PC Gamer

WHY I LOVE

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil's blown away by JC2's best weapon.

I was disappointed with Just Cause 3 for many of the same reasons that Andy outlined our 67% review. It s an incredibly repetitive, grindy experience that turns chaotic action into a chore. Overthrowing evil dictators should only feel like a job if it s your actual job. But worse than the failings of JC3 s progression systems is how unimaginative its tools are. 

There are a few exceptions. There s the wingsuit, which is brilliant. There are the tethers, which are ridiculous. There s the opportunity to upgrade your infinite C4 into a rocket-powered physics toy, which is an idea of unparalleled genius. Elsewhere, though, it s all pretty standard. In the context of an absurd action sandbox, the game s many assault rifles feel painfully dull. Putting a stream of bullets into endless waves of people wasn t fun to watch in Rambo IV, and it isn t much fun to do here. 

Fortunately, I don t think JC3 is beyond saving. All you need to do is look at its predecessor. Much like its sequel, Just Cause 2 is surprisingly short on ways to push against the outer limits of creativity. The tools that do exist are even more basic and restrictive. You have a single, weak tether, and a finite amount of regular, non-rocket-powered C4. Its structure is more suited to improvisational violence, but you have only a limited set of options with which to create it. Two things expand that sandbox in delightful ways: mods and DLC. 

It feels strange to praise Just Cause 2 s DLC, because much of it isn t noteworthy. Rather than large content packs, all of the game s optional extras are small, seemingly insignificant microtransactions. Much of them are pure filler, but one small addition—available as part of the preposterously named Black Market Boom Pack—changed how I interacted with that world. 

It s called the Air Propulsion Gun, and, as the name suggest, it shoots air instead of bullets. It s a high-powered short-range burst of force that results in some of the best physics-based mayhem since Half-Life 2 s Gravity Gun. It s not quite on a par—Rico still doesn t have much small-scale agency beyond making things explode—but sending a soldier spiralling into the air with a propulsion blast is funny in a way that doesn t get old. 

It provides the best physics-based mayhem since Half-Life 2 s Gravity Gun.

The problem with guns and explosions is they remove things from play. An enemy helicopter is an interesting problem to tackle, but shooting it down simply takes it out of the equation. That s why the more interesting option is to grapple up and hijack it. The problem has been flipped into a solution, thus forcing the enemy to respond. 

That s also the genius of the air propulsion gun. It doesn t remove things outright. A soldier is sent flying backwards, but the impact won t necessarily kill him. A vehicle can be flung into a group of soldiers, possibly exploding, but maybe not. It s a weapon in form and function, but one that doesn t do direct damage. By shifting the kill to the moment of impact, you re no longer instantly removing the threat. Even if your enemy only exists for a few extra seconds, those lengthened interactions feel more dynamic, surprising and enjoyable. 

It s even better when combined with the community s BOLOPatch trainer—a tool offering invincibility, and infinite ammo and unbreakable tethers. Avalanche has never quite perfected the balance of the Just Cause series, and so I ve always found it better to forego the difficulty for pure, unrestrained action. Military bases are cleared through a constant stream of powerful propulsion. Tens of soldiers dance and flip helplessly through the air in a mass juggling act performed by a petty, unkillable god. It s one of the silliest power fantasies you can play. 

I d hoped Just Cause 3 would build on this amazing DLC gun. So much effort has gone into improving its physics and effects but there s precious little that makes use of such enhancements. Like Just Cause 2, the majority of JC3 s weapons are designed simply to remove aspects of play. I find it really frustrating that the game can be so creative in some aspects, and so tediously restrained in so many others. 

My hope is, just like with JC2, Avalanche is saving its best tools for DLC. If that s the case, it s a shitty business model, but I d still happily pay a few extra pounds for weapons that manipulated the world in more interesting ways. Just Cause 3 falls short of its reputation as a cartoonish action playground. With some more imaginative weapons, it would be instantly, immeasurably more fun.

PC Gamer

Square Enix has a pretty massive sale on its online store at the moment. In keeping with the spirit of Black Friday, the publisher has discounted a tonne of its back catalogue, but more importantly, you can get discounts on preorders too. More important than either of those, though, is that you can download Hitman 2: Silent Assassin for zero dollars.

