In the gaming underworld, everyone sits in anticipation of the upcoming release of Bioshock: Infinite. For the first time, we are leaving the under water setting and heading in the opposite direction as we set our sights to the city in the sky. As we brace for launch, we at the Cinematic Katzenjammer wanted to tried to think of a way to salute the upcoming release of the newest title to don the Bioshock name. What is one thing that can be said about both of the releases in the series, even if the second wasn’t all that great? If there is one standard across each of the titles, it is that they absolutely, without a doubt, nail the mood and cinematic moments within the game. There is little in gaming like it, but when a title can give you the satisfaction of, not only, outstanding gameplay but coupled with an experience that is typically something only seen in the cinema; you know that you’re in for a treat. Bioshock is definitely one of those titles, that excels in just about every facet and so far, Infinite looks no different. So to honor the new headliner, we decided to pick our favorite six cinematic moments in gaming.
1. Read Dead Redemption – Ending Sequence
Aaron: When it comes to Red Dead Redemption enough can not be said about the game itself. Sure there is outstanding combat, amazing amounts of content, but in the end it all comes back to one of the best story driven games I have ever played. When I am asked about what I liked most about Red Dead it is tough to come up with just one thing, but when I really take a moment to ponder my answer I always list the cinematic as the highlight of the title when thinking about this feature, the end of Red Dead came to my mind before just about any other. John Marston’s stand at the end is something that you, typically, only see on the silver screen, but Rockstar’s ability to create an absolute masterpiece and concrete ending that is fulfilling when both experiencing it and reflecting upon it. Yes, in some minds the ending (without spoiling) will be a bit frustrating, but its a ironic tragedy that makes it so good. There is no doubt that the ending sequence will leave you breathless, frustrated, satisfied, and just about any other emotion that can come to mind. This is cinematic gaming at the top of its game.
Ries: What is there to say about a game like Red Dead Redemption? Little, I’m afraid. It’s one of those tales that you’ve either played through or you haven’t. I remember the first time I saw the trailer for this game, I was at that point uninitiated in Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto has never been a game I care all that much for) and yet the trailer summoned something in me I hadn’t really felt before. I didn’t know how or why I thought Red Dead Redemption was going to be something special, but I really thought it was. I’m glad I was right. Everyone has a “moment” in Red Dead Redemption that electrifies them. Mine, personally, as the one wherein I rode into Mexico for the first time. The sun was rising over the desert and Jose Gonzalez’s Far Away began to play. I don’t think I’ve ever felt in any other game the sense of windy adventure as I did at that moment. To say something is indescribable is so clichéd, yet this moment truly was. For the sake of this article, however, Aaron wanted me to touch on the very end of the game. Now, for those who have played the game, the ending is probably branded in their memories for all time. Yet I think, the strangely quiet, uncomfortable, moody, and ultimately anticlimactic ending of Red Dead Redemption delivers the most powerful message of an already powerful game. The message, like the sequence, is both bleak and unforgiving. I’ve thought, many times, about John Marston’s son walking away from that man’s dead body in a river. I guess John was right. “People don’t forget,” he said once. “Nothing is forgiven.”
2. Uncharted 2 – Train Sequence
Aaron: When I hear that theme song, it immediately grabs my attention and consumes me. That’s because Uncharted is far and away my favorite series of all time. The game plays incredible, the stories, though they can be a little far fetched, are so fluent and gripping that they beg to be played, and the characters are believable and interesting to the point that you can’t help but love them. Out of the three games, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was by far the best game of the series. Though the middle can drag, the plot development and storytelling is second to none. (No pun intended). The cinematic events are extremely well directed and put together, especially the train sequence. Nathan bleeding and awaking in a train falling off a cliff; it has a certain mystery surrounding it to begin, but then the realization that the train is heading down to a snowy abyss paints a dismal picture of doom and that is exactly what makes it so perfect. Nathan is one of those characters the grips you from the first words spoken, and he does the same in Uncharted 2. The train sequence shows humor and irony for the man always able to escape death, and shows a perfect piece of gaming cinematics.
Ries: Uncharted is a great series. I finally got my own PS3 (Right before the PS4 invades and takes over the world) and the first things that popped into my mind were the wonderful Uncharted games. To be fair, they’re somewhat repetitive. Climb, run and shoot. Repeat. For three games. So how are they everything they are? Well, simply put, you climb run and shoot through some really awesome set pieces. The storylines are like Indiana Jones meets the Mummy, and Nathan Drake is a fun enough character. The train sequence in Uncharted 2 is second on my Uncharted moments only to the plane sequence in Uncharted 3. Like I said, somewhat repetitive. No less awesome, though.
3. Bioshock – Welcome to Rapture
Aaron: As I just said in the last segment, though Uncharted has some of my favorite moments in gaming, but I don’t know if I have ever felt the type of awe and raw emotion that is felt when your bathosphere drops to the depths of Rapture. It garners nothing other than a wow, and the sound of your jaw hit the floor as you hear the description of the underwater wonder-world. Bioshock is one of those games that changed the face of the first person shooter genre and the cinematic moments created one of the best games of this generation. There really isn’t much more to say about the game or the sequence, if you haven’t played it, do it now, well wait until you finish the last three on this list then go play it. If you have you know exactly what I am talking about.
