QOTW: The Wow Factor

Ask a gamer what their favourite moments with a pad in their hands and their face in front of a screen are, and it’s always amazing just how varied the answers are.

For some people, that time they had a Kill/Death ratio of 24-0 on Battlefield 2 is pretty important; others might recount the story of the time they finally beat that spawny twat of a mate everyone has who always wins at everything, and is intolerably smug about it at some game or another. (HINT: If you don’t know anyone like that, it’s you.)

A lot of people, however, will refer to what I call “wow” moments in video games: a scene or event in a game that leaves you in awe, jaw agape and tongue slack for a second as you take in what you’ve just experienced – moments that make you glad to be a gamer, or that shatter everything you know about your hobby. Whether it’s with visuals, in-game events, cut-scenes, story elements, whatever: the best games carve their own niche in your memory banks and set up shop, staying with you forever.

My personal favourite “wow” moment came a few minutes into Resident Evil 4, on your first visit to the Ganado village. Slight mechanical spoilers abound folks, but here goes: As the townsfolk attacked I, the experienced Resident Evil player, climbed a nearby clock tower in order to rain down some 9mm pain in safety. I’d played these games before; I knew my shit.

“Good luck getting up here” I thought, “you stupid fuckers can’t even climb stairs”

Yeah, not so much.

Resident Evil 4

That don't work no more, mate. (Pic courtesy of Gamespy)

As I looked down at the base of the ladder I had just climbed and looked in horror at the procession of murderous bastards ascending towards me, a firebomb landed at my feet, igniting poor Leon: shitting your pants and burning to death at the same time isn’t exactly the best way to go. (If you’re interested, I want to drown in a bowl of custard whilst thumbing through a book of naked pictures of Sophie Ellis Bextor.)

Meanwhile, as the death scene played out on my screen, Leon flouncing about like the big flappy coiffured drama queen he is, an explosion could also be heard inside my own head. It wasn’t a gunshot or a bomb blast, though: the sound was everything I knew about Resident Evil changing forever. I sat there, thumb on the analogue stick, my mind playing back the last few moments of my virgin life in RE4.

Shit just got real.

Shit just got really real.

Everything has changed.

“Well, at least I can still shoot them in the head” blustered my big fat cocky mind, somehow still doing things like this to me despite 24 years of being proven wrong, and me somehow still believing it after 24 years of being let down by it. “They’re faster and cleverer, but at least a bullet to the brain will take them down.”

So what do the malicious little tossers do? They make it so that shooting their heads off makes them more dangerous. How is that fair? I’d been doing this shit for years and if there was one thing I knew to be fact, it was that if you shoot a zombie in the head, they fall over and die. When George Romero (in my mind) wrote the rules of Zombies like some sort of rotting, pus-filled Asimov, he was very clear on one thing: remove the head from the body, you neutralise the threat. They do not, I repeat do not, find a whole new lease of life, speed up and become a bajillion times more deadly, with sinew and claws and green gunk all over the place as they come at you. They never do that.

Except Capcom clearly hadn’t got that little memo, and decided to make me cry in front of my girlfriend.

The rest of everything had changed forever.

Resident Evil 4

Have you not been paying attention, you floppy haired knob?

My world changed twice in a single game. The me who spent hours picking off slow, stupid zombies from slight elevations was fucked, torn apart by zombies who had snuck up behind him, climbed up to him and jammed their thumbs in his eyes before tearing his brains out. This was survival horror at its finest – everything I knew about surviving had been thrown out in two simple moments, and the fact that every advantage I had had been taken away from me after years of learning these games not only left me in awe, but also almost literally browning my trousers.

Shit had just got real, and if you shot shit in the head something would burst out of it and one-shot you. That’s how real it was, and that’s exactly how much it just didn’t give a fuck about the rules any more.

The list of these beautiful, terrifying, humbling, defining and instantly memorable moments is too long for one man to list here. I could include the end of Shadow of the Colossus when all of a sudden you realise that oh shit, you’re the bad guy;┬áthe trip in the bathysphere that Bioshock opens with, or the first time you find yourself behind the scenes in Portal and think “Oh God, what in the fuck happened here, and what the fuck am I going to do?” or many, many others, but this is where we open the floor (well, the comments box) to you guys: what are your video gaming “wow” moments?

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