My Favorite Gaming Moments of 2008; What Are Yours?

Nathan Grayson

If you’re reading this right now, it means that 2008 just settled into its final resting place inscribed across its own grave stone, and that you’re reading this right now. I think we both have reason to celebrate. How to celebrate, though? Well, that’s your call. If you want to know which game – of the thousands released this year – is quantifiably GAME OF THE YEAR, then go here , here , or here (then everywhere else) and have a few repair hammers standing by for your reading glasses. However, if your 2008 -- like mine -- was defined by a number of exemplary moments in your favorite games, then why not get your gears turning with my favorite gaming moments of 2008? Enjoy!

Left 4 Dead’s Opening Cinematic – Sure, L4D is a meticulously sown-together Frankenstein monster of moments that both bring players together and blow them apart, but snuffing out Smokers and playing whipping boy while my buddies tangoed with Tanks wasn’t what impressed me most about the game. Instead, it was L4D’s subtle, yet utterly potent opening cinematic that really snuck its hand into my cranium-shaped cookie jar. As pointed out by the always fantastic Offworld blog :

“It wasn't until I actually started playing Left 4 Dead about a week ago that it all clicked for me. I popped the disc into my 360, decided to watch the opening cinematic again, and found myself just as unimpressed as I had been the first time. But when I actually started to play the game, I discovered that I somehow already knew how to play the game. I knew what abilities the zombies I had. I knew what strategies were effective. I knew that a pipe bomb was good for getting the horde away from your group; I knew that when I heard crying, I should shut off my flashlight; I knew that I had to help up fallen team mates, and that I wasn't surprised that I could should my guns when disabled.”

“Without once having booted up the game, I knew how to play it. “

Metal Gear Solid 4’s Second to Last …Wait, No, Third? Fourth? Cut-Scene – (WARNING: SPOILER-BEAST LURKS HEREIN) Fans can’t get enough of ‘em; detractors wish they could just toss a shoe at the screen and put an end to all the chit-chat. But if there’s one thing everyone knows about Metal Gear Solid, it’s that the game is loaded with lavishly produced cut-scenes. So I guess it’s only fitting that my favorite MGS4 moment involves series director Hideo Kojima giving the puppet strings a few final tugs as a farewell to his breadwinner. Well, kinda.

See, near the end of MGS4, Old Snake is tasked with dragging his rusty bones through a hall filled with microwaves (sci-fi death rays, basically – not my personal chef) in order to Save The World. Of course, it’s heavily implied that slithering across biazrro Wal-Mart’s home appliance section will leave our legendary hero soggy and useless, so maybe the kitchen allusions aren’t so far off.

Now, it’d be painful enough watching one of gaming’s greatest icons die a horrible death (that you didn’t intentionally cause), but Kojima takes things to the next level. As it turns out, Snake won’t move unless you give the action button its best workout since Track and Field. Minutes, then, feel like days as every fiber in your entire arm cracks and tears under the strain of Snake’s grim mission. I never knew a game could force me into immersion, but MGS4 certainly did an amazing job of it.

Lost Odyssey’s Walls of Text – As far as Japanese role-playing games go, Lost Odyssey was serviceable. Decent, if unspectacular battle system, suitably epic plot, etc. – you know the drill. The game did, however, include one aspect that hoisted it above the rest of the crowd: the time-honored tradition of short stories. Yeah. Reading. Lost Odyssey’s narrative shines a steam-powered spotlight on Kaim Argonar, an immortal amnesiac. As expected, his present (i.e. the part you’re playing) is filled with danger and pantsless princesses, but his past is where the game really shines.

Every time Kaim unlocks a memory from his thousand-year journey, it’s presented in the form of a beautifully written short story. Are these pieces of Kaim’s storied past interactive? Not in the least. But they’re undeniably captivating and express emotions that videogames – on their own – just haven’t figured out how to tap into yet. Really, it raises the question of whether or not gaming’s current trend of “Total Player-Driven Interactivity” is the best road to travel. Heavy Rain, what say you?

Fable 2’s Canine Calamity – (My spoilers, let me show you them) See Spot run. See Spot fetch. See Spot’s fur color change to reflect your moral standing. And finally, see Spot sail headfirst into the bullet that was meant to splatter your gray matter. When a game can make you choose a four-legged pile of pixels over saving the virtual lives of thousands of people – people with fictional families! – you know its developers did something right. Congrats, Mr. Molyneux, you can now cut another notch into your heart-shaped bedpost.

Fallout 3’s Hive of Scum and Villainy – Fallout 3’s main quest could be better, its characters aren’t exactly memorable, and Dogmeat is to Fable 2’s dog as Pluto is to Goofy. So why, in Atom’s great name (may he rest in peace), do I love it so much? Simple – the game world. The devil's in the details, and they're everywhere. Charred notes and voice snippets from decadent days long past, playgrounds and baseball fields made obsolete by a time where people can't be bothered with trivial pursuits like fun -- Fallout 3's wasteland overflows “Woah” moments both large and small. Your character, then, is just another ant making tiny footprints on the back of something much older and greater than him/her. Or so it seems, thanks to the Bethesda’s near-omnipresent attention to detail.

Not only that, the sheer diversity of Fallout 3’s nuked-out nooks and crannies instills the game with an almost-magical quality. As you spend more and more time getting to know the wasteland, its creator – the proverbial man behind the curtain – fades into the background. What you’re left with, then, is a world where it seems that anything can happen. No longer do you take Quest A in order to get on Quest B’s good side; you do it because you’re living your life and splattering your personality across the canvas of another world.

So yeah, miles upon miles of real estate may be stretching the meaning of “moment” a little, but Bethesda’s address is stamped on this impassioned love letter, and they sure as hell deserve it.

Sparkly, futuristic 2009 information is a little lacking at the moment, so why not spend your first “FIRST!” of the New Year telling us about your favorite gaming moments of 2008?

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