This one. The one right here.
In the realm of gaming, the in-game camera is one of the most easily forgettable but critically important aspects of game design. An excellent camera is one that is effortless to control, so much so that it feels like a natural aspect of the game’s movement. The camera can also be used in creative ways, to ensure that the action is being conveyed through the best possible angles. This terrible over-the-shoulder nightmare accomplishes neither of these things.
Two weeks into this challenge and I’m already complaining about really inane bullshit. Picky, what have you done to me.
This may seem like a minor nitpick, but I noticed this issue a lot in Sony’s E3 conference on Monday. It was in Spider-Man, pictured above, Ghost of Tsushima, pictured below, and The Last of Us Part II. This freaking angle only belongs in one of these games, guys. In a third-person shooter, positioning the main character at the side of the frame allows for a direct line of sight to the action. You can see the character, but aiming a gun still feels natural because the direction of your vision is very close to the trajectory of the bullet or other projectile. The problems with the angle are numerous, but it’s really the only way to make a shooter feel engaging in third-person. Where that logic breaks down is when this angle is used in non-shooter games.
In a melee focused game like Ghost of Tsushima, this angle is nothing but a hindrance. The main character takes up far too much of the screen and it’s impossible to see anything behind them. It’s like combining the worst of first- and third-person viewpoints, restricting vision both in front of and behind the character you control. The only benefit I can imagine is the idea that this angle makes the games more cinematic. This word is extremely poorly defined, and fairly meaningless in the face of basic pragmatism. Stop worrying about the way the camera “feels” and more about how it contributes to the way the game actually looks. At least this game has the good sense to abandon the over-the-shoulder (OTS?) angle once the action kicks in. In fact, Ghost of Tsushima has rather brilliant camera work during its fights, making the OTS garbage all the more confusing. Regardless, it remains a fairly minor issue. When this angle is truly egregious is when it gets in the way of the combat.
Enter God of War (2018). I enjoyed this game despite finding it to be an overall shallow experience, but far and away my biggest gripe with it was the damn camera. Kratos’ up close and personal fighting style does not work with this angle. You are surrounded by blind spots in this game, constantly getting attacked by invisible enemies just to Kratos’ left, or anywhere behind him. In fights with numerous enemies this was infuriating and led to a large number of extremely unfair-feeling deaths. Don’t even try to justify it with the game’s pitiful ranged attacks. The majority of your damage in God of War is dealt by melee strikes. Strikes that are much harder to aim when a big burly Spartan is blocking your field of vision. This game was probably a 6 or 7 out of 10 for me as it is. A reasonable camera angle would have made it a solid 8.
Now obviously your opinion on this (incredibly minor and hardly significant) issue is going to come down to personal preference. I’m sure some people do actually find it more cinematic than other angles. I’m even more sure that most people don’t even notice it. But it irritates me, and that’s reason enough to post about it on the internet.