Monday, September 05, 2011

Megabits' Ten Greatest Train Levels

There's always been something romantic about riding the rails – though these days, the romance has been replaced by delays, costly tickets and chirpy customer service (stop treating me like I'm your friend dammit!).


Game train levels, however, are a particular favourite of mine, and there's been some truly brilliant levels in my many years of controller-cuddling. Here's my Top Ten: Videogame Train Levels.

SPOILER ALERT!

10: TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
While the TimeSplitters series was never big on plot, Future Perfect made at least a half-arsed effort at stringing the time-travelling antics of agent Cotrez into something resembling a storyline – with a train-based level to boot. Taking place on a swanky train known as the Khallos Express, Cortez has to fight his way forward, taking on Monkey-powered robot minions, a helicopter and a whole load of explosions, all while dealing with his timeline sidekick – 70s throwback and one-man pun dispenser Harry Tipper. Naturally, this made for some great fun, despite the overpowered helicopter's constant attacks, and Tipper's terrible one-liners....

9: Sunset Riders
Who hasn't played this one in an arcade? If you haven't, then you missed out on a treat. I recently rediscovered Sunset Riders in an old arcade in San Francisco, and spent a good 30 minutes reliving my 14th year down the bowling alley in Tamworth, blasting my way through the levels with a couple of friends along for the ride. That is, until I hit the train level. I was never able to beat the damn train level. I mean, Sunset Riders was always a tough game, but this one really took the biscuit. The combination of rolling barrels, a legion of bad guys and (impossibly) an on-board bovine stampede used to drive me mad. Ironically, I couldn’t beat the level at 24 either.

8: Gears of War
While I great final level, anyone who played Gears of War to the end knows how annoying it was that all you managed to achieve was a damp squib in a bucket of Locust piss. That said, it did make for some great train-based action! Gotta love facing down armies of grubs, reavers and other bad guys – even if it was just for a chance to be driven mad by the final boss and his use of a swarm of bugs as a shield. Yeah, how does that work, RAAM?!



7: Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

Less action-heavy - and more steeped in the traditional Splinter Cell brand of stealthy, neck-breakingly fun tension - Pandora Tomorrow, though a disappointing game overall, did produce a cracking train level. The level in question saw Splinter Cell Sam Fisher tracking a target to a speeding train, leaving him having to crawl around its steel skin to find what he was looking for, all the while keeping his body out of sight of the hundreds of travellers staring out of the windows. Naturally, avoiding the damn signal lights was also a high priority, as they existed seemingly to knock Sam off, and to do that alone...

6: Medal of Honor: Frontline
Medal of Honor's donation to this list is a fantastic level for a fantastic game. Though fraught with the typical Medal of Honour over-the-top action, this level was a rip-roaring adventure as you battle your way down the heart of a Nazi armoured train, on your way to a secret facility. Starting out with just a pistol, you gradually acquire the tools you need for the job, including the armoured train itself - when the Nazis go as far as trundling another armoured behemoth up next to your line. Gotta love mounted cannons!



5: Dead Space 2

Dead Space's contribution to this list was creepy as hell. There, I said it. Playing out almost entirely in patches of light and darkness, Isaac Clarke's battle against Necromorphs in a speeding railway carriage stuck in my mind for its intensity, speed and sheer terror. While dodging the claws, hooks and blades of the mutated specimens, Isaac has to deal with the collapsing infrastructure of the Sprawl (a massive space station), which seems to be actively trying to kill him in any number of horrible ways, forcing the player to dodge rogue girders at every step. Finally ending in a gut-wrenching crash, and another battle for survival, Dead Space 2's train level was a real corker, and well worth another few playthroughs.

4: Syphon Filter 2
I loved Syphon Filter 2. It had a fantastic plot, great gameplay – and a brilliant train level too! Taking place on a train hurtling through the Rockies, Syphon Filter 2's train action saw flak vest-wearing agent Gabe Logan jumping from train car to train car, gunning down bad guys or tasering them until they burst into flame and go flying. Add to this a grenade launcher which was somehow not affected by the laws of physics, and you've got some great run-and-gun fun, despite the now-dated graphics, and horrendous voice acting - seriously, Gabe sounded like he was a 400-a-day man...

