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God of War probably deserves most of the blame for popularizing quick time events among lazy developers who use them as a crutch, true. But focusing on that means ignoring all the ways God of War has made QTEs awesome. When you’re playing as Kratos, a quick time sequence is a kind of reward, because it means you get to participate – however tenuously – in something really elaborate, violent and/or cool. These are always memorable, and have ranged from killing massive bosses in creative ways…
... to helping Kratos get his freak on with pairs of ancient-world bimbos.
Above: Unh. Yeah. Tap that Circle, baby
But while nailing offscreen prostitutes and yanking out Cyclops eyeballs each have their unique charms, the best use of the feature we’ve seen is in God of War III (or at least the PSN demo). Specifically the part where Kratos straddles injured sun-god Helios, beats him up a little and then graphically tears his head off.
Instead of distracting you from the action with a bunch of floating onscreen buttons, this sequence keeps it simple: in the first part, all you need to do is hammer on the Circle button, which eventually gets him to stop resisting.
After that, it’s just a matter of quickly alternating between presses of the L1 and R1 buttons…
... and you get a keen head to show off to all your friends!
It’s quick, it’s unobtrusively simple and it’s one of the most elaborately gruesome things we’ve ever seen in a videogame. And somehow, we can’t imagine it being nearly as fun if Kratos had just sliced Helios’s head off cleanly during combat, or if we’d just watched it as a cutscene.
We’ve leveled a fair amount of criticism at Heavy Rain, mostly for its disappointing writing and acting. But the game does some things extremely well, and suspense is one of them. Because it’s possible for the four playable characters to die and be taken out of the story permanently, there’s a palpable sense of dread and danger in every tense moment and every dark corner. For once, “game over” doesn’t mean “do-over.”
While there are plenty of tense moments, though, things don’t get really terrifying until the chapter known as the Bear. Desperate to find his missing son, distraught father Ethan Mars is forced to undertake a series of Saw-style trials in order to save him. The first one requires him to drive down a freeway for five miles at 60 mph… directly into oncoming traffic.
With the threat of permanent, high-speed death breathing down your neck, what might otherwise be a ho-hum, Choose Your Own Adventure game of chicken becomes several minutes of wide-eyed, white-knuckle tension. Survival means being able to immediately spot and respond to every prompt, and each twitch of the analog stick or twist of the controller means dodging a potentially lethal head-on collision.
Above: Which way? Quick, decide!
In short, tackling the Bear – especially for the first time – will have most players too tense to even realize they’re just twitching their thumbs in response to onscreen prompts, much less be irritated by it. And that’s the right way to handle a quick time sequence: using split-second decisions to heighten immersion, rather than jolting us out of it with a reminder that we’re just playing a game.
Feb 22, 2010
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