Top ten breathtaking moments on Xbox 360 so far
|LISTS - VIDEOGAME LISTS|
The Xbox 360 has, in its 6 year existence, given us some phenomenal moments of gaming. Here, Shadowlocked's very own Robert Meiklejohn takes us through his top 10 breathtaking Xbox 360 moments...
These are, with one exception, single player experiences and all of them are things which likely will be experienced by anyone playing the game. This list isn’t about one-off multiplayer occurrences - there are plenty of those on YouTube already - but instead is a celebration of those rare moments when game designers create something so unique that it is breathtaking. Furthermore, it is worth noting that this list contains a number of spoilers - ranging from mild to potentially game-ruining - so it's best to stay clear if this sort of thing aggravates you.
10: Elder Scrolls IV: Experiencing Cyrodiil for the First Time
I opened my Xbox 360 on Christmas morning back in 2007 and within ten minutes I was standing waist deep in swaying grass, overlooking the most beautifully crafted game world I had ever seen. Wild deer ran through the trees whilst every glade and tower promised mystery and adventure. Since then I have seen even more beautiful landscapes (Red Dead Redemption take a bow) but this was the first time I truly had my breath taken away by the Xbox 360. Standing on that hill, drinking in the sheer scale and beauty of Cyrodiil, I finally understood the console’s true potential and the amazing places it could take gamers to.
9: Red Dead Redemption: The Barn Fire
This superbly crafted and alarming set piece was sprung on the player following one of the more leisurely (and unfairly maligned) farming missions. The sudden rising dread and panic that triggered when I saw a plume of black smoke over the peaceful MacFarlane ranch was unexpected. Red Dead Redemption was always going to be compared to Rockstar’s glorious GTA franchise but their take on the Wild West was a far more advanced and complex creature than any of their previous projects. The emotional kick of seeing the ranch in trouble made me realise that I was attached to Marston’s temporary abode in a far more personal and emotive way than I ever was to the various apartments of Niko Bellic.
8: Mass Effect 2: Destruction of the Normandy
Mass Effect 2 came with serious hype as its previous installment had set a precedent, one that any successor was expected to live up to. However, despite such high expectations, Mass Effect 2 still managed to surpass its predecessor within minutes. The Normandy was a character in its own right and essentially ‘killing’ it at the start provided an emotional wrench and instant confirmation that the game’s stakes were going to be high. As Shepard’s body started to burn up in the planet’s atmosphere and the title screen appeared, my raised heart-rate and mounting excitement was only compounded by the knowlege that I had a thrilling 30+ hours of gameplay to enjoy.
7: COD 4 Modern Warfare: Red Hot Ghillie Peppers
Personally, I have found the unyielding stream of explosions and over the top set pieces of the past two Call Of Duty games to be more exhausting than exhilarating (with MW 2’s snowmobile chase an honourable exception); but then they have been trying to outdo the peerless Modern Warfare, which accounts for two of the great moments on this top ten list. The first is the exquisite level of tension in the largely stealth orientated ‘All Ghillied up’ level which, despite being a thorough Call Of Duty experience, also bears the hallmarks of radically different games such as Thief and Operation Flashpoint. 'All Ghillied Up' contains several such amazing moments of quietness and the stillness as you make your way through a radioactive scrubland leading towards a haunting and beautiful rendered Chernobyl. The finest moment comes when dropping to the ground and crawling silently through the middle of an oncoming enemy patrol. This, and the twenty or so minutes of tense gameplay which surround it, are a masterclass of the stealth mission within an FPS; an experience that extracts drama and excitement from tension and suspense. When the inevitable explosions and pitched battles do arrive they’re all the more thrilling for the silence and waiting that preceded them. Future Call of Duty games would do well to remember the intense moments that can be created from a more pressurised stealth mission.
6: Braid: Another Level
Despite returning to gaming's side-scrolling, two-dimensional roots, Braid still managed to capture its audience through its emphatic gameplay and gripping storyline, before featuring a final level thats twist was as smart and unexpected as it was emotionally powerful.
Having spent the first half of the game's final level operating levers - many of which seem rather irrelevant in your pursuit of the princess - you are finally able to climb up to her window, only for Braid to take full use of its time-reversing mechanic and throw up one hell of a mindf**k. Suddenly, the princess is fleeing the obsessive weirdo who’s been following her around, redeploying the traps you previously unlocked before escaping into the arms of the knight you believed you were saving her from. The motivations and actions of your character are suddenly turned on their head along with the concept that the princess needs saving from anyone other than yourself...twenty-five years of rock solid videogame pre-conceptions swept away in an instant.
