Videogame Dance Halls

I’ve moved on from Max Payne to… Max Payne 2. It’s signficantly better in many, many regards. I’m especially fond of the fact that Max’s character model no longer has the dumbest looking lips in the world. Those lips were the death of me in taking the first game seriously at all. The second edition has sufficiently upgraded the graphics so that I can take the world at face value. The dialog and other scripting, not so much, but okay.

One significant pleasure I’ve had in Max Payne 2 that was missing in Max Payne (probably for reasons of lack of my own skill) is little sequences in which you do things just right. You slo-mo dive through a doorway, twist around to shoot one dude, throw a grenade at another group before they’ve even turned, get up, shotgun another dude, dive behind a car just as the other people blow up. And so on. It channels those scenes from The Matrix very well. That experience is rare for me, but a distinct pleasure when it comes together.

It reminds me of Skate 3, because it reminds me of dancing. A huge part of the gift of Skate 3 (and the previous games) was the way it mediated a joy of movement relatively “easily”. That game was particularly great because you could master the movement in the absence of people trying to kill you (which was one of the downers about the world of Skate 2 being so hostile). Max Payne games give you bullet time as a similar scaffold for “beautiful” movement as early as possible. The contrast with an ostensibly related game like Mirror’s Edge is really stark for my money – Mirror’s Edge almost never felt like beautiful movement to me, partly because beautiful movement was the expectation and so most of what I did was fail at it. By the time I’d got it right the beautiful moment had passed.

Anyway, it’s pleasing to find these “dancing games” in strange places. I’m sure highly talented multiplayer FPS players feel similar things as they zip and zap around, but it’s a high price to be able to dance beautifully in those venues. Skate 3 and Max Payne let us dance on our own little corner.

26 October 2011
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