I rip on games and I do it a lot. But I play them almost every day, and I love it, and I expect to love it. So here are some examples -seven, because who cares, really – of moments in games which made me think games are outstanding and are as legitimate a source of artistic endeavour as Four Weddings And a Funeral, or whatever film it is that Rockstar wish they’d made.
This isn’t my top seven games or anything, just a handful of great ideas.
And it’s in reverse order, because I only ever read the top entry on charts like this. Plus also, I don’t really have an order for these. I don’t know what I’m doing. And there are SPOILERS.
7. Kane and Lynch: Tricking you.
Kane and Lynch sucks, and anyone who says different probably made it. It sucks so much, in fact, that someone lost their job.
But it had this one idea that was better than nothing.
Lynch is a schizophrenic. He has issues. He gets confused. You play as him in two player split screen.
There’s this one scene, where you’re having a shoot out down the street, reminiscent of almost exactly the same scene in the film Heat, except much, much worse. And then, if you’re playing Kane, you see Lynch, being controlled by your friend, someone you may have known for upwards of 17 years, stop shooting cops and start shooting civilians.
“Dude,” you say, “what the fuck?”
But Lynch, and the man playing him, saw things differently. I saw cops, so I shot them, ok? Yeah, the game tricked me, and it was awesome. Touche, Kane and Lynch.
6. Mass Effect 1: Forcing you to make a decision, for once in your life.
There’s that bit, in ME 1, where you have to chose between Alenko and Ashley, because they’re both being overrun by enemy troops and one of them is going to die. And you know there’s going to be a sequel, so if they die, here, they probably won’t be in that either. But man this decision took me a long time to make, and I still have the freeze frame image of Shepherd’s stoic face on the conversation screen lodged firmly in my memory, labeled psychicly under “tough times.” Then I let Ashley die because I’d actually used Alenko on more than one mission.
Mass Effect wasn’t the first game to have choices like this, or to have variables in story but yeah, this has stayed with me the same way Kevin Spacey’s limp in the usual suspects has, or any of that shit.
5. Half Life: Never splitting from first person.
There’s a couple of ways I can think of to get a player really immersed in a game. I hate to mention it again, so soon, but one is the Mass Effect route, having a player character who is talkative, and talks with subtlety, so it feels like you’re directing the action, you’re defining things.
The other route is the Half Life model of never splitting you from the first person view of the character you’re playing. Whilst this has been copied relentlessly, Doom 3, though basically obsolete, is a glaring example, it hasn’t been outdone.
The build up to the action is so creeping and immense, and the set pieces deliver like Santa on crack. It’s the setting, the people you meet who are talking about emails and watching their pies explode that suck you into the world, rather than the fact you’re stuck, Samuel Becket style, in someone’s disembodied floating crowbar arm. So it seems basic, but takes at least a little work to pull off.
4. Metal Gear Solid: Psycho Mantis.
Psycho Mantis. Have you played this game? Is that too much to assume? It’s like, Psycho Mantis is controlling Snake, so you can’t fight him. His control is absolute. To beat him to have to unplug your controller and plug it in to the second controller slot.
Here is a game telling you it is a game, and you have to use the entire console, literally, to beat the boss. It’s so smooth, and smart, and tongue in cheek. It’s like eating brainy silk.
3. Portal: Changing the way you think about what is possible.
There’s a moment in Portal, and it’s different for everyone, and I don’t even really remember mine, where you do something fucking amazing and you completely blow physics apart and it feels incredible. It’s something like you have a portal on the floor and one on the wall, and you run through one, into another, and the floor is the wall at the same time as it is the floor and your brain makes some new electron connection, or whatever, and you can feel it do that and things aren’t the same after.
You couldn’t get that feeling, that moment, from a book, or a film. Computer games are the closest way of going through something like that, and Portal did it.
2. Shadow Of The Colossus.
I’m not illustrating an exact moment or idea here, it’s just the whole game is fantastic. Yeah, it’s cinematic, but it’s a journey you take alone. It feels like it’s addressing the fact you’re playing the game on your own, as it is a single player game. You explore the strange, isolated land, and it feels so lonely. But it’s beautiful, and quiet. The only enemies are the sixteen giants you have to climb and kill to resurrect the girl you love.
It all leads up to this uncertain and beautiful tragedy, and there are so many questions. You have no choice but to let it wash over you, which you can, because it’s such a complete whole. Quiet, and subtle and perfect. A real soul searcher.
1. Final Fantasy VII: Being Full and Long and Amazing.
This game, for me, defines epic. If you haven’t played this game you basically haven’t played RPGs. There is so much depth and content and emotion, it goes far beyond the call of duty. And with that extremely tacky link, let me compare Final Fantasy Seven with Call of Duty.
The difference is this. You get days worth of game play in FF7, you explore an entire world and unfold a story as original as any told in any medium, ever. This is standard. A great game was made, a classic, an immortal game.
Modern Warfare 2 had DLC. It made a poor game, then asked you to expand it with DLC which was ALREADY ON THE DISC. It’s like hey, you bought that content, why not buy it again? Games used to be fucking amazing, and people used to make them because they had fantastic ideas. Fuck you, MW2.
No doubt there are plebs whining, scoffing between mouthfuls of Frube, about how much everyone loves these games, how they are the standards, the Good Guys. I’m willing to change, to give new games a chance. The games in this list remind me of my love for games. It’s just plenty of games developers seem to have a very narrow set of influences and think a game will be the next Great Wall Of China because you can skin rabbits.