An Ode to Good Movement

Listen up everyone because I am about to wax lyrical about something that I love. I love great movement in games. I can excuse a game for any flaw in the world if the movement is gorgeous. I will skewer a perfectly good game if its movement has even the tiniest thing I do not like. Seems harsh? Deal with it. Great movement is forged in the flames of animation, sound design and precision. Also, in that vague imprecise phrase that, nevertheless, everyone knows what you mean: ‘It just feels right.’

Okay I will admit I have to be a bit more precise than that. So I will give you some examples. Bioshock  Infinite. Lots of people had problems with Infinite. The story takes a right hand turn down batshit lane about halfway through. Suddenly dropping us down to two weapon slots. Who is the antagonist again? All these complaints are irrelevant because of two words: Sky-Lines. The little on rails system that Infinite introduced to its combat is incredible. Leaping up to the sky lines has a glorious kinetic energy to it: the Sky-Hook clatters as the gears turn to latch you on. When you launch yourself at an enemy for a Sky-Line strike the satisfying crunch as you careen into them warms my very soul.

The way Infinite lets me soar through the air does funny things to me.

The way Infinite lets me soar through the air does funny things to me.

Need another? Dishonoured. Kev wrote recently about how great Dishonored is. The actual way Corvo moves in that game is like oil sliding over water as you scramble through the urban decay of Dunwall. The animation as Corvo catches onto a ledge and pulls himself up seems like a minor detail but in fact just makes the world tactile in a way so many games lack. The blink power; a short ranged teleport that pops you forward is a thing to behold fully upgraded. Jumping out into nothingness and then blinking forward so you can land perfectly to take out four guards makes me want to take Dishonored out for a five star meal and tell it how it is my soulmate. Kev used the video below in his article but I want to post it here again as it illustrates so perfectly what I mean.

My favourite game of last year had a brilliant little movement trick that seems to be becoming standard practice for first person shooters. Wolfenstein: The New Order added in the sprint-slide to its traditional FPS formula. Destiny has it as well and in both games I give a little sigh of satisfaction when I pull it off in an awesome fashion. Sliding through a corridor of Nazi soldiers, a shotgun in each hand, blasting them as I went past made me stand up from my sofa and spontaneously play air guitar. Destiny’s slide seems much more defensive in its usage. I use it to sprint then slide into cover. However it feels like a bloody action movie as I slide behind a barrier shots exploding behind me and when I get there I nonchalantly reload my revolver. Bruce Willis has nothing on me.

Likewise bad movement has ruined games for me. Games that, by all rights, I should enjoy. I am looking at you Assassin’s Creed. I have only finished one Assassin’s Creed game (number two if you are interested.) I wanted so desperately to like Black Flag. Whenever Kenway would launch himself out into the open air and die smeared on the ground instead of doing a graceful leap of faith I felt a little bit of my soul die. Assassin’s Creed should be graceful and flowing and sometimes it is. However it just lets itself down with awful, awful controls.

Not pictured: Kenway smashing into the wooden docks.

Not pictured: Kenway smashing into the wooden docks.

I had the same problem with Mirror’s Edge. That game was glorious. It should be on my list of great movement in games but it is not. You take beautiful, flowing, silky smooth free running gameplay and then interrupt that by giving me a face full of wall as I have to jump sideways to climb pipes? How did you manage to mess that up?

Don’t even get me started on GTA 5’s tap to sprint thing.

Good movement is a difficult thing to get right but it often barely noticed by players. Things like Portal’s flinging puzzles. The palpable rush of air as momentum carries you high into the sky. TF2’s nimble scout, dashing back and forth across the map to give you a blast of the Force-A-Nature. God even the new Rayman games have excellent movement. Spare a thought for me and my movement obsession. Because every once in a while, movement will allow you to do something that will make you pause and go:

‘God that was awesome.’

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  1. Niru Fekri-Arnold

    Assassin’s Creed has some of the worst movement mechanics in gaming history.

    The new Rayman games have a brilliant sense of flow, I’d offer the following as excellent examples of well implemented movement:

    Jak and Daxter
    Just Cause 2
    Tiny Wings

    This isn’t even BEGINNING to mention driving games and skating/boarding games (SSX is only one letter away from sex, never forget that).

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