Storyline! Yeah, that’s an important part of videogames these days. It may be something that’s been lauded by gamers since the days of Zork, but only fairly recently has it become so in vogue. As a general rule, the cycle goes: experiences wanted by players from games of old > indie games do it > becomes cool > triple-A developers do it > becomes uncool, and around again. And it makes sense in a vague kind of way. Big budget development teams don’t want to waste money experimenting with something new if people won’t buy it. They’re a business after all. Let the bedroom devs take the plunge, they’ve got nothing to lose. If it works, then copy them.
And when those money-machines have killed an idea to death, it’s time to spit it out and devour the next one. To some degree it’s beneficial to gamers as we end up with things like Portal, but for every Portal there’s a MindJack, where poorly mimicked puzzle gimmicks are distilled and shoehorned into mindless, tumescent cash-ins. But the worst offender? Emotion. Indie developers had the audacity to make feeling something other than ‘mildly entertained’ cool again, and began taking us on roller-coasters of raw sentiment. The publishing giants dutifully jumped on the bandwagon, and what we were left with was an abomination unto mankind.
Why didn’t it work? Well, you see, those games that effortlessly and callously invaded your heart before leaving you balling up more tissues than the entire population of England during Princess Diana’s funeral could do so because they operated within context of their subject. Shadow Of The Colossus. Journey. Mother 3. To The Moon. All games where your heartbreak is a component of the central theme. What we have here, however, are seven games where sensitivity absolutely isn’t within the context, but they still flatly attempt to manipulate your emotions anyway, likely because the developers felt like they had to superglue some ‘sad bits’ onto a game in order to connect with us. Ugh.
Click on to see what lame, wooden cutscenes made it onto our list! And I guess it’s worth noting that there’s spoilers ahead, assuming you’ve spent the last 10 years living in a Guatemalan sink-hole.Next
7) Halo: Reach – Death Of Any/All Noble Team
Bungie’s farewell to their much beloved Halo franchise was a fine instalment. Terrific, in fact. It played wonderfully, looked great, and received a flawless critical reception. In many ways, it was the perfect swansong. In some other ways, however, not so much.
Bungie purposefully absolved themselves of Master Chief’s story arc by ignoring his plight (and that of his jabbering, blue helmet-wife) altogether, instead choosing to construct a brand new tale based on the history of the original title. Now, we get that they were sad about leaving Halo behind, but what they came up with was so over-the-top sentimental that if you removed the shooting elements it wouldn’t have looked out of place as a segue on Oprah.
The idea, I suppose, is that we would be struck by the poignancy of the deaths of Noble Team Six, as one by one they perish against ever increasing odds. The problem with that though, is that we’d never met them before this game, and they barely even took their helmets off. Emotionally connecting with interchangeable colours of Power Ranger is difficult enough, and that those ‘ever increasing odds’ boiled down to ‘shooting more purple aliens’ meant that, if anything, their deaths were a good thing for the player as it was one less name to try and remember.Previous Next
6) Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – Snake’s Retirement
Metal Gear Solid is the most ponderous, convoluted series that gaming has ever endured. A franchise where every cutscene lasts 30 years, and every actor is so inexplicably overwrought in every scene that playing through to the end feels like it qualifies you to make made-for-TV movies for Lifetime.
Metal Gear Solid 4 was the very limit. When you were actually in control of the game, it was a blast, slithering about in silence, taking out shady military superpowers, but then yet another cutscene would kick in and you instantly knew you might as well save your batteries by taking them out of your controller while yet another cheesy, prolonged dialogue takes place.
In this case, the offending scene is performed by the ever-terrible Otacon, whining on about Snake’s “retirement.” Earlier on, it was alluded to that Snake had been shot and killed (which would have been truly remarkable), but obviously that was never going to actually occur, and instead it transpires that he just needs to take a bit of a holiday to get better again. This, for some reason, was put across to us as tearjearking stuff, where instead, it was actually more like stomach-jerking.Previous Next
5) Assassin’s Creed III – Ziio Dies
There’s aspects of this that have the potential to move you in a way that games haven’t before. Most notably, it’s the trenchant authenticity of Ubisoft’s endless history lesson that draws you in. The near-as-dammit depiction of Native American life, from their culture to their dialect, is what raises it from the chaff.
What immediately drops it again are the constant bugs, insanely protracted fetch quests, and the generally repetitive gameplay elements. Sure, it’s sad when your mother dies at the hands of a bunch of nasty jerks, and having you play as her child yourself is a clever way of inducing that sadness.
But actually, this is a game where you play an assassin. Your job is to go around stabbing people in the neck – and before this scene occurs, you are effectively playing as your own dad, who also throws people off rooftops for a living. It somewhat dilutes the emotional impact of a parents’ death when you’ve spent this game (not to mention the ten other games in the franchise) going around killing other peoples. I’m not saying you deserved it, but… OK, maybe that’s exactly what I’m saying.Previous Next
4) Resident Evil 6 – Piers Pushes Chris Over
But it’s not just a push, it’s a push of self sacrifice. Which makes it sad, I guess. Especially for Chris, who has known him all of one game. In fact, Piers is relentlessly sacrificing his various body parts (and subsequent plans to start a family) throughout the game. He even injects himself with the dreaded T-Virus after woodenly exclaiming that he “did it for the BSAA… for the future!”
