There are plenty of games out there that draw us in with incredible storytelling, the kind that leave us glancing at the clock wondering where the last forty hours have gone. Likewise there are plenty that leave us considering what would be more fun? Continuing the game or gouging our own eyes out with the controller. But every now and then a game gives us a moment, a single defining moment that leaves us reeling either from ‘wtf that was so awesome I want to die now because my life is now utterly complete’ or ‘wtf was that? I swear I am going to find the guys that did this and hunt them down, wiping them and their seed unceremoniously from the earth.’ Then there are the wtf moments that leave your jaw somewhere on the floor as you try and determine exactly ‘wtf was that?!’
Be warned! Spoilorz follow!
#10 Kefka poisons Doma
Final Fantasy VI gave us a batshit insane villain of Joker proportions in the form of the clown Kefka. But Kefka moved from comical antagonist to one of the more evil villains of the series if not in video game history, after deciding that ethics were really something that happened to other people.
During the first part of the game Kefka announces his intention to poison the population of Doma Castle. But then, much to the player’s surprise, he actually does it! It’s one of those moments when you think, nah, someone’s going to stop him, they’re not going to let him actually do this, oh hell they have…
In a truly chilling scene Kefka poisons the water supply surrounding the castle, and we see the entire population die. Men, women and children all dead while Kefka laughs. An insane clown kills an entire town’s population, defying every rule of engagement ever and laughs at the screams. Wtf?
#9 You’re not playing as Harry
Silent Hill Shattered Memories remade, rebooted and reimagined the classic Playstation survival horror Silent Hill seeing you reprise the role of super dad Harry Mason. Once again Harry wakes up in the driver’s seat of his now rather crashed car in the snowy town of Silent Hill wondering where the hell his seven year old daughter Cheryl has gotten to.
Once more Harry traverses the town, overcoming the occasional horde of monsters, looking for Cheryl. This time however, something doesn’t seem to be quite right as everyone you meet knows Cheryl, except she’s closer to twenty seven and has something of a checkered past, a far cry from the innocent seven year old you are searching for. The plot is interspersed with therapy sessions with Dr Kaufman complementing Harry’s journey. And an entire fandom screamed say whaaaat?! when it was revealed that you are not playing as Harry at all. You are in fact Cheryl undergoing some deep shit counselling. Not only that but Harry’s dead! And if that wasn’t enough to destroy all your hopes and illusions he wasn’t even a good dad! *sobs*
#8 Chainsaw Man
The Resident Evil series has given us more than its fair-share of ‘wtf was that?’ moments, but none leave you as reeling as when you first see yourself, rather graphically, getting your head chopped off with a chainsaw.
Resi Evil 4 departed from the traditional scenario of escaping hoards of zombies in favour of everyone’s favourite: an escort mission! This time fending off angry hoards of Spanish cultists, infected by parasites. Oh joy! After fighting your way through the villagers, you have a nice quiet moment, a breather if you would, at the start of Chapter 1-3, snooping around the village chief’s house with nothing to do but raid the drawers for ammo and precious jewels. Upon opening the back door you are confronted by the sound of a chainsaw revving up. Yet even this cannot prepare you for the hulking brute of a man, complete with a bag on his head racing towards you with chainsaw raised. If you regain your wits quickly enough you might be able to avoid the inevitable, otherwise you are treated to an incredibly gory moment where the chainsaw cuts through your neck, or if you’re trying to back away the additional cinematic of trying to push the blades away, thus losing your hand as well as your head.
7# To be continued…
Bad endings are the plague of video games. If there’s one thing worse than a bad ending to a game it’s a bad ending to a really good game. Soul Reaver 1 follows Raziel, the wronged Lieutenant of Emperor/King of the World Kain, who commits the greatest faux pas by growing an awesome pair of bat wings before Kain does. Condemned to an eternity of burning without hope of death, Raziel wakes up from eons of torture a little bit miffed at the establishment.