Just head over to the website, make an account, 'purchase' Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and then use the code FreeSilentAssassin when you check out. While you're there you can get 10% discounts on preorders for Just Cause 3 and the new Hitman, among other titles.

The game is available until Sunday, November 29.

PC Gamer

Remember that Just Cause 2 multiplayer mod? You know, the one we made our Mod of the Week back in September 2013? Do you go on to remember that it received a beta update recently that added Steam achievements, and assorted other stuff? My, you have a fantastic memory. Er...remember when I lent you twenty quid?

Thanks muchly. I have some fuel for future memories in the form of hot news—hot news that the aforementioned update releases tomorrow for everybody. Hooray! From tomorrow, that brill multiplayer mod will come with Steam achievements, plus a few extra, equally exciting features. Feature The First: you'll be able to make your own NPCs, and not by shoving two NPCs together until a baby appears. (You can just drop them into the world.)

You can also display giant text in the game world, Splinter Cell Blacklist-style. I can imagine people having a lot of fun with that one. More details on the mod's forum (ta, PCGamesN.)

PC Gamer

The Just Cause 2 Multiplayer Mod, which came out nearly two years ago, is getting a big update. The changelog is long, but the most significant additions are Steam achievements, scripting for NPCs, and an overhaul of the main menu.

On the achievements side, you've got examples like "Careful Down There", which you get for standing on top of a flying plane for one minute, or "Taxi Service" for... driving people around in a taxi. Example scripts include Wingsuit, Companions, and a minigame called 'Drift!'

If you want to try out the public beta of update 0.2, you can opt in via the Betas tab in JC2: Multiplayer's Steam properties menu.

PC Gamer

The first couple minutes of Hitman: Agent 47 are pretty much a video game cutscene, with grainy video and voiceover talking about secret and bad human research. The segment s purpose is to explain, Hey, this is a video game movie, and it s about genetically modified hitmen, and you re just going to have to deal with that. It s cool if you re late to the movie, though, because they explain all this in the clearest terms possible again about halfway through.

But who cares about the story? I watched Hitman: Agent 47 to judge whether or not Agent 47 is a good hitman. A good hitman, at least in the Hitman games, is one who succeeds at killing his targets with as few witnesses as possible, ideally without killing anyone but the targets. Sure, you can go nuts if you want, but stealth is encouraged, so that s the standard I m holding the movie version of Agent 47 to. With that in mind, I've graded his performance in the film's major action scenes. He did badly, as you'll see. 

Obviously, reading about every action scene in a movie is going to lead to some spoilers, if you care.

Nighttime fight

As the movie starts, Agent 47 is out to get some bad guys, and you better believe he s gonna get them. First off, why can no one in the film industry design a UI that anyone would actually use? Agent 47 literally presses a button that says upload virus at one point. Then he tracks the bad guy cars with the Watch Dogs companion app while they all fumble with their infected, also stupid interfaces.

Pretty quickly, it s clear that our friend 47 is doing a bad job. He kills so many dudes he doesn't have to. He even shoots two guys sitting at bad-UI computer terminals and then props them up as if they re still working just so the other bad guys will get mad at them for not responding, discover that they re dead, and then see him emerge from the shadows. That s just rude as hell, and not very sneaky at all. F.

"Hm, looks good, looks good, can we get thirty more red squares though?"

Subway fight

This showdown is set up when the camera pans through the ground, letting the audience know that subways are underground, as Agent 47 chases Zachary Quinto. So, Agent 47 and Zachary Quinto (who I ve decided is a character in the film for simplicity s sake) are fighting in a subway station, on the tracks, and the camera is shaking big time. We know martial arts, they yell into each other s faces at the same time, but they don t really. They just know how to work with direction that obscures the details of a bad fight.

There is a cool bit where Agent 47 almost, but doesn t, get killed by an oncoming train—remember that, from The Matrix?—but as a hitman he does very badly. Everyone in the subway station sees him. He shoots bullets into all kinds of crowds. There s no way he isn t being chased by law enforcement. F.

Mass panic doesn't typically indicate a stealthy approach. 