Ries: With the impending launch of Bioshock Infinite, I’ve been called upon to reconsider the games titular ancestor. Bioshock is one of my two or three contenders for favorite game of all time. I’ve never played a game with such atmosphere, such a dark and spectacular story, or a game that was so intellectually frightening. The first time you sink in the Bathosphere to Rapture, and you see the city glowing under the sea in front of you…well, let’s just say that anyone who has played the game knows what mysteries await you.
4. Portal 2 – Potato sequence
Aaron: Portal 2 caught me off guard. I didn’t have the chance to play the first, so I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, but after playing Portal 2 I was so pleasantly surprised I played it again. It seems too simplistic when first considered, but the complexity and depth of the story and characters are something special. This is far more than a creative puzzler, instead its a unique puzzle with a fantastic story attached. The potato scene in which the Glados, the eccentric villain, is transferred into the body of a potato is something that only comedic genius’ can dream up. The writing behind Portal 2 is what brings out the best in the game and the difference between a mediocre brainteaser and the gaming masterpiece that it is. The scene must be personally encountered to fully understand it, and hence the reason it is donning this list.
Ries: On the opposite end of the spectrum from Bioshock there lies a game so delightfully witty, clever and fun that sometimes you wonder if you’re playing a game at all or are just walking around being the butt of a lot of particularly well crafted jokes. Portal 2 is a balm to the stressed mind, blending brilliant puzzles with the most vibrant villain you are ever going to meet in a game. Glados is not only my favorite villain of any game I’ve ever played, she’s one of my favorite characters. To say Portal 2 rests entirely on her shoulders sounds like a criticism of the game, but it really isn’t, since Glados is such a work of genius. There’s a scene in Portal 2, wherein Glados gets turned into a potato. Don’t ask how. Just accept it. And accept that this transformation leads to some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever held witness to.
5. Mass Effect 3 – Death of Legion
Aaron: The Death of Legion is one of those iconic moments that happens only once in a series and quite possibly a generation. The rest of the games have had their own personal effects on me, but Legion is one of those characters that is embraced by every consumer that lays hands on a controller to play Mass Effect 3. I didn’t make the same decisions needed to see this through, but after reviewing the scene after a given co-host to this article encouraged me too I realized what I had missed. I soon realized that even amongst all of the amazing scenes throughout the trilogy this was the definition of the cinematics for the series. Legion is one of those characters that your destined to grow attached to, and with him gone the story just didn’t quite look the same from what I knew. That was one powerful scene.
Ries: At long last, we arrive at the Mass Effect series. I had considered writing an entire review of the Mass Effect games, but may end up retracting on that decision solely because I never played Mass Effect 1, nor do I ever intend to. This isn’t to say Mass Effect 1 is terrible – it’s just to say, I joined the Starship for Mass Effect 2 and 3, and going that far back in time would be…well, a little pointless. Not to mention, frustrating. Regardless, I treat the Mass Effect games as one large game, and when combined they create an experience that I honestly feel cannot be rivaled. I could rattle off the flaws with the games – walking around feels funky, the combat in ME2 is a little weird, the ending is…controversial. To be honest, however, all of those combined and multiplied by four do little to even dent the series as a whole, the journey that I experienced with the characters I came to love. One character, in particular, was a robot (a geth) named Legion. Depending on the decisions you make in the story, even as early on as Mass Effect 2, Legion may die. And if he does die in Mass Effect 3, and if you made the decisions I did, and if a, b, c, d and e also happened, you may be blessed with a sequence involving Legion, and the longtime enemy of his people, Tali Zorah. I won’t spoil this scene beyond saying that it reduced me to teary rubble, and that I may or may not have the phrase “Keelah se’lai” engraved on my tombstone someday.
6. Mass Effect 2 – Death of Shepard
Aaron: I am not the biggest fan of the Mass Effect series honestly, but when I did give Mass Effect 2 a go and Sheppard died I didn’t know exactly how to take it all in. At that point I was gripped on for the ride and didn’t look back. I had played Mass Effect 1, but was not convinced that the sequel would be for me. I was horribly wrong and as I watched in amazement as the opening scenes of the game unfolded in front of my very eyes I realized that it was something different and special. The death of Sheppard is one of those things that you just have to play to understand its full ramifications for the game that proceeds it, but in that moment, it is absolutely mesmerizing.
Ries: No, you didn’t read this wrong. Shepard – for those of you who don’t know this – dies pretty early on in Mass Effect 2. As in, somewhere in the first ten minutes. So, if you’ve yet to try this series on for size, I’m not spoiling much. Suffice it to say, however, that the death of Shepard at the beginning of Mass Effect 2 gave me so many goosebumps back in 2010, when I first played it, that it gives me goosebumps now, just remembering it. The Mass Effect games are wildly unpredictable, filled to the brim with bitter choices and losses. The image of Shepard, strangling as he falls to the face of an anonymous planet, pretty effectively sets the tone for the games that follow. I’d give a lot to go back and start the journey all over again. I miss my crew.
So that’s a wrap and there is no doubt that there were others that were worthy of a spot on this list, however the six that are here on this current list are also worthy of a spot. This is one of the best sets of gaming cinematics that are available to gamers today. Bioshcok Infinite will no doubt offer moments that are worthy of a spot as well, but until Tuesday hits we are having to settle with these gems. If you haven’t played one of the games here, take the time between now and Bioshock Infinite and do yourself a favor and play whatever one you haven’t. Experience the masterpieces that are available now before the next title deserving of such an honor hits and pushes back the opportunity again.