You remember your first set-piece. They’re exciting to begin with. You’re playing a level, you turn the corner, and – OH MY GOD! – a spaceship has just nuked that building! But... but... but Alpha Team was in there. Commander Jenkins! Michael. He saved my life in the Martian Wars. Good god. We’ve got to get in there, and now. So everyone starts spraying his or her machine gun around, there’s a brief judder as it auto-saves then the game hands control back to you – bang into the next mission. Awesome. Games really are just like films, you might think to yourself, as you press both triggers down and unload whatever it is you’re dual-wielding.
But the next time you see a set-piece lumbering into view it’s not so exciting. Those alien bastards have nuked HQ now, and Bravo Team was inside. Coincidentally, the nuking happened just as you exited level three and walked into the military zone designated ‘Level Four’. Then, a few hours of strafing later, the camera swivels to show you Fireteam Tango getting swarmed by mutants precisely at the moment the opening section of ‘Shooting Section Seven’ stops loading.
The set-piece has turned from an occasional, dramatic interlude into an over-used, tired and massively predictable plot device that assumes everyone playing is a saliva-covered moron who’s unable to remember what he’s supposed to be doing from one nanosecond to the next. As games get more ‘Hollywood’, so the makers force in more of these predictable, emotional string-pulling visual set-pieces. Now, when a camera twists to show me something I’m supposed to be excited about, I just sigh and wish I was the sort of innocent 12-year-old who would be impressed and wowed by such sign-posted manipulation.
Just give me a bit of text informing me aliens have invaded, there’s only one ship left and I’m the only pilot alive. Stick your carefully-scripted moments up your - OMG! ZULU YANKEE TEAM WAS ON THAT BUS!
Gary writes gaming websiteukresistance.co.uk (opens in new tab).