Military fight

Next there s a part where Agent 47 walks into a heavily guarded military complex covered with guns. The metal detector and X-ray scanner detect all of these, another thing that happened in The Matrix, but instead of killing all the guards with sick moves, he lets himself get captured so that he can use his sick moves on everyone later. Getting captured is not a good hitman thing to do, even if you plan to escape later, but especially if you plan to escape later by loudly shooting people. F.

Look at my guns, I have many.

Jet engine fight

This is a prolonged fight involving a jet engine, and it isn t bad. Some dudes even get sucked into the jet engine, which almost approaches the creativity you'd see in an actual Hitman mission. And Agent 47 is a little stealthy here, sneaking up behind people and killing them with stuff he finds lying around, which shows improvisation and stealthiness. Still, he almost dies and is only saved by the villain s fatal flaw: pride. You can t always count on a villain to have a fatal flaw, 47. Sometimes they re just regular guys. D+.

This is a little bit sneaky!

Audi RS 7 chase

This is the best scene because it stars an Audi RS 7 drifting around the bends of a parking garage and killing the hell out of a bunch of motorcycle jerks chasing it. I guess Agent 47 is driving it, but let's just pretend the Audi is its own character with its own motivation.

I really felt the Audi s pain when it was being shot full of cables from rooftop bad guys, who held it in place with their evil grapples, and then tried to zipline down the cables to kill Agent 47. No one mourns the Audi, but I suppose they don't have time what with bad guys coming from every direction. It turns out, those zipline guys made a bad mistake. They could have just shot at Agent 47 from the relative safety of the rooftops, but instead they get all plugged by his dual handguns while slowly descending. This happens in the middle of the street. Everyone sees it and Agent 47 is not stealthy at all. Also, he picks up Hannah Ware and carries her through streets full of people and no one cares and that's dumb. F.

Holding one gun is hard enough, two is just impossible!

Skyscraper fight

This is a cool scene, because it involves helicopters and the roof of a skyscraper—you might say that the final gunshot was an exclamation mark—and Hannah Ware finally becomes the badass she secretly was the whole time. It s also the most visually arresting scene, with 47 s white shirt losing its edges against the impossibly white walls of an evil office building, which was the signature technique of one of my favorite American illustrators, Coles Phillips. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the movie oozes with all style of stock art: Bald man uses laptop. Depressed woman s empty pill bottle rolls across the floor. Establishing shot of car.

Anyway, it s fun to look at, but is Agent 47 finally a good hitman here, at the end? No way. He comes up with a convoluted plan to hit his man, sure, but everyone is looking at him like, I know who you are, you are a hitman, and I have seen your face. That s just not good hitman work. F.

None of this is very sneaky at all.

So, is it a good movie?

Not really. I ve tried not to spoil the details of the plot because the only thing it has going for it is a couple misdirections. Other than that, it s pretty boring. Turns out an emotionless dude with a moderately close head shave is not very exciting to watch any time he s not shooting people.

Zachary Quinto is also boring, and doesn t convince me that he is a tough man, though he tries. Hannah Ware plays the best of the characters, because she s allowed to express feelings with her face, but the story doesn t let her be much more than a human MacGuffin. She appears at the beginning in a movie-ready state: a woman whose only defining qualities are plot points, like Lisbeth Salander if all we knew about her was that she has a dragon tattoo, and that the tattoo is a treasure map.

And that d all be fine if Agent 47 had James Bond or John Wick or The Raid levels of style and choreography, but it only timidly approaches those films to ask if it can borrow some of their stuff, and then breaks their stuff. Daniel Craig s contemplative rooftop swim in Skyfall, for instance, said a little about his headspace, and was a damn cool establishing scene. In this movie, Ware takes a nighttime dip in a hotel pool for no reason. I guess she s swimming because she s… upset… about the hitman?

This important scene establishes that the hotel has a swimming pool.

