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Assassins Creed may give gamers a gripping sense of vertigo but its leaping calculations are optimistic at best

The popular video game franchise 'Assassin’s Creed' often depicts characters leaping off tall buildings into piles of loose hay or straw lying on the ground or in a cart, by diving head first then executing a half-summersault to land on their back.

However, while the game’s protagonists may find themselves with a severe case of vertigo during these aerial acrobatics, students Gregor McQuade, Michael Walker, Lee Garland and Thomas Bradley from the Department of Physics and Astronomy have calculated the actual chance of survival after leaping from buildings and landing in bales of hay – and the outcome seems bleak.

In the first game in the series the tallest point a player can leap from is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Acre - said to have existed during the Third Crusade - landing in a soft pile of straw waiting at the bottom of the structure and emerging unscathed.

But while loose straw does undoubtedly provide cushioning from falls, the amount of straw used to cushion a character’s fall in the game is always the same (1.5m in height), no matter the height of the jump.

In reality the amount of cushioning - in this case the height of a pile of straw - should be related to the height of the fall being cushioned. This is due to the increased kinetic energy of the jumper, which needs to be dispersed slowly.

Even using the most optimistic survivable impact accelerations, incurring severe injuries in the process, the leap off the cathedral in Acre, and other buildings of a similar height, requires a greater amount of cushioning than is depicted in the game.

The actual height the depicted amount of straw – 1.5m in height – should correctly cushion based on the mass of an average adult male (75kg) was calculated to be a drop of 12-13m – certainly not as tall as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at Acre.

So while 'Assassin’s Creed' allows players to experience free-falling from large structures, such extreme parkour should be resigned to the virtual world of video games.

The students presented their findings in a paper for the Journal of Physics Special Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy designed to give students practical experience of writing, editing, publishing and reviewing scientific papers while applying physics concepts to everyday situations.

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