Parkour for the Course? | Feature

Parkour

We’re calling it. Don’t say we didn’t when the internet is awash with doomsday-esque placards, or memes or whatever, about it in six month’s time. Yes, based on a layer of evidence spread so thin the producers of the X Factor gave us an impressed nod; our keen-eyed team of imaginary reporters have concluded that ‘parkour’, will be the next gaming element rampantly shoehorned every which way into any release deemed half-way appropriate. And if one should slip out the back door without it, it’ll be called self-destructive, and YouTube commenters will lead an aggressive campaign against its distribution, by claiming ‘someone else even did it before just like that anyway so what’s the point and where’s the parkour’. Or, you know, something nonsensical like that.

Why, we hear you gasp in terror, fingers poised over the indignation button built into your keyboard, autolocked to the comments section. Why and indeed how could you make such an outlandish claim!? Well first off we’ve had little to say for a few weeks so you know, the barrel’s just been sat here, but also it came from our pleasant trip to this year’s irrefutable, undeniable, implausible Eurogamer Expo.

Now, if you’re a regular Respawn reader, you’ll know we gushed rather fervently at our recent blast on Titanfall, a game in which the on-foot ‘Pilot’ mechanics make getting around the world a veritable canister of fun; it’s fresh and exciting and one of the best elements that we got to get to grips with. It’s a game that takes the idea of fluid, ‘parkour’-esque movement, and slides it provocatively into the game without so much as a kilojoule of friction.

And ultimately, this free-running has been a chief success of many recent series’ we’ve come to dribble over. Mirror’s Edge, of course leaps to mind, and perhaps even more poignantly Assassin’s Creed; both managed to forge a gameplay hinge that made just moving around the world a lot of fun. That was of course until Ezio mistook your intended ‘grab that ledge’ command to mean ‘bafflingly leap at nothing at all before plummeting 200 feet to your untimely demise.’ When you got it right though, and you began expertly careering your way from rooftop to balcony to walkway to convenient wooden beam, it felt wonderful, awesome, powerful.

So with so much gallantry and virtue and holding the door open for a lady surrounding the idea of parkour, why would we bother raising such a seemingly negative forecast? Well. You can basically blame Dying Light.

If there’s one way to create a largely disproportionate upheaval about your game, it’s to create a trailer that’s both brilliant, and highly irrelevant as Techland, developer of Dead Island (and Dying Light) know very well. If you’re at Eurogamer Expo, and you sort of already did the trailer thing, free tshirts are the way to go.

When we finally got onto Dying Light, after a considerable wait, we found ourselves playing; you guessed it, Dead Island with parkour. Whilst in some instances the game was well paced and good fun, and of course taking into account the code was pre-release, we definitely found ourselves running into Dead Island’s old trick of shoddy collision detection, ropey controls and a bizarre input recognition delay. We’d be less judgemental of early gameplay had we not seen this sort of thing make it to the final release before.

So, the parkour element. Whilst being able to impressively leap on top of things and off of other things during a zombie apocalypse should be considered quite necessary to your survival, the emphasis on this mechanic in the sprint of Dying Light we got to see certainly came across as a little misplaced, technically at the very least. Not that we’re against the idea of a zombie game in which you must use your agility and the environment as both a means of survival and your weapon; that very concept gets us all flustered and handsy in fact, but when it works against the flow of a game all too similar to its already choppy predecessor, the link begins to look a little tentative.

All of a sudden, it seems like it’s sort of been shoehorned in, doesn’t it? And what with our journey into the excellent Rezzed zone incurring an encounter with a game called Cloud Built (incidentally a strikingly beautiful, hand drawn affair that we had tremendous fun with and that you should most certainly find out more about) also focusing on a parkour ethos, it suddenly seems to be everywhere. Again.

And so with the nigh-on guaranteed success of Titanfall, and the little doubt with which we say that Dying Light will make some sort of sizeable splash when it shuffles onto shelves, not to mention the palpable air of expectation humming around Mirror’s Edge 2; will parkour be the next thing everybody wants to include in everything? The sandbox of yesteryear, the WWII of the year before that?

It actually seems like we’re passed all that these days, and despite Titanfall’s emphasis, parkour is hardly the Miley Cyrus of game mechanics. Still, our beloved industry is as fickle as they come. More on all things runny-jumpy here on Respawn, when we get ‘em kids.

 


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About 

Rob has been writing about video games since somebody put a pen in his hand and convinced him not to eat it. Last Thursday. He ardently scribbles for his terrible blog Respawn in 5, and also occasionally strings words together for Bring The Noise and a flock of Tech blogs too. When writing or gaming is out of the question, he reads, complains and pretends to be a musician. He's not.

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