Economies of scale
The physics playground on offer to Early Access backers of Next Car Game (p52) is slight, but there’s a pleasant metagame beneath its unstructured destruction. Soar into the air and a single keypress unhooks the game camera, giving you a few precious seconds in which to position it just so and snap the perfect screenshot before you slam back down to terra firma and watch your meticulously modelled vehicle shatter into tiny pieces.
Driving games are one of few genres that give players freedom over how the action is presented. Sim purists can position the camera behind the dashboard interior or on the bonnet, while those weaned on the arcade racer can fix it above and behind the car to give a wider view of the track. This simply doesn’t happen in action games, where the developer sets the scale and demands that players live with it. When Resident Evil 6 was patched to let players tweak its field of vision, it made headlines.
With Below (p40), Capybara is making the kind of game normally viewed from over the protagonist’s shoulders, the camera slightly above and behind the action, like an arcade racer with the Ferrari replaced by a falchion. The Toronto studio’s new game is built on a combat system that requires a slow, precise approach, and that punishes mistakes heavily. Yet its camera is fixed high in the sky, its protagonist a speck on the screen.
There are clear artistic and atmospheric benefits to Capy’s chosen scale, but it risks making the same mistake as Resident Evil 6, albeit from the opposite extreme: giving players a widescreen view of proceedings but at the same time starving them of the up-close clarity that action games inherently require. It’s essential that players see what they did wrong and what hit them, since it’s an integral part of the learning process and very much part of the fun. After all, were Next Car Game’s wanton destruction viewed through Super Sprint’s perspective, it would, to put it mildly, lose its shine.