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Full Motion Video

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Hey, this game has really realistic graphics! Too bad the acting isn't of a similar quality.

"CD-ROMs were a major technological leap back in the early nineties. All of a sudden our portable storage capacity jumped from the three-and-a-half megabyte floppies [Subtitle: you mean 1.44MB? Thought so.note ] we were using, to over seven hundred megabytes crammed on this little disk, and it didn't take long for game designers to stop and think: Hey, these things are like little Laserdiscs, we could put movies and stuff on 'em! And we could make kickass games out of that!"
Noah "The Spoony One" Antwiler, The Spoony Experiment, on the origin of Full Motion Video games

A "full motion video"note  ("FMV" for short) is a video game term, used back in The '90s for Cutscenes which use pre-rendered or live-action video, as opposed to playing in-engine.

Today, however, the term is mainly remembered as lending its name to a particular type of video games (also called "interactive movies") which are entirely based around video clips. Gameplay consisted mostly of pressing buttons at the right time, choosing correct sequences of clips, or playing other games that just used the video as a backdrop. Nowadays these games are best remembered for a lack of interactivity — as The Angry Video Game Nerd once put it, "It doesn't even feel like you're playing a game. It feels like you're watching a movie. A bad movie."

Part of the logical reason the games were so poorly received, was that in addition to their lack of interactivity, they were also badly written and poorly acted — the task of programming a whole new genre of a game had to be balanced with hiring scriptwriters and actors. Naturally quality suffered, with camp movies, hammy actors, bad plots or just a lousy game.

In arcades, the genre really began in 1983 with the release of Dragon's Lair, a laserdisc-based game with animation by Don Bluth. The game typically cost twice as much to play as any other game, and gameplay consisted of pressing a button or direction at the appropriate point, but it was very popular, and inspired countless imitators. The fad died after a year or so because of the sameness of the gameplay and the difficulty in maintaining expensive laserdisc players. Plus, laserdisc games were prone to skipping and even outright malfunctions, due to factors such as the disc or reader wearing out after extensive play. Regardless, arcade laserdisc games were sporadically produced even through the 1990s. There were also attempts to bring laserdisc games into the home in the 1980s with the Palcom PX-7 MSX computer and the incredibly obscure RDI Halcyon console, and in the 1990s with the Pioneer LaserActive. Many old laserdisc games were simple enough that they can be played nowadays on an ordinary DVD player.

Full motion video games really became popular on home computers with the introduction of CD-ROM drives in The '90s, and CD-equipped console systems like the Sega CD, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer and Philips CD-i rushed to exploit the trend. Gameplay on home systems was no better than in the arcade, with the extra problem that early CD-based home systems, especially the Sega CD, weren't powerful enough to produce good quality video.

Not every FMV game was bad, though. Some, especially the Tex Murphy series, are considered classics of the adventure genre. It's just that for every Tex Murphy, Phantasmagoria, or Gabriel Knight, there were 10 ''Double Switch'' or ''Johnny Mnemonic''-level games, and at $60+ a pop, the audience quickly became bored. Of course, many people still enjoy the lesser-quality games for the camp value.

While pretty much a dead genre, as the video game industry has moved onto other ways of making money from nice graphics combined with crappy gameplay and mind-numbing tedium (see tropes like Freemium, Downloadable Content, Allegedly Free Game...), some newer titles have taken on to using this medium as part of their marketing campaign, perhaps giving it a niche to hold on to.

Arcade games:

...among many others. The Dragon's Lair Project features an extensive repository of videos from these and other FMV arcade games among other things.

Home games:

  • The (non-canon, and very NSFW) Death Note Yaoi game Bound Prince is this. It tells a story of Light losing a bet to L and being his Sex Slave for a week; it's basically an illustrated fanfic.
  • Gundam 0079: The War for Earth, a Japan-exclusive title in which the player experiences the events of the the early parts of the TV series through a combination of live-action and CG sequences. Notable for having the live-action portions filmed in Canada with the actors' lines dubbed into Japanese by the original series' voice actors.
  • Kids On Site
  • The Lawnmower Man (not the cartridge-based console game) used Dragon's Lair-style Press X to Not Die gameplay minus the on-screen prompts (thereby requiring trial and error) interspersed with time-limited puzzle solving. (This kind of gameplay combined with limited lives makes for extreme Fake Difficulty.) It had 3D graphics (like in the film) that were pre-rendered to fit the limits of the Sega Genesis color palette (64 onscreen, 512 total), even in the PC version despite the hardware allowing for more colors (256 onscreen, 2^24 total).
  • Maabus (1994), a first-person adventure game with some action elements, used pre-rendered 3D video clips to depict in-game actions, such as transitions between places (whereas some of its contemporaries, most notably the original Myst, would instead just jump from one still image to another). This game had so much video data that it needed 3 CDs to hold it all.
  • Mad Dog Mccree
  • The Make My Video series on Sega CD, a set of utilities released at the height of the multimedia boom that let players edit their own versions of music videos from artists such as Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch, Kriss Kross, INXS and C+ C Music Factory. Especially notable for their terrible cutscenes, being generally considered some of the worst "games" ever made, and also being considered the worst games on the Sega CD (and that's saying something, because the Sega CD is infamous for having a horrid selection of games).
  • Man Enough
  • MegaRace, which used a live-action host combined with CG effects for cutscenes and had racetracks that played out as prerendered videos. Despite the heavy reliance on FMVs, it's held to be a pretty fun arcade-style racing game with a respectable cult following.
  • Metron. Can beat Make My Video example above in that nomination without any effort.
  • Strahl, AKA Triad Stone.
  • Street Fighter II: (The Interactive) Movie: A Japan-only Street Fighter game released for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn that combined footage from The Animated Movie with new animation made specifically for the game. Oddly enough, instead of controlling Ryu or one of the canon characters, the player character was a Shadowlaw Monitor Cyborg, who develops his abilities by watching said FMV footage and "analyzing" the characters' techniques.
  • The original arcade version of Starblade technically isn't a FMV game due to being rendered in realtime, but its home ports used a single-continuous FMV with enemy models overlaid.
  • The PlayStation 2 and Wii conversions of Rock Band, and the PS2 conversion of Rock Band 2, had the actual note highways and HUDs rendered in real-time, but in order to make the game look as good as its Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts, the backgrounds were pre-rendered FMVs from those versions rather than being rendered in real-time. Sadly, this meant the game lost all of its character customization features in the process.

