30 Days of Video Games: Day 16, Best Cut Scenes

Okay, doing it again and double posting in one day.  This whole week is crazy for me between progress report grades closing and rehearsals for this weekend’s Carmina Burana concert with the choir, and also getting the school magazine to the printer and such.  But I’m working to keep up with this, because I really want to see the month through.  So without further ado (since there’s been enough already), I present day 16: the game with the best cut scenes.

Cut scenes are tricky.  You don’t want them to take over the game, but you want them to add intrigue and improve the story in a way that gameplay itself won’t or can’t achieve.  Technological advances have given designers and developers the ability to create sweeping, cinematic cut scenes that are beautiful; but of course there must be a balance between what’s visually stunning and what contributes to the game.  In some cases both can be achieved.

In my own experience I feel that the game that best does this is Halo: Reach.  The game shifts almost seamlessly between cut scenes and playtime, and the scenes contribute to and enhance the story without hindering game play.  In the scenes you learn more about the characters and about the doomed planet of Reach.  The graphic quality is the same between the cut scenes and the game play; some games don’t have this balance.  The cut scenes will be smooth and cinematographic, while the game graphics will be rougher.  It’s a little annoying, but it’s a relief that Reach, Bungie’s final foray into the Halo universe, doesn’t have this dichotomy.

Another nice thing is timing.  The cut scenes in Reach usually come right after a difficult fight, giving you time to breathe and prepare for the next segment of the game.  Sometimes they come before another difficult segment, allowing you a chance to scope out the territory.  So really, Reach’s cut scenes enhance game play, rather than interrupt it, all while telling the story of the planet and the characters.  It’s nicely balanced, which is what we want.

Later today: I back-post day 15, screenshot from a game I’ve been playing.  Oops.  Haven’t had my coffee yet.

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2 comments on “30 Days of Video Games: Day 16, Best Cut Scenes

  1. “The graphic quality is the same between the cut scenes and the game play; some games don’t have this balance.”

    I think this is another situation where our expectations change rapidly along with the rapid change in technology. I feel like, not very long ago, all things considered, it was absolutely expected that cut scenes would be worlds above gameplay in terms of graphics. It was just the way it had to be. I remember the very first game that I sat down to appreciate cut scenes being Diablo 2. I couldn’t wait to get to the next one, I loved watching them! Tellingly, they were called “cinematics,” always meant to be mini-movies, a different way of telling a story within the game. And they were beautiful.

    I still love beautiful cut scenes, and it actually doesn’t bother me at all if there is a graphics disparity. What bugs me most is when cut scenes interrupt the flow of the gameplay’s story rather than enhancing it.

  2. The cutscenes in Final Fantasy X are some of the prettiest and most cinematic I’ve ever seen. It was disappointing that the gameplay didn’t look nearly as nice (though pretty darn good for the PS2), but they at least propelled the story well beyond being eye candy between levels.

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