The lights are on
Some people play every first-person shooter without exception. Others invest hours and hours into every turn-based RPG from Japan. I find myself gravitating toward games where you can jump from great heights.
“Games where you can jump from high heights without taking damage” isn’t the best genre description, but this mechanic has come to define many virtual experiences lately, especially as technology expands allowing for the creation of large worlds begging to be explored. Nothing beats scaling a building in a matter of seconds and immediately looking over the edge to take a leap of faith, even when there isn’t a bale of hay to soften your fall. Here are some of my favorites.
Spider-Man 2 – Before the release of Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 on the previous generation of consoles, a promotional video in retail stores briefly showed Spidey jumping from the top of a relatively tall building and landing on the ground. It is laughably low-tech by today’s standards, but it was an exciting indicator of what the game had in store. Follow-up Spider-Man games have never matched that initial feeling of swinging through Manhattan in Spider-Man 2. Maybe it was because the game felt so radical at the time that it is impossible to recapture that original spectacle of scale and height. Whether you took a flying leap or just sprinted off the edge of a building and into a headfirst dive towards the pavement, it was exhilarating, and in many ways, set the standards for future games where super humans could jump off of buildings with little to no regard for their own health.
The Incredible Hulk – In 2003, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee gave comic-book movies a shot with Hulk. The accompanying video game was as disappointing as the film, but the follow-up Hulk game from Radical Entertainment for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube nailed the premise. In The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, players got their hands on the best virtual version of Hulk that has ever been pressed onto a disc. He can leap over tall buildings in a single bound, jump from skyscraper to skyscraper with ease, and destroy everything that gets in his way. He can also use cars as boxing gloves when he’s not scaling vertical environments.
Crackdown – The agents of developer Realtime Worlds’ Crackdown on Xbox 360 are all the strong and silent types who recognize how jumping from tall buildings aids the crime fighting process. Their base of operation is the tallest building in Pacific City, and there are two achievements available to players who scale it and take the leap of faith. In Crackdown, you can die from falling, but it has to be from an exceptional height. It makes the fall that much more exhilarating.
Assassin’s Creed – You’re not superhuman in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, but you do play as some of the best parachute-free skydivers in the video game business. You are only able to leap from specific locations into myriad haystacks strategically placed around the historical cities, but it doesn’t make the fall to the ground any less exciting. Hay in the past was just more buoyant and soft. Today’s hay is a product of years of agricultural genetic engineering, and it has caused it to become hard and itchy.
Prototype – You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Prototype and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction come from the same developer – Radical Entertainment. Both games star overpowered antiheroes who are very good at closing the gap between sky and ground as fast as possible. One is a little bit more violent than the other, but they both love hanging out in the sky and letting gravity take over. I enjoyed Protoype 2’s jumping gameplay so much that I skipped every cutscene in the game just so I could get to the next power-up that would make James Heller jump higher and fall faster.
Infamous – Cole McGrath might not have the highest jump, especially when compared to Saints Row IV or Prototype, but the man knows how to land properly. Cole uses good old-fashioned climbing skills to get to the top of buildings, but his ability to destroy the pavement with his feet from an impressive fall is nearly unmatched.
Gravity Rush – You don’t jump from great heights in the PlayStation Vita’s Gravity Rush as much as you expertly fall from them. You can scale buildings by running up the sides of them and then leap off with little regard for protagonist Kat’s well being. Or you can just cut out the middleman, point the gravity skyward, fall upward as high as the game will allow, and then reverse gravity and fall to earth. A visceral sense of momentum comes from falling from such high heights, and Kat sticks the landing every time. No one falls more gracefully from high heights than her.
Saints Row IV – The latest entry in the Saints Row franchise makes no qualms about its relationship to The Matrix. I wouldn’t be surprised if we learned that Warner Bros. was seeking out developer Volition to take the mechanics of Saints Row and cover it in licensed Matrix paint. Neo was always a good jumper, and Saints Row IV offers some of the best city-scaling jumping of the generation. The landing lacks the impact of say, the previous entry, but the journey to the ground is still exhilarating.
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