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Can you really rocket jump?

Feature: Games vs science - let the showdown commence!

We take a lot of things for granted in games. Such as guns that leave nothing but skeletons when they hit the enemy, or that you can hack a computer by playing a simple puzzle game. But no more. PC Gamer wanted to find out how far science was being abused for the sake of our entertainment, and the job fell to me to discover the truth.

Questions were asked. I've probed, supposed, tested, tweaked, investigated, analysed and, the most important part of this punishing process, typed things into the deepest scientific resource of our time: YouTube. That's where the real world is. That's where the videos of robots are. Prepare to be edutained...

Rocket jumping
In-game example: Quake III
A method of providing extra force to a jump by firing a rocket at your feet and using the blast to propel you.

In Quake III you can fire a rocket at your feet to add a little pep to your jumps. The thing is, the bazooka was built for taking down tanks. If there is a difference between tanks and the human body it's that one is made of metal, while the other more resembles a bin bag filled with water. Point-blank rocket explosions are nasty. What happens when you fire a powerful, propelled explosive designed for splitting apart tanks at your feet can only be described by making a squelching noise with your cheeks and tossing strawberry syrup-drenched oatmeal into the air.

Verdict: FAIL

Cloaking
In-game example: Crysis
You bend light around your body in order to turn invisible to your enemies.

It could happen, but it'll take a lot of work. In 2003 Naoki Kawakami, of the University of Tokyo, produced a cloak that reflected a projected image from in front of the wearer onto the back of the cloak. So you'd need a camera, a projector, a cloak made of a special reflective material and a small, naive child to fool. Still, we're getting nearer to flexible monitors, with both Philips and Sony working on that technology, and cameras are shrinking at an alarming rate. It doesn't take too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the system being refined into something useable. And by then we'll all have windows made of diamodantium and we'll be drinking steak lattes.

Verdict: PASS

Healthpacks
In-game example: Half-Life 2
Those ever-present packages that mysteriously heal shotgun wounds.

Cyanoacrylate, aka superglue, is a hell of a thing. When you're not secretly reassembling gran's favourite Diana commemorative plate or using it to visit higher planes of consciousness, you could use it to stitch wounds together. In fact, it was used in the Vietnam War in spray form to staunch bleeding in serious wounds. You spray the edges of the wound and pinch them together for 30 seconds, slowing death. There are modern equivalents in use in Canada at the moment, with a view to replacing stitches: the speed it works at and the waterproofing helps stave off infections. None of this actually repairs the massive damage to your spleen, but with a few shots of tasty morphine and a healthy disregard for personal safety, there's the basis of a game healthpack there.

Verdict: PASS

HUD
In-game example: Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter
A system where handy information is projected onto a helmet or directly into the eyes.

That's an easy one - it's already happening. Military aviators have been using heads up displays for years, as an economical way of displaying data on the inside of windscreens. The pilot benefits from having a clear and easy way to simultaneously note the position of the horizon as well as other vital bits of information (I dunno, perhaps something like: "Drop bomb here!"). For the rest of us, head-mounted displays, such as the Liteye HMD (www.liteye.com/leproducts.html), could provide a similar experience, but without the G-forces or the man-love. Actually, it's an army product, so even if you do man-love you'd be required not to tell.

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