30 December 2010

Patience is a virtue - by Joseph Cassano

      Posted 09/11/10 02:00:00 pm  

From my perspective, there seems to be a rising sentiment in the video game community that, as a general rule, cutscenes in story-heavy linear games should be lessened as we move forward in this medium. This claim is definitely not unfounded; gaming, by its very nature, is interactive, and the player should essentially be playing instead of watching. Too numerous are examples of action-heavy cutscenes that really should have been playable in-game moments. Too many times have players finished one cutscene only to take a few more steps and enter another. In the large amount of cases, cutscenes should be replaced with clever gameplay that tells the same tale. In most situations, the cutscene should rightfully be phased out -- the operative word being "most".

Despite what some heavy opponents of cutscenes may say, there are certainly situations where a cutscene is the best course of action in terms of storytelling. These situations are where interactivity in itself would actually ruin the moment. I will explain via examples from Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy VII, and Assassin's Creed 2. (Spoilers definitely lie ahead; you have been warned.)

The first example I wish to use is the scene in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in which Emma Emmerich dies. This takes place in the latter portions of the game.

The player, Raiden, was escorting computer programmer Emma to a computer room in the game's environment -- an oil cleanup facility known as the Big Shell -- so that she could upload a virus of hers to interfere with the plans of terrorists who had overtaken Arsenal Gear -- a top-secret and immense battleship that was being covered up by the Big Shell. Along the way, she is stabbed by a boss character and is mortally wounded. Raiden witnesses this, but due to the nature of the scene, is too far away to help. His ally, Solid Snake, takes Emma the rest of the way to the computer room instead. Raiden soon makes his way there, and witnesses Hal "Otacon" Emmerich -- Emma's estranged step-brother and a close personal ally to Snake -- cradling the dying Emma in his arms. Snake tells Raiden that her wounds are too deep, but she's still managed to set everything up for the virus. Raiden, who had been carrying the actual disc containing said virus, begins the upload. It is soon realized that there's been sabotage afoot; the virus stops at 90%. Unable to fully realize their next course of action, all they can do is watch as Otacon has his final moments with his sister. It isn't long before "E.E." -- Otacon's childhood nickname for her -- passes away. Otacon then has a few monologues in relation to her passing and takes her pet parrot -- who was in a cage nearby -- before things move on.

Video of the scene in question (it is in 2 parts) (I warn that my above synopsis doesn't cover everything, so some confusion with plot events is to be expected):

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

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