Video games require complex code to ensure that the world functions in a way that’s similar to real-world physics. Most games use existing physics engines with set APIs, such as the Havok engine. In a nutshell, the physics engine of a game sets the rules, running in tandem with the game engine and ensuring we don’t all walk through walls.
The characteristic of a physics glitch is that it involves something in the game moving in a way that doesn’t dovetail with the physics in the rest of the game.
In some games, these glitches would be infrequent and barely noticeable. However, in others, the physics are broken to the extent that walking through walls is relatively tame. Some have physics engines that cause such frequent problems that the glitches are almost more famous than the games themselves. Here are a few recent games that either bend the laws of physics or snap them clean in half.
The various glitches and exploits in Skate 3 have already made the rounds on YouTube. While the skate physics themselves are fairly functional, the character models clip through things or collide in a way that causes them to break. Other potential sources of reality-breaking fun are the boards, which have a tendency to get stuck under scenery or NPCs.
Sometimes Skate 3 doesn’t even have to glitch to be funny. Collisions with humans or benches can cause some pretty hilarious wipeouts on their own. While the game was patched at least once by the developers, EA Black Box, most of the fun physics stuff that can be seen in the infamous videos are still in the game now.
We all remember the Impact Engine from FIFA 12 mostly because it resulted in the infamous “kiss” between two players who somehow got their character models hooked together. There have been numerous glitches reported in the games since then, despite or maybe because of the attempt to simulate the actual physics of the Beautiful Game.
Characters’ body parts will often clip with the ball, or readjust in rather unusual ways to ensure they make contact with it. The most recent games use the Ignite Engine. While there hasn’t been a “kiss” in the game thus far, there have been complaints about the ball clipping through the players.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto IV was the first of many Rockstar games to run on the Euphoria physics engine, and it also featured ragdoll physics. The driving takes some getting used to, and I’ve seen a fairly even split between gamers who love it and gamers who hate it. But the most fun you can have with the physics is running the cars into something they’re not supposed to, like a certain swingset, and enjoy being flung as high in the sky as a plane. This is because the swingset itself is slightly embedded in the ground, and the physics engine attempts to shift it out with the force which propels the car.
Similar glitches were reported in GTA V, which also uses Euphoria: The player could collide with a certain automatic gate in such a way that caused the physics to catapult their car into the air, though it was later patched.
Fallout: New Vegas
The troubles with Fallout: New Vegas were many and sundry. Chances are, if you’ve played the game or seen anything about it on the internet, you’ve likely seen some of the more infamous glitches. These include character models contorting into hellish demons or simply drifting off and getting stuck in walls.
It can be seen in a few other Bethesda games, including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Lucky is the gamer that’s played either game without encountering a physics glitch. Both games were powered by the Havok engine, one of the most ubiquitous physics engines in the entire industry.
This is likely the only game on the list for which the broken physics are the whole point. Goat Simulator is like some silly video game equivalent of an Escher painting: Deliberately made to play with physics and your perception thereof.
The alpha that so many adored was built with the Unreal Engine, with PhysX and Apex. The extreme physics glitches defined the game’s popularity, pushing what was originally a game jam game into a full Steam release. The developers have said that the development time was short specifically because the bugs and glitches were left intact upon release.
You tell us!
Have you encountered a game with absurdly broken physics or even one that had a funny glitch? Let us know in the comments section!