After rising from the depths, literally, Raziel travels the land and massacres every being he comes into contact with, determined on finding Kain and giving him a taste of his own genocidal medicine. The game culminates with a dramatic confrontation where Kain basically goads Raziel (‘coz he hasn’t antagonised him enough) into chasing him across time. Raziel throws himself into the time portal aaaaand…to be continued? To be continued?! Seriously?! The game is by no means short. With every step you take Raziel’s determination to kill Kain is developed, so you’d be forgiven for expecting an ending where you could at least knock him around a bit. Instead, the ending lasts a grand total of 40 seconds and literally finishes on a ‘to be continued’ screen.
#6 Deleting Save Files
Few games have messed with our heads as much as Eternal Darkness. Sanity effects are a standard part of the gameplay, but they’re certainly not a fun part. In case you were thinking about sitting back, getting comfortably or even blinking the game throws various effects at you just to keep you that little bit more on edge.
As a result there were many wtf?! moments in Eternal Darkness. Your head exploding at random, your gun misfiring and killing you or the character shooting at you, the player, being just a few of the more random acts that leave you wondering what the hell had just happened. But far more damaging to your sanity were the sanity effects directed at you, rather than the character.
Sometimes the screen cuts out as though the power has gone, the game’s volume decreases while displaying a volume bar or perhaps you’d be unlucky enough to get the blue screen error message of death. All of which take you out of the game and leave you thoroughly freaked out, screaming obscenities at your technology until you realise everything works fine. But none had us screaming more obscenities than the ‘are you sure you’d like to delete all of your save data? at a save point before telling you congrats! You’ve lost all of your progress. Even the revelation that it of course, doesn’t delete anything, does little to stop your heart beating faster. Good one guys *screams*
#5 ‘Turn it back on’
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a hidden gem of a video game. If you haven’t played it, stop reading this now and go and play it. Seriously.
With a story penned by Alex Garland and voice acting from Lindsey Shaw and Andy Serkis the game’s narrative is easily one of the best around.
Set in a post apocalyptic Earth this Action-Adventure Platform sees you play as Monkey, an all brawn loner, forced into protecting tech savvy but vulnerable Tripitaka who elicits his cooperation by attaching a slave crown to his head. If Trip dies or Monkey moves too far away from her, Monkey dies. All she wants is to get home safely, but after fulfilling his role, Trip embarks on a revenge trip forcing Monkey to escort her further. I really cannot do the incredible complexities of their relationship justice, needless to say a mutually beneficial friendship develops between the two, but it always coloured by the fact that Monkey simply has no choice but to comply. In perhaps one of the more mind blowingly amazing moments of video game storytelling Trip realises what she has done and turns the crown off so that Monkey may do as he pleases. After weighing up his options of returning to his old loner ways or helping Trip further, Monkey wastes little time in looking her dead in the eye and telling her to turn it back on. And we all weep manly tears.
#4 ‘This is your destiny’
If there is one thing we enjoy in video games, it’s moral choices that have a bit more impact that ‘you saved/did not save that burning orphanage?’ You must be a hero/bastard!’ Fallout 3 gives you the option of not only being Jesus-level saviour or moustache-twirlingly evil but also stone cold neutral with shades of good or bad thrown in and a lovable scamp option for good measure.
The final decision sees you deciding whether you are going to give your own life, entering a highly irradiated room with a button in, so that the inhabitants of the wasteland can enjoy fresh, clean water for the first time in like a hundred years, or you can ask someone else to commit the ultimate sacrifice proving yourself to be a thoroughly evil bastard. Of course this was rather undermined by the fact that the chances were your companion of the moment was Fawkes whose features include: not dying in highly irradiated rooms. So it was something of an oversight to have the option of kill yourself or kill this other guy, when in the corner you have a guy who could walk in and press said button without so much as a slight cough. The devs obviously realised that this would pose a slight problem and so allow you to ask Fawkes if he’d be kind enough to expend as much energy as flicking on a light switch. The result is a half assed, “nah brah, this is your destiny, I simply could not take this mantle from you.” Why Fawkes? You could do this in less time than it takes me to whip you up a celebratory mojito without the unfortunate side effect of painful death. But noooo.
This was of course addressed in the dlc ‘Broken Steel’ except while the option for asking Fawkes appears, the game condemns this as a dick move. Even though no harm comes to Fawkes whatsoever, and the wasteland is a lush, abundant plain of greenery YOU didn’t die. Dick.
