Quick Time Events: Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

Continuing to play through my ever expanding backlog of games I recently dropped in my copy of the God of War Collection.  I’ve been steadily playing through the entire series, in order, to catch up to and play the highly-praised God of War 3.  It’s been a great experience – as I’m sure many of our readers can already attest to.  The mythology.  The tight controls.  The beautiful visuals and epic score.  The quick time events . . . dear Lord, the quick time events.

About 2-3 hours into God of War 2 it began to dawn on me that, whether on the PS2, PSP or PS3, God of War is chock full of quick time events.  From the simple act of prying open a chest or lifting a gate to slamming father Zeus against a towering pillar, one would be hard pressed to play any of these titles for very long before being prompted to mash the living hell out of the PlayStation 3 Dual Shock controller.

As I carried on, shoving blades down Minotaur’s throats and ripping the eye’s from Cyclopian sockets I began to ask myself if it was all just too much?  Was I spending more time worried about the next Quick Time Event rather than the task at hand?  Were these repeated events distracting me from the overall story?  Most importantly, I started to ponder where and when this now all-too-common videogame mechanic may have originated?

I think it’s safe to say that anyone preparing themselves for the God of War experience is expecting an innumerable amount of QTEs to come their way throughout the course of that journey.  It is, for better or worse, a part of that gaming experience.  With that said, as good as the first God of War was, it certainly was not the origin for the Quick Time Event.  No, I had to dig deeper into my gaming memory.  With the help of my faithful PSNation compatriots, we narrowed that origin story down to a select few.  But the game that continuously rose to the top was undoubtedly 1983’s Dragon’s Lair.

We all know it, have seen it and, hopefully, have had an opportunity to play it – more importantly, play it on a stand-up arcade cabinet.  I recall, quite clearly, my local arcade in New Berlin, Wisconsin.  As a young boy I always gravitated to Galaga.  It was my game.  I could drop in a single token and play it for 30 minutes or more before losing my first ship (I’m proud to say that this “talent” continues today).  Then one day, during a members only event (that’s right, this arcade had a membership that once a month only opened it’s doors to those holding the membership card.  Drop $5 at the door and play for 3 hours – sweet, sweet action!) I noticed a new cabinet with some beautiful artwork.

Dragon’s Lair was unlike anything I had ever seen – much less played.  I hesitantly stood back and watched others drop token after token, never really getting very far or playing for very long.  Still, there was something about this game.  The player had very little control over the main character – Dirk the Daring – yet a false move was sure to lead to the inevitable “Game Over” screen.  It was bizarre.  It was intriguing.  And it was a game that I quickly became addicted to.

However, just as quick as this addiction flourished it was also quickly recovered from.  Dragon’s Lair, although unique and fun, also came across as gimmicky and far less enjoyable than my beloved Galaga.  Sure, it could have been for the fact that I was never very good at Dragon’s Lair.  I certainly enjoyed watching others progress in the game but, ultimately, it never really resonated with me as much as so many other games of that era.

Granted, Dragon’s Lair may not be the first videogame to incorporate the Quick Time Event.  It’s likely that a number of you PSNation readers out there will correct me for my mistake – and I hope that you do.  However, Dragon’s Lair is probably the most recognizable of Quick Time Event games and, as I mentioned earlier, sparked the most consensus.

So here we are, almost 30 years later, and that which has become known as the QTE has become a common occurrence in probably more videogames than I can recall.  But is that a good thing or have game developers opted to use this mechanic as a short-cut to “variety”?  Have we reached a tipping point yet where we as gamers have finally decided to declare – no more?  I, for one, am not quite ready to make that declaration.  Although the QTE may have overstayed its welcome some game developers are finding more and more creative ways to still bring this gameplay mechanic to the table.

Some may refer to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain as nothing more than an 8-10 hour quick time event.  If you’ve played Heavy Rain, and enjoyed the game for what it is, you’ll understand that it is so much more than that.  Heavy Rain is an example of promoting the game’s rich story elements with the inclusion of timed events – some quick, some not so quick.

Bioware, the developers of Mass Effect 2 (left or right trigger anyone), have taken the Quick Time Event and delivered a cause-and-effect situation.  They’re rare and scattered throughout the game but they can have a significant impact on the path by which the story will take.  Blow someone’s head off mid-conversation or ease down and let them speak their peace, you decide.  But you can’t help but be concerned for those with a twitchy trigger finger and an affinity for QTEs.

In my humble opinion, those are both games that I feel did a great job with the Quick Time Event mechanic.  Some of you may disagree – and that’s just fine.  But what I think we can all agree on is that there are certain games that do not need, nor should they include, anything resembling a QTE.  I won’t list off those that I feel fall into this category because the list is fairly long (again, in my humble opinion).

What I would like is to hear from you.  Let us know your stance on the subject.  Like the title of this article states – Quick Time Events: Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em.  Give us some feedback on which games you think have been the best and worst harbingers of the QTE.