Meanwhile, even with John Wick's David Leitch on staff, the action is good but never exceptional. Hitman is so concerned with making sure its characters look badass that it s often cut like a trailer, obscuring the greater form of the fights, and the complete windup and follow-through of each movement. The Matrix, on the other hand, shows us the full breadth of every dumb flip, kick, punch, block, and grimace in that subway scene. It s silly, and not really convincing, but it's still a wonder to watch all that continuous action and reaction. In Equilibrium, Christian Bale looks super dumb doing gunkata forms, but he doesn t give a crap, and not giving a crap is what makes him so cool. There's no attempt to obscure his choreography, allowing the action to be unreal and goofy and way more fun to watch.

There is some cool action choreography in Hitman, for sure, and I spotted not one but two helicopters in it, but that s all it has to offer. Helicopters, a good car chase, and a bit of good gunplay. Otherwise, the sentimental bits are entirely inert, the plot consists of cutscenes I'd skip in a game, and rather than being cool and effortlessly badass, Agent 47 seems like a self-conscious Bond impersonator. Check it out, guys, I just got out of this big fight, and what do I do? I just casually adjust my sleeve. Is that cool? It was cool when Bond did it but is it cool when I do it? Ah, it's cool, yep. I'm cool.

PC Gamer

If you've tuned into Deus Ex: Human Revolution's entertaining and insightful director's commentary you'll have a sense of Jean-Francois Dugas and Jonathan Jacques-Belletete's ability to laugh about their own project. Now you can experience that in video form with this 42-minute let's play, featuring canny observations about Jensen ("his shoulders were so damn wide") and cut environmental details ("this is where we used to have George Bush's face"). It's good fun.

There's a Mankind Divided tease hiding in there too, relating to your VTOL pilot, Malik.

"Speaking of Malik, a lot of people are so bummed that we're not bringing her back in the stuff that we've shown yet of Mankind Divided. How come she's not your new pilot?"

"Time will tell."

"Time will tell, yeah."

TIME WILL TELL. Human Revolution's dynamically lit, high-poly, slim-shouldered sequel is due out next year. You can watch 25 minutes of in-game footage right now.

PC Gamer

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Tom and Wes argue about boss fights, which have been around nearly as long as video games themselves, and whether they re an outdated concept.

Face off

Wes Fenlon, Hardware editor Wes wants modern boss fights to be a bit more original.

Tom Marks, Assistant editor Tom thinks boss fights are still a nice change of pace.

Wes: YES. I ve played many great boss fights in my day, but far too many big games shoehorn in boss fights when they don t need them. Boss fights once made perfect video game sense in linear, side-scrolling levels. Get to the end of the stage, fight the big bad in charge, and move on to the next. And that s still fun! But as games have evolved with open worlds and non-linear levels and forms of gameplay more nuanced than shoot slash punch bad guy, boss fights don t fit as well. Bioshock and the more recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution are two modern examples of boss fights gone really wrong. Bioshock needed an emotional climax, not one that involved shooting a roided-up bad guy. And Human Revolution betrayed the core of its gameplay by making you shoot it out with its bosses, which is something the new Deus Ex is thankfully addressing. Boss fights can still be done well, of course, but they re most definitely antiquated.

Tom M.: NO. Boss fights aren t always fun, but used correctly they can be vital to the pacing of a game. Boss fights don t just represent the end of a level, they are a change of pace after a long stretch of similar gameplay. You ve been running around shooting and beating up bad guys for a while, but how are you going to deal with this new enemy? That s when the concept of a boss fight really shines; when it s not just a bigger harder enemy, but instead challenges you in some interesting and different way. I completely agree that AAA games have recently misused the boss fight trope, treating it more like an expected practice than a place to shake up the game s design, but that doesn t mean boss fights as a whole are an outdated concept.

Wes: Sure—I d look like a big dumb idiot if I said all boss fights today are lame and crappy. There are still good ones! But I think there are two big problems with how boss fights are implemented. In big-budget games, they re often used to facilitate some dramatic cutscene or story moment, which means taking control away from the player or forcing you to play in a specific way. That sucks. And in general, I think too many games use boss fights because they re expected. Boss fights are part of the language of video games, but they re a very old word. And I d like to see more games creating new words instead of falling back on the Middle English that is the boss fight.

