my mind, for sure.
A QTE should trigger a change in gameplay, or a change in course at least. Games such as BioShock Infinite demonstrate how a simple QTE can alter the storyline, and which characters live or die. These choices were not part of videos as such, but these choices leaked into queued sequences, without any disturbance. It’s very rewarding to feel as though your choice in choosing a particular action has a significant impact upon the virtual world you inhabit, and gives a sense of free will.
When QTEs force a certain action, whereby a choice renders no difference or is triggered nonetheless, it feels pretty bland. And often, during fight scenes for instance, they’re not even complex. Perhaps with motion detection or the PS Move for instance, a QTE could be put to good use, triggered by certain actions. I think it’s safe to say a 60 second fist fight cannot simply be shaved down to four pushes of the circle button.
The God of War series manages to use quick time events quite effectively, shifting from the hack ‘n’ slash gameplay we all know and love, straight into ripping apart Olympian Gods, such as the head of Helios.
Games like Heavy Rain also know how to use a QTE; managing to build suspense and create an overall feel of interaction. The fact that your actions have an often cataclysmic impact on the story and situation, you enter every QTE with an innate sense of fear, because it could mean death. It’s much more complex than simply pressing a button a few times, or maybe having to repeat it if you’re not quick enough. That is how you use a quick time event effectively. It’s no longer laziness or a cheap way of creating action; it becomes part of the game, and part of the charm. It’s what made Heavy Rain so unique, and through QTEs you could carve your own path.
There was a time and a place for quick time events. They filled the void when technology simply wasn’t up to scratch to achieve the visions of developers. They served as an effective way to imitate movies when games looked starkly different from anything Hollywood produces. But now, just look at how far we have come over the past generation of consoles. And now we are into the next-gen. They simply serve no purpose now, as the technology has caught up with what we expect from video games and movies. In some aspects, games now have the capacity to exceed what we want from movies, due to the first person perspective and interactivity involved.
They only work to enhance situations that otherwise could not in any way be controlled otherwise, and shouldn’t be inserted every ten minutes because you can. Many developers use a QTE as an easy way of generating some adrenaline, but the opposite is achieved. Where’s the fun or challenge in tapping X a few times to avoid death? It’s hardly entertainment.
hey make a nice addition, sure. It’s nice to have a little interaction in a cutscene. But the fact remains that quick time events do not replace decent gameplay; far from it.
(Oh, also, I couldn’t write this article without including the following QTE from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. It’s fascinating. Enjoy.)