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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."

In Mirror's Edge, You Are A Deranged Frankenstein Monster

Electronic Arts

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.

Electronic Arts
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.

Electronic Arts
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.

Electronic Arts
"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:

Electronic Arts

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.

Electronic Arts
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:

Electronic Arts
In all seriousness, 30 mannequins are killed every day by interpretive dancers. #SaveOurFallingMannequins

In 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.

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In Perfect Dark, The Windmill Is A Turret In Disguise

Rare / Nintendo

Perfect Dark was one of the last great games produced by Nintendo and Rare before the companies went their separate ways. It was the closest we ever got to a GOOD Goldeneye sequel, and the two titles shared a lot of similarities. Perfect Dark's hero, Joanna Dark, is a lot like James Bond, with the addition of an X chromosome. Perfect Dark's story is also a lot like a Bond plot, with the addition of complete alien nonsense.

In one of the opening levels, you've got to rescue your boss after he's been taken hostage. If you played the game, you might recall the wind turbine outside his fancy compound. No? You're saying it's crazy to remember a single background detail in a 16-year-old video game? Well, here's a picture to jog your memory:

Rare / Nintendo
It's exactly how you remember it!

As you infiltrate the compound, you eventually switch the power on, causing the turbine to start turning. This meant the programmers had to create not just a static 3D object, but one with spinning parts that could stop and start on command. The point is, it was more complicated than hitting the "windmill" button. And it occurred to them that they'd already made one kind of 3D object with spinning parts that started and stopped on command: turrets. With a little tweaking, they could make their automated death guns look like alternative energy sources. Unfortunately, this meant the windmill might occasionally try to kill you with bullets.

Rare / Nintendo
As the saying goes, you can take the windmill out of the war, but you can't take the war out of the windmill.

It seems like pure laziness to stretch a machine gun like a balloon animal and call it a day, but it's possible that Joanna's boss put this there intentionally. After all, a windmill that's secretly a 40-foot Gatling gun may be the sweetest spy gadget ever. James Bond's spike umbrella wishes it was a machine gun windmill.

In Firewatch, You Play An Unspeakable Monstrosity

Panic Inc.

Firewatch is an artistic adventure game that lets you live out your fantasy of being an overweight middle-aged man with a failing marriage and a boring, low-paying job. You're Henry, a fire lookout in the '80s, and it's your job to wander around the Rockies trying to spot fires. It's made by the writers of Telltale's The Walking Dead, so it's better than it sounds.

The game is first-person, so you see everything through Henry's eyes. The only part of him players are supposed to see are his hands, legs, and, strangely enough, his crudely drawn penis. Here's a screenshot of what most of the game looks like:

Panic Inc.
So rugged and American, it could be mistaken for a Ford commercial. Which it was.

It's lucky Firewatch takes place from Henry's perspective, because Henry himself is a terrifying monstrosity. His arms are four times the size of his legs, his eyes are vast pools of all-white emptiness, and his head is the size of a Pizza Hut Express. He looks like a man one frame away from exploding in a Scanners movie. Watch here as Henry breaks from the woods and sprints into your brain, where he will forage in your nightmares for the rest of your life.

Panic Inc.
"Bllgghblggh! BLGHGBLGGHGHGGG!!!!"

In order to get the perspective of the game to look right, Henry had to become something that wasn't quite human. He looks like something that would steal Bavarian children in the 17th Century. And it gets weirder. Sometimes, Henry's goddamn head would fall off.

Panic Inc.
When you see this, it means his screams are coming from somewhere else.

When you access your backpack in Firewatch, there's a seamless animation as Henry grabs the straps. It all looks very normal in first person. But if you were to step back and watch yourself, you'd see your arms unhinge themselves as your hands inflate like blowfish. Everything about Henry is like a detail God would include in a story about how drunk he got last night.

Panic Inc.
"Haha, I was so hammered that I lost his head and glued his arms together from inflatable life rafts! Hahaha! And then I aimed a tornado at a gay marriage and hit a school! I ... I ... I think I have a problem, guys." -- God

In a way, all these bizarre programming tricks only make Henry more relatable. We've all left the house feeling cool, only to find that the outside world views us as a blowfish-handed, headless dwarf.

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In Fallout 3, The Trains Are Giant Gloves


The Fallout franchise has had to use some unusual methods to get their world to work inside the game engine. For instance, the ending to New Vegas isn't a regular cutscene. When you beat it, you are in fact paralyzed in a room, staring at a slide show on the wall while Ron Perlman stands next to you talking in your ear.