Tom: I actually don t mind boss fights being more rigid or scripted than the rest of a game. Making open world experiences where the player has lots of choice is a very difficult thing to do, and too much freedom can sometimes make for a crummy story. Boss fights are the perfect moment for a developer to bring the story back under their control a little bit to let them reliably tell the story they want to. Of course, the boss fight shouldn t take certain options or playstyles away from the player that the rest of a game has made them accustomed to, like in Deus Ex for example. Those fights should be climactic and should represent a shift in the story. Even if they re expected, they can play a vital role in the rhythm of a game.

Wes: Ah, so idealistic! Time and again, boss fights in big-budget games do change up the play style you ve been taught just to show you something cool. Even the Batman games, which have fantastic combat, lose their lustre when they put you in an arena to slug it out with a boss. Think of the end of Asylum, when the Joker gets all beefy and slugs it out with Batman. It s a great game, but that s a cookie cutter boss fight that relies on antiquated video game language. How do we make a big, climactic battle? Hm, how about lots of punching? But the Joker would never do that! He d do something clever. A smart, modern take on the boss fight there wouldn t end with a punching match. I d like to see more games have confidence in what they do best. To use a pretty traditional 2D game as an example: I don t even remember the final boss of Rayman Origins, but I do remember the incredibly challenging and rewarding final platforming sequence leads up to it. Surviving that level is the true boss of the game.

Tom: Lots of games have also tried doing boss sequences or boss levels instead of a straight up fight, and I love that. I think it s great when games don t adhere to the formula, but that s not the solution for every game. Assassin s Creed doesn t really have many boss fights, instead a particularly special baddy will get a mission all to himself. That s cool and different and doesn t shoehorn a stupid arena fight into an assassination game, but I also don t remember a single one of those missions. You know what I do remember? Every single boss I fought in Dark Souls 2. I still agree that developers will put cookie cutter boss fights unnecessarily into games that don t need them, but it s by no means a concept that s lost it s value. It s just more valuable in certain types of games.

Wes: I may not remember the characters of many Assassin s Creed targets, but I do remember some of my more epic assassinations—and I loved that those characters could be killed silently and instantly, if you planned the perfect stealth kill. That s a smart modern twist on the classic boss fight, too me--it elevates what s best about Assassin s Creed, instead of suddenly changing how you play the game. And hell, I love Dark Souls bosses too—I don t hate the traditional boss fight, I just think many games today could do something more interesting with them. It seems like we re mostly on the same page. So...what games are really doing creative boss fights right these days?

Tom: The first example that jumps to my mind is Titan Souls, a game made up of nothing but boss fights. It takes the kill the big monster in an arena concept to its extreme and cuts the fat off everywhere else. If you need to be convinced that compelling and exciting boss fights are still possible in modern games, Titan Souls will do that and then some. Terraria is another good example; each boss is difficult and unique, but also represents a tier of progression. The game has an open world with no fake constraints, but you can mostly only reach bosses in a certain order, each one giving you the means to fight the next. These games embrace the boss fight as the effective tool it is; a change of pace, a milestone in your progression, and a generator of wow moments.

Wes: I ve played my fair share of Terraria, but I ll be checking up on Titan Souls. If killing each boss doesn t make me feel a deep and intense sorrow in true Shadow of the Colossus fashion, though, I m going to hold you responsible for my irrational expectations.

Tom: Titan Souls was the first game that made me physically jump out of my chair when I killed a boss, and I did so for every single one. Consider your expectations rationally high. 

PC Gamer

Deus Ex is being augmented with another Deus Ex. After a nonsensical ARG and an entirely sensical leak, we now have official confirmation of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

Once again, it'll feature Deus Ex: Human Revolution protagonist Adam Jensen, who this time says things like, "sometimes you just have to let go and embrace what you've become." From the sounds of it, he'll be going up against some shadowy organisation and, for some reason, an augmented version of the Heavy from TF2.

Here's the plot, straight outta the trailer's description:

"Deus Ex: Mankind Divided directly follows the aftermath of the Aug Incident, a day when mechanically augmented citizens all over the world were stripped of control over their minds and bodies, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocents. The year is now 2029, and the golden era of augmentations is over. Mechanically augmented humans have been deemed outcasts and segregated from the rest of society. Crime and acts of terror serve as a thin veil to cover up an overarching conspiracy aimed at controlling the future of mankind…"

A press release promises new augmentations, new locations, and a "cloak of conspiracies". That, I'd imagine, is a metaphorical cloak—otherwise the conspirators would be all too easy to identify. In addition, the PC version is confirmed to support DirectX 12 and AMD's TressFX technology. Expect some seriously augmented beard stubble.

