RE4: Wait, what?

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; the 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?






10 responses to “QOTW: The Wow Factor”

  1. ShaunCG Avatar

    That entire first sequence of Resi 4 was mind-blowing: a fantastic showcase for just how much had changed since Resi 3 and Outbreak. Throwing you into such a brutal scenario after teaching you the game's bare basics was cruel but inspired.

    Wow moments… hmm. Well, I always harp on about Star Control 2 but the game was full of such moments. These emerged from the writing, for me, which was a glorious pastiche of space opera past and present. An off-hand reference to the alien bombardment of Earth – undertaken to destroy the planet's history and destroy all buildings more than a few centuries old – annihilating something impossibly huge hidden beneath Antarctica. Or, later, learning the history of the game's sentient species from the Melnorme and discovered the horrible past of the Ur-Quan and what made them what they are. Brilliantly-written game that sent shivers up my spine.

    What else, what else… oh, the first moment a Fiend leapt at me in Quake. I almost shat my pants and definitely hurtled backwards away from the screen. I'd never run into a game with an enemy quite that fast or ferocious – a real eye-opener.

    I wish I could say "the bit were you discover Dr. Polito is actually SHODAN" but I saw it coming. The "would you kindly" revelation in BioShock was more of a surprise, as I'd successfully avoided all spoilers!

    No doubt there are many more but that's all I can think of right now…

  2. Spann87 Avatar

    I've got another, although this is very personal to me:

    I'd been playing Morrowind for the PC for some time before I decided to upgrade my PC's graphics card (The current one was old and causing crashes all the time). Anyway, whacked the new card in, booted up the game, and was dismayed to see that the water was completely white, instead of seethrough as it should be.

    Then I moved, and realised it was the sunlight reflecting off the surface of the ocean. It was the first time I'd ever seen anything like that before, and it was jawdropping.

    Myself and my father both stopped for a sec and gawped at it: At the time it was amazing technology, and as far as I remember, it still holds up today.

    Oh, and the first time you switch to the realm of magic in Trilby's Notes. Scary as fuck.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      Reminds me of buying my first gfx card, an Orchid Righteous 3D (yep, that 4mb onboard VRAM was the future, I tell you!). I was playing Quake 2 and Jedi Knight and at the time I couldn't imagine anything ever looking better than that. :D

  3. GordoP Avatar

    Far Cry 2 holds 3 particular moments for me and only one of them is actually a game design feature, the others were simply incredible flukes.

    The first came as I crested a small hill to find a little encampment of baddies laying in wait for me around a camp fire, none the wiser to my presence. Having had just found an old jalopy of a RPG launcher on the ground it was time to test it out. With my enemies in the sights of the launcher I could help but snicker to myself at how glorious this was going to be and had a bit of an Arnold Schwarzenegger moment ala True Lies as I let loose…"You're Fired". Only thing was that the launcher basically blew up in my hands and the rocket spiraled off into the atmosphere exploding over head, alerting the enemies to my whereabouts. During the firefight that ensued my shoddy machine gun also jammed for the first time leaving me with little other options but to run and hide so I could fix it. After a harrowing battle I managed to walk away from, I was well wowed.

    The second moment came later on in game when I had acquired a non-jalopy RPG launcher that wouldn't misfire on me. I took aim on an enemy driving along road down a small hill from me and fired, unfortunately it was immediately apparent that it was going to miss. To my glee however the rocket exploded directly next to the jeep and sent it barrel rolling into the air…directly towards me. In a moment that should have been in slow motion the jeep hurtled over my head just as I decided it would be smart of me to crouch. I could hardly contain my joy as the jeep exploded behind me.

    The third moment came as a friend of mine took took the helm and was wandering the Savannah expanses. On a whim he had decided to kill one of the many Oxen or Bulls that had been milling about. After a little chuckle to ourselves he kept walking about only to hear a strange rumbling. It certainly wasn't the sound of an enemy jeep careening towards us, that was a painfully familiar sound, so what could it be. As my friend turn around to look for what was making the noise, it was already too late. It seems the herd brethren of the Ox or Bull (maybe it was a Zebra, my memory fails me now unfortunately) had decided to take it upon themselves for revenge. My friend was mere seconds from being trampled by a heard of these animals. With no buddies available we could only watch in awe as we died at the hoofs of the heard.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      Oh man. I really need to get back onto this game. I've gotten about an hour in on both 360 and PC and then gotten distracted…

      1. badgercommander Avatar

        Oh God Far Cry 2 moments, I wish I had kept the emails of my stories in Far Cry 2… Just about the best broken game ever

  4. @cs87 Avatar

    This is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      Damn, I love moments like that. :D

      A lot more natural than the Red Dead Redemption bird people and horse-faced woman, but equally amusing…

  5. badgercommander Avatar

    I spoke about WoW moments briefly in the Lost Planet 2, but thought I should place this where it belonged.

    The first time I booted up Lost Planet 1 on a 40 inch HDTV and played the first level absolutely blew me away. My poor mind was not ready to deal with things looking really, really pretty (please bear in mind that I don't play PC games all that often). Pretty and yet utterly depressing (for awhile I thought snow was going to be the new grey).

    On top of that, the original Operation Flashpoint on the PC, I started playing the first level and for a laugh shot the tires, my sergeant just looked at me and goes:

    'I guess we will have to walk.'

    I actually walked for about 10 minutes before deciding that it was ridiculous and restarted the campaign. This time I just shot the sargeant straight in the face, the two soldiers near me reacted by gunning me down.

    That made me just admire the fact that someone had scripted dialogue and AI routines to deal with those outcomes. Sorry this has taken a month to post, but I ahve been busy and the like. I just liked this QoTW so much I didn't want it to die.

    1. ShaunCG Avatar

      I think I played an early iteration of Op Flashpoint, or perhaps whatever the same devs made before it – I forget. My main experience was spending half an hour crawling carefully through undergrowth toward a hut and being shot by a guy I never even saw. Ahhh. Not sure that srs military sims are for me. I do love that they built that line about the tires into the game, though.