Opinion: The Greatest Gaming Moments Of This Generation
Sony and Microsoft may continue to insist that their current-generation consoles still have legs, but with Nintendo ushering in the next generation with the Wii U it does seem that next generation’s hardware is on its way. So while we’re without details of what’s coming next, we might as well reminisce and look back at some of the greatest moments that have wowed us this generation (in my opinion, anyway). Spoilers ahoy!
Portal – The Cake Is A Lie
Valve have something of a knack for creating incredible games, with Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Counter Strike being perfect examples. And they provided one of gaming’s most iconic moments during the latter stages of 2007’s puzzling masterpiece Portal.
As Valve’s incredible creation drew to a close you finally found out what you long predicted: Aperture Science is not what it seems. As you finished your final test you were faced with a fiery pit instead of the long-promised cake, and without warning you suddenly found yourself fleeing from GLaDOS’ grasp. All of a sudden a game that seemed like a linear room-to-room puzzle-solver became a riveting narrative experience, and while Portal 2 continued the story of that one Aperture Science subject who escaped the test chambers, it will be Valve’s epic first-game finale that will stick long in the memory of everyone that experienced it.
Many games falter when it comes to a definitive ending, but Valve produced perhaps the most iconic since Mario found that his princess “was in another castle”. Portal is a game that everyone simply must experience for this moment alone.
Mass Effect 2 – Suicide Mission
The recent uproar about the ending of Commander Shepard’s epic sci-fi adventure may seem to demonstrate that Bioware can’t manage a decent ending, but if Mass Effect 2 is anything to go by that’s simply not true. In fact, the 2010 ‘Game of the Year’ produced one of the most gripping, exciting and at times soul-destroying finales ever to grace a games console, transforming Mass Effect 2 from an excellent action-RPG into one of the best games ever made.
In the game’s final showdown, the team you so lovingly prepared throughout the bulk of the experience are all at risk, and it’s your job to make the right call in order to keep as many of them alive as possible. The rest of the game allowed you to develop a real bond with these characters, rendering the decisions you make uncomfortably difficult as you send your team on tasks you know they may not survive.
The experience is an incredible one: this is the moment the whole 20-hour game has been leading towards and you really feel the weight Shepard has on his shoulders. Video Games may be disregarded as rivals to films by the masses in terms of storytelling, but Mass Effect 2 proved that games can properly engage an audience with narrative alone.
Journey – Reaching the Summit
You’ve faced everything the elements you can throw at you, and after being tossed about in sandstorms and flung through the air by icy winds, you finally complete your journey. thatgamecompany’s recent artistic endeavour Journey provide an unparalleled experience when it arrived on the PlayStation Store, and the feeling of jubilation we all received as we completed our voyage surely warrants a place in the list of this generation’s greatest moments.
Journey expertly toyed with your emotions, and as you arrived at the icy peak of the mountain you’d spent hours wandering towards, thatgamecompany delivered a sucker punch by not allowing you to continue. At least, that is what it seemed, but shortly after you received a new-found will to carry on. The gods had seemingly smiled upon your damaged soul and springed you to the top of the mountain, providing one of the best, most heart-warming moments ever in the gaming medium. This was arguably the moment that announced to the world: “games can be art”.
Heavy Rain – Chopping Off Your Finger
Self-harm, among other gruesome experiences, aren’t generally found in most video games. But then again, Heavy Rain – developed by French-studio Quantic Dream – certainly isn’t most video games; a fact you no doubt realised when you were forced to chop off your own finger in order to save your son.
Dismissed at first by many as a movie with quick-time events, Heavy Rain turned out to be a magnificent showcase for Quantic Dream’s storytelling abilities, delivering one of gaming’s greatest ever yarns.
While ultimately uncovering the truth about your son’s kidnapping seemed to be the intended highlight, it was the origami killer’s sickest task of removing your own finger that wowed me the most when playing through Heavy Rain.
Suspense was expertly built until the moment when poor-old Ethan Mars had to bring down the cleaver, making even the least squeamish of gamers flinch. This wasn’t done in a cut-scene, either: you, the gamer, were forced to choose whether to carry out the horrifying task, and ultimately you were the one who had to deal the final blow. This is an example of when gaming becomes more than just pressing a button, and chopping off your finger in Heavy Rain is an experience that requires not just skill, but bravery.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Nuclear Bomb
Many games have presented the effects of a nuclear disaster, but it was Call of Duty’s genre-defining shooter Modern Warfare that quite literally blew us away by allowing us to experience what it would be like to be hit by man’s most powerful weapon. This was one of that last moments in the franchise that managed to effectively convey the awful brutality of war, and it had an incredible effect. The initial explosion was impressive enough, but having to try and crawl your way to safety and ultimately fail after the blast, was truly captivating.
The Modern Warfare sub-series probably won’t be remembered for its one uncharacteristic moment of real emotional weight, but Call of Duty 4 remains the highlight of all Call of Duty titles, and being hit by a nuclear bomb, alongside the instantly enjoyable sniping mission ‘All Ghillied Up’, remains one of the key reasons why this franchise was once so awesome.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – The Hotel Collapsing
When Drake and Chloe headed to a danger-ridden Nepal in order to find a hidden temple, it was safe to assume the journey wouldn’t go particularly smoothly. That being said, no one could have expected the thrilling adrenaline rush that ensued. Not only did Naughty Dog make one of the most set-piece heavy gaming levels ever, but they did it in their own thrillingly exciting and masterfully-witty style, leading to one of the greatest moments ever in gaming.
In the space of about 20 minutes, players experience a bridge giving way to helicopter machine gun fire with Drake shimmying across it; an entire hotel collapsing with you inside it; and more explosions than all the Die Hard movies combined. The experience was exhilarating, providing the stand-out to what many believe to be one of the best action games of all time.
The Uncharted franchise has been one of the most successful this generation, and the collapsing hotel remains perhaps the greatest showcase for what the PlayStation 3 can do. Here’s hoping the incredible series will continue on in to next generation, so we can experience even more moments like this one.
Do you agree with the choices Dan has made? And what have been your favourite moments during this generation of gaming? Join the debate in the comments below.