PC Gamer

I love Hitman: Blood Money. It's a game that gives you the freedom to come up with your own plan, it provides real satisfaction when your plan goes off without a hitch, and perhaps most importantly, it can turn into a mad, deliriously fun scramble when your plan completely falls apart. As  Phil pointed out earlier, you can now relive some of that fun in this series of Hitman-inspired Arma 3 scenarios by modder Helios.

There are a number of missions to choose from and many will feel immediately familiar to Hitman players. A father and son are hosting a gathering at a heavily guarded manor, and you've got to take both of them out separately. There's a opera being performed, and your target is one of the singers. A drug lord is throwing a party, and you're there to clip him, along with the guest of honor, if possible, while ducking members of his gang.

Got my target, got my poison. What am I forgetting? Oh yeah. Dozens of witnesses.

A lot of Agent 47's standard tricks are incorporated. You can steal people's clothing and wear it yourself, allowing you access to restricted areas, though the guards in the mod are pretty quick to sniff you out if walk too close to them, even disguised. You have a poison syringe you can use to quickly and quietly snuff one of your targets if you don't want to risk a shot with a silenced pistol. There are also things like weapons drops and uniform crates shown on your map, if you can manage to slip away and remain unnoticed until you reach them. And, of course, you can hide bodies.

Just gonna borrow your clothes and bury you under the concrete if that's cool.

Most importantly, these are freeform missions. Kill your target however you want, then escape to an extraction point. You start out in a safe area, usually filled with other, less-murderous guests, which gives you time to look around for your targets (they're marked by name on your screen), scope out the surrounding area and position of the guards, and find some way to slip away without causing too much suspicion. You may be able to switch off the power, giving you some additional stealth during night missions.

Man. I see soooooo many different ways to fail this mission.

As you can probably guess, blowing your cover doesn't quite lead to the madcap chases and fights you're used to in Hitman, because Arma 3 is much less forgiving in terms of bullets tearing into flesh. There won't be a long, frantic gunfight that slowly spins Agent 47 to the ground in slow motion. Get spotted and you'll get shot, get shot and your mission is most likely over right then and there.

Dang it! I knew I shouldn't have disguised myself as a hitman.

As difficult as they are, it's still a lot of fun to play these missions inside Arma 3, and they've been recreated very faithfully. Even as bad as I am at both Hitman and Arma 3, I did manage to take out my target in the opera mission and escape to the extraction zone, though it took more than a few tries.

Best of all, you can play these missions co-op with a friend. You can subscribe individually to these missions on the Steam workshop, and you'll find them listed in the 'Scenarios' section when you launch the game.

PC Gamer
Why I Love

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, we get into the swing, as Phil explains his love of grappling hooks.

If you go back through the Why I Love articles I've written to date—stealth on shipsTF2's Scout or playing Chinese-style opera in Audiosurf—all have, to a greater or lesser extent, been about systems or experiences that change how you traverse through a level. The Scout can double-jump. Ship-based stealth levels are tighter and more claustrophobic than their inevitable "big warehouse" counterpart. Monkey Bee has one of the most distinct middle-sections I've yet to see emerge from Audiosurf's level generator.

A satisfying traversal system isn't the only thing I look for in a game, but it is one of a few broad areas that define my taste. If I can move around a game in interesting ways, then I will probably like it. I like Prototype—a game in which you can run up, and leap off, and glide over buildings—even though a part of me suspects that it's really a bit rubbish. I'm a somewhat overweight guy in his thirties. Sometimes it's nice to tell gravity to go and do one.

There's another traversal tool that I consistently love in games: the grappling hook. My appreciation for good grappling hooks—and good here doesn't mean realistic—started with the original version of Worms. Friends and I would play multiplayer matches with a very specific set of rules: no turn timer, unlimited girders, and unrestricted access to the grappling hook (or "ninja rope," as it's called in-game). You can use the ninja rope multiple times per turn, and we gave ourselves unlimited time to make our way across the map. With these rules, a worm can travel from one side to the other—their turn ending only if they take fall damage.

