It’s all downhill from here.
Five of the Best is a weekly series about things you don’t notice when you’re playing a game because you’ve got more pressing things to do such as saving the world. Things like hands, potions, crowds, dinosaurs – we’ve covered an eclectic bunch so far (and there’s a Five of the Best archive where they’re all compiled).
But these incidentals, they’re essential, and you’ll find they’re lodged deep in your brain. So much so that if I were to say “best maps in video games – go!” I bet you’d be able to rattle off a handful without too much trouble. And that’s what I want you to do: get involved, because Five of the Best is as much about you celebrating your favourites as me celebrating mine.
So here goes, prepare yourself: “Best zip wires in video games – go!”
Zip wires are everywhere, even in the real world. Every park seems to have one for kids to fight over and get hit by when they’re not looking. There’s even a massive zip wire on Brighton beach now, which I still haven’t been on, although it’s nothing compared to the zip wire in Wales at an old slate quarry – it’s the fastest in the world and longest in Europe, apparently, and I really want to go.
Games can’t resist zip wires either, because they’re really useful for stitching playing spaces together. “Oh god how do we get players over there?!” a frustrated designer might cry. “Pop a zip wire there,” a heavenly voice answers, which is presumably why we’ve been zipping around game worlds forever.
So here’s to zip wires and here are five of the best.
I love Broforce. I really love Broforce. It’s so unassuming, so retro SNES, but it absolutely nails kickabout fun and couch co-op, and its ’80s action hero theme (I know there are ’90s heroes in there but it’s done in an ’80s way) is sublime.
In Broforce, you can destroy everything. You’re Arnie and the gang in Predator shooting into the woods, mashing up that foliage. Hold the trigger down and pixelated chunks of level go flying; let fly a few grenades go and blow craters out of it. You can actually destroy so much the level becomes impossible to clear – but you can’t blow up zip wires!
Amid all the rubble and debris, the ravaged carcass of the level, zip wires remain. Up you hop, down you slide, one macho hand holding you steady, the other on your gun blap-blapping away – although usually this heroic vision ends in your being unceremoniously splatted upon zippy arrival. Feels cool though!
You can go the other way too, up the line – probably because you’re so macho – making zip wires doubly useful. Yes, you can’t play Broforce without loving zip wires, and you absolutely should play Broforce.
Mirror’s Edge was like a ballerina at a Justin Bieber gig – a touch of class amid the brash machine of video game blockbusters. It reeked of Ikea design cool and was a master at block colour panelling. I remember my eyes popping when I saw it in the flesh at the very first EGX in London, way back in 2008 – remember that?
Mirror’s Edge was all about motion – about free running or parkour when it was so trendy even James Bond was doing it. Fudge your roly-poly landing and, crunch, your momentum was abruptly halted, and you noticed it. Not moving felt weird.
It was of paramount importance, then, to keep you going, and not having a Spider-Man web slinger to launch you from building to building meant having zip wires and a skyline criss-crossed with them. I love the way heroine Faith tucked her knees so we could see her trendy, toe-y running shoes, too, reinforcing the sporty theme and she prepared for a landing or to buffet her feet against a wall she zipped into.
Great game, Mirror’s Edge, just a pity EA and DICE didn’t hold their nerve and say no to combat.
Uncharted: Lost Legacy
I feel like every Uncharted game has zip wires in it, so now every game which tries to be Uncharted has zip wires in it too. They’re a great way to cap a section off, though, when you reach the top of a building – the alternative being climbing back down again. They’re also a handy way to show off a rooftop vista.
But why doesn’t anyone below ever question all the wires? Why doesn’t anyone ever say, “Quite a lot of zip wires up there – are you sure no one can get to my treasure map I’ve locked in my desk draw?” Then again, if we’re having a go at Uncharted for realism, there’s a far more glaring error to address first: how does Nathan Drake climb in those jeans?
Lost Legacy condenses Uncharted into one glass of ultra-concentrated action-matinee squash. It also doesn’t star Drake which, much as I love him, is refreshing. But it does have loads of zip wires. It’s only roughly the third level where you’re leaping around collapsing tin rooftops in India and careering down festoon lights – which I’d love to get for my little garden yard area, come to think of it. It’s great, bombastic, blockbuster action – as always – and there’s even a zip wire-related achievement at the end.
Remember when Boris Johnson got stuck on a zip wire during the London Olympic Games 2012? Why couldn’t he just stay there? Sigh. Still, he highlighted another use of zip wires as a way to get above your opponents and create a temporary vantage point.
Fortnite has some colossal zip wires and the best bit about them, other than the way they hold you by a magical magnetic field which somehow sticks flesh-and-blood you but not your metallic weaponry, is how you can go backwards and forwards on them. This change of direction means you can effectively hover at one location, shooting down at stragglers below, and zip off if things get too hot. Every height advantage you can get is worth it!
Goodness, it’s not like Five of the Best to be up to date, but Death Stranding, it has to be said, has very good zip wires. Well, they’re sort of zip wires – they don’t seem to have any actual physical substance but they do work in more or less the same way, saving you buttloads of time in a game where getting anywhere takes a buttload of time. They can even propel you upwards at terrific speeds against the pull of gravity, all by holding what looks like the light doctors shine in your ear (hey, Reedus the prognosis, Doc!).
The ability to make zip wires isn’t something you get early on, though – you need your PCC gizmo to be level two, which happens around half-way through the game.