The Game Mechanic – It’s Simple Physics

Do you remember when rag-doll physics became a thing? We finally got bored of stock, repeated death (or falling over) animations and said with one voice, “enough!  I want to see my victims fall over realistically!” and thus it became so.

Gone were the days when you’d mow down a group of enemies and watch them all drop to their knees and eventually to the floor in unison, like some morbid land-based synchronised swimming performance.  When you got a person dead you finally had the pleasure of watching their limp, lifeless body tumble to the floor in a semi-realistic fashion. None more satisfying than in Max Payne 2 when the camera would zoom to your victim in slow motion and show every bone-shattering collision with the environment in gorgeous detail.

What I want to talk about is Max Payne 3 though, and how much of it depends on its robust physics system. Max Payne 3 is almost a physics system with a game built around it, if you know what I mean. Most of the animations are generated on the fly thanks to Euphoria, making enemies able to run, jump, roll around, and take cover without a single repeated animation coming into play.  Try shooting near an enemy who’s poking his head out, he’ll drop to the floor to avoid your gunfire and there’s a good chance he’ll do it in a way you’ve not quite seen before.

Sometimes Max’s loud shirt is all it takes to bring enemies to the floor

Sounds like this is all cosmetic yeah? Well look a little deeper and you’ve got the possibility of taking an enemy off their feet with a short burst before advancing to fill your prostrate foe full of holes. Once that dude/dudette is on the deck there’s very little they can do to you, you can even use this is as a way of temporarily deleting a threat in a room full of threats, giving you the chance to go ape-shit on all their unfortunate compatriots before taking out Max’s never ending depresso-rage on the poor sod.

This is just one example of the effect that the ridiculously awesome physics system has on the gameplay of Max Payne: the possibilities for combat.  It also forces you to actually use your brain with Max’s token slow-mo dive, as now you’ve got the danger of Max’s head slamming into a filing cabinet and taking you out of the whole thing. I’ve seen reviewers count this as a flaw in the game’s design, bewilderingly, but I’m fairly confident I’d stop whatever I was doing if I found myself with a fractured skull. Making the player think is a good thing. Games have to provide challenges, and the inclusion of Euphoria makes successfully using Max’s mastery of time an actual challenge.

Sobbing violently into my keyboard out of sheer guilt

The realism infused by the Euphoria system is also an interesting addition to the game’s narrative in a funny sort of way.  The increasing insanity of the situations Max finds himself in are offset in an almost creepy fashion by the incredibly realistic responses these bad dudes have to heavy ordinance. Maybe I’m just a ponce but I started to feel a bit horrified by what I was doing, but invested enough in Max’s survival that it was worth the brutality. The aforementioned collapsing in the face of gunfire that the enemies pull is something that can create paranoia. Just as you think you’ve cleared the room, that guy you thought you shot first clambers to his feet and gives Max some ballistic dental surgery. I found myself rattling extra rounds into newly-fallen enemies, just to be sure, likened to the psychotic UFE we see executing injured criminals in the first campaign mission. Max’s world is a terrible place that Rockstar do a brilliant job of dragging you, kicking and screaming, into and it’s largely thanks to the Euphoria system.

So, on behalf of gaming I’d like to say; physics engines, thank you for helping me get closer in to the mind of a killer.







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