FMV games aren’t dead – they just didn’t press X in time.
Night Trap. Command & Conquer. Wing Commander III. Warm Chicken Caesar Salad. These are all games infamous for their Full-Motion Video aspects (apart from the last one which is what I order when I eat at a new restaurant).
Full-Motion Video (FMV), if you didn’t know (and also if you do know and also if you’re not sure either way) is what it’s called when games use live-action footage as part of the game.
Games such as Wing Commander III and Command & Conquer use FMV to progress the story. In other words, the games have FMV cutscenes.
Check out this glorious performance from the inimitable (a word which here means ‘I cannot do a decent impersonation of him’) Tim Curry playing the Premier of the Soviet Union – and make sure you watch till the end where he very nearly breaks character due to how deliciously bad the script is:
Press X to Not Die: The Legacy of FMV Games
Games such as Night Trap are basically interactive movies. If you’re into Dark Mirror, it was quite similar to Bandersnatch – you were directing the action, not actually taking part in it.
Night Trap is still, to this day, considered one of the worst games ever made and regularly makes ‘worst games ever‘ lists on other websites.
This is due to many factors, but mainly it’s because the story is trash and the marketing was even worse. It’s a game from the early ’90s where a special ops team has to oversee a female teen’s slumber party, and the marketing implied many shocking things that didn’t actually happen.
So they had some people upset that certain things (such as a nude shower scene) were implied to have been in the game, and other people upset that certain things (such as a nude shower scene) weren’t in the game.
Some people (such as me, before I played Press X to Not Die) might say that Night Trap killed the FMV game market.
But the format itself? The idea of ‘playing’ a movie? It lives on in a little game called Warm Chicken Caesar Salad.
Wait, that ain’t right.
Well seeing as I screwed up the segue, I might as well give you a Fun Fact before we continue on: The lead actress from Night Trap was Dana Plato, who our older readers might recognise as the daughter from Different Strokes. Night Trap was her intended to be her ‘I’m not a little girl anymore‘ breakout role.
Press X To Not Die: Return of the FMV Game?
I’ve been playing a lot of horror games lately. Well, I should say I’ve been trying to. They’re…not a lot of fun. While that’s something I could easily unpack into a whole other article/post, the main issue is that it’s hard to take something seriously if it doesn’t know what it is.
Take Resident Evil VII, for instance. It thinks it’s a great horror game but it’s actually just a decent adventure game with scripted and unavoidable boss battles that are so bad they make the original release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution look like Cuphead when it comes to boss battle creativity. The real horror with Resident Evil VII is in how unresponsive the combat is.
Steam is full of free horror games, but it’s usually the same story as Resident Evil VII: The true horror is in the control system. Oh and it’s usually the same story as Resident Evil VII as well: One person has to escape a blah blah blah I’m bored already, and now I’m immune to your jumpscares, game.
Meanwhile, all the good horror games aren’t even horror games: They’re action-oriented killfests. Take Left4Dead or Dying Light: If they were movies they’d be horror movies but as games they’re pure action. This means that the pace of the story doesn’t easily lend itself to horror, because horror requires a slow burn. Apart from maybe gorefest/slaughterhouse, but that’s not horror as much as it’s shock media.
Press X to Not Die is the opposite of all of this. It’s got the kind of story you’d find in an action game, but the gameplay is closer to a typing tutorial (if X, QE or ZCZCZCZCZC were words, that is).
Press X To Not Die: 28 Button Presses Later
Unless you’re a particularly quick reader, you’ve spent more time reading this article now than you will to finish the Press X to Not Die Demo, which can be found here on Steam.
While the game itself isn’t very long, it’s very replayable.
You play as a young-adult male who wakes up to his friend Matt telling him that people are going crazy and attacking everyone.
You get out of bed, talk to Matt, and are then instantly attacked by a random – um – attacker.
True to form, you must indeed then ‘Press X to Not Die’.
If you don’t press X in time, you die.
If you do press X in time, you survive but Matt dies.
Gurgling through his last breaths, Matt has some important final words for you: ‘I didn’t…I didn’t press X in time.’
What do you think that the player does directly after that? Take a guess.
– Grab his jacket from his closet
– Call his girlfriend
– Give his cat a boop on the nose
– Steal a bike
If you guessed ‘Give his cat a boop on the nose’ then well done!
That was the exact moment I fell in love with the game. Not because of the cat-nose-boop (because I resent cats because I remain convinced that they’ve clandestinely domesticated humans) but because of its refusal to take anything seriously. Contrast and compare to Resident ‘AM I SPOOKY YET?’ Evil VII‘s pretentious brand of ‘horror’.
After nose-booping your feline pet/master, you call your girlfriend who assumes that Matt died because of Twilight fans, in a joke that’s both terrible and hilarious at the same time (although mileage may vary, which is a weird phrase for me to use as an Australian, but whatever).
And then you head outside, after grabbing your jacket.
If you mistime the ‘locking your door’ animation, your hand (and keys) will limply and pointlessly smash into the door, because Press X to Not Die is one of those games where playing it wrong is just as much fun and playing it right.
Although I found the game itself hilarious (due to the overacting of the main character and many of the jokes), the failed attempts to play the game had me laughing just as much as the actual game.
Press X To Not Die: Still A Better Love Story Than Twilight
I honestly thought the story was better than most games I’ve played lately. There’s an in-universe reason that the townspeople have mostly turned into psychotic attackers, and it’s not the tired old ‘they’re all zombies‘ cliche. It even ties into why the player is able to ‘press X’.
Sure, the reason panders to gamers (actual gamers, not the bigots who are currently trying to misappropriate the term ‘gamer’, which is an important distinction to make) but it’s a celebration of gamers, not one of these stupid games where being a gamer is the butt of a joke.
You’ll notice I haven’t discussed the actual story much, that’s because there isn’t a lot to it. The horror elements are heavy, but the actual implementation is beautifully weaksauce. Literally – the blood is CLEARLY tomato sauce. Or maybe ketchup. Whatever, you know what I mean.
The demo is the first part of the full game, which, I LOVE IT when games do that.
I mention this because the final choice you make in the demo (and in that chapter of the full game) is whether or not to watch your girlfriend shower. You also have the option of playing the game in low resolution, in the aptly-titled ‘1994 mode‘
I have no proof of this, but I like to think that those two facts are a nod to Night Trap‘s controversial past.
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