Now Steaming: FMV Fighting Game Stay Dead

Yeah I'm pretty sure that mosaic is covering up a swastika armband.

The blurring between video and video game is a weird history of technology. The storage space of CD-ROMs enabled FMV cutscenes and interactive movies. 3D graphics pushed out FMV as the new novelty. Motion capture let real actors mime basic actions for 3D models. Faster 3D hardware led to more-detailed character models able to perform more and more-intricate actions. Now we have dead-eyed glossy mannequins who are kissing why are they kissing this is so weird.

Stay Dead [official site] seems like it’s from another time, with footage of real actors fighting strung together into something between a turn-based fighting game and an interactive movie. It first came out in 2012, but a surprise Steam release yesterday reminded me of all this again.

It’s such a strange thing. It mimics the wacky characters of fighting games, with huge ‘tribal’ facial tattoos and Nazi regalia galore, and even has actors ape the bouncy idle animations of fighting game characters. But it’s not like Mortal Kombat, where men simply become sprites. Fights are broken down into turns where attacks are performed with quick-time events, and different scenes play depending on how well you do. It’s definitely from the interactive movie side of the video/video game divide.

You can have a crack in the browser-based demo, and here’s a trailer:

It’s baffling yet fascinating. It’d be super exciting in the nineties (though not much better) but is so out of place in the tensies. Now called Stay Dead Evolution (I don’t know what’s evolved), it’s arrived on Steam at £3.74 thanks to a launch discount.

Of course, that’s a very quick and simplistic history I gave up there, missing out chunks and skipping over more causes and consequences and all that. What about the rotoscoping of The Last Express, Alice? Not to mention odd throwback blips like the video-captured faces of L.A. Noire. Strange things happen when video games and movies play together.

Addendum: This post didn’t seem right without mentioning the charming FMV of Roundabout.


  1. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    No, no, we had that meeting, remember? It was 1999, a Tuesday, we said “NO MOAR FMV!”. Everyone agreed.

    We put out a memo. THERE WAS A MEMO!

  2. donkeyspaceman says:

    As awful as FMV games are to play, I’ve always been surprised at how few I’ve seen now that HD video is a thing and they don’t LOOK awful, too.

    The Gunstringer (a Kinect game on the 360) had a free DLC mode that was all FMV and it’s SPECTACULAR. link to

    • tomimt says:

      It’s always been a question of how FMV is used. The reason why it got a bad name is because of games that were nothing more than reactionary button pushing events placed in between hammingly acted, poorly written scenes, a thing we got even today, but done in 3D graphics instead of live actors.

      There were games in which FMV was used smartly, mostly as the means to tell the story, not as gameplay mechanic. Tex Murphy games were good at that, as the game play itself was done in realtime 1st person 3D environment. Black Dahlia was great as well, especially because it actually had actors who could act in it.

  3. dethtoll says:

    The mere existence of this thing fills me with a kind of joy I cannot describe. The game sounds terrible. The concept is stupid. The execution as described is idiotic. I love it, and I want to play it — because the whole thing is as 90s as you can get without putting a shitty grunge track over it.

    • Dethangil says:

      I would say a terrible Nirvana-esque soundtrack is just what it needs. Fantastic idea.

      • Monggerel says:

        … but I do like Nirvana tho :I


      • dethtoll says:

        The irony is I almost did say Nirvana but decided that’d get me more grumpy people with no taste hassling me than I cared to have.

  4. Dethangil says:

    Ohh… does look like the original, in arcade, Mortal Combat… fun and campy. I dropped alot of money into that game.. I am sooooooo glad it went pixilated. But I know this isn’t a real game.. i know it.

  5. rustybroomhandle says:

    The comments here will predictably be an FMV-bashing FMV-bashapalooza, but I have to just point out that the way FMV was used in Myst IV: Revelations was just phenomenal. It showed a clear evolution of FMV in games… but sadly that evolution seems to have stopped there.

  6. benitosub says:

    All I can say is go try the demo! I just spent half an hour with it and it works really well for me, it’s essentially a glorified rhythm game. It does however solve one my biggest gripes with the genre, namely that you normally end up spending more time looking at the arrow prompts than what is happening on the screen: barely 15 minutes in I could actually guess which key I would have to press next by looking at the video :D

    EDIT: FMV Punch Out! That’s what it reminds me of! Watching the video to predict which move your opponent will do next, then trying to nail the timing on the counter!

  7. airknots says:

    The only FMV game I’ve played is Gabriel Knight 2. Awesome game, and I say this not out of nostalgia since I played it somewhere around 2009-2010.

  8. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Stay Dead, Evolution!

  9. Bassem says:

    I love FMV in games. The good, the bad, the cringe-inducing: I love it all. I hope FMV makes a comeback, big time.