Now, I’m not suggesting for one second that the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance wouldn’t be grateful that he pumped himself full of mutant, but it does seem a little daft in the grand scheme of things. And, as every person playing saw a mile off, it ended in tragedy.
But did the year’s most beautiful bromance leave you wiping tears from your eyes? No, it didn’t – unless you were thinking about all the money you spent on this game. Did it make you feel anything at all, now that I think about it? In the 30 seconds of dialogue before Piers’ demise, Chris says the name “Piers” about 900 times, as if forcing us to remind ourselves to feel something for the guy we only met 7 hours ago. There’s even the over-done classic of a screaming name-fade as his escape pod is fired away over swelling orchestral music. “PIIIIIEEEEERRRRRSSSSSsssss!” he yells at his fated comrade. “THIS SUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKSSSSSssss,” we yell at the television.Previous Next
3) Beyond: Two Souls – Ellen Page Euthanises Her Mum
Now clearly, euthanasia is a pretty sad affair. There’s not a whole lot of redeeming features about the concept, and certainly none that would cheer you up if you meditated on them. Few games have dealt with the topic, but it can make for some very moving scenes when done well, as any of the handful of people who have played the hugely underrated Darkness games can testify. When in the hands of David Cage, however? Not remotely.
All of Cage’s games under Quantic Dream are known for being nakedly manipulative, pulling every trick in the book to make you swallow whichever particular emotion he’s trying to force-feed you. And why does it consistently miss the mark? Well, because of what I just said, basically. If David Cage wants you to be sad, he will batter you over the head with generic sadness until he thinks you’ve got the message, though usually to the point where you’re numb and uncaring anyway.
It also doesn’t help that to get to those points in his games you only need to press, like, three or four buttons over the course of several hours. You spend so little time actually in control of the characters that caring about them is almost a moot point, no matter how many little humanistic touches you’re forced to endure, like making your character have a shower, or putting a hotdog in the microwave or whatever. Abominably clichéd writing (“I’ll always be with you”) and THE FACT THAT THIS GAME IS ABOUT A GHOST CALLED ‘AIDEN’ cap it off nicely.Previous Next
2) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – England Blows Up, So It Goes Guv’nor
In what can only be described as the most poorly constructed scene to ever be looked at by a human, Modern Warfare 3 easily surpasses all others in an effort to make the player so angry at the naughty terrorist men that after he’s done sobbing into his bloodstained hanky, all he’ll want to do is vengefully slaughter them. You know, like how you’ve spent the preceding section of the game doing anyway.
Firstly, the scene has clearly been dressed by someone who has not only never even been to England, but only seen pictures of it on page one of a Google search. They somehow managed to cram so many hackneyed elements into one frame that it’s like watching the film Notting Hill on 50x fast forward. The red post box, the chained up bicycle, the police sirens, the black cab, the black and white-style football that no one has used since the 1980′s laying around on the curb for some reason, the Union Jack flag, the pub and “Big Ben,” all on the screen at once. And not to nit-pick, but that isn’t even Big Ben, it’s Elizabeth Tower. Tourists…
And so the Davis family start filming their walk half way down a street for some reason, with a little girl skipping merrily about it. What could possibly happen?? Terrorists, that’s what. And their plan, it seems, is to blow up a lorry on this particular random, generic street. Not by any of the hundreds of tourist hotspots in England’s fair capital. No, just this deserted road will do fine. As long as one cute little girl is killed, the player will be in tatters.Previous Next
1) Every Gears of War Ever
Epic Games set the scene well, I’ll give them that. They painted a picture of a franchise that would be haunting and desolate. A lone, honourable struggle against insurmountable odds. A game depicting the real isolation and sadness of war. Yes, it was that trailer (featuring the drab tones of Gary Jules’ version of Mad World) that had us foaming at the eyes. It turned out to be a pretty good game, but did it really deliver on its promise? Not really. Epic was left with only one choice – to raise the stakes for the sequel.
So, they did, by giving us a ludicrous side story about Dom Santiago’s wife being taken prisoner by the Locust. And when (after intermittent moping about on the battlefield) they finally do come across her, she’s not in a good way. Despite Marcus’s best efforts, which basically consist of saying “it’s okay Dom” when it clearly isn’t, he’s left with no choice but to blow her head off and cry for nine seconds. Do we care? Not really. And why should we? After half an hour later, he doesn’t even seem that fussed.
This is a game where you play as men the size of Russian bears, with voices deeper than a cello in a cave, who have strapped chainsaws to the end of their guns. Any attempt to humanise them through having a dead wife is completely pointless, when giving characters this unsophisticated some depth would have basically been as simple if you’d just showed them struggling to tie their shoe laces.
Epic tried to one up themselves yet again in the third instalment, and even had Dom sacrificing himself, though again in an explosive set piece so overdramatized it made the Die Hard franchise look like a high-school art project. He grew a cool beard though, so I guess we connected on some level.
What do you guys think? Cheap storytelling, or emotional materpieces? Has any game made you actually bawl? Let us know below!Previous