Video games can be used to relax, to destroy your virtual enemies, or, of course, as a political prop in your inexplicable war against women. It's all fairly straightforward. But beneath the surface, many of your favorite games are a chaotic pile of code barely held together by the work of sleep-deprived programmers. And if you poke at them even slightly, you can spot the exact second some tired keyboard jockey said, "Fuck it, I just want to go home and see if I still have a spouse."
6In Mirror's Edge, You Are A Deranged Frankenstein Monster
Mirror's Edge was a first-person parkour game starring an Asian woman -- a collection of wildly innovative ideas from EA, a company known for the exact opposite. If it sounds strange to you, you're having the same reaction everyone had before they played it. At its core, it's jogging meets vertigo, yet it somehow worked.
You really feel like an Asian girl constantly almost dying!
Your character is named Faith, and she effortlessly wall jumps and rolls along rooftops with fluid confidence. Or at least, that appears to be the case in the first-person point of view. If you zoom out a little, you'll see Faith's movements look more like a drunk chasing after the children who stole her corrective shoes as she violently shits her pants.
She moves like the plot of Speed in the form of a human woman.
Anyone would feel a bit of panic while running along the edge of a building. So maybe it's her proximity to certain death that's causing her to move like a malfunctioning robot. But Faith looks even crazier during her casual strolls, like she's being controlled by a puppeteer trying to get fired.
"I AM walking a straight line! Maybe YOU'RE the wub that's intoxifated, occifer!"
The animators gave Faith's body all kinds of medically impossible twitches in order to make the game work. For instance, when she struggles across a tightrope-like pipe, the player sees this:
Whoaa! She's barely able to stay on! Whoooaah!!! Well, when the camera zooms out, it's a little less dramatic. Her legs are perfectly locked onto the beam the entire time. But her upper body has the consistency of a fresh-baked cookie being slowly, delicately ripped apart by a hand model.
She's got that fresh-from-the-oven torso.
Faith's most hilarious performances come during quick time events -- those times you stop playing the game and instead must quickly identify shapes. It sounds too fucking stupid to be true, but it's a real device that video game developers love, for reasons known only to them and the mad god they worship. During its QTEs, Mirror's Edge knows you can't move your body, so it doesn't bother to animate it. Instead, it puts you in your default pose -- halfway through the "Y" motion from "YMCA" -- and magically floats you to your destination. For instance, if you're too slow pushing the triangle button on your controller, a bodyguard may choke-slam Faith off of a building to her death. In first-person, this is terrifying. But when you pull the camera back:
In all seriousness, 30 mannequins are killed every day by interpretive dancers. #SaveOurFallingMannequins
5In The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Everything Does The Limbo, Forever
The most recent Legend Of Zelda title for the Nintendo 3DS was a nostalgic throwback to the old 2D games in the series. There were no flaky touchscreen controls or broken social gimmicks -- it was good old-fashioned gameplay designed to stimulate every nostalgic nerve center in your brain. Look at this thing:
If this doesn't take you right back to childhood, then you ... are probably a different age than us. That's okay. You're okay.
At first glance, the game looks beautiful. It uses 3D models to create the look of classic 16-bit games. But look closely at the perspective. If we're seeing this from directly above, shouldn't we be looking a floppy green hat and a hunk of elf hair rudely ignoring a round purple shape?
Back when Link was carefully drawn with pixels, this type of visual "cheating" made sense. It was artistic license, and allowed the player to see more of the game's characters. Sprites don't give a shit about your eyeballs and their rules on perspective and foreshortening. But remember, this game uses 3D models, not sprites.
It also uses the "leave it in a pile outside" system of banking.
They could have moved the camera to a 3/4 viewpoint, but in order to keep that classic SNES vibe, they came up with a solution equal parts genius and stupid. Everything in the entire world, whether it's a person, statue, sign, or cliff side, is leaning backwards like it's doing the limbo. Check out that exact same scene from a different angle:
It's as if all of Hyrule started dodging Agent Smith's bullets at the same time.