Quick-Time Events: Never The Right Solution

by Adam Biessener on Oct 15, 2012 at 01:04 PM

Allow me to impart one of the fundamental truths of modern gaming: Quick-time events are terrible, and only serve to make every game they appear in worse.

Remember when you saw the train pulling into Midgar for the first time, carrying Cloud and Barrett and his crew on their first insurgent mission together against the evil Shinra corporate empire, and you thought to yourself, "Man, I wish I had to hit left on the d-pad to open the door and jam on square to pull out my fake ID!"

Of course you don't. Because quick-time events as popularized by God of War add nothing to the gameplay experience. They mostly worked there because they were novel and primarily focused on the gory special kills Kratos inflicts on his enemies. When was the last time you were bummed out because you walked up to a locked door, pressed A, and your character automatically used the key from his inventory, opened the lock, and went through? I've never thought to myself that gosh, I'd be so much more invested in this world if I had to follow a series of onscreen prompts right now to heroically turn the key in this lock. Wailing on circle to turn the crank that opens the ancient temple door doesn't increase the connection between the player and Nathan Drake; it just wears out controllers and inflames repetitive stress injuries.

Even worse is when you have to perform an arbitrary series of inputs during a cinematic sequence that would probably look awesome if you were watching your awesome ninja lady's gravity-defying murder ballet instead of focusing on a tiny part of the screen so as to not miss the next button press.

Worse still are the profoundly stupid implementations where a player being either really good or exceptionally bad at QTEs breaks the game. Want to finish off this extremely difficult Castlevania boss you finally beat? Don't flub this stupid Simon Says minigame, or it comes back to life at half health! Gladius – a forgotten commercial disaster of a tactical RPG that also happens to be one of my absolute favorite games of the PS2 era – becomes stupidly easy once you never miss by reliably achieving critical successes on its frequent QTEs.

How dumb would it be to always hit aliens in heavy cover in XCOM because you're a PaRappa the Rapper savant? (Spoilers: Real, real dumb.)

Every single one of the games I brought up as examples of poor QTE use – Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Uncharted, Gladius, Heavenly Sword – is near and dear to my heart. Even so, they'd be better still with the quick-time events ripped out entirely. I cannot think of a single example of a QTE that I would miss if it were deleted; heck, I jumped at the chance to disable them in The Witcher 2.

If you're going to draw inspiration from God of War, at least pick one of the (many, many) things it does exceptionally well. Leave the QTEs to Kratos.