This generation has, frankly, been huge. In an age where phones, computers and tablets are surpassed mere months after they come out, the eight years from the Xbox 360’s launch to the Xbox One’s launch has seemed like an eternity. Even if you feel like counting from the Xbox 360’s arrival to the Wii U’s it was a seven year block of time which personally saw me transition from college to university and then onto something that vaguely resembles adult life.
Over that kind of time I find it hard for whole games to stick. Did I really dislike Halo 3: ODST as much as I remember? Was Rainbow Six Vegas really all that much fun as a whole, or has memory polished it to a level of sheen that it never had first hand?
What does stick though are moments. Those glittering pinnacles of a game, the chunks that are so wonderfully, perfectly put together that you can’t help but keep hold of them for years.
So, with that in mind, here are the pieces that have really stuck with me over the years.
Warning: This list contains spoilers for Halo: Reach, Uncharted 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Sync Points in Assassin’s Creed
I’ve wrung a lot of enjoyment out of Assassin’s Creed over this generation, but there’s always one moment in all of the games that sticks with me. It doesn’t matter if I’m Altair, Ezio, Haytham or Connor (I’ve yet to play as Edward), all I really want to do is climb as high as I can towards the birds that constantly encircle my targets.
Despite the varying locations and time periods that Assassin’s Creed has covered, the series does a great job at making sure its hallmarks are always there, and for me the sync points stick out far more than any other. They might not be as key to the flavour of things as the combat or jumping back to the modern day, but they show off the scale of the world in a way that few other games manage.
Beyond that they tend to provide the kind of “wow” moment that every game needs. While they have, perhaps, lost some of their impact as technology has advanced, I still remember how blown away I was every time the city unfolded around me in Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II. It’s the simple things that do it I often find.
Kat’s Death in Halo: Reach
Given the amount of central characters who die in Halo: Reach, I don’t really know why it was Kat’s death that I clung onto above others. Perhaps it was because she was the only female in the squad, and the only female SPARTAN who’s played a key role in the Halo games. More than that though I think it was her position as the hacker in the team – I’m a sucker for the technical character.
Her death also comes completely out of the blue, far more so than any of the other characters in the game. Taken out by a lone sniper as Noble Team exited a building, her death was by far the least ambiguous of the squad, and left me shell shocked and finding myself crying.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve got a deep, deep love for the Halo series and surrounding universe, but above and beyond any other single moment the games present you with, I feel the way that Kat was ripped away from me via a Sanghelli sniper will stay with me for a long, long time.
Uncharted 2’s Train Sequence
Drake’s near demise in the snow is perhaps a more obvious moment to select from Uncharted 2, but for me it’s the battle on the train and the climb up its ruined carcass just before he gets lost in the winter wonderland that really sticks out. Trudging through the snow is certainly a great moment in Drake’s story, but the build up to it features, in my opinion, some simply fantastic gameplay, particularly in the climb.
There’s probably an argument to be made that the combat on the train gets a little repetitive, although personally I found it an enjoyable, challenging section that felt nicely different to the rest of the game.
The climb up the ruins of the train, however, is something truly special. Not only is it an incredibly strong opening to the game from a storytelling perspective, but the real tension it manages to build during Drake’s treacherous ascent is incredible. Couple that with the way its repeated later in the game to reveal the events surrounding the crash and the entire train section easily stands out as one of the most memorable moments of the generation.
Bruce Wayne in Arkham City
In comparison to some of the other moments on this list, the opening of Arkham City may seem relatively minor. However, having Bruce Wayne thrown into the Arkham City, the section of Gotham City that was converted to a huge prison by the authorities, worked incredibly well for me as a long time fan of Batman.
Given that Bruce admits pretty early on that getting arrested and sent into Arkham City wasn’t actually his original plan, it works well at setting up Batman as a character who may appear vulnerable, but always manages to wriggle his way out of a situation. Those two elements, his vulnerability (after all, he’s only human) and his ability to adapt to complex situations, are pretty key to the character and are often overlooked by writers.
Beyond that, it was a genuinely surprising decision, particularly for the start of the game. Sure, everyone knows that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one and the same, but the former persona is frequently pushed to the side in stories. I mean who wants to see the billionaire, playboy philanthropist (I bet he’d be great friends with Tony Stark) when you can see the god damned Batman? However, I feel that sometimes you need to see Bruce Wayne if you really want to understand Batman and get a deeper feeling for the character as a whole.
Black Ops Ending
The Call of Duty series isn’t exactly one that’s known for its intricate storytelling. That’s not to say that the stories it tells are particularly bad, and occasionally there’s a moment that you didn’t really see coming, but even so they’re generally not the height of dramatic narratives.
Given that I wasn’t really expecting a lot when I sat down with Black Ops, particularly as Treyarch are seen as the series’ B-Team, it’s safe to say that I was very wrong about all of that, as the game provides a story full of time jumps, twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.
However, none of these come close to the game’s ending. Even now, three years on, I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll say this: Don’t read on if you haven’t finished Call of Duty: Black Ops.
If you’re still here, then you know exactly the moment I’m talking about. The reveal that, for the majority of the game, Reznov has been a dissociative hallucination brought about by Mason’s brainwashing.
While I’d suspected for a good portion of the game that there was something a bit fishy about Reznov, the fact that he had in fact been dead for a good number of his appearances in the game. When you reach the mission on Rebirth Island that you play through from both Mason and Hudson’s perspectives and realise that Reznov isn’t actually there, despite Mason’s claims to the contrary, it was probably the biggest twist I’ve ever experienced in a game.
I don’t think it was just the reveal itself, but the way it was handled along with the profound psychological effect it clearly had on Mason. Everything about how it was handled in the game was pretty much as good as it could be in my opinion.
Sod all of this… have you got an HDTV yet? :-P
Course not! Possibly at the end of January though.
Let me be the first to tell you. High Def gaming is a treat. Next you’ll be telling me it’s mono sound all the way! :-P
Oh I had a high-definition set in my flat for nearly a year, so I know how lovely it can be. Sadly, it wasn’t mine.
Kris is so retro!
I might have to have another run through on Uncharted 2…..
That was another great read. Keep ’em coming guys.
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I have never seen this sort of thing on TSA before…
Uncharted 2 made my jaw hit the floor so many times!
I never really thought what defined a generation but I think you probably hit the nail on the head, “moments”. This generation has been riddled with moments; Oblivion emerging from the sewers and the ability to go anywhere, Gears of war the first time I ever went online, Call Of Duty 4 playing with all my college friends and having a massive laugh, Mass effect hearing M4 Part 2 with such a great ending, Fallout playing for the first time and running out of ammo when fighting hordes of fire ants, Left 4 Dead round a friends and shooting each other, Banjo Kazooie Nuts and bolts going into banjo land and hearing all my favourite game music beautifully redone, Demon souls fighting a boss for the first time and not getting hit once (but the tension), Blowing myself and my friend off the top of the empire state building with a rocket launcher in GTA IV, wii sports on christmas.
Honestly i may whinge but this generation has been fantastic and I hope the next generation can match it.