I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think cutscenes have no place in modern videogames.
Yeah, I really do feel that strongly about them. I finally got around to playing the Crysis demo last night. I wanted to jump in and play, but instead I had to sit through a couple of minutes of pre-rendered wankery, followed by an in-engine sequence where I’m presumably strapped to a bench with someone forcibly moving my head around to where the designer wants me to look. Irritated the hell out of me, because I wanted to get up and look around where I wanted. In particular I didn’t want to sit there watching a bunch of stereotype-laden hard man US marines do their predictable macho posturing (all I can say is that someone’s watched Predator far too many times). Worse than that though was later, after I’d been wandering about the the night-time jungle in some really well-realised atmospheric immersion, when suddenly I crossed an invisible line and the game decided to rip control from my grasp and force me, mannekin-like, to perform a ‘scary horror movie’ sequence. Gah!! Way to completely ruin the suspension of disbelief there Jack.
I’m sick and tired of games thinking that it’s somehow ok to wrench control away from you when they see fit, in order to indulge some designers Hollywood imitation fantasy. Games aren’t film. Immersion and interaction is what makes them what they are. Yes, put a plot in there but cutscenes are the most primitive, ham-fisted way of doing it. Come on, Half Life showed how you can integrate plot developments without strapping you to a roller coaster years before, hasn’t anyone else learned from this yet? Having just come away from HL2: Episode 2 with it’s fantastic plot arcs all integrated into the play experience, Crysis’s reversion to cutscenes is just a jarring throwback to the 1990’s that doesn’t do justice to the rest of the technical excellence on show.
The starting sequence should have been interactive. Yeah, let the marines do their pointless posturing and go ‘grr’ and ‘hell yeah’ at each other all they like - again, HL2 ingratiates itself to me because it echews such stereotypes, when characters are fairly regular people asked to step up to extraordinary events, which is far more interesting than yet more cardboard cutout marines with stupid code names and less character than a sock puppet - but while they’re doing it, let me wander about and ignore their meatheaded exchanges if I want. When it comes to jumping out the back of the plane, don’t puppetteer me - let me do it. It’s not hard. What on earth is the point of having this sequence in-engine if you’re going to put me on a fixed track?
And once you’ve created that atmosphere, never ever undermine it by yanking control away from me in the middle of play. It ruins everything. I’m quite capable of being scared and made to jump out of my skin in game, and you know what - yanking me into a cutscene is such a dead giveaway that something is going to happen that nothing you throw at me in it is going to surprise me. Yawn. Do it in game, and I won’t see it coming.
As for Crysis itself, it’s technically very impressive, although the LOD popping (on vegetation particularly) is rather distracting - the visuals look best when you’re looking around on the spot. Perhaps if I had an SLI setup it wouldn’t be so noticeable. On the whole an impressive achievement, although I did find myself wandering around a lot, trying to figure out how to get on the other side of a tall escarpment. And felling trees by punching them, which is fun. 😀AI is very good, although it’s a little dumb that the soldiers chat to each other in Korean until they notice you, at which point they start to organise themselves by shouting to each other in English. Hmm, right. It’s fun to destroy buildings and mess with your suit’s abilities to clear buildings in a single bound etc. Fun game, on the whole though HL2 : Episode 2 struck a chord with me much more, even though it’s obviously far more linear.