Last week I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. One thing that really struck me, aside from how much I didn’t like it, was how much it felt like a video game. The plot, pacing, characters and most of all the CGI all felt like they were pulled out of a video game, and a bad one at that. The big jeep chase through the jungle just made me want to play Uncharted again. At least then I’d be in control of the action.
All of that got me to thinking how a lot more games lately are presenting themselves in a very cinematic fashion, essentially presenting themselves as movies. The Metal Gear Solid series leaps closer and closer to being a non-interactive game with each sequel. The rumor floating around right now is that MGS4 has 90 minute cutscenes. Not total in the game, but at least one cutscene is movie length. How true that is I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me, but it does disappoint me. When I sit down to play a game, I want to play a game, not watch what is essentially a CGI movie. Don’t take that to mean I don’t appreciate games with stories and cutscenes that are well scripted and acted, at least as far as video games get, but to bury you with story and large sections of the game that are non-interactive just bore me.
The Metal Gear games are well known for having long drawn out conversations via radio sequences as well as tons of cutscenes with ridiculously over the top scripted action. Now, I like the insanity of the characters in those games, but it got to be more and more of a chore to sit through those games and I never even finished Metal Gear Solid 3 because I kept dozing off whenever the longer movie sequences would kick in. I’m looking forward to MGS4 but I’m afraid the same thing will happen with that.
On the other hand, we have Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Now I loved that game, it actually felt more Indiana Jones than Indy 4 did. It had a fun story, with good voice acting and cutscenes that were all motion captured by the voice actors, at times it felt like I was taking part in a big summer blockbuster. A few movie sequences ran a little long, but overall they were the right length. They got across whatever story was necessary and put your right back into the action. That kind of blurring the lines between movies and games I can get behind because it kept me interested the whole way through and they knew where to end the movie portion and where to continue the game portion.
Overall though, I’d rather they keep movies and games separate. They are both different forms of entertainment, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. But if this sort of thing is going to continue to happen to games I hope game makers follow the examples of Uncharted and let us get back to the action instead of being more Metal Gear and having the controllers turn off due to inaction because a cutscene has been going for twenty minutes. And if movie makers want to make a good action movie, don’t look to videogames, look to movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Die Hard. They told their story, they showed their action, and they managed to keep our attention the whole way through.