I know I’ve already talked about the QTEs (quick time event) in PoP (Prince of Persia), but let me take a moment to elaborate a little.
First of all, I have enjoyed several games that employed QTE elements. Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy) was one of my favorite games. And the upcoming Heavy Rain looks even better. I have only played the first God of War, but I had a lot of fun with that game. I intend to grab No More Heroes at some point in the near future. Same for Saints Row 2. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is actually on the way. (I beat Shenmue but that wasn’t one of my favorites.)
So why am I so critical of PoP’s somewhat frequent use of QTE?
For one, I feel carried back to Dragon’s Lair. There is no gameplay. There are just properly-timed button presses. For another, the sequences are too long.
Let’s talk about that second point for a moment. Near the end of the game there was a stage where I had to go through a sequence of QTEs that involved many button presses. Run up a wall, touch a magic plate, fly through the air dodging obstacles along the way (by pressing up/down/left/right at the correct time), land against the side of a wall, run to a ring, use that to get to the next plate (by hitting [B] to grab the ring at the right time), climb up the wall (steering left or right to dodge obstacles) until you reach the next plate, and so on. If at any point in this sequence you make a mistake, you go back to the beginning of the sequence and try again.
Now, in terms of frustration, we’re not exactly talking on the same level as GTA IV and their “You made a mistake so we are teleporting you back to your house where you will be forced to drive across an entire game world to get back to the start of the mission — a mission which starts by telling you to drive back to your house” system, since you’re only going back to the start of the sequence. And we’re not even talking frustration in terms of difficulty since, really, you’re going to ace a lot of these types of sequences on your first try. But seriously? I feel more like I’m playing the little electronic Simon game than Prince of Persia. And every time I do make a mistake, I watch the action on screen while thinking “Was it [RED] or [YELLOW] that I’m supposed to hit next?”
And that brings us to the first point, the game play, during these QTEs. Where is it? Watching a video, as Prince of Persia more often than not is, where you occasionally have to press a button to keep the movie playing is tedious. And not game play. I want to feel involved in the game. I want to feel like my choices and decisions are what’s driving the experience. When I’m pressing a button on cue, I only feel like I’m responding to a trigger, as if the game is asking me “Are you still awake?”
Sid Meier has a great definition of game play. He says it’s “[a] series of interesting choices.” In PoP, you’re choice is to keep watching the game play itself, or to try again. That isn’t interesting.
Final comment, I was thinking back on the older PoP titles and I remembered that, in PoP: Warrior Within, there was a sequence at the end of stages where you were chased by a creature (Dahaka) you couldn’t fight and had to escape. This meant navigating through somewhat familiar areas — but much more quickly than you may have otherwise traveled through them.
I think that’s probably as close to QTEs that this series should have gone. In those sequences, there were usually a couple ways to proceed and your skill impacted how dangerously close the monster came to your heels as you fled. And even then it was a little annoying because, if you failed and had to re-try, you realized everything is nearly identical and a little memorization went a long way.
So all in all, our moral of the day is that QTEs are a mechanic that can work or not, as with any. But in PoP, it did not work. Here’s hoping they ditch it or minimize it for any upcoming sequels or related titles (Assassin’s Creed 2).