3: Crysis: Warhead
While this train level was pretty much the same as the others – nanosuit-augmented agent Psycho has to move forwards up a train to stop its engine – it was so different when I first discovered it because it was so damn beautiful. Crysis, being a beautiful game (even if you needed a nuclear-powered PC to do it) rendered such a stunning corridor of greenery for the train to race through that I often found myself pausing in the bloodletting to admire the scenery. It got even better when Psycho had to get off the train to fend off a small army, then re-board it as it pulled away without him, springing on to its steel frame using the nanosuit's strength mode. It just felt so.... badass!



2: Chase the Express

I doubt you've heard of this one from the PS1. I've never met another gamer who played this unknown gem of a game. Or indeed anyone who had the patience to put up with its many sticky irritations or its abysmal voice acting – most critics panned it. That said, Chase the Express – a Resident Evil-style (in looks and control scheme, not zombies) action adventure was brilliant, in my opinion. Taking place almost entirely aboard a NATO armoured train named 'Blue Harvest', the game saw the player controlling hunk-for-hire Jack Morton, working to take down a bunch of terrorists who smashed their way aboard. Naturally it all goes to hell, and before long you find yourself crawling through a train consuming itself in fire - and on a collision course with another huge locomotive. Tense, and memorable.



1: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Ah, now this is how to pull off a train level. Wise-cracking hero Nathan Drake finds himself hanging from the side of a huge, rusty train as it races through the jungles, and eventually mountains of Nepal, facing down an army of troops, minigun-toting nutters and a helicopter - all while pulling off wry quips, hurling grenades and hanging from pipes as you dive out of the path of oncoming signal lights. On plot, action, graphics, score and voice acting alone, this train level rightfully takes its place at the top of my Top Ten.



Check out Andrew Hemphill's blog after the jump.

22 comments:

WTF No Goldeneye!?!?!?!!?

I thought Goldeneye at number one was a given. But not even in the top ten? Crazy.

No Resident Evil 0?!!!

I'm so not okay with this!!

Paper Mario 2 The Thousand Year Door should be top of this list! :)

no megaman 5 charge man stage? BOO

Wait. No Ghost Train from Final Fantasy 6. YOU GO BACK AND START OVER. Or play FF6, either way someone is missing something.

How old are you? 5? ninja gaiden 2 nes had the first ever amazing train level

One of the worst Top Ten I've seen in my whole life.

Please delete it, and buy a life.

In chase the express the train wasn't on a collision course with another train, The train becomes a nuclear missile travelling at 400mph with a crashcourse in paris.

Whata f!?? You are all forgetting about "Lost Planet 2" .. that scene was EPIC!??

Youtube url: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RcuM1Pa5xM

no goldeneye=fail

also, ever time crisis has kick ass train levels

What, was Starfox 64's Macbeth level not good enough? Or the levels from FFVI, FFVIII, Paper Mario TTYD, and House of the Dead: Overkill?

Chase the express!! Great game! Won it through a phone contest way back. Also got a free playstation t-shirt. Glad it got number 2

What about the final showdown in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks? It's an entire Zelda game about TRAINS and the final boss fight is against a giant demon train.

Medal of "Honour"? Really?

Saying Syphon Filter 2 takes place in Canada, not Colorado?

Man, you really don't know your stuff. Hope your website fails.

Eheh..some of this games seem fairly recent, so maybe you never played it.

Check out Final Fantasy VI. It also has a Train level. And it's a good one. ;)

Back in the eighties there was "The Train" (Accolade) which was nice.
There is a train level in Quantum of Solace, but it's just ok. And what about the train sequence in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (in the adventure and the arcade game as well)

A top ten list minus the Goldeneye train level is totally floored. This list needs to be re-researched and re-written.
Piss. Poor.

I played Chase the express back in the day and bloody loved it. Like you I've yet to meet someone else whos played it... until now at least.

"A top ten list minus the Goldeneye train level is totally floored. This list needs to be re-researched and re-written."

I'm not mocking you. I'm judging you.

And mocking you.