Once famously described by MC Chris as “Bitch, this ain’t a cutscene! Press A! PRESS A!” the quick time events in Resident Evil 4 were a welcome change-up from the normally long, overwrought cutscenes we’ve come to expect from Japanese games. No longer did we just have to watch characters do cool stuff we could never do during normal gameplay; now we could help them.
Out of all those interactive cutscenes, however, none stood out quite as much, or kept us quite as tense, as the knife fight between Leon and his former comrade, Krauser. Like with most of RE4’s QTEs, it did its best to catch you off-guard, interrupting quiet moments or talky bits with sudden bursts of violence that you had to either respond to quickly, or be rewarded with this:
Of course, it also didn’t hurt that it was a beautifully executed scene, starring two muscular badasses trying to slice each other up with big, nasty-looking knives that looked even nastier in slow-motion close-ups. Without our ability to intervene, though, it would have been just another flashy cutscene to be viewed, digested and forgotten. But because we could “play” it, it was one of the game’s most surprising and striking sequences.
Way back in 1996, long before most of us even knew what a quick time sequence was, Die Hard Arcade incorporated them into its over-the-top, anything-goes beat ‘em-up formula. These were all pretty simple: in between bashing thugs with whatever blunt objects or ridiculous firearms were in easy reach, there’d be non-interactive sequences where your John McClane-looking hero would run down a hall or across a parking garage. Suddenly, you’d be exhorted to hit a button or a direction on the joystick; succeed, and you’d do something cool, like leap out of the way of a charging firetruck.
One of these quick interludes was a lot more fun than all the others, though, which was great because it kept popping up over and over again. If you were running down a narrow hallway and were suddenly told to smash the Punch button, odds are it was because you were about to clothesline some dude without even breaking your stride.
Success meant that you not only pull an awesome bastard move, but that you could see it again in slow motion, from a different angle.
Failure, meanwhile, meant you’d just have to stop for a moment and fight whoever it was you’d just tried to punch – but really, isn’t fighting why you’d play a game like this in the first place? Unless you were trying to beat some kind of speed record, the outcome was win/win.
Above: “Trying to be a woman on my watch, eh? PUNCH!”
Ninety-nine percent of the time, the words “dancing minigame” are enough to solicit groans from gamers, and with good cause: they tend to be lame, clunky distractions that have little or nothing to do with shooting bad guys in the face.
Above: Every other dance minigame ever
For whatever reason, though, hitting the dance floor in The Ballad of Gay Tony was different, even fun. Maybe it was the decent soundtrack, maybe it was being able to keep up just by flicking the analog stick randomly, or maybe it was the potential promise of illicit restroom sex as a reward.
Of course, none of that quite explains what made doing the Bus Stop so much fun. A group line-dance – and straight-up, old-school QTE – the Bus Stop wasn’t about much more than hitting buttons on cue to see anti-hero Luis Lopez bust a few dance moves in sync with the rest of the crowd.
But it was helped along by a driving technopop theme (or a brassy disco-funk classic, depending on which club you were in) and the strange thrill, however false, of leading a bunch of strangers in something synchronized and cool-looking. Bottom line, it looked great, it was fun to watch, it was totally optional and it helped flesh out the neon-tinged world Luis inhabited just a little more.