Gaming's greatest moments
David Hayward on the best gaming has to offer
There are moments in our gaming past and present that bring an inane grin to the face, that make us slack jawed and gasp. They’re the ones that have us bouncing up and down on the settee and shouting at the screen in unbelievable joy. Then there are the ones that make us laugh with disbelief at how terrible they are, especially after all the hard work involved in getting that far into the game. These are our greatest gaming moments, the ones that are stored in our minds for as long as we care to recall them. There is a vast wealth of choice out there, and even non-gamers can appreciate the odd moment where they saw something game related and thought, quite simply, ‘Wow’.
Whether the moment in question is an adrenaline, insane leap of faith off a cliff, or the moment of breathtaking rapture as we finally complete a game we’ve been faithfully plugging away at for months on end, you can guarantee that, despite whatever anyone else thinks of the game, it was a special moment for you, and it meant something. So read on and see what you think of our list of gaming’s greatest moments.
Starting in no particular order, we have a bit of a classic going back to 1989. Released for the Atari ST, Amiga and DOS by Electric Dreams and designed by Ian Bird, we have the resource management sci-fi epic known as Millennium 2.2.
The plot was simple: in the 23rd century we have colonised the moon and are a significant space-faring race. Unfortunately, a 20 trillion ton asteroid put an end to that when it collided with the earth, wiping out all life and making it completely uninhabitable. It’s now up to you, as the commander of the moon base, to continue mankind’s survival and colonise the remaining spheres in order to found Earth 2.0.
Being a computer game, things are never simple. You have to mine resources from the moon in order to expand your base, then you have to research technologies that allow you to mine the asteroid belt, to gain more resources to colonise the other planets. Problems abound, and before long you’re hopping from one colony to the next, ferrying valuable resources around the solar system while dealing with civil colonial war, invading human/martians mutants, and depletion of minerals. However, you soon find a way to micro-manage your way into creating a terraforming technology that allows you fix the earth, and return to repopulate.
Our great gaming moment comes in the form of the end sequence, when the Earth has been fixed by the terraformer and humanity once again returns to the cradle of civilisation. You’re awarded a view of fields of wheat, panning out to encompass green hills, trees, wildlife and finally, a peaceful dome, housing the remainder of humanity. All the while, the background music is Gustav Mahler’s thought-provoking ‘Adagietto’, from his 5th Symphony in C sharp minor. It almost brings a tear to the eye, after all that work. Wonderful stuff.
Dead Space 2
The hero of the Dead Space series, Isaac Clarke, has had something of a rough time, what with battling the animated and mutated corpses of crew members and other nasty things, which lurk behind every corner. Indeed, false ceilings are where the monsters lie in wait, and who would have thought so much blood could be ejected from the human body when being devoured from the inside out.
There are a few nice gaming moments in Dead Space: the slow, but gradual movement through the ship, checking every corner and turning at every sound or hoarse whispering and the fantastic zero gravity section, where globules of liquid float in defiance of the regularly accepted laws of physics. However, the best moment, for us, has to be the death defying drop into oblivion, taken when Isaac finds himself in orbit and needing to get back down to Titan Station. All options are removed and the only way back down is to throw one’s self from the solar panels and enjoy several minutes of free-fall.
Not unlike the now famous Felix Baumgartner, Isaac is ejected from the edge of the abyss and we are thrust into an insane, fast paced sequence, where Isaac drops at hundreds of miles per hour through floating debris, weaving in and out of obstacles and all you hear is the beep beep of his heart monitor and the muffled passing of the chunks of space station. It’s incredible, crazy, and one of the most memorable moments in recent gaming. Exciting stuff, this.
Oblivion & Fallout 3
Bethesda has, over the past few years, stretched the concept of free, open-world gaming to the point of absolute perfection. Although these games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, you have to admit they are pretty spectacular looking.
We’ve included both games, although completely different ends of the scale, as they share a common scene: the emergence into the world. This particular moment is breathtaking: on the one hand we have The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, where you start the game in jail, then after a brief battle and exploration of the city sewer, you emerge into the open world, there, laid out before you. If you’re lucky enough, you manage to leave the sewer in daylight, and the sudden contrast from dark to light is staggering. Mix this with rolling hills, thick forests, herds of deer roaming majestically in the distance, and you suddenly realise that the world truly is your oyster.
In Fallout 3, we find ourselves in the Vault, one of many underground, secure bunkers that protected those within from the ravages of the nuclear holocaust. Inside the Vault it’s grey, bleak, dirty, with a sterile fluorescent light creating jagged edges to everything it touches. Finally, though, after an adventure of sorts, you manage to break free from the Vault, climb a small ridge and get your first glimpse of what’s left of the world. This moment, like the first view of the lands of Oblivion, is a breath taker. The graphical depth is excellent, and the depressing feeling of all that’s lost is apparent in the wreckage that was Washington DC.
Perspective is a powerful thing, and just a single moment can make or break a game. Standing atop a mountain in Oblivion, with the snow whipping up around you, or looking out from the top of the Washington Monument to view the blasted and ruined city can evoke emotions we’ve only recently been able to enjoy with this generation of graphical power.