5: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - The Nuclear Option
Death in computer games has become an incredibly difficult area for developers. Since the very beginning, death has been little more than a precursor to loading an earlier check point and having another crack. As a result, videogames have struggled to give us the emotional punch that can only come through the feelings of loss. However, in an attempt to change this, developers have turned their attention to the deaths of supporting characters (one of which makes it onto this list later), focusing on building a real connection between yourself and said character. Yet, while the loss of a teammate is regretable, it is a concept many many gamers have now adapted to; so for the emotional connection to continue, the loss must now belong to your own player.
In my opinion, Modern Warfare has produced the best attempt - so far - at killing off the player character without robbing the user of the feeling of control they are hardwired to expect from an FPS. During an attempt to rescue a stranded pilot close to a bunch of small minded fanatics with a nuclear bomb, it soon becomes clear that this is potentially a suicide mission...but you’ve heard that a thousand times, right? Wrong. Upon completing the rescue mission your retreating helicopter is brought down by the nuclear blast and, as you crawl tentatively out of the wreckage, the full horror of said blast begins to reveal itself. The sight of a mushroom cloud (so often underwhelming) rising above the burning, crumbling city genuinely sent shivers down my spine before my character collapsed and the screen blackened. The feeling of horror, awe and sadness has yet to be matched in any FPS I have played.
4: Portal: GLaDOS’ Betrayal
GLaDOS has to be a strong contender for one of the most brilliantly realised videogame villains of all time. During the game she transforms from a quirky AI to a manipulative megalomaniac that makes HAL look positively cuddly. The decision to finally disobey the commanding voice which helped you to master the nuances of manipulating physics via your gravity gun is a great way to kick off the thrilling endgame. As the platform on which you are standing begins descending towards a fire pit, accompanied by GLaDOS’ unconvincing reassurances, you see a high ledge which - by using the tricks GLaDOS taught you - prevents your somewhat inevitable cremation. From that moment on, you are no longer jumping through hoops in the sterilised test chambers, but behind the walls causing chaos in the inner workings of Aperture Science. This singular moment of disobedience sparks a brilliant shift from compliant test subject to empowered rebel, and the changes this brings around in your relationship with GLaDOS are both gripping and hilarious (“Despite your violent behaviour the only thing you’ve managed to break so far is my heart”).
3: FIFA 09: The Though-on-Goal Sort of 3rd Person Camera Angle
Catchy title, no? It feels strange to put a camera angle as one of my defining moments but, having played over a decade of football games from an all-seeing side-on perspective, the concept of being behind a player as they go through on goal was fantastic. Although this feature made its debut in the 'be a player' mode of FIFA 08, I first experienced it within FIFA 09 during a online 11 vs 11 game and was struck by the extra pressure which it brought. The up close shaky camera and sound effects perfectly added a whole new level of depth and realism to the experience, as well as showing off the game’s gorgeous graphics. Furthermore, it provided a powerful adrenaline rush which was, in my case, cruelly cut short as I skied my shot; before having my ears filled with profanity laden criticism from my teammates who seemed more concerned about winning than appreciating the realism and aesthetic beauty within which my nobly shanked effort was depicted.
2: Limbo: Along Came a Spider
The second sidescroller on my supposedly next-gen list shows that there is significant life in 2D yet. After waking up in a game world completely different - but equally as stunning - as Braid’s, I was quickly immersed in the sombre greys of a nightmarish forest. While the subsequent fight and destruction of Limbo's monster was an invigorating experience, it held nothing to the adrenaline rush I felt as several giant spiked legs emerged from the shadow of a tree. The game proper really started at this moment and proved to be one of the most affecting video game fights for survival I have ever experienced.
1: Mass Effect 2: Death of Thane (Mass Effect Experiences May Vary)
This one might be a slight exception to the rule as it’s quite possibly one you didn’t experience whilst playing Mass Effect. In the game’s climactic mission, which can have a serious body count if you don’t play your cards right, I made a slight misstep in not selecting my absolute best INSERT to maintain a shield whilst myself and my two most trusted team members (Thane and Jack) did the fighting. Just before reaching safety, the field collapsed and Thane was engulfed by the INSERT. The shock at losing my favourite character was outweighed by the guilt at realising that perhaps it was my tactical approach which led to his death. Of course I could have saved and reloaded but following the brilliantly dramatic way in which it happened I felt I would have been cheapening the whole experience by doing so. All the best epics need loss, and combined with feelings of guilt over my culpability for the death made this the moment that defined Bioware’s latest instalment of the genre defining space epic.
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