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From Kickflips to Titanfall – Mobility in Games


From Kickflips to Titanfall – Mobility in Games

Titanfall is finally here and has me running around the maps like a madman. There is a lot to like about the way the game feels; I’m most impressed by the fluid mobility of the wall-running and double-jumping. Linking wall-runs together around the map is some of the most satisfying platforming I’ve felt in a first-person game. The way a game feels as you move through the world is arguably the most important mechanic, and it seems like the way we interact with the world, as a character living within it, is improving with each technological leap. This got me thinking about some of my favorite mobility-based moves from over the years, in no particular order.

Titanfall – Knife Hang/Titan Ejecting

Titanfall Eject
I already mentioned how awesome the wall-running and double-jumping is, but did you know that you can hold LT mid wall-run to just hang there? I’ve spent some time hanging above doorways during a Hardpoint match, shotgun in hand, wiping anyone out that enters. But the most exciting part of the game is when your Titan becomes doomed, you’ll get prompted to slam on the X button until you are propelled waaaay up into the air. With proper aim and momentum, landing on an enemy Titan from up in the air is about as satisfying as it gets.

Strider – Catapult Ability

Strider Dash
This is another recent release that I loved; the HD reboot of Strider by Double Helix. Double-jumping and grabbing onto walls and ceilings with Strider’s pickaxe instantly feels natural, but the best ability in the game unlocks about midway through the campaign, enabling you to catapult in any direction and continue your platforming with another jump. You can also use to it to dash through enemies and inflict the damage of whichever cypher type you have selected. Time slows when you hold RB to help you line up the shot; let go and Strider zips through the air with a loud crack. It’s a really cool sound, too. This ability fits the Metroidvania style format perfectly, enabling you to get to areas previously unlocked. Strider is a fast paced game even without this move, so it’s really empowering when you get it.

Tribes Ascend – Jetpacks + Skiing

Tribes Ascend
I would typically give the most exciting flag capturing to Halo, (and I wanted include Warthog driving in this article, but I’m trying to focus on abilities on foot) but Tribes Ascend is a close contender. It’s a shame Hi-Rez Studios have already dropped support for this game, because it can be really thrilling and there’s nothing else out there quite like it. Thanks to jetpacks and the skiing mechanic, players can zip across the map through hills and valleys at high speeds, though it will take some practice. It’s not easy for beginners, with the combination of buttons being a little unintuitive at first. But you’ll soon find yourself skimming across the ground at 200+ km/h, with the flag on your back, an enemy in pursuit, and a big stupid grin on your face.

Super Mario 64 – Long Jump

A conversation about mobility isn’t complete without Mario. Nintendo basically invented platforming in the 80’s, but it wasn’t until 1996 that he would give us a third dimension to explore, with many different jump variations. The triple jump was an instant classic (“wah, hoo-hoo, yahoooo!!”), along with the backflip and sideflip, but I always favored the long jump. The execution is simple yet satisfying to pull off; you have to tap Z and hit jump almost simultaneously to cross huge gaps. Once I realized how fun it is, the long jump became a constant habit as I ran around. It also serves as an easy way to speed yourself up. All these jumps have carried over all the way into Super Mario 3D World, and they’re all still a blast.

Infamous – Induction Grind

With the next entry in this series right around the corner, I can’t help but bring up the electrically charged powers from Infamous‘ Cole MacGrath. We know he’s not in Infamous: Second Son, and neither are his lightning bolts, but Delsin appears to be even more acrobatic than Cole was. His neon powers allow him to run up walls a decent clip, and he can blast through exhaust pipes for a boost with his smoke powers. I am mostly hoping that something similar to Cole’s power line grinding will make a return. It was always fun to speed all the way up and leap off into a glide, which is another one of Infamous’ excellent moves. I’m really excited to take Delsin for a spin around Seattle later this month.

 Skate – Skating

Skate 3
I always like to cheat on these lists, this doesn’t really quality as a particular move so much as it does the mobility as a whole. I loved all skateboarding games growing up, but it wasn’t until more recently that I felt like anyone really nailed the feeling of skating in real life. The Skate series changed things up with a tightly framed third-person camera, and a thumbstick-based control scheme. Skating around flows like a real session, you know, just flippin’ tricks n’ shit with your dudebros. Flipping off security guards and rebelling against your parents never felt so real! Even pedaling feels realistic; we’re talking dedicated buttons for each foot! But seriously, just skating around exploring the city, kicking flips and grinding grinds (I know my shit) feels so nice. I’d love to see this series return, and I think gamers are ready for another entry, especially with next-gen consoles here. Somebody, make that happen.

Super Meat Boy  Full Movement Control

Super Meat Boy
Let the cheating continue. There was a period of time where it seemed that rock solid game mechanics became less important than production value. Super Meat Boy came out at the perfect time, when we needed a game that was all about precise character control. Some classic games like Ghosts n’ Goblins would take away control of your character after you leave the ground, which always frustrated me. In a game like that, your timing of jumps becomes part of the strategy. But in Super Meat Boy you always have full control, allowing players to make precise changes as you run and jump along. The physics feel perfectly balanced.

I know developers will continue this trend of cool new ways to get around in games, these are just a few of the cool moves that popped into my head. What are some of your favorites? I’m going back to Titanfall now, so if you need me, check the walls.

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