Written by Bill Braun

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  • I hate quick time events, always have. 

    • Anonymous

      Give us your vote and “burn this place to the ground”.  I’m excited to find out which poll option rises to the top.

      •  I try, but the vote buttons never appear for me on this site.  :-[

        I will add though, I did like Heavy Rain.  :-p

  • Erny Navarrete

    I love QTE’s except when don’t expect a game to have it. Developers should only use it as a gameplay mechanic.

  • Anonymous

    QTEs like any other gameplay device is ripe for overexposure and being used as a filler mechanic instead of enhancing gameplay. God of War’s popularity helped insure that we saw a proliferation of the mechanic in latter day PS2 and early PS3 games. Only in the last year and a half have we really seen it being used for its original purpose, in games like Mass Effect 2, to provide crescendos to already amazing set pieces. I am glad to see it being used in moderation once again as one of a suite of tools in a developers bag of tricks, and not one they feel they have to break out at every opportunity.

  • I feel they have their place, as long as they seem to flow with the game play and/or are a part of a given series and are expected I don’t have a problem with them. 

  • I like QTE in the way they are used in God of War.  It’s not the meat of the game, it’s a cinematic that you have some control of.  And (for the most part), in God of War, they are not needed to defeat a bad guy.  It’s a “Special move” that delvers a lot of damage.  I have killed the Hydra without using the QTE, and most of the regular bad guys will also die, if you simply hack them apart.  I consider the QTE’s in God of War as the “fatalities” of Mortal Kombat.  The game doesn’t depend on them, but they look cool if you use them. One thing that supports this is that all of the “finishing moves” in God of War are exactly the same for each enemy of a class. So they aren’t throwing random buttons at you. Finishing a medusa is always the same, which is why I consider them more like “fatality combos.”

    Then you have Heavy Rain.  Normally, I would not have been a fan of this, except for one thing.  The QTEs in Heavy Rain feel natural.  They reflect what you might to with the controller to simulate what’s on the screen.  With the PS Move it feels even more natural.

    Where I don’t like QTE dates back to Dragon’s Lair.  I just don’t like a movie playing, with absolute no control whatsoever of the main character.  In Heavy Rain, at least there are some exploring elements.  There aren’t too many games that harken back to Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace, but those games never really entertained me.

    • Anonymous

      Great points across the board.  Although I will say that I struggled a bit with the final Zeus battle in God of War 2 – specifically the last QTE.  Off by even a fraction of a second and it was game over.  Then, having another opportunity, they changed up the order and button prompts. 

    • Well, those old time QTE from those games like Dragon’s Lair are better for nostalgia and should not be used for today’s games by now we should have moved on from that simplistic style. For example, I’ve been playing Time Crisis Razing Storm specifically the Deadstorm Pirates game with the PS Move controllers lately and this collection uses quick time events for environmental and boss events and I feel it does a good job since they make sense, such as turning the wheel to avoid obstacles or fighting against a boss that is trying to pull your ship under and into the sea.

      I for one love Dragon’s Lair but that was of course for the animation, and that it was the first game that I played that was like that back in the arcades. I spent ages playing Space Ace, Dragon’s Lair and Dragon’s Lair II and wouldn’t have traded in those QTEs for anything back then, but now I like the nostalgic factor and better yet that I can just watch and enjoy the animation and let the game just play through itself.

      The God of War series seems to have it down, and with each installment they have made improvements on its implementation. Heavy Rain did an amazing job about creating a game around those QTE and as you said made it feel natural.

  • In general I do enjoy QTE’s. It’s only when they’re implemented poorly, i.e. first Uncharted, where the game just throws a QTE at you with no warning and failing it resulted in a death.

    My favourite use of QTE has to be Heavy rain, as it should be, considering the game relies on them so heavily. Worth noting is also Castlevania: Lords of Shadow in which the QTE only requires you to press any of the face buttons. Not having to anticipate which button you have to press made the QTE moments much more free flowing, and much more fun.

    One thing I wish other developers would “learn” from Heavy Rain is the use of sixaxis controls. In game like Dead Space I’d much prefer shaking the controller over having to smash the X button when trying to shake off an enemy that grabbed hold of you.

  • In general I do enjoy QTE’s. It’s only when they’re implemented poorly, i.e. first Uncharted, where the game just throws a QTE at you with no warning and failing it resulted in a death.

    My favourite use of QTE has to be Heavy rain, as it should be, considering the game relies on them so heavily. Worth noting is also Castlevania: Lords of Shadow in which the QTE only requires you to press any of the face buttons. Not having to anticipate which button you have to press made the QTE moments much more free flowing, and much more fun.

    One thing I wish other developers would “learn” from Heavy Rain is the use of sixaxis controls. In game like Dead Space I’d much prefer shaking the controller over having to smash the X button when trying to shake off an enemy that grabbed hold of you.