games / Columns

The 8 Ball 03.13.12: Top 8 Most Surprising Moments in Gaming

March 14, 2012 | Posted by David McGregor

Welcome to another edition of the 8 Ball, I am your host David McGregor. This week I am going to look at the most surprising moments in gaming, and I will rank them based on influence, impact and pure personal preference. I tried to do something different this week but surprising moments are rarely done well in gaming so it was a bit of a challenge. Well let’s get under way, I have very little to say here this week.


8 Ball (Still working on new title)

8th – Shadow of the Colossus – The First Colossus

For me bosses should be big and destructive, never was that done better than in Shadow of the Colossus. Prior to its release I just assumed that the boss battles from Legend of Zelda were as epic as gaming would get for the foreseeable future, one of the many times I’ve been dead wrong. When Colossus was released it was a revelation, there was nothing like it before or for me since, leading to many stunned gamers in 2005.

Games such as God of War have had massive enemies that have seemed unbeatable, but Colossus took it to a whole other extreme. The first time a player witnesses this gigantic monstrosity unveil itself there is a mixture of shock, awe and disbelief. Even throughout the game there is a sense of wonder as you continue to meet and defeat these amazing creations. Just the idea of having to climb these monsters just to beat them is pretty cool, and very well done for a PS2 game. A one of a kind moment in gaming in which the gamer’s expectations are not only met but exceeded, which in and of itself is a surprising moment.

7th – Darkness – Jenny’s Death

Deaths in gaming are almost inherently shocking as we are accustomed to dying constantly yet instantly coming back to life at a certain checkpoint. But when a death sticks it can really define a game.

The Darkness upon its release seemed like a cross between Godfather and Spawn, and the main character looked like a gothic kid with cool tentacles. But the moment of Jenny’s death the whole game enters into a whole new level of depth I just did not see coming. The Darkness stops the gamer and forces them to watch an innocent being brutally murdered, and in quite graphic detail. Instead of bursting in and destroying the mobsters The Darkness just cements the player to the floor and lets everything unfold, even taunting the player. It is one of the few times in which the unique selling point of the game, being a mobster with cool tentacles is also the aspect which causes the most torment to the protagonist. It is one of the few moments when a game has serious storyline depth, to be honest it is a rarity in the industry.

It is really shocking to watch, especially without prior knowledge of the comic book series. There is also a very evident bond established between Jenny and Jackie before she is murdered, making the whole scenario much more hard hitting. Earlier in the game there is the option to sit and watch the movie To Kill a Mockingbird with Jenny in its entirety, showing that even though Jenny isn’t in the game long the gamer can still have had a connection to the character. To have a rare moment of romance in a game only to end with the brutal murder of the innocent party has to be one of the cruelest moments in recent gaming history.

6th – Gears of War 2 – Dom’s Wife

If Jenny’s death was cruel then Dom euthanizing his wife is just unbearable. Throughout the game Dom steps up the hunt for his wife Maria, and finally he finds her alive and well in a tin can. Then we find out that she is far from well, in fact she has become completely emaciated and is essentially a moving corpse. The only thing left for Dom to do is put her out of her misery, with a bullet through her head. That is pretty brutal.

There are times in which game developers are cruel for the sake of a good story, but this was one of the most gut wrenchingly evil things ever done to a gaming character. Not only having Dom parade around the entire game looking for his missing wife, but to find her and then have to kill her himself because she is in such a bad way! The guys at Epic Games had to have been the type of child to tear the wings off flies as they grew up, as no sane men would put a character through so much. It is a shocking moment that sticks with everyone who witnessed it, poor Dom and his tragic life.

5th – Grand Theft Auto III – Endless Prostitutes and Murder

The freedom of Grand Theft Auto I’ve spoken about frequently in this column, but I haven’t really stressed just how surprising some of the minor elements of the game really were. I can remember the first time I ever played GTA III and being in awe at the idea of running people over, not in a Michael Myers type way but in that childish way in which everything somehow taboo was amazing. The idea that you can do almost anything was surprising and refreshing for a video game, too long had people been told what to do and where to go. GTA just let you do what you want, and how you wanted to do it.

But the seriously surprising content came with being able to pick up prostitutes and go on murderous rampages. It wasn’t essential to the game but added so much to the overall game, quickly becomng one of the series’ defining features. I wasn’t disgusted or outraged by its inclusion, instead it was more a case of marvel at how far Rockstar had went to make this game as immersive as it possibly could be. It is moments like this that have established the series as an all time classic.

