Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Generation's Most Awesome Moments

When compiling our list of the most awesome moments in gaming, we wanted to steer clear of the same old selections-the Psycho Mantis twist, Aeris, that sort of thing. Hence our decision to limit this list to this console generation.

Of course, there are a few omissions that might raise hackles. There’s no God of War, for example. Sure, those giant mythological monsters are pretty awe-inspiring, but we’ve been seeing them since the game’s appearance on the PS2. There’s none of Alone in the Dark’s firey escapes-they may be great but we can’t bring ourselves to praise such an awful game just because we enjoyed escaping a realistically burning building. We loved Vanquish, but everything from the gameplay to the visual spectacle was derivative.

On the other hand, we’ve included a few moments that are far from the loudest, most explosive scenes from this console generation, but which we thought summed up the many ways in which a game can get you in the guts and stay with you. Moments where developers have cultivated disquiet rather than excitement, for bathos rather than pathos, or where the moment stands as part of a pitch perfect build up or striking juxtaposition: those moments where the impact comes from more than just a big bang.

We’re sure it goes without saying, but here be SPOILERS...

Left 4 Dead 2: The Sacrifice
There are few games that put you so perfectly into the dramatic final reel of a good movie the way Left 4 Dead does. The ever-increasing odds against survival, the time slowly running out, special infected whittling away at your core group of survivors as the tension between the needs of the group and the individual desire for escape ramps up. It’s one of those games that usually has its finish greeted by a breathless chuckle and a few sighs of relief from the members of your XBL party. At least, until Valve released The Sacrifice DLC.

Gamers already have a Pavlovian response to the Tank’s leitmotif: the stomach knots in fear as the finger stabs the reload button in a mixture of panic and forlorn resignation. But in The Sacrifice, it’s not one giant, nigh invulnerable monster, it’s dozens of them, bellowing and swarming towards the survivors whilst one member of the group has to defy every instinct and weave through the advancing horde in order to make the ultimate sacrifice and save the team. When that one gets done, there are no chuckles or sighs, just awestruck silence.

Dead Space
Poor old Isaac Clarke. No face, no voice and a derivative name. Oh, and he’s clearly bonkers: he keeps seeing his girlfriend alive, despite the fact that everyone else onboard the USS Ishimura has been killed or turned into a screeching death-mutant. Every time she appears, she’ll be behind a window, across a crevice, on a screen or otherwise untouchable-her reality unconfirmed. Clearly, she’s nothing more than a phantom, a figment of Isaac’s guilty imagination. There’s no way she could really be alive...is there?

Red Dead Redemption
I very nearly put that hazy dawn-lit crossing into Mexico as my awesome Red Dead Redemption moment, such was its strangely stirring effect on me-the combination of relief and anticipation after my northern endeavours. But more than that evocative moment, the part of Red Dead Redemption that really got me was John Marston’s final shoot out. I knew the game wasn’t going to end with a string of farm chores, but I really didn’t expect to be offed by the posse. I waited for the twist, and waited, until the panicky realisation hit-there was no getting out of this. I took only two of them with me.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
No surprise here. Everyone who played Modern Warfare was blown away by the bit where they get blown away. The build up is perfect-as you play missions as the stealthy SAS you receive clue after clue that some nuclear weapons have gone astray, but in your stints as the gung ho US marines, there’s no inkling of what awaits you. You charge into battle after battle, penetrating deeper into the interior of an unnamed Middle Eastern country, wielding greater and greater firepower until you’re flying godlike above the city in your armoured helicopter, raining grenades and minigun fire down upon the rebels below, seemingly untouchable. The contrast between what the player knows and the character doesn’t is what makes the payoff so powerful. The bomb goes off, the helicopter falls and the seemingly invincible marine spends his final minutes crawling through the fire-lit wreckage.

Fallout 3
To give credit where it’s due, the awesome card Fallout 3 plays near its start is essentially the same as was played in its swords and sorcery predecessor Oblivion: the emergence from a dark, confined dungeon crawl into an enormous, brightly lit world so large it leaves you momentarily stunned and agoraphobic. But where Oblivion’s emergence followed a brief, linear mission, Fallout 3 had given you time to get used to your confined existence, had let you play through numerous missions in the cramped confines of the vault, and become accustomed to the presence of people and modern conveniences. The shock of the desolation you stumble into is all the more powerful for it.

Red Faction Guerrilla
From the simple joy of smashing down buildings with a hammer to the more *ahem* sophisticated approach of covering a truck with limpet mines and driving it into the foundations, Red Faction Guerrilla is full of novel ways to topple enormous structures. The playground of destruction reaches its physics driven zenith when you finally obtain Thermobaric rockets. These fiery monsters pack the greatest and most visually spectacular demolition power in the game, and can bring down even the biggest mega-structures in only a few hits. The first coming together of EDF base and Thermobaric rocket is one of this console generations most bizarrely uplifting moments.

