It’s tough to judge cutscenes with them being in nearly every game these days. Generally speaking, most are pretty good and they look better and better each year. Some had great voice acting, while others had none at all. While there are some great scenes out there, they’re sometimes unskippable and get repeated ad nauseam, when you have to do something over. I’m going to focus on the usage of cutscenes and how they fit in the game. When I think about this, the game that stands out for me is Final Fantasy XI. Scenes were presented well and there was no drastic change in the quality of the scene vs. the rest of the gameplay. Your character and their name were given proper use. I saw almost no repetition of any scenes, as I was only ever going through the story on one character.
I want to talk a little bit about what I would consider the worst scene usage. The recently released MMO ‘The Secret World’ makes liberal use of cutscenes and voice acting to present its story. The only really good part about it is the voice acting. It sells an otherwise dull scene where people talk to a mute person (your character). This is my main gripe with cutscenes in some games, but that isn’t even the worst part. I feel this is poor usage of cutscenes because if you’re playing this MMO with multiple people (as one might expect), it can get in the way. With voice chat being the more common form of communication, people are given the choice of switching off voice acting and turning on captions or having to be quiet during a 5 minute scene. The first option makes me feel that it was a waste of talent and resources to have all that in there. As for the second option, it can cause some problems, especially if someone comes back to the computer and starts talking, only to be shushed.