Regular games with "FMV cutscenes"

  • Beginning with Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation, the Final Fantasy series became famous for its high quality FMV cutscenes that integrated flawlessly with the pre-rendered backgrounds. The high production values and visual spectacle of these FMVs were crucial to popularizing Japanese RPGs with western audiences, who found previous games' 2D sprites unappealing for conveying complex plots and characters.
  • Wing Commander is noted for being one the few series with FMVs that actually did them well, using quality movie actors and solid writing, with Wing Commander IV being a particular standout (unlike III, it was shot on film with actual sets, and had a stronger script than Prophecy).
    • The spinoff game Privateer 2: The Darkening is also widely praised for the FMV cutscenes. While the game itself is notoriously glitchy, the FMV is often considered its saving grace, thanks to its outstanding production value and acting. Spoony even called it "the modern Dr. Who series ten years ahead of its time."
  • Kingdom Hearts has them at the beginning and end of the games.
  • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, uniquely among the series, uses FMV cutscenes, justified by the Faux Documentary format of the Framing Story: a journalist is interviewing retired Belkan War veterans and the "missions" you play are actually stories they tell about the Demon Lord.
  • Grand Theft Auto 2 played FMV of an angrier, more talkative Claude Speed.
  • LocoCycle uses FMVs for cinematics between levels.
  • The introductory movie for the original Resident Evil is one of the more infamous examples.
  • Off World Interceptor had arguably the worst in this subcategory.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Call of Duty: Black Ops and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are some of the titles that have used FMV or a combination of FMV and in-game renders for their trailers, marketing campaigns and commercials.
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops also uses FMV during the game itself multiple times, though this is mostly to get around the ageing id Tech 3's inability to load multiple levels at a time.
  • Metal Gear Solid and its sequels have a few live-action FMV sequences here and there.
  • Warhawk A PSX lauch title has FMV's before missions.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns uses FMV for the intro, the Final Boss's introduction, the ending, the reveal of the Golden Temple, and the transition from the opening area of the Golden Temple to the main level. Three of these FMVs have three variations depending on which Kongs were present, making a total of twelve FMVs.
  • Angry Birds Trilogy replaces the still-frame cutscenes with FM Vs.
  • The PS1 version of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile had pre-recorded CGI cutscenes for the intro, as well as the scene where Klonoa and Huepow go to Cress, and the ending. In the Wii remake, all of these cutscenes were rendered with the in-game graphics.
  • NiGHTS into Dreams... had quite a few CGI cutscenes, all of which were very nicely animated.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, the scene where the Tornado escapes from the exploding island used a pre-recorded video of the island blowing up, and then the Tornado was a 3D model placed in front of the video.
  • The Sly Cooper series uses 2D comic book-style cutscenes.
  • Mech Commander I and II, and MechWarrior IV used FMV for character portraits in mission briefings and for cutscenes. Earlier games never showed characters and had CGI cutscenes.
  • EarthSiege and its plethora of oddly named sequels used FMV for mission briefings, while the majority of the cutscenes were CGI.
  • The fifth generation Road Rash game had plenty, ranging from loading up on weapons before a race to a Biker Babe dragging a cowboy by the belt after a win.
  • Tomb Raider, and every game through Chronicles. Though some cutscenes were rendered using the gameplay engine instead.
  • Shivers begins and ends with FMVs of your "friends" locking you on the museum grounds and arriving to find you, respectively.
  • Roundabout's cutscenes are live-action clips specifically made to look like a 70s B-movie.
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005) and Carbon had a few FMV cutscenes each.
  • Strafe features live-action cutscenes in its tutorial, fitting with its 90's look.
  • Zelda's Adventure has live-action cutscenes instead of its two predecessors' Off-Model animation.
  • Jurassic Park (Sega CD) usually uses FMV to demonstrate navigation between areas of the park, and a computer in the visitor's center provides you with video phone calls from an Emily Shimura. As well as a representative of BioSyn.

Alternative Title(s): Interactive Movie, FMV