But that seems almost sane compared to the way the developers got the trains in Fallout 3 to work. During one mission, you ride in the president's personal underground rail car. But the game's engine was not designed for vehicles. It was designed for lots and lots of running. The programmers said to hell with coding and testing an entire vehicle feature for one little mission, so they solved it the same way all great problems are solved -- they glued a train to someone's head and had them sprint down a tunnel. Seriously. While Fallout 3 players casually rode to their destination, this is what it looked like under their neck:

No wait, this is a still from David Lynch's Thomas The Tank Engine reboot.

This is fucking dada art. It is beautifully strange, strangely beautiful, and kind of extremely stupid all at once. The developers were faced with this huge problem, and someone actually suggested making clothes out of a train during a brainstorming meeting. Then someone else said, "The schizophrenic holding us hostage at knifepoint may be onto something!" It's not only a perfect solution to their problem, it's almost certainly the future of all travel.

Their constant pleading for death is troubling, but these trains get great gas mileage.

Technically speaking, the train is a glove, and gets equipped like any other piece of armor. If you zoom in closer, you can see the model is missing its right hand. That's because its arm is now a giant train car draped over its head. It seems hard to believe that it's easier to turn a glove into a train than it is to turn nothing into a train.

Perhaps, if we delve deeper, the entire game is gloves. Maybe Bethesda hired a 3D glove artist so talented that they didn't bat an eye when told that they needed one glove that's a presidential train and another that's a fully functional Pittsburgh quarry filled with radioactive mutants.

In Witcher 3, People Melt And Fall Apart When You're Not Around

CD Projekt

Witcher 3 was Skyrim on a Polish budget, and some argue that was for the best. For instance, it has far superior combat, a more cinematic presentation, an entire second card game (Gwent) within the main game, and did not allow you to burn hours of your life tricking physics into putting buckets on people's heads.

It also looks pretty amazing:

CD Projekt
This is what the game looks like, in case you spent all your time at the bar playing Gwent.

Of course, to make an open-ended game on a shoestring budget, the developers had to cut some big corners. They dedicated most of the processing power to simply displaying what is on your screen, like the polygons of the spearman Geralt is killing, or the spearwoman he is entering.

But if you unlock the camera and go spy on the world beyond Geralt's sightline, you find that the entire thing freezes, waiting for Geralt's precious attention to fall on it so that it might live again. And for some reason, when the NPCs stop moving, their faces use it as an opportunity to escape.

CD Projekt
She's a total butterface. Like, literally.

In what was almost certainly a desperate effort to save memory, the game stops running the code that keeps faces attached, and they ooze off the character's skulls. Each NPC also seems to have his or her own eerie state of rest. Arms fall off, heads rotate, and some find themselves paralyzed, silently screaming as their farm tools come to life. It is a demonic window into something we were not meant to see. If, during your prying, one of these abominations reached out of the screen and shrieked "INTRUDER!" it wouldn't even surprise you.

CD Projekt
"You are not the Witcher! What you witness is forbidden!"

A lot of the townspeople freeze, but the more animated characters have special trouble keeping it together. For instance, this hooker does a little sexy dance when Geralt is near. But when she tries it away from all that processing power, she looks like she's being ripped apart by a black hole.

CD Projekt
"Five dollars, no mouth stuff. For 10, I shriek how you will die from each corner of the chronosphere."

This poor woman seems to be having a triple-threat wrestling match between her face, clothes, and the laws that govern reality:

CD Projekt
"Kiiiillll ... MEEEEEEE."

If an NPC is extremely unlucky, they might lose heads entirely. Check out this woman cursed to shimmy endlessly until the game's main character gets close enough to give her face back:

CD Projekt
Try not to fall in love.

They each seem to be trying to live some kind of life, but in a world with no rules. For instance, this head decided to separate itself from its body. But in an unexpected twist, the body kept the hat in the divorce.

CD Projekt
Medieval Hats Quarterly says that shoulders are the new head.

Like in real life, everyone in this world is an uncooked chicken monster who only snaps back to human form when you look directly at them. What? Is that not what you all secretly believe, too?

CD Projekt
Here, the moment you stop looking, a man goes full Beetlejuice while his wife becomes a pig vagina. As we have always expected.

This fleshy, Cronenbergian horror world was the result of an ingenious way to stretch game resources, but it's also not a bad backstory. What if this is all a brilliant setup for a DLC in which it turns out that the entire population of the Northern Kingdoms were pig vaginas all along? That would blow your mind so hard that you could join the cast of the game.

For more nightmare fuel in video games, check out 8 Creepy Video Game Urban Legends (That Happen To Be True) and 6 Video Game Glitches Scarier Than Anything Done On Purpose.

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