Since the Xbox 360 was launched in 2005, the 7th generation of gaming consoles has given us a ton of fantastic games and memorable experiences. Popular game series like Halo, Uncharted, God of War, and more joined with some new IP to create an awesome slate of games.
But sometimes a single moment or event from a particular game stands out above the rest and leaves an indelible mark on the gamer’s memory. Maybe a scene was extremely emotional, or maybe it was a culmination of the story to that point, or perhaps it was simply an unexpected twist of fate for the characters in the game. Whatever the reason, these moments shine above the others and are what make games so phenomenal as an experience. Here is VGU’s top 5 moments from this generation of games.
*SPOILER ALERT for Portal, Modern Warfare 2, BioShock, Red Dead Redemption, and Telltale’s The Walking Dead.*
5. Portal Ending
“The cake is a lie.” Few phrases have stuck in the gaming lexicon as much this from 2007′s mind-bending first-person puzzler Portal, and for good reason. After spending hours running through a gamut of tests centered around the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, players might already be suspicious of the test facility’s mastermind AI Glados. Her initial promise that “you will be baked, and then there will be cake” upon completion of the test almost seemed like a malfunction. It’s not the first eccentric thing she says, after all (“Did you know you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the Aperture Science Self-Esteem Fund for Girls? It’s true!”).
However, suspicions rise to unavoidable levels when Chell discovers a loose panel in the facility leading to a small, dark area covered in grafitti. Suddenly the weight of Chell’s situation drops on the player like a ton of companion cubes. This isn’t the first time an unsuspecting human has been dragged through a series of test chambers at Glados’ behest, and evidently none of them were ever rewarded with cake. The cake is a lie, the cake is a lie, the cake is a lie, the cake is a lie.
Before long, the true fate of previous test subjects is revealed. After completing the final test chamber, Chell finds herself trapped on a moving platform as it slowly descends into a fiery inferno. Thankfully, Chell’s quick wits and high perception allow her to portal her way out of this hopeless situation. It’s a grand moment from both a storytelling and gameplay perspective. In a single stroke, Glados goes from vaguely sinister to downright evil and the real game begins. All of those test chambers were a mere tutorial for the game’s real goal: Escaping the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. The puzzles become more challenging and the environment more menacing as Chell traverses the inner-workings of the twisted facility, culminating in a battle against Glados and her many personality cores.
Upon completion, players are treated to a jaunty tune sung by Glados herself as the credits roll. Her song depicts the futility of Chell’s actions throughout the game, letting us know that long after we are all dead Glados will be still alive, acting as an eternal paragon of science to torture generations of test subjects to come.
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2- No Russian
Video games have often come under fire for being too violent, too graphic, and a bad influence on society, but Modern Warfare 2′s “No Russian” scene might just have put all of the previous controversies to shame. As a part of the game, you are sent to infiltrate Makarov’s crew (the main villain of the story) to try and take him out from the inside. The mission begins in an elevator as Makarov and company load up machine guns and he reminds his crew “No Russian” (a play on the word “rushing”).
The elevator doors open and Makarov’s crew begin to open fire on a crowd of civilians at a Russian airport. The player-character can choose to not partake in the slaughter at the beginning of the mission but once the armed response arrives, the player has no choice if they want to complete the mission.
The depiction of such a gruesome act of terrorism was truly shocking for a video game and caused quite a controversy then and many people will still debate the merit of such a scene today. But what it does do that makes it so great is that it doesn’t pull any punches and tells the story that the developers wanted to tell.
Makarov frames the Americans for the gruesome attack and that prompts the Russian government to take military action against the United States. It isn’t shock value for the sake of shock value, it serves a purpose to the game’s story and is no more or less horrible than a similar scene depicted in a movie.
“No Russian” showed that games (and gamers) were ready for a different kind of storytelling, one that didn’t hold back on violence or shocking imagery just to appease people who don’t see video games as an entertainment medium. That is why it is one of the most memorable moments in gaming from this generation.
3. BioShock- Meeting Andrew Ryan
“A man chooses, a slave obeys.” Andrew Ryan’s repeated words echo throughout the course of this pivotal scene in BioShock as the player’s sense of identity, purpose, and every little fact that has been given to them is questioned in one fell swoop. In BioShock, you play as a man named Jack who crash lands in the Pacific Ocean and ends up in the underwater city of Rapture (or at least the ruins of it).