#3 You’re not Solid Snake
There are few video game characters more popular than Solid Snake. Most of us were chomping at the bit to get our hands on Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and played the demo set on the tanker with glee. There was nothing to suggest that we would not be reprising the role of our hero, confirmed with the demo which saw you take Solid Snake through the early stages of an oil tanker level.
So the game comes out, we’re sitting there in our promotional bandanas, fake cigarettes in our mouths, ‘we love Snake’ temp tattoos across our faces, aaaaaaand the game reveals a new protagonist. Instead of Snake you play as the wildly effeminate Raiden who spends much of the game being mistaken for a woman and having domestics with his girlfriend over why he doesn’t like her particular method of preparing cous cous. The reasoning for this is actually quite sound. Not only does playing as Raiden fit the notion of the storyline as a recreation of Shadow Moses but it also allows you to see Snake in an entirely new light. It presents Snake as more of a hero as you follow in his footsteps as a rookie.
However this does not excuse the ‘what the actual fuck are they doing?’ moment seconds before the big reveal occurs. After completing the tanker episode, the game actually tries to trick you into thinking that you will continue as Snake in the following plant episode. Colonel Campbell returns speaking to a masked scuba diver referring to him as ‘Snake’. So far so good except the diver has to respond. Now, David Hayter has a fairly recognisable voice, nay iconic. Quinton Flynn, however, is quite softly spoken, probably the reason why he was asked to voice an androgynous blond bombshell. Yet they obviously asked Flynn to put on his best Hayter impression and hope that the fans won’t notice. Casting a castrati in the lead of ‘Showboat’ and asking them to treat you to a rendition of ‘Old Man River’ would probably have been less embarrassing.
#2 ‘Would you kindly…’
Fewer moments blow your mind so hard you’re picking flecks of cerebellum off the sofa for months while your wallpaper is an interesting new shade of brain. Bioshock’s plot twist does not just blow your mind, it nukes it and has gone down as not only one of the more beautifully crafted plot developments but one of the most memorable moments in video games history.
The idea of mind control is not new in games, neither is the revelation that a deceased character is actually not deceased. The twist hinges entirely on those three words and as the game reveals simply how often those words have been used, so casually, to dictate your actions your mind explodes faster than a party at the Cola/Mentos corporation.
Of course, as with all major plot reveals, the impact is somewhat lessened on a second play-through. But with Bioshock you can enjoy seeing simply how often you are gently nudged into doing exactly what everyone else wants you to, just because they ask you with a nice Irish accent. Even knowing that you are being manipulated, your jaw will drop every single time you hear those words.
#1 You forgot the pendant?
Koudelka is not one of the more well known titles of the survival horror genre. The product of short lived companies Infogrames and Sacnoth, Koudelka hit the Playstation back in 2000 complete with surprisingly good storytelling and one of the worst battle soundtracks since Nelson decided Handel’s ‘Water Music’ suited the great battle of Trafalgar.
Those who have played Koudelka are divided into two camps; those who found the pendant and those who did not. The pendant is an entirely innocuous items, you first see it in the introductory FMV falling off the protagonist’s neck, or at least you see something falling off the protagonist’s neck, the first time I played it, I thought she’d dropped her knife or something. The pendant lands in a fountain, which also doubles as a save point. But due to the graphics quality we would expect from a far from big budget Playstation game it’s not clear that it is in this fountain or that you have to pick it up.
Those who picked it up would play the game to completion without a problem. But if you missed it, and I cannot stress how easy it is to miss it, then after all but completing the game, just before confronting the final boss a message flashes up saying, ‘you forgot the pendant.’ The final boss reveals itself and…kills you in a FMV resulting in a game over. Yup. Oh don’t worry you think, I’ll just backtrack and look for this apparently vital item. No you won’t, as by that point it is impossible to backtrack, your previous route is cut off leaving you one option; start the game again. Unless you, rather coincidentally, have a save file near to that particular moment where you can retrieve this item (which is highly unlikely as Koudelka actually minimises the save files you can have on a memory card) you are starting the entire game again.
This game was released in 2000 and everyone in the ‘forgot the pendant’ camp still hasn’t gotten over that one.