All the big guns have come and gone. The best games are all now on shelves and we’ve just decided on our game of the year. Now we’re taking a look at our 10 favourite gaming moments of 2010. Be aware that these are just my subjective choices – feel free to let us know some of your favourites in the comments below.
I loved Mass Effect 2 as much as any game released last year – but I wonder what it says about the game itself when my favourite moment was one in which I had very little participation. Despite it’s branching, supple narrative, and its multiple customisation options – my favourite moment in Mass Effect 2 was rigid, stiff – and I very little control of it.
I’m talking, of course, about Commander Shepard’s speech towards the end of the game - just before you undertake the mission that most likely left some of your team members dead.
It’s weird. Despite being a huge Hideo Kojima fan, I’m firmly of the belief that games should be played and not watched, but I also believe in the power of context - and the manner in which Shepard’s speech dovetails Mass Effect 2’s story, and hurtles it full speed towards the final act is utterly masterful and the reason it works is context.
It feels epic. Mass Effect 2 works because you are constantly working towards one clearly defined goal, everything you do is focused on this single mission, a mission you are constantly being told you will not survive. When you finally head into the Omega-3 relay to save the world, it feels like a perfectly paced, incredible climax to an epic adventure.
But Shepard’s speech isn’t just incredible because of context, it’s incredible because it also provides context – it sets the stage for the final battle, and gives it a real grandiose feel. After spending 25 hours in Bioware's overwhelmingly dense universe, it provides a razor sharp focal point for the entire game and a segue way into the finale. You’d think that the extensive preparation for the final battle would be enough, but Shepard’s speech, and the fact that you have even the tiniest bit of control over what’s being said makes it feel significant. So too does the response of your crew – a misfit bunch, a Dirty Dozen-esque group of rogues. When even they, who have opposed you at every turn, come round and unite as unite it feels heavy. It feels like a breakthrough and hammers home the intensity of the situation.
It’s simply a great example of video game storytelling, and I wish more games had the capacity to elicit those same feelings.