Push-Start’s Top Gaming Moments – Issue # 1
We all have those defining moments in life; you know the ones I mean. The moments you regurgitate time and time again to the point that other people will regurgitate their food if they hear it again. They can make you realise who it is you want to spend the rest of your life with, or maybe help you decide what you want to be professionally. Great sunsets, beautiful vistas; songs you will never forget. That’s for those outside people though. Gamers don’t have one life, we have many.
We’ve saved entire civilisations, toppled seemingly unbeatable, monologuing villains. We’ve commanded armies, rescued beautiful women, even taken control of mighty superheroes. Picking just a mere three from (in some cases) decades of gaming can be hard, but that’s what we want to share with you.
So each week, one of the awesome staff writers here at Push-Start will submit to you their all-time top 3 gaming moments. This week I will be delivering mine for your reading (dis)pleasure.
I was sat writing this in bed, anyone looking through my window would have seen me fall out of bed to turn the lights back on and look through my games collection to make sure I wasn’t missing something important. Three moments out of three decades of gaming, not an easy thing to articulate in any palatable way, but here goes.
Gaming Moment #3 (Dead Space)
It’s already been five years. Five years since I first booted up a horror game that still (for me) holds the flag as the pinnacle of survival horror. There had been others before it sure; you could argue that Resident Evil was the first to make us grip our controllers a lot tighter than was needed. I did and still do love the early games in the series, even Code Veronica which seems to get a bit of a literary battering wherever I look. To me though, they just weren’t that scary, tense maybe, you could even push me to say it was “a little jumpy”.
Whilst those games do still hold some majesty for me, the genre has and always will be made by Dead Space. I know there are some of you screaming about Silent Hill, I understand your argument, agree in some aspects maybe, but Dead Space is a game that still to this day, makes me uneasy when I play it.
“Make us whole again Isaac”. His rig goes dark, the projected vid screen vanishes. Deafening silence returns as Isaac stomps forward in his heavy engineering suit. The Ishimura is in a horrific state of disrepair; panelling hanging off the walls, blood smeared by hands grasping at their last few moments. The lighting flickers on and off. Scratching, scratching. They are coming.
Scuttling echoes through the empty halls, the ship groans at its inhabitants, displeased by their treatment of her. Isaac moves steadily down a ramp, clutching a light mounted on his only bastion. A cutting torch, a plasma cutter. Not military grade, but good enough to cut through steel. Steel and bone.
He shuffles around the corner, rearing his head heavily to each side. Empty. His eye catches some supplies as he moves past an intersection. Ammo for his weapon. Isaac holds in a muffled, exasperated breath, trying to control his breathing so that he can hear clearly. Scratching. The lights all drop out at once, the hum is like a room full of disappointment. Isaac turns and points his weapon back down the hall just in time to catch the back legs of something tearing past. Noises all around him. The Ishimura groans again, her distress growing as fast as his.
The lights come back up, it’s not much, but it’s something. He illuminates a pathway to his next objective via his rig; people are counting on him, they were all there just moment’s past. Was it moments? Was it hours? No matter, what matters is getting out. No one to count on now, no one, just me. Isolated. Alone. “Make us whole again Isaac”.
Those opening couple of hours in Dead Space did more for me in terms of atmosphere than nearly every other game put together. It’s something that is often overlooked for prettier visuals, but the sound in a game can do so much. The moment the lights drop about an hour in as you turn a corner, actually caused me physical discomfort. I’m not easily scared, but pure isolation is one of the few things that will do it. That’s what the original Dead Space did that they couldn’t seem to recreate. Isolation.
With no voice to answer his companions, it leaves all the talking one way. The panic and intensity of that game has never been bettered in my eyes. I still talk about this game whenever my alcohol intake shoots up at the weekends. I treasure this game so much it was hard to put this as number three on the list, but sit there it must, as I have two more that beat even that.
Gaming Moment #2 (Half-Life 2)
“Good morning Mr Freeman”. Any PC gamer worth his salt knows those words. How can anyone forget them? G Man, one of the most mysteriously, passive bad guys in gaming. The antagonist in what I would call one of the best, if not the best FPS games of all time.
Forget BioShock, great story telling in this genre started here. No one had done this before. Not like this. The first game started with Gordon making his way to work on a tram and taking part in an experiment. I was close to having that as my #2, but it was the second game that just about steals it, and not with the part you might be thinking.
