7 mindblowing core mechanics in famous video games
Portal 2 pic

With Watch Dogs introducing a new and unique hacking mechanic to the gaming industry, Natasha Bissett takes a look at 7 other unbelievably cool mechanics that have appeared as a core component of famous titles.

Portal 2 pic
[The mind-bending brilliance of Portal]

The Gravity Gun (Half Life 2)

The Gravity Gun, or Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator to give it its full title, was introduced to gamers in Half Life 2 to extend their ability to pick up and manipulate objects in the world. It also allowed items to be fired at enemies using the repulse function. The cutest part of the game is playing catch with a robotic “dog” (see below).

Interestingly, in Doom 3 the developers used their own version of the gravity gun (called “the grabber”) as part of the level design. Rather than create a ruined environment, the team created a room and then trashed it with the grabber. In the expansion pack, the grabber was actually a part of the game for players, the Ionised Plasma Levitator. Unlike the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator however, the Ionised Plasma Levitator doesn’t actually grab things for the player to hold: it just picks them up and fires them like a projectile.

The Portal Gun (Portal)

Valve’s spin-off masterpiece focuses on puzzling rather than combat. And the basic premise of the Handheld Portal Device (Portal Gun) is the creation of in/out teleportation openings that help the player navigate the puzzles in the Aperture Science and Enrichment Centre.

It was completely revolutionary at the time, allowing for some incredibly inventive and jaw-dropping problem solving. And it makes both Portal and its sequel stand out as phenomenally unique games.

Propulsion and Repulsion Gel (Portal 2)

Speaking of which…

Inspired by the idea of paint with special properties that was core to Tag: The Power Of Paint, the Portal team poached the Tag developers to create the propulsion, repulsion, and neutral gel in Portal 2. The result completely transforms the gameplay experienced in Portal 1 by making puzzles even more tricky and messy, requiring interesting and brave uses of portals. Remember: speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out.

Blink (Dishonored)

Dishonored is full of fantastic concepts including bullet time, stealth, magic, and x-ray vision, but I think the best aspect is ‘blink’ – an instant teleportation skill that forms a core component of the gameplay.

Not only can you use blink to get about, like using the old noclips cheat, but you can also transport yourself right next to enemies to do some pretty brutal kills. I’ve been in love with the idea of instant teleportation since I was a kid, and it’s a wicked element that I really would love to see integrated more often in other games.

Eagle Vision (Assassin’s Creed series – and others)

Eagle Vision has been really well implemented throughout the Assassin’s Creed games, and it gets better with each game I think. It’s a bit cheeky, letting you identify targets and important things with ease, because it means that you are a different kind of observant. Sometimes it’s also easy to become reliant on Eagle Vision to help you out.

It’s not unique to Assassin’s Creed of course: versions have now appeared in Dishonored and the new Tomb Raider among others.

Nanosuit (Crysis series)

As you’re a super-soldier, the Nanosuit is designed to be perfectly complementary for your military skills (i.e. shooting things). It directly affects the soldier’s muscles; being super skin-tight and looking like carbon fiber.

Gameplay wise, the nanosuit is great because it lets you have options when playing: to be super strong and fast, invisible, or resistant to bullets. It really lets you customise your gameplay much more than standard armour, and it’s quite dynamic.

Thu’um and Dragon Shouts (Skyrim)

The Thu’um combines so many magical elements into a very cool and easy to use form, which is just one reason I love Skyrim. I never play as a spell caster, but I love that with shouts and the Thu’um you can use magic without having to sacrifice sword and shield.

There’s a great variety in the Thu’um including breathing fire and ice, but also invisibility, super-speed, slowing down time, reducing enmity (that fuels group aggro), and calling upon a dragon. You’ll get a lot of them by playing the story, but there are so many Words of Power to collect while adventuring, making them useful things to search out and collect.

Just don’t try it in real life:

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