The next “next-gen” is upon us. With the life cycle of the current consoles now over double the length of past generations, it has brought us memories that won’t be forgotten. Whether it was the red ring of death that still couldn’t kill the 360’s popularity or the 77 million accounts hacked that caused a three week outage on the PSN, nothing stopped gamers from gaming, and with that brought memories.
Now as the fanboys get off the futons in their parent’s basement and ready their LARPing swords to argue with one another over the best system, we want to reflect on a simpler time. A time where a player put in a game disc, played the game, and went, “Wow…that was something.”
Marc and I have put together what we feel are some amazing moments we experienced on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Whether it was emotional, terrifying, or just hit close to home, we feel like these are what the systems should be remembered for, and excites us to see what the future holds for Sony and Microsoft.
Note: Spoilers a-plenty, read at your own risk. I mean you already clicked on the article that is all we really needed from you anyways.
Gears of War 2 – The Hunt for Maria Darren
Gears of War 2 really amped up the popularity of the franchise. The gameplay pulled people in with the first game, but the campaign really made it a staple in Microsoft arsenal.
When you were thrown into an all out war in the first title, I don’t think anyone was expecting an improvement in the storytelling department. It was the first story in this generation that really pulled me in.
One of the biggest aspects of it was how Epic really made it feel like a taxing war. The COGs were tired, you navigated through torture chambers, and friends were dying all around you.
The fact you are introduced to Tai, a spiritual warrior, that seems invincible, and then a mission later you release him from a torture cell and watch as he takes his own life, I quickly realized that this might not be just another shoot-em-up. I even modeled the mohawk I used to rock after his.
Tai’s death was only the beginning. Throughout Gears of War 2, you help Dom Santiago try to find his wife Maria. He has been looking for her for awhile now, and they managed to track her down. You have been through absolute hell and finally a shimmer of hope.
The mixture of intense, loud, explosive gameplay and then the quiet that came in this scene completely floored me. It was so opposite of the Gears of War “Bromosexual” mentality that it earned my respect for CliffyB, especially after he denounced the GoW2 multiplayer for being terrible.
This had to be the first time that a moment like this occurred in the current generation, and it may have been why it hurt me so bad, and it may have actually been responsible for all the rest of the moments you see below.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations – Ezio Lays Down his Blades Darren
Assassin’s Creed was one of the most underrated series in my opinion. It has a fantastic/original story of looking through the eyes of your ancestors and learning where you came from, with beautiful choreographed combat. Ezio ranks higher than Master Chief or Link as my favorite video game character. He is a witty, cocky, skilled, ladies man who you get to see grow up in the course of three titles. You slowly watch him lose loved ones, win battles, and save innocents. Ultimately you watch him leave his adolescence behind and lead the cause. The final time we saw Ezio in his ending for Revelations, really pulled it all together. It was simple, yet elegant.
Ezio finally reaches what he has been guided towards through three games. He has done amazing things and helped so many people, and taken down tyrants. That when he finally reaches the Piece of Eden, he realizes another adventure awaits him if he takes this. He feels like he has done enough, and decides to live his life.
I was upset with the direction the series keeps going as Revelations ending was so glorious, and then we got a boring main character, a confusing ending to a story, and an uneventful revolution. The only upside I can think of is that Desmond finally died. Ubisoft had many opportunities to improve their titles over the course and have settled for weak gimmicky features. They had the brotherhood and the possibility to add co-op in the campaign, but settled for bomb making and hunting.
Luckily their next title can redeem them by delving into the age of piracy. Being the nerd that I am, I will be looking forward to see how they handle the life of Blackbeard, because his ending is pretty epic. Regardless this all to be determined.
Red Dead Redemption – Goodbye Marc
Red Dead Redemption is one of the absolute best games of this generation. It’s a true western, exploring themes such as regret, human agency and others in ways that only films like The Proposition really have.
John Marston’s reckoning is coming. He ran from his life as an outlaw, and even managed to raise a family. However, the game curiously does not end after his quest to take out his former gang, instead giving you time to get attached to his family, to corral horses with your son, to have dinner with your wife.