That's where the girders came in. We'd place them above the level, both to protect our own guys from air strikes and to have more surfaces to grapple on to. Worms' rope mechanics are, in essence, bizarre. They're also consistent in their implementation, which led us to a great understanding of their potential. With some effort, it's possible to swing 180 degrees and beyond—eventually landing on top of the platform the worm is swinging from. The trick is to extend the rope fully, smack into a solid surface, and then retract. That maximises the speed boost from bouncing off the wall, and, with luck, propels the worm up and around. 

To anyone but those directly involved in the match, this was an unspeakably tedious spectacle. To us, it was thrilling.

Subsequent Worms games enforced turn times, essentially ruining my enjoyment of them. But a few other 2D games feature that same spirit of exploitable traversal. Trine is, intentionally or not, all about this. One of its three characters is a Thief, and her grappling hook allows for a similarly awkward battle against physics. Here, you can even grapple onto one surface, break off and re-attach to another, all while still in mid-swing. You can, on select levels, chain these swings—at times resulting in long, unbroken stretches of undulation. 

Used properly, it can be a graceful tool. But both Trine games also contain a secret hidden mini-game for grappling hook aficionados. This game is called "can I use the Thief to complete this section, even though it was obviously designed for the Wizard?" Often, the answer is yes.

At this point, I should probably point to another 2D grappling hook game—one designed entirely around swinging as the main method of level traversal. It's called Floating Point, it's free, and it was made by PC Gamer's former section editor Tom Francis. It's a more sedate grapple-space to move through, and rare in that its freedom of movement is the idea rather than an exploitable quirk in the engine. If you're here because you like grappling hooks, then it's relevant to your interests.

In three-dimensions, the grappling hook is a less sure-fire hit. Too often, it's restricted—kept to specific grapple-points in order to stop the player breaking the level in ridiculous ways. Most recently, you can see this in Far Cry 4. You have a grappling hook! You can jump from the rope and re-attach it to another point before hitting the ground! You can only do this at specifically marked points around the map. I'd like you to imagine a sort of anti-exclamation mark, and place it on the end of that last sentence.

Some games are better at it this than others, and they tend to be the ones that are more open about their freedom of movement. Arkham City's Grapnel Gun combos satisfyingly with the glide. You can't swing, but you can shoot it to build speed across the map—using it to all but fly. And then there's Just Cause 2, or Let's Do Fun Shit With A Grappling Hook: The Game. You can attach onto a plane, or to cars, or to an explosive barrel that is shooting vertically into the air. You can use it in conjunction with a parachute to create a free-form system of movement more distinct and enjoyable than any of the game's vehicles.

Maybe that's another reason why grappling hooks, specifically, are one of my favourite methods of traversal. They're inherently ridiculous. There is no way to put an unrestricted grappling hook in a game and still have it be a serious tool, because it's either inherently exploitable or inherently unrealistic. It is a jointly a tool for motion and a tool for fun. 

Case in point: the 3D version of Bionic Commando. It had a grappling hook as its central gimmick, and yet its story still felt the need for a Serious Emotional Payload. How was that done? With the late-game reveal that your bionic grapple-arm was also your wife. Your wife, who was used to create a strong emotional bond with the robo-limb.

That is dumb. But that is what happens when you try to inject emotional pathos into a game with a grappling hook—it throws off your sense of what's appropriate. At some point, a developer must have questioned whether wife-in-a-robo-arm was good storytelling. I suspect they saw their hero swinging care-free through a city and lost all sense of perspective. "Yes," this hypothetical employee thought, "it makes total sense that this bionic commando's arm is his wife."

It didn't, though. It was stupid. That's why grappling hooks can never be serious. Not true, freeform, use-'em-wherever-you-like grappling hooks. They're silly and fun—a tool for engaging with, perfecting, and enjoying the feeling of motion. They are, in practice and philosophy, the opposite of a wife in an arm.

More grappling hooks; less wives in robot arms. That feels like a strange place to end things, but also like good words to live by.

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