Jack is contacted by a man named Atlas who is trying to save his family from Rapture’s leader Andrew Ryan. Atlas’ family is destroyed in an explosion and Jack tracks down Ryan in his office to help Atlas settle the score. But instead of simply taking out the bad guy, Ryan lets the character in on a secret. Jack is Ryan’s illegitimate child, taken from his mother by Frank Fontaine (Ryan’s rival), and genetically engineered to age rapidly and respond to the phrase “Would you kindly?” Once that phrase is spoken, Jack is compelled to act.
Jack’s memories have been implanted and the plane crash that brought him to Rapture was actually caused by Jack. Ryan orders Jack to kill him and Jack beats him to death with a golf club. Atlas then reveals that he is actually Fontaine and leaves Jack to die via some security drones in Ryan’s office.
This scene not only contains one of the greatest twists in recent gaming history, but it also ratchets up the tension as Jack’s conditioning and fake memories are slowly brought out into the light. The mood of the scene and the juxtaposition of Ryan’s calm demeanor make this an incredibly unsettling and fantastically done scene.
2. Red Dead Redemption- Marston’s Last Stand
In Red Dead Redemption, you guide John Marston on a journey to eliminate his old gang members. The government is holding his family, and John just wants to see the task to the end and live a quiet life in retirement. It’s not an easy road for him, as his journey begins with him being left for dead, but after a long chase through New Austin and Mexico, you find his old friends. Agent Edgar Ross pulls your strings the entire way, and tells you to find the leader, Dutch Van der Lin, and you can go home. Finally, after a long trek through the snowy mountains, Dutch is eliminated, and John can finally be with his family in peace.
For a while. After spending time with your family for a while and doing chores around the farm, Ross brings his men to your house to kill the last remaining member of your old gang: you. After all this time, Ross basically tricked you into doing his work for him, so he’d only have to kill one man.
John sends his family away and locks himself in the barn. Knowing there’s no way out of this alive, he faces his fate like a man and decides to take as many with him as he can. The saddest part about this moment is that the controls are back in your hands as you step out of that barn, and for a first time player, you think you have a chance at surviving.
But you don’t. One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in a video game comes from John Marston, riddled with bullets, trying desperately to breathe, but still facing Ross with a defiant and proud look on his face as he sinks to his knees. It’s an image that stays with you. Here is a man who just wanted to get out of that life and live quietly with his family, and he was thrust back into that world, only to be punished for it by the man who put him back in there. All he wanted was redemption.
1. The Walking Dead- Lee’s Death
Telltale’s The Walking Dead came out in five episodes throughout 2012 and quickly became a favorite among many gamers for Game of the Year. The story, the characters, the choices, and the incredible plot twists made it one of the most memorable gaming experiences of the past few years. The five episodes are peppered with great moments but the final moment of the game stands out as the most compelling and emotionally gripping.
Throughout the five episodes that comprise The Walking Dead, the relationship between Lee and Clementine became the biggest driving force for the game. Protecting this little girl from the hordes of undead and other dangers throughout the game became Lee’s only motivating factor as the game went on. The tone also shifted from Lee trying to protect Clementine by keeping her away from everything to Lee trying to teach Clementine to protect herself.
That theme of Lee protecting Clementine by educating her played out beautifully as Lee had to tell Clementine what to do as he was dying from the zombie bite that he suffered at the end of episode four. Clementine’s uncertainty about what to do, Lee’s reassuring words and instructions, and the choice of whether to have Clementine leave Lee or kill him before he can turn are some of the best parts of the entire game.
The emotional connection between Clementine and Lee is why this moment ranks up as out favorite but the tension of the scene is not something to be overlooked either. The fact that Lee is in the process of turning and could become a walker at any moment makes every second feel like an eternity. Will Lee turn and kill Clementine before she can escape? That question lingers throughout the highly tense scene, even after Clementine handcuffs Lee.
The Walking Dead is one of the most emotionally charged and compelling games in history and Lee’s death scene offers so much for gamers to experience. The relationship formed between Lee and Clementine, the tension of the scene, and the culmination of the story of the game all make this moment our favorite.