After the first seemingly-excess mission, I grew concerned. That concern only got worse as the game went on. I wondered how the game was going to end, because surely it wasn’t just going to peter out after you tied up a calf.
Then, of course, Ross shows up, with his posse. And you know what’s coming. Just take as many of the bastards out as you can.
Mass Effect 3 – Curing the Genophage Darren
The Mass Effect series in my eyes, is the Star Wars of the video game generation. A deep universe that has so many stories to tell and a very dedicated fanbase to keep it living even after they stop making games.
Say what you want about the ending of Mass Effect 3, but you can’t take away from how perfect every other element of that game was. The places you went, the missions you took, the old friends you encountered, all of it tied together beautifully to signify the end of the trilogy.
My favorite moment in this game was finally curing the Genophage. You play the first game and learn about the Genophage and what it did to the Krogan race, and why they hate the Salarians. The second game you come across glimmers of hope when searching a medical facility and meeting Grunt. The final game brings you a solution to the possible extinction of the Krogan race. You alongside a Salarian named Mordin, can possibly cure the Genophage, to do so you need to go to their home planet on Tuchanka. You face a gigantic monster worm, feared by the Krogan themselves, after a long fight to reach a device that will spread the cure through air particles on the planet, you reach it.
This was nothing but a side story in the game that held no bearing on the main mission, but you wouldn’t have known it otherwise. The mission itself was so well done, and to see the species that caused this sterilization sacrifice himself to bring new life was amazing to see.
The Wachowski brothers* when making the Matrix mentioned completely exhausting the audience with one of the scenes, making it very long and arduous, that when it ended they felt relief. I don’t know if Bioware planned it this way, but finishing this mission was probably my biggest accomplishment in over 200+ hours of playing through the three titles.
We know this won’t be the last Mass Effect after all, and I think an MMO is being highly considered in the future. With a deep universe that is full of races, planets, and stories, and a non-traditional skill spamming MMO, I would gladly play it.
Halo 4 – A Hard Goodbye Darren
The Halo series has been the staple of the Xbox. They revolutionized gaming on consoles with their matchmaking system on the original Xbox, and took up my entire high school life. It is a miracle I ever had a girlfriend.
Weirdly enough Bungie failed hard in storytelling. They had a great story with a great main character, unfortunately the way the presented the story was confusing and hard to follow. I actually read 19 chapters in the origins book of Master Chief, and I never read, there is an amazing movie there, that I hope Microsoft, Neil Blomkampf, and Peter Jackson decided to go back to.
343 Studios had quite the task ahead of them taking over a cherished franchise. While I do think the multiplayer takes a turn towards the train wreck that Call of Duty continues to mold into, I do think the campaign was more than worth the purchase.
Master Chief fights through this game after waking up from the end of Halo 3. All he has with him is his faithful AI – Cortana, and she is there to guide him through the next threat to the universe. After fighting the final boss in the game, the Chief needs to sacrifice himself to detonate a bomb and take down the threat.
After playing through every Halo game and not expecting anything more than a fun campaign and some multiplayer action, I was not expecting an emotional jab at the end. Watching the Chief say goodbye to the only “person” he ever really spoke to after 10+ years was incredible. Just looking out into space knowing there is a lot going on beneath the helmet It brought new life into the franchise and combined with the award winning Forward Unto Dawn series, I have a lot of hope for the future.
I can only hope that they release a Halo 2 anniversary edition in 2015 on the next Xbox to stop this trend of over complicating multiplayer. This time they should just remake Halo 2 multiplayer instead of making it a mod on the Halo 5 system and fill us with nostalgia. Also Microsoft, hire me as a consultant and I will make sure it is good. I will just periodically slap people with stupid ideas.
Dragon Age: Origins – A Dark Promise Darren
Dragon Age proved to me that you could have an amazing story and I will play through it if the gameplay was awful. Seriously, it was a struggle to enjoy the combat, except at the very end like 3 hours left of game left. Luckily it improved greatly in Dragon Age II, but the story took a back seat, it was full of glitches, and it seemed rush.