Fallout 3 (again)
Having a game with the quality and depth of Fallout 3, it’s easy to find several significant moments. This, the second of the Fallout 3 batch, centres on the moral choices that continually crop up throughout the course of the game. In this particular scene, we have the choice to turn the surviving township of Megaton into ash or save it by defusing the rather large, almost comic like, nuclear bomb in the crater, in the centre of the town. Choices, choices.
The scene that goes down as being a great gaming moment is the one where you opt to take Tenpenny’s offer and rig the Nuke to explode. You turn up at Tenpenny Tower and find your way to the penthouse suite, where you meet Burke, the one who set the mission up. After a brief exchange, you are offered to push the button, as it were, yourself. You approach the suitcase, pop it open, and push the slider down. The result is a terrific burst of light, followed by the familiar mushroom cloud as the town of Megaton - and everyone in it - is vaporised.
Admittedly, it’s not particularly nice, but it does have that certain wow factor, as you become the destroyer of worlds. It’s also worth noting that the explosion looks a lot better at night, but then that would be just too sadistic, wouldn’t it?
Fallout 3 (for the last time)
We promise, this is the last Fallout 3 reference. As it turns out, it’s quite an odd one. There is a point in the game where you come across a strange radio signal. Further investigation of the signal leads you to what appears to be a crashed UFO. As you approach the UFO you are suddenly teleported onto an orbiting mothership, where, no doubt, the legendary probe is inserted.
In time, however, you manage to remove the probe (we imagine) and make good your escape. After a battle on board the ship, you free other prisoners from different times in earth’s history and find yourself in the bridge. From here you end up saving the world from an alien invasion. What the aliens would want with a radiated and pretty messed up planet is beyond us, but that’s aliens for you. You’re tasked with operating the controls for the mega-laser, to aim and fire at the approaching attack ships as they try to land on earth.
Once complete, you can beam back down to earth and continue with the rest of your missions, but the crowning moment of this scene is when you reach the bridge and look out from orbit onto the earth. It’s actually quite depressing really, as poor old earth looks a little worse for wear, but it’s another fine example of using perspective to achieve an emotional response. It’s also quite interesting to note that you can aim the mega-laser towards the earth and press the fire button. The result is the extinction of anything that managed to survive the nuclear war, a growing bubble of light, and the vaporisation of several square miles of terra firma.
Doom is widely considered as the mother of all first-person shooters, pioneering scores of clones that are still apparent today. It was a pretty amazing game, way back in 1993, and for those who owned the likes of 486 DX2-66’s with a decent graphics card, it looked fabulous.
Our chosen gaming moment could very well be from the first instant you shoot your pistol, to the final battle and unleashing the awesomeness of the BFG 9000. It’s a difficult decision to make, but the one that stands out for us is one of the first times you get to see the Demon, a big, hairless pink beast, that runs at you, all teeth, claws and other unpleasant things. You’re walking slowing down a corridor, shafts of light penetrate the darkness from the left of the screen, creating a black and white striped effect in front of you. Suddenly, you hear a roar, then the padding of running hooves, and the Demon emerges from the dark, through the shafts of light and come straight for you.
The panic that ensues from having the enemy charge at you from the darkness is quite exceptional, and as you run backwards emptying your gun and fumbling with the keyboard, you can guarantee you’re not going to forget that moment in a hurry.
We’re going back a few years here - to 1986 to be precise. The game is Universal Hero, the developer is Stuart Middleton, the publisher is Mastertronic and the platform is none other than the mighty ZX Spectrum.
You take the role of Burt, who is required to repair a space shuttle in order to fly to another planet to pick up a collection of objects to ultimately fix a space freighter that’s out of control and on a collision course for earth. Oh, and he’s only got seven seconds in which to do all this.
The game itself fits into the Spellbound-esque template that a few Mastertronic games of that time adhered to. It was a flick screen, pick up items to unlock objects, to pick up items to get to somewhere or other, to achieve the final outcome. All elementary stuff, but still good fun, nonetheless.
It didn’t break any new ground, nor was it the most graphically complex game ever created, but it did only cost £1.99, so you can’t complain really. Our great moment comes in the form of the end of the game. You’ve managed to get through the 140 or so screens, solved the various puzzles and retrieved the missing parts of the doomed space freighter (all within the time limit as well mind you). So what do you expect at the end? Great fanfare, perhaps, and bunting hung out in your honour? No, you get, “Well done! You have stopped a big disaster from taking place. You did it with xx minutes left.” And that’s it.
Why is this a gaming moment? Let’s say it’s a lesson in that you’re not always congratulated for everything you do, and that this, being only 13 at the time, is your first taste of bitter disappointment. Of course, we can laugh at it now, many years later, but it did define a memorable moment, one in which you tore the tape from the player and cast it aside in disgust.
What are yours?
Obviously we can’t mention every great gaming moment here, so for now we’ll leave it, and instead ask you, the good reader, to inform us of your great gaming moments, be they joyous or not. Write in via the usual methods to let us know.