I’ve always been an avid fan of the first-person view. It just feels so natural way to experience the game world that it makes one think, why there are any other views available in the first place. Of course, I recognize the usefulness of other types of views, like the third-person view, and I very much enjoy playing some more arcadey games from that perspective, there’s no question about it. But whenever I’m playing a game which strives me to feel “being there”, like simulations often do, it’s my demand that there’s a first-person view available, at least as an option. It bugs the hell out of me when in Crysis viewpoint suddenly jumps into the third-person when entering a vehicle. Concerning that, I have to give the Official Honorable Mention to Far Cry 2 for its categorical use of the first-person view in whatever player is doing, even though as a game it didn’t do much for me.
However, this is not about above mentioned games, or their deficiencies, but about first-person view particularly in racing games.
When Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 5 was demoed for the first time few years back to the wider audience, it was the same exact moment in history when gaming industry came to realization that, from then on, cockpits in racing games have to be taken seriously. That GT 5 -demo simply destroyed the competition that was out there at the time, and in a way, still does.
So, even though GT 5 looks gorgeous when driving from behind the wheel (judging again from the videos and screenshots), I would consider Slightly Mad Studios’ Need for Speed: Shift as the first first-person driver. NfS:Shift models effects of high-speed and the g-forces the driver is experiencing like no other driving game by blurring, shaking and tinting the screen. And even the HUD reacts accordingly to the collisions and everything, which is pretty crazy if you think about it.
But the biggest selling point of NfS:Shift and the justification for its existence are the marvelous cockpits. The look and feel of the cockpit-view in NfS:Shift simply blew my mind: reflections of the interior in the windows, functioning gauges (including oil pressure, engine temperature, etc.), all the different materials, and well animated hands steering the wheel. Plus, the real-time shadowing is superb and almost bug-free (GT 5, I’m looking in your direction).
Look at all the detailing on the NfS:Shift’s dashboards. You can almost feel the stitching on the leather only by looking at it. Total craftsmanship.
It’s pretty safe to say that NfS:Shift was obviously designed from the ground up to be experienced through the gorgeously modeled interiors. So, this got me thinking, why there’s a third-person view at all in such game? Ok, I’m all for options, but in some cases developer should own a pair and make a design decision to exclude something which undermines the game’s premise. And let’s face it, when playing NfS:Shift from the third-person view, it just becomes another arcadey driving simulation, nothing more, nothing less.
And not even particularly good one.