The first Dragon Age took me on a classic adventure, spanning different regions, fighting epic bosses, and making some insane decisions…ones that make Mass Effect’s look like child’s play. One of those decisions involved Morrigan, a witch, who was as talented as she was difficult. I tried my hardest to sleep with her and fortunately in the end I was greeted with a choice. Basically I had to take on the final boss, but one of the stipulations of killing it was sacrificing my life. She in-turn offered me a deal.
I suffered through all the gameplay and I would do it again because the ending was grand. After this moment I continue to the end, I siege a castle guiding allies I’ve made throughout my campaign to take down numerous foes, and keep trying to talk to Morrigan because I refuse to let her just leave.
Ultimately it is no use and after a long fight I never see her again. I purchased the DLC that came out a while after that ended with me following her through a portal to be with her. I was extremely disappointed that Dragon Age II had almost no reference to the story of my Greywarden, and I would love for the third one to start with my character being the child of my warden and Morrigan.
Seriously if you get the chance I highly recommend dealing with the combat. Plus it was the last game that came out with a true expansion “Awakening”. I think of more studios released “expansion packs” now instead of periodic DLC, they could charge more and pack it all together.
Dead Space 2: Return to the Ishimura Marc
“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” -Cormac McCarthy
For Isaac Clarke, the scars from his time on the Ishimura, the iconic setting of the first Dead Space, are both real and imagined reminders of his past. His first encounter with the horror of the necromorophs hangs over the events of Dead Space 2. He’s broken mentally and physically at the beginning of the game, haunted by visions of his dead girlfriend Nicole (whose death he blames himself for) and of the memories of his time aboard the doomed Ishimura.
The game opens with The Sprawl, the setting of Dead Space 2, in a state of chaos. Isaac, bound in a straightjacket, wakes up to the sight of a person changing into a necromorph literally in front of his face. The horror has returned, even closer than before.
Our past experiences shape who we are, and sometimes those experiences can be positive reminders of the growth we’ve experienced. A visit to a theme park can reveal that the rollercoaster you were so terrified to get on when you were 8 is a breeze at 28, and the park itself suddenly can feel very small through the eyes of an adult.
The truth of his situation smacks him right in the face when he first sees the source of his insanity, the Ishimura, docked within The Sprawl.
He was never brought to The Sprawl as a conquering hero, he was brought there to be an experiment, and the sight of the source of his mania is nearly enough to break him.
However, Isaac’s time with the Ishimura isn’t over yet. About two-thirds of the way into the game, he volunteers to enter the planet cracker in order to utilize its gravity tethers to reconnect the track of the transport he, Ellie and Stross are using.
Isaac has steeled himself to face his past headfirst, and the return to the Ishimura is the apex of both Dead Space 2 and of the entire Dead Space series.
It’s handled masterfully. The burn is long and slow, as the bulk of the early exploration of the Ishimura is devoid of the action-packed sequences that pervade Dead Space 2. It’s immediately familiar, but slightly different. The Ishimura, much like Clarke himself, has turned into a science experiment Isaac’s memories, the scars reminding him of his past, have been co-opted by the denizens of The Sprawl for the purposes of study.
This tension is eventually broken by an extended action sequence that serves as a release. Isaac is forced to relive his past, to have new scars made on both his mind and body, in the name of survival. It’s a masterful piece of storytelling by Visceral Games, and a moment of this generation that will stay with me forever.
The Walking Dead – Keep Your Hair Short Darren
The biggest surprise hit of 2012 left the manliest of men in tears. TellTale deserves a lot credit for turning a PSN/XBLA arcade title into something much more. They really proved that story telling can be enough for gamers and over the top action isn’t necessary to make the player feel satisfied.
Well, in The Walking Dead (not to be confused with the piece of shit Activision released) you take the role of a convicted killer named Lee, he is being transported to prison when the outbreak occurs and finds himself free after a bad car wreck. This is when he stumbles upon a little girl named Clementine, this little girl was separated from her parents and is all on her own.
Lee decides to bring her with him wherever the hell they are going and maybe find her parents. Over the course of the five episodes they encounter all sorts of crazy and you are forced to make some difficult decisions along the way – this really makes the experience in my opinion. So as you come across other these situations and other characters in the stories, you keep becoming attached to Clementine. Offering her advice, making sure she is safe, and basically becoming a father-figure to her.