Just Cause 2
Much like Red Faction Guerrilla, Just Cause 2 is great big awesomeness generator, full of things that fly, roll or float really fast, and other things that shatter, topple or explode. Bringing the two together in hundreds of different ways is a huge part of why Just Cause 2 is so much fun. Every car chase makes you feel like James Bond, every motorbike turns you into Eval Knieval, and the jets? Oh, the jets...

F.E.A.R 2
For the most part, F.E.A.R 2 was little more than a solid but uninspired shooter. Entertaining, sure, but the chills of its predecessor were pretty much absent in favour of explosions and occasional bursts of unexpected mech-warfare. But throughout the game you’re told that Alma’s psychic attack on the city has been devastating. You see grey skies, drifting ash, burning buildings and wrecked streets. It’s pretty messed up. But this is 2011, we’ve all seen some pretty messed up stuff, both in games and on the news, and it’s not till chapter 12 that FEAR 2 pulls back to give you the big picture, the shot that puts it in the Threads/Akira category of post-apocalyptic visions that will haunt you for weeks. A yawning crater, so deep that the bottom is out of sight and the far side shrouded in mist, its sloping sides littered with pulverised concrete, buckled metal and burning debris. Suddenly you get the sense that this fight is bigger than the usual videogame fare.

Half Life 2
Probably the best FPS ever features one of the most powerful levels ever. Where Call of Doofy will try to get you in the guts with torture scenes or explosions or a pitched tank battle, the Highway 17 level Half Life 2 opts instead for more of the same: a gun battle against the combine. Except this time it takes place on the stark iron latticework beneath a towering bay bridge. Climbing higher and higher, the ground disappearing out of sight hundreds of yards below as you combine gunfighting with tightrope escapades. Instead of the usual clenched jaw adrenaline, this is level serves up a helping of vulnerability and a cloud of butterflies in your stomach, and stays with you because of it.

Gears of War 2
Ranking up there with Killzone 2 and Just Cause 2 as one of this generation’s best looking games, and full of great co-op action, Gears of War 2 would find a place on most people’s best graphics or gameplay lists, but it’s not till the later stages of the game that all those pixels get put to work on creating something spectacular. The sinking of Jacinto, with its toppling walls, gouting waste water from fractured mains, the clunk and rattle of debris and the firey glow underlined the message the game had been trying to drive home from the very start-you were now playing for the very highest of stakes.


Shit man, this list is BULLSHITE! What was amazing about COD4/Red Faction/Fallout/Gears/FEAR/Half Life/Just Cause doing there? NONE of those games had ANYTHING amazing! You wanna talk about amazing; talk about GOWIII, Drake (both games), MGS4, LA Noire, Killzone. Now those games were amazing or had amazing elements. The games above are bullshit and do not show anything new. And Half Life2 was a LAST gen game u idiot!

If you actually read the intro he says exactly why he's not going to mention a God of War game. Also I assume by the "Drake" games you mean Uncharted - that sir, make you an idiot

An idiot? The game won how many Game of the Year awards? Sorry, "sir", but if you can't accept that it is almost unanimous that Uncharted 2 is one of the greatest games this gen, then that makes you the idiot

Who cares whether I call it drake or 'uncharted' the point remains the same fool! U understood what I meant and so will anyone who knows next-gen games. And his excuse for not including GOW is pathetic and has no grounds because the fool goes on to mention Half Life2 which is a LAST-gen game! Like anonymous below u said: 'That makes YOU and idiot' and rightly so!

Sorry dude, you cannot talk about great graphics on Gears when their video and gameplay graphics are drastically different! U wanna talk about graphics, talk about; Uncharted, Killzone, MGS4, GOW or almost ANY sony exclusive. FFS, ratchet and clank have better graphics than Gears!

Wow the sonyfanboy is an idiot and can't read at all.

Nowhere does it say this is a list of "the greatest games of this generation".

The fucking title is "Generations Most Awesome Moments". So not the games themselves but moments in the game, endings etc. Read before you start preaching the sony choir.

Anyways good article, I would of put the moment when Dom find his wife Maria in Gears 2 rather than the sinking of Jacinto but other than that good choices.

There have been a few times I've yelled at my TV for endings especially, saying you can't end like that. Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake or L.A. Noire fit this description.

I wasn't saying that Uncharted wasn't a good game but you seem to be missing the point entirely (the first anonymous poster) IT'S NOT ABOUT HOW GOOD A GAME IS OVERALL. Most people can see that Uncharted 2 is a better game than Just Cause 2. But there were moments in Just Cause 2 that he felt were really awesome such as flying jets etc...Go and make your own list of brilliant moments strictly from Sony games if you take so much offence by someone not making theirs entirely out of exclusive Sony titles