So a term that gets thrown around a lot is “cinematic”. Even now, you can find a lot of people pointing to games they would call “cinematic”. This is, interestingly, very much attached to Sony’s prestige gaming push; Uncharted, The Last of Us, or Detroid: Become Human are the kinds of games people tend to point to. I feel like this can be drawn back all the way to titles like Final Fantasy 7, or, probably most notably for reasons I will get into, Metal Gear Solid.
The term “cinematic”, when applied to games, is absurd because what it really means is “realistic graphics and lots of cutscenes”. Something that drove me absolutely up the wall in 2018 was people talking about how God of War is “a one-take.” This is nonsensical to me, (not only because games like Half-Life have already been doing this) but because the reason film buffs get excited about oners is because they are technically difficult.
The point is this: “prestige games” are interested in the veneer of filmmaking, but not the craft. Due to the seemingly eternal inferiority complex they have, they want to seem like movies. But they don’t want to explore what movies do with their visuals.
This is a very long polemic to get the point where I am saying that Kentucky Route Zero is a stunning game. It’s one of the few games I’ve played that has a firm grasp on the visual storytelling of films. The devs literally did a GDC talk about how they used “scenography”, as they call it, and talk about film theory and theatre. Some of their biggest inspirations are Tarkovsky and Brecth, and they cite the experimental movie Wavelength by Michael Snow as an influence, which shows in the games use of long pans and zooms in order to navigate a space. It is a consistently beautiful game, with endless ~vibes~ and if there was a time to call a game “cinematic”, I think this would be the time.
This is all to say this single sequence in Act I of Kentucky Route Zero (which came out in 2013) has a better understanding of cinematography and cinematic storytelling than most of the so-called “cinematic” games have in their entire campaigns.