I think a lot of the heart had to do with the voice acting work in this game. Clementine was adorable damn it, and you were forced to leave her on her own. I loved how it was released in episodes and hope that we see some interesting concepts like this used in the next-gen. Could you imagine a studio like TellTale or even a big game studio completely finishing a game that is very story-centric, then just doing weekly episodes like it was Game of Thrones or the Walking Dead?
I know Alan Wake was supposed to be that way and didn’t happen, but The Walking Dead was closer to that and the success was apparent. Hell, if Ken Levine wanted to do that with the next BioShock, you wouldn’t find a complaint from me.
Journey- Ascention Marc
I could honestly list the entirety of Thatgamecompany’s opus as a top emotional moment of this generation, but I’ve been forced to narrow it down to one moment.
The last level of Journey is an indomitable slog up the face of a snowy mountain. The player’s avatar gradually freezes throughout this section, with the trademark chirps reduced to tiny squeaks, and the iconic scarf shortened to near-nothingness.
Then, you collapse, unable to progress any further. Death.
What follows is something that is hard to describe without using the word “heaven.” The screen fades in and you’re floating on air, viewing the most gorgeous snow-covered mountain. Your short scarf is now longer and more flowing than it ever has been. Soft violins soothe and relax your tattered spirit, rejuvenating you as you ascend a majestic waterfall.
It’s soul-filling, and when you break past the waterfall into the clouds, literally flying through the air as the music builds into a crescendo and ohmygodit’ssobeautifulIlovethisgamesomuch.
The Last of Us – Is that a giraffe? Marc
You would think any emotional moment pulled from Naughty Dog’s latest would involve something terrible happening. The game deals with such heavy themes, and it’s introduction is already legendary for giving players lumps in their throats. Yet, I found myself more moved by a sequence about three-quarters through the game as Ellie comes across something that you can’t see.
It’s set up well, too, as Ellie prior to this discovery is as disengaged as she’s been in the narrative, often lost in her thoughts. However, when she exclaims and runs off, you expect something horrible. Then, as she gets more excited, you follow her until you come to a clearing, and there’s a giraffe there. Actually, you find out, there are a lot of giraffes. The music, for the first time in the game, lightens, and introduces a wistful keyboard melody instead of its typical plucked guitar.
What’s amazing about this scene is that after the short interaction between Joel and Ellie, the game just lets you take it in. It doesn’t force you to move on, and the music is looped in such a way that you could literally stand there, transfixed, forever.
The Last of Us is about a lot of things. The giraffe scene was the first hint that maybe it’s not about saving humanity. The world has gone on, and those giraffes are more beautiful than anything humans manage to do in the game.
BioShock Infinite – Will the Circle be Unbroken? Darren
“There’s always a lighthouse. There’s always a man. There’s always a city.”
This has been my game of the year since I finished it. My experience beating this game was the equivalent of watching The Sixth Sense for the first time. I never played BioShock 1 or 2 strangely enough, and decided I needed to change that. Imagine my surprise when I am in a flying “paradise” trying to break a girl out of her prison so I can repay my debts back on the surface.
Except there is much more than what you see on the surface. Throughout your adventure there are a lot of unanswered questions. Why is Booker DeWitt in debt? Why is AD scarred into his hand? Why are there random tears playing music from various decades? Who are these two British people who keep showing up to talk to me? What the fuck is a Song Bird?
All of it is very unclear and was a great way to pull your attention and keep you playing detective. None of these get answered though until the very end.
After I played this I immediately downloaded the soundtrack (illegally) and half of it contains the songs from the game. The acapella version of God Only Knows from the Beach Boys, Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater sang by the people in the poor district, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on pipe organ are all there. Just a few of many songs that tell you exactly what is going on, I tried to interview them after this but they were all on a well deserved vacation. Till this day I am dying to know who found these songs and who thought of placing these tears to secretly tell the story.
In-general it is the biggest mind-fuck I have experienced in a game, but the deep work into the music alone had me in awe.