Six years Valve made us wait. Admittedly not as long as they are making us wait for the third game in the series. People were chomping at the bit for this sequel, I know, I was one of them. The game had shot to ridiculous heights and still remains there untarnished.
When Half-Life 2 finally came out I was convinced it couldn’t live up to its predecessor. I can, on occasion, admit to being wrong. Sometimes though, it’s an absolute pleasure to be.
It’s not the ending; I know most of you will have been thinking it might be. As great as it was, this moment was something very small, something insignificant. Incredible moments don’t always come by way of great action or emotional resonance; on occasion they can be something that strikes the right chord, even when it’s of little significance to the outcome of the game.
I’m talking about the suit. The HEV suit to be precise. As Gordon meets up with some old friends (and some new ones), a movable wall reveals his trusty Hazardous Environment Suit hanging suspended in its locker. As you move forward and collect it, the unmistakable and ominous sound of the Valve intro plays. Gordon looks at his own hands, now encased in his second skin.
It was a small moment yes, but a moment that has always stuck with me over the years. The familiarity of the suit. The reawakening of what you had already been through with the Freeman. It makes me smile just thinking about it now. Knowing you’re just gearing up for another amazing game, but just taking that slight moment to remember the start of it all. What was the start of Valve, not just Half-Life. I like to think it holds that meaning for them, as well as us.
Gaming Moment #1 (World of Warcraft)
Surprised? I thought you might be. It was incredibly hard to sort through all these games and get back to a single defining moment in all of them. In the end it had to be this game, it had to be. There isn’t another title I have given more of my life to and I still play it to this very day. I will admit that it isn’t what it used to be, but let me tell you about this one night. The night the Dark Portal opened.
January 16th 2007. A little over two years after the release of World of Warcraft. All the content had well and truly been used up and the millions of players were demanding more. The Burning Crusade expansion had been announced months before, the waiting was over.
Most of my server (RP-PvP realm) had logged out near the Dark Portal, the only way through to the new zones. Outland.
Leading up to midnight, I spent a lot of time hitting F5 on the account screen trying to verify my purchase, so I could start playing straight away. When the time came, it was painfully slow waiting to log in and when I eventually did, the frame rate was in single digits.
It was starting to feel like things were heading in a bad direction, that was until I walked through the portal.
I know the lore to WoW pretty well; it’s the part of the game I claim most affection to. In short, the story in the expansion revolved around great armies of the Burning Legion trying to fight their way through to Azeroth. And it’s that very thing that made those few moments (actually the whole night) so amazing.
I made my first steps through the portal. There was only war (That sounds melodramatic, but bear with me). Players were fighting against each other, demon NPCs fighting against other AI controlled Horde and Alliance members. There were corpses scattered everywhere, literally, everywhere. The Burning Legion was indeed trying to breach the gates, endless waves pushed against the lines, over and over. Players started to make a break for the Windriders, trying to get to the first quest hub. My guild and I followed suit.
The Alliance and Horde bases were separated by a good couple of minutes run, a bit less on mounts. Even trying to do simple quests was made harder by all the players constantly battling with each other. You really couldn’t have written it better. Large scale battles are an amazingly tough thing to recreate, given the mechanics of MMOs. If you ever stop to watch NPCs fight each other, you will notice how robotic it looks.
Any lack of innate warmongering from the NPCs was more than accounted for by the players. Just walking out the front of the Horde encampment was a stretch. There were hundreds of small conflicts all over the map; being that the main theme of the zone was invasion and war, it fit perfectly.
I went to bed a little after 4 a.m. and it was honestly difficult to sleep after feeling so wired. Constantly having to react and fight small pockets of Alliance forces. Our vent server (team speak) was never quiet for a second, people calling for backup, passing along enemy positions.
I’ve never played any kind of online multiplayer that has ever come close to that evening, not in WoW or anything else. The relentless conflict at every step paved a perfect milieu across the new zones, the quest hubs became a much needed sanctuary from the warfare.
We talked about that night for years afterwards, I still chat with my WoW buddies now and then and we always chuckle about that event. It will be tough to find something in the future that comes close to being more memorable, but I would welcome the opportunity to take part in anything that epic again.
So there you have it, my fondest gaming moments ever. I will be asking another member of the Push-Start team to write theirs in the coming week. I’m sure it will be totally different to mine, but that’s the point of this feature. We all have great moments to share, spurred by different sources of different games and genres. There’s no right or wrong here, just some gamers hearing some (hopefully) great stories.