GAMETECH: Mechanics create the most important part of any console experience

YOU can’t beat good mechanics. (No, not the kind of mechanics who fix your car — that would be illegal.) The way a game reacts to your input, how it feels to play, this is the single most important part of any console experience.

When a game really nails this feeling, success often follows. Mario, Street Fighter, Call of Duty, Halo, Angry Birds — all driven by superb mechanics. In turn, those games have inspired a thousand clones. Gears of War is another on that list.

This week, Microsoft revealed a new trailer for Gears of War 4, which will hit shelves (but not mechanics, leave them alone) later this year. It’s a strange thing to acknowledge, but Gears of War is a retro game these days, one that inspired a generation of third-person action games. When the first in the series was released, critics and gamers alike argued about the ‘snap-to-cover’ feature, wondering why the whole story was designed like a carnival game, where boxes and cars were conveniently placed in front of giant alien invaders as they ravaged Earth. No one complained about how fun the game was though, or how this new cover system allowed for fresh strategic elements in third-person shooters.

In the 10 years since, almost every successful third-person action game has implemented the same cover system. Not since Grand Theft Auto III has one game made such an impact on the landscape. But they all missed the point — Gears of War wasn’t brilliant because of the cover system. It was brilliant because of the crisp mechanics surrounding that feature.

When you sprinted to cover in Gears of War, it was the sprinting and ‘snapping’ that was perfectly built, not the oddly-placed ice-cream truck you crouched behind. Popping out from behind that cover to shoot, it was the electric bursts of gunfire and arcade speed combat that made everything so satisfying. Last but not least, it was the unparalleled reload mechanic — where timing your reload with skill adds more bullets — that kept every encounter compulsive.

Great games like The Witcher 3 (poor movement), Fallout 4 (poor shooting) and Uncharted (clumsy platform animations) all suffer from fundamentally poor mechanics that hinder their status. Watching the latest trailer for Gears of War 4 is a nice reminder that mechanics will always make for a fundamentally enjoyable experience. Then again, mechanics always have been good with gears.

MECHANIC CHANGES GEAR

One of the most famous mechanics in gaming is Cid, from the Final Fantasy series. Cid is the only character to appear in every Final Fantasy game, which will see its fifteenth main series release in September.

This time around, and for the first time ever, Cid is a woman.

It looks like Cid will be busy, too, as Final Fantasy XV prominently features a car, which the main cast will drive around the world in search of gems and angst and whatever else Final Fantasy boy bands need to sustain themselves in modern RPGs.

Not only that, but Square Enix have revealed that the car (given the name ‘Regalia’) will have the ability to transform into a flying machine later in the game. Back to the Future, anyone?

Final Fantasy looks like a hit in the making, but expectations at Square Enix are inordinately high.

They claim the game needs to sell more than 10 million copies to make a profit. To put that in context, that’s almost as much as The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid combined. The only way to make Final Fantasy XV more expensive would be to make a full-blown movie alongside it — which is exactly what they have done. Kingsglaive, set in the world of Final Fantasy XV and starring Sean Bean and Lena Headey, will release later this year.

MECHANICALLY MINDED

Finally, now that you have read the word mechanic 11 times in this column, it’s worth mentioning Enter the Gungeon. An old-school, birds-eye shooter, Enter the Gungeon is being lauded for hitting a lovely sweet spot between twin-stick controls and rogue-lite exploration. Twin stick controls are difficult to pull off (reference: Too Human) so it’s always good to hear of a game that gets this mechanic just right.


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