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Koming To A Konklusion on Mortal Kombat Legacy: Part THE END

January 12, 2012


I have not been good at doing this lately.

I haven't seen something so visually confusing since visiting a bar in Thailand. Oh man.

The news (well, it’s news to me – it was announced possibly several years ago) that Kevin Tancharden has officially been pinned as the guy to make a new Mortal Kombat movie saddens me. I mean, it doesn’t surprise me – this Legacy series has presumably been pretty successful, and the new game was a shockingly huge seller, so a go-ahead on the movie was sort of inevitable, and it wasn’t particularly hard to predict ol’ Tanchy would be directing, and hell, I probably helped his case, considering I was the guy watching each episode, then giving them even more views as I rewatched them to take screengrabs and whatever, so, yay me – but it still saddens me. Because I know Mortal Kombat is never going to be a good movie franchise, and frankly, it’s been unfair of me to expect this stupid web series to be anything beyond “tolerably recorded on camera”, but, y’know – even Mortal Kombat can be better than this. It already has been! The 1995 movie’s introductory fight for Johnny Cage, by itself, had more memorable lines than all four hundred episodes of this miscarriage of creativity. And that only had two lines!

Anyway, that news also reminds me that I never did get around to looking at the last episode of Legacy. Which is this episode: Episode 9, featuring everybody’s favourite pointless robot ninjas that sort of missed the point, Sektor and Cyrax.


Well, look, I’m not embedding it. It’s rubbish. Don’t go watch it. It’s Transformers on a smaller scale with worse special effects.

I will, however, take this time to talk about something else entirely. Since you’re here and whatever.

This Max Payne facial expression joke was brought to you by the year 2001.

I have decided that my very least favourite term in video game speak is “cinematic”. Mostly because it’s almost mandatory for every single game released anywhere these days to have that somewhere in its preview hype, as if it were a Good Thing. It’s not. It almost never means anything remotely good for the player, only for the frustrated movie director helming the game’s production.

It used to augur pretty good things, way back in, oooh, say, 2001. Back when we used to think that games becoming “cinematic” would mean things like improved plotting and pacing, and a better grasp of mise-en-scène. Back when we were still riding on the stupidly high expectations Half-Life and Deus Ex instilled in us. Somewhere in that intervening decade, “cinematic” became “CINEMATIC“. It basically became shorthand for the cancerous wrongs in gaming: intrusive QTEs, canned animations and a decidedly insulting amount of scripting and uber-strict linearity where there used to be meaningful interaction, or at least the illusion of it. It went from promising “you’ll feel like you’re in a movie!” to promising “You’ll feel like you’re watching a movie! Because you will be.”

What’s important to note is that the guys who are making the 5% of games that actually are meaningfully cinematic don’t bleat on about the whole thing, because they’ve smartly busied themselves making their games function as games. “Cinematic” is the sense that a cinematographer’s eye was employed when Eidos Montreal were creating Adam Jensen’s apartment in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. “CINEMATIC” is a game completely falling apart at the seams as soon as you even slightly deviate from its script. LIKE SO.

It just irritates me that developers have used the incredible leaps forward in technology over the last few generations of games not to further engross us in their games, but to distance us, even remove us from them. So many games say “this is the very specific thing you’re going to do, this is the very specific thing you’re going to see while you do it, and if you try to do or see anything else, we might murder your family.” And then they go ahead and instruct us to press Y to look in a certain direction, so tremendously scared are they that we might miss their little vignette if we were left to our own devices. We want to explore your games, devs. We want to experiment, and we want our experimental side to be acknowledged, not slapped down like an ugly child. (Which is why I’m so excited when I read interviews like this. Man, I can’t wait to play Dishonoured.)

Trying to be “CINEMATIC” peaked in its usefulness (and its ability to impress) with the first Max Payne, guys. Now let’s make games that are so much more than that.

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