Best Video Game Moments is a series about memorable moments and mechanics in video games.
Spoiler alert: This post may contain spoilers for the video games it references.
Thermal vision …For Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Whilst it would eventually go multiformat, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell was once exclusive to the original Xbox, where it commanded huge respect for its stealth-based gameplay and awesome graphics.
Sam Fisher’s night vision goggles are one of the game’s most impressive toys, as they let players instantly see in the dark with a simple flick of the D-pad. Even more impressive is the thermal vision which renders enemies and other heat sources in a spectrum of wild colours — Predator style. It’s such an impressive visual feature, it became one of my favourite ways to show off the Xbox’s graphical power back in the day.
Sadly, thermal vision isn’t given to players until half way through the campaign. Fans created mods for the PC version of Splinter Cell to unlock the upgrade earlier, and tellingly, the Xbox demo version featured a later mission where thermal vision is readily available.
Vision modes became a trademark feature of Splinter Cell as it grew into its own series. Luckily, players usually gain access to these vision modes a lot earlier in the sequels.
Dogs …For Resident Evil
I first played Resident Evil when I was ten years old and it was genuinely terrifying. The PlayStation was on the cutting edge of 32-bit graphics at the time, so seeing a 3D zombie devouring a corpse before slowly turning towards the camera left a gruesome impression.
However, one of the game’s most infamous jump scares is felt when a pack of zombie dogs suddenly crash through the mansion windows in full on attack. The combination of fixed camera angles and hysterical music make for an equally hysterical scare!
Prologue …for Mass Effect 2
Everything about Mass Effect 2 is bigger and better, including the prologue that reintroduces players to Commander Shepard’s quest to save the galaxy.
During this introductory level, the Normandy spaceship is attacked by an unknown vessel, leaving players to guide Shepard through its damaged hull on a rescue mission. The furious tension is broken up by a silent spacewalk across one of the Normandy’s exposed decks, with the only sound being Shepard’s laboured breathing.
It’s one of those rare calm before the storm moments that cements the game’s capacity for gripping drama.
Max’s nightmares …For Max Payne
“Somewhere, the baby was crying.”
With these words, Max Payne temporarily trades in all the bullets and bullet time for a hellish romp through Max’s own mind.
These infamous nightmare chapters that feature Max jumping on bloody platforms in slow motion, are agonising in the extreme, but the atmosphere is wonderfully scary, just as any good nightmare should be.
Amazing views at Anor Londo …For Dark Souls
Dark Souls has many memorable moments, and I’m sure most players would rank the first glimpse at Anor Londo as a standout among them.
Upon reaching the area in question, players are treated to a beautiful panning shot of the main cathedral. With this being Dark Souls though, there’s more to this view than gorgeous art style. Despite its welcoming appearance, Anor Londo is a punishing place to go adventuring.
There’s also the fact that — spoilers! — the stunning panorama is really an illusion maintained by Anor Londo’s last remaining deity. Kill him and the warm sunlight disappears to reveal a cold darkness behind the facade.
This concept of “amazing views” (as the online player messages fondly call them) has become a series trope, and is yet another example of how much depth Dark Souls has lurking beneath the surface.