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Interactive cutscenes. “Cineractive” sequences. “Press X to not die” moments. Whatever you call them, quick time events are those mostly non-interactive moments peppered throughout videogames, nearly all of which ask you to tap a button on cue – or hammer on a button, or twitch an analog stick, or whatever – in order to enable your character to do something that’s way cooler than anything they can do while you’re in direct control. These have been around since the days of Dragon’s Lair, and they’ve arguably worn out their welcome.
Above: Do you like this game? Then QTEs probably don’t bother you. Also you’re a masochist
That’s not to say that quick time events can’t be fun or interesting in the right hands, however. When handled correctly, they can actually add a lot to a game – and in fact, some of the most memorable in-game moments of the past several years have come from QTEs. To prove it, we’ve gathered together some of the best examples of QTEs that not only didn’t piss us off, but actually improved the experience.
Stealth kills in Manhunt 2 were a lot of fun… until the industry’s terrified censors tucked their (metaphorical) balls between their legs and forced publisher Rockstar to turn its gloriously sick murder scenes into something eyeball-searing and murky. After that, most of the gore was gone and we were forced to simply accept Manhunt 2 as the tepid stealth-action game that it was.
Above: A pre-censorship execution on the Wii (top) and its censored counterpart on PS2
Even after the censorship took hold, though, the Wii (and PC) version’s executions retained some of the old brutality that the other editions lost, thanks to the decision to turn them into motion-controlled quick time events that loosely reflected the action onscreen.Follow the prompt to yank upward with both Wii remote and Nunchuk, for example, and protagonist Daniel would tighten a garotte or raise a pair of hedge clippers to strike. Swing the remote downward, and he’d smash the pointy end of a crowbar into some deviant’s skull.
You couldn’t really see much of what was going on, but because it was semi-interactive, you could at least get a feel for it. It was far from ideal, but turning these sequences into QTEs at least made them less confusing and annoying than the weird, shapeless murder-cutscenes in the other two versions.
WARNING: if you haven’t already seen Modern Warfare 2’s ending, you may want to skip ahead to the next page.
As Modern Warfare 2 draws to a close, fugitive heroes Soap and Price have chased a fleeing, treacherous Lt. Gen. Shepherd across miles of white-water rapids, shot down his helicopter and been knocked unconscious by a plunge off a waterfall. Inexplicably coming to right at the crash site, an injured Soap gets up, staggers after Shepherd and – just as he’s about to stab the seemingly wounded officer – gets faked out, knocked down and impaled through the chest.
Mortally wounded but still alive, Soap is again awakened by Shepherd, who wants to deliver a speech before finishing him off. Fortunately, this buys Cpt. Price enough time to leap in from offscreen and engage Shepherd in a really blurry fistfight as Soap watches, helplessly.
Well, not entirely helplessly. Moving very slowly, Soap – not about to let Shepherd get the upper hand – looks to the only weapon within his reach: the knife jutting out of his chest.
What follows isn’t much more than mashing on a single button, really, but it’s still excruciating – in a good way – to be a part of. The struggle to jam on the button as quickly as possible brings us closer to Soap’s own struggle to pull several inches of steel out of his chest in time to save his comrade. And it only gets more intense when he grips it with both hands, turning the screen into a pulsing, dark-red haze of pain.
Once you’ve hammered the button enough to get the knife out, there’s a moment of relief that wouldn’t have been there if you were just passively watching. And it’s immediately followed by the reward of getting to throw the blade through Shepherd’s eyeball in a mildly gruesome display.
It’s not exactly a traditional hit-buttons-on-cue quick time event, but given its urgency and simplicity, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than a QTE. It’s also an involving, memorable way to cap what had, up to that point, been a batshit loonball story about Russians invading the US and military officials colluding with terrorists because their feelings were hurt.