Thoughts: Ragdoll effects in games

We all have those moments, where you are playing a game, everything is going great, you are having a lot of fun, and before you know it, something happens. This could be dying, falling, crashing, anything depending on what game your playing. Something happens, your character goes limp, and gets tossed around the map like a wet salad.

You know it, it’s a ragdoll.

I always loved playing around with the ragdoll effects in games, whether it be trying to launch the body of my character as far as possible across the map, or trying to make it convulse in the most unnatural ways, it was one of my favourite things to do in games. Sometimes you can even glitch through the wall for bonus points if it’s the right game.

I’ve never exactly been able to explain my love of ragdoll physics to others though? Maybe it’s just because it’s something you would never see in real life, maybe it’s because of all the weird and wonderful trick shots that happen while playing around with them. Maybe I just have some strange fondness for making limp bodies fly through the air like majestic eagles.

Hopefully in this post I can run through a couple of ragdoll effects I enjoy playing around with in games, using various games as examples to help me with my point.

I can remember the first game that really got me into ragdolls was Resistance, on the PS3. I remember there was a part of the game where you went up an elevator, that was fully open to a large a hangar, perfect for launching Nathan Hale into the far corners of the earth. Combine that with a respawn point at the top of the elevator, and I could send the protagonist into the great beyond with a great big grenade blast under his kiester for hours. Thankfully Resistance was a game where you could glitch through the world, because that just opened up a whole new realm of fun for me upon that discovery.

Halo 3 has to be another favourite. Not only does it give you plenty of time to see what happens to Master Chiefs body after dying, but the ragdoll system in that game had an interesting mechanic. If you hit a surface while travelling really fast (as a ragdoll) for a split second your body contorts and glitches out into unnatural positions. By using the replay feature, I could launch my body with explosives, and pause it at the moment my body collided with a surface, and see things that cannot be unseen. It also makes ramming UNSC marines with a ghost that much more fun, because their bodies are prone to ragdoll spasm as well.

Skyrim, on top of being an amazing game, had some great ragdoll physics. I’m not just talking about Fus Ro Dahing people off of mountain tops, as fun as that is, but also it’s a great game for glitches. One of the two most striking examples I can think of occur when a giant does a huge crushing attack on you, and causes your body (or that of any creature) to be launched to the moon. It’s a pretty incredible thing to see, and is sadly an extremely rare glitch in games. The other involves using the Ice Form shout. If you freeze someone (or are frozen yourself by the Greybeard’s) and they fall off of a cliff, sometimes it can cause the body to convulse and move around in the air, disobeying the laws of physics. Both of these glitches are well known and can be easily found on Youtube if you are curious, and they are definitely some of the finest examples of ragdoll physics I’ve ever seen. Also, you have the ability to move bodies and place them into some strange positions. So all in all, Skyrim does ragdolls right.

Moving on, GTA IV had one of the funnest things you could do in a game, and that was being hit by helicopter blades. Whether it be jumping into the blades of another person’s helicopter, or causing yourself to bounce into your own helicopter blades, they send you soaring through the air, at super-sonic speed, leading to some hilarious post death moments. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself 🙂

Moving onto another favourite feature, I want to talk about impalement. In particular, impalement in Half life 2. Powered by the Source engine (an awesome engine for ragdolls), Half Life 2 features a crossbow weapon, effectively the sniper weapon of the game. The fun thing about this weapon, apart from it being a one shot kill against normal enemies, is that if they are close enough to the wall, you can actually stick them to the wall, hung up by the bolt of the crossbow. The impact of the shot combined with their body becoming lodged to the wall behind them, limply dangling from bolt, is immensely satisfying, and I laughed for a full minute when I first saw this happen. Better yet, you can shoot the already hung ragdoll and stick it to the wall with multiple bolts. And of course, who can forget the infamous super-charged gravity gun, which turns enemies into ragdolls that you can propel at other enemies. Hands-down one of my all time favourite moments in a video game.

Saving one of the best for last, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare features dismemberment. Now as someone who loves to run around with a big sword slicing people up, I can definitely appreciate it when with the finishing blow, the enemies’ head comes clean off. Even after death, if you continue slashing at the ragdoll, it moves, and more limbs can be cut off. Whether this makes me sadistic or not, I find it hilarious. Sadly, dismemberment doesn’t make it’s way to many games, I remember a mod for Garry’s Mod which allows you to gib particular body parts off of ragdolls, which was also incredible fun, but apart from these two, no other games outright spring to mind.

Well that about wraps this up. Overall, ragdoll effects are something I have thoroughly enjoyed from game to game, with certain features that give each game a special place in my heart, and I look forward to seeing more games using ragdoll physics in fun and interesting ways in the future.

But these are just my thoughts, and I’m sure that you have some of your own and I would love to hear from you. Do you enjoy ragdoll effects as much as I do? What games come to mind that you feel nail the ragdoll effects? Let me know in the comments below, and if you enjoyed this post be sure to give it a like. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂


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