4th – Metal Gear Solid 2 – Raiden

Not every surprise in the gaming world has been met with applaud, and the debut of Raiden has to be one of the most controversial of all time. The idea of replacing Snake as the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid seemed as absurd to fans as Toad taking over from Mario, and for good reason. The main character of a gaming series is as important to the success of the franchise as any other factor. While it is understandable that the developers would want to expand the MGS universe, it is just insane to put the poster boy for the entire series on the backburner.

I was never a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series at the time Sons of Liberty was released, so the actual shock of Snake being absent from the series was lost on me. But from basic common sense I can understand why people were so upset. The game itself was very good, and I can remember playing the game and thoroughly enjoying it. But it was the underhanded way in which they introduced the Raiden character, basically promising Snake and failing to deliver. Had I been a fan of the series at the time I would have been incredibly annoyed at the producers of the franchise, at least be up front with your audience. It would be like Luigi’s Mansion for the Gamecube being titled Mario’s Mansion, and promoting every appearance of Mario in the game and neglecting to mention his lack of involvement with 99% of the game! It was a pretty dirty bait and switch that I am surprised didn’t cause more of an outrage from the series’ fan base.

3rd – Call of Duty – Many Modern Warfare Moments

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare really changed the first person shooter genre, creating a much more cinematic experience than previously expected. Due to this there have been many spectacular and shocking moments throughout the series.

The first shocking moment was at the very beginning of the first MW title in which the gamer is walked to his execution by beheading. Being able to look around at your surroundings as you walk to your death is just completely unexpected. Video games generally start very quietly, yet this one was starting with an almighty bang. It really was like night and day when compared to COD 3, gone were the Nazi’s and in was modern warfare. It set the stage perfectly; expect the unexpected with Call of Duty.

The next moment that sticks with fans of the series is the famous nuke scene. Just as you finish battling through another hard fought level and have entered the plane to safety, an enormous nuclear explosion wipes out everything. Just when you think you are safe Modern Warfare yanks the rug out from under our feet again. Gamers are just accustomed to checkpoints, such as the plane in this example, being a beacon of safety, so when that is taken away from us it is pretty shocking. This nuclear explosion is another moment of Call of Duty that shocked the entirety of its fan base, just when you thought it was safe to go back into a plane.

There is also the No Russian level of Modern Warfare 2 in which you take part in the massacre of hundreds of civilians in an airport. I will go into it more in another list sometime soon, so I will keep this short. It was a ballsy move and definitely memorable.

2nd – Metroid – Samus Aran Reveal

It always sounds quite sexist to say that the Samus Aran reveal was shocking, as why shouldn’t an ass kicking hero be female? But at the time there were practically no female heroes in video games, it was by far a male dominated position. The women were basically seen as the damsels in distress that the male lead would rescue, see Peach, Zelda and the majority of female characters in gaming. So while it may be a tad sexist, everyone was still pretty shocked to see that Samus was a she.

It was surprising to have a female lead for Metroid, but it was also a great move that showed how forward thinking Nintendo were. In 1986 gaming was a majorly male dominated entertainment medium; women didn’t seem to be targeted at all by the video game industry. Nintendo were able to capture a much underutilised sector of the market, and really gave female gamers a hero to buy into. I think it is definitely a major reason why Metroid has been one of the best selling gaming series of all time, it managed to be different and define itself from the get go. It was surprising and diverse from anything else, and it reaped the rewards for it.

1st – Bioshock – “Would You Kindly?”

Personally this is the most shocking yet perfectly done twist I’ve ever seen in gaming. Not for a moment did I think that Frank Fontaine was anything other than a helpful Navi like aide throughout the game, again I was wrong. The reveal of Fontaine’s true intentions are brilliantly done, the phrase “Would you kindly?” is said time and time again yet never really registers until the big reveal.

The illusion of free will is a powerful emotion throughout the game, and the idea of being forced into doing something beyond your control is pretty creepy. The audio messages you listen to in the game are also quite disturbing, with a young patient being forced to kill his own puppy being one of the worst (presumably the protagonist Jack as a child). But even though in hindsight it is as blatant as can be, very few people actually realise just how manipulative Fontaine is. I will never forget just how immersive the entire Bioshock experience is, from story to setting to character development, everything is there and done to perfection. Nothing is better in gaming when a game has twists and turns which are not only surprising but completely logical, and Bioshock was the very essence of that. A fantastic game that is capped off with a truly shocking moment.

And that is it for another week. I am unsure what to do next week so I will put it to a vote.

What should the 8 Ball be about next week?

Top 8 Moments that Shaped Gaming

Top 8 Clichés in Gaming

Top 8 PS2 Games

Vote for what you want next week and until then this has been the 8 Ball and I’m David McGregor


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