I’m a well over half way through Wolfenstein: The New Order and I feel that if there’s one element of this game that stands out, beyond any other, it’s the damn animations. I first noticed it when sneaking down a corridor in the first level and a patrolling guard turned his head to look down the corridor as he passed. It didn’t make much of a difference functionally, the A.I. itself seems to be as near-sighted like most first person shooters, but it was that appearance of, well, humanness. In most games the interaction with the environment is that of a robot, pushing past things that it doesn’t think should be there and overall being quite stiff. I’ve been struggling to articulate how to phrase it, the only way that I can is that they act as though the ground is the only real thing and other objects are just solid untouchable barriers. Games have improved on this over time of course, wooden barriers now tend to get shot up, railings vaulted and glass smashed in an attempt to kill the player.
Animations feeling real does a great deal to improve the overall experience, you can have the prettiest skybox in the world but if your character gets stuck on or completely ignores geometry then it’s all buggered. The first game that really impressed me with this was Uncharted 3, a beautiful game but more importantly one where the playable character Nathan Drake reacts to being close to walls, he puts out his hands rather than bumping robotically against them, it’s not perfect and the A.I. in that still has remnants of finding solid objects mere barriers. Nevertheless it helps, it helps to have a world where you and everything else reacts it and that in turn the world reacts right back.