May 11, 2021

This week’s One Off The List chronicles the best bugs in PC games there have ever been.

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The Oxford English dictionary describes a bug as: “a sort of computer oops”. It is the result of errant coding, mismatched texture, wonky physics or (sometimes) a briefcase. Developers must fight bugs day and night to safeguard the digital realms we call our playgrounds. Sometimes they lose that battle and a bug comes stomping ravenously into our game, ready to upset us. But sometimes that bug is not an annoyance or a game-breaker, but instead the funniest thing to ever happen. Here are 9 of the best bugs in PC gaming.

Hitman‘s homing briefcase


An undercover operative is nothing without his gadgets. Silver coins, a wet fish, exploding rubber ducks. But Hitman’s most entertaining non-lethal gizmo was the result of a bug. His briefcase is supposed to be used for smuggling sniper rifles and explosives into public spaces while looking like a reputable businessman. Come Hitman 2’s release day, the briefcase had other plans. It could fly long distances when thrown. It could round corners. It homed in on its quarry with the tenacity of a mother hawk hunting for her chicks. It was such a wondrous bug that the developers simply turned it into a bonus weapon and called it “Briefcase Mk II”, rather than removing it from the game completely.

The Abyss in Microsoft Flight Simulator

When you pilot a Cessna 208 light aircraft into the abyss, the abyss pilots also into you. Or it squashes you down to a microscopic point of geometry and the game crashes. I don’t remember. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 offers some of the most dazzling vistas in PC gaming. The earth is accurately recreated from bonkers amounts of mapping data. But in some cases the numbers are a bit off and what ought to be a patch of ordinary countryside turns into a gargantuan sinkhole, the kind you’d see appearing in a Christopher Nolan movie. Only slightly more unnerving than the otherworldly monolith of Melbourne’s suburbs that also appeared in the game.

Half-Life 2‘s infinitely fast backwards bunny hop

The programmers of Half-Life 2 did not put an upper limit on your backwards walking speed. And why would they? After all, who would try to gain speed by running backwards? In practice, you’d need to do something really silly, like hopping up and down endlessly with your back turned, to even get the momentum. I can’t imagine a player would do that. You’d have to be some sort of obsessive to even want to go that fast in a video game. Motivated by some strange urge to run at that speed. Some sort of speed fanatic. Some sort of game runner. Some sort of quickness sprinter. There’s probably a word for it. Anyway, interesting bug.

Assassin’s Creed Unity‘s horrifying faces


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It is comforting to know that underneath every blockbuster’s beautifully sculpted face there hides the same basic organs all humans have in common – a pair of boggling joke shop eyes and a clattering set of novelty teeth. Ubisoft tracked down this glitch and described it as being confined to certain types of graphics card, then patched it out. But not before images of these horrendous creatures were widely shared and forever burned into the collective skull of Assassin’s Creed players everywhere.

Putting a bucket on a shopkeeper’s head in Skyrim

If you put a bucket on somebody’s head, they cannot see you steal a wheel of cheese. Is this a bug? Or is it incredibly powerful game design?

Momentary invulnerability in Halo


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Story time, younglings. In this wrinkled-but-respected shooter, there lies a power-up called an overshield. When you pick it up, your magical spaceshield charges with extra oomph. But some players discovered this charge-up takes a few seconds, and in that brief window, the player becomes invulnerable. This led to players planting dozens of dormant grenades under the game’s warjeep, and at the precise moment an invinciblilised volunteer picked up an overshield and hopped into the car, the grenades would be detonated. Both car and passenger would be sent flying through the air, totally immune to the normally deleterious effect of the massive explosion, and would reach parts of the map previously inaccessible. A golden age of stunt jumps ensued, and there was peace throughout the land. The end.

EDF’s insects

This is a mandatory joke, please step back, please do not engage.


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People falling from the sky in Red Dead Redemption 2

There is no joy such as the joy of watching a ragdoll man fall from a high place. Upon its release, Red Dead Redemption 2’s cup runnethed over with physics bugs. Flailing horse carriages, disappearing John Marstons, horses that would instantly die and catch fire when they stepped over a very specific patch of ground. But the best for my money was the random raining of pedestrians, characters, and equine friends. People would just fall from the sky for no reason. Sometimes during cutscenes. Also, remember that time you could rappel down a cliff using your own vomit? Red Dead 2 was billed as the height of realism and craft in the industry. But it also demonstrates a universal truth I have oft repeated: video games are always comedy, whether they want to be or not.

Quake‘s rocket jump


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The weapon that became an exploit. The exploit that became a feature. The feature that defined a genre. I have used the tagline of Ridley Scott’s epic historical drama Gladiator as the format for this introduction for two reasons: 1. I am running out of ways to talk about bugs. 2. The rhythm of this phrase has been stuck in my brain since the year 2000, the year Quake 3 Arena stood next to Deus Ex and an entire industry put down their rocket launchers for stealth mechanics and something called storytelling. You used to be able to use a rocket launcher to shoot at your own feet and soar through the air like a beautiful football. And isn’t that a kind of story? I am suggesting: yes.

One Off The List from…

Last time, we tested the mettle of the 8 hardest vikings in PC games. But one of them has been judged too soft by far. It’s… Axe lad from Mordhau.

“Axe lad must meet the fate of all soft viking,” says list juror Justin. “He should be banished from this hall of heroes to an overly produced, gritty drama series with all of the other pretend vikings.”

And so it came to pass that the soft one was cast out. I will return next month, list goblins. But for now, I’m bugging out.

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