It’s that time of year again, when gaming sites all around the net look back at the very best experiences of 2012. However, as you’ve come to know, OnlySP does things a little bit differently. Normally, gaming sites just focus on the best games for genres and platforms, but we like to go a bit more in-depth with our end of the year awards and focus on the things that actually matter in video games – the game. To start off this year’s awards, we will be looking back at the most emotional moments of gaming from this year. While some of them may not make you cry, they’re still guaranteed to fill you with the feelings of anger, regret, or remorse.
Keep in mind that all of these scenes are major spoilers for each game they represent. You have been warned!
10. Hitman: Absolution – Agent 47′s epiphany
Hitman: Absolution‘s story certainly lost focus after a short while, but we can’t deny that during the beginning chapters, the story was riding high. One of the most effective scenes for us was a cutscene right before the Terminus level, wherein Agent 47 skulks in his hotel room and contemplates past events, eventually coming to the conclusion that he “cannot be a part of this anymore.” It’s a genuinely effective piece of character development that served as a convincing case for 47 going rogue, and it left us eager to see where the story would go next, even if we were a bit disappointed in doing so.
9. Journey – Entering the light
(You can skip to around the 11-minute mark if you’re short on time)
Journey as a whole was a very emotional game, but the ending, in which you finally step into the light you’ve been trekking towards for the entire game, is easily the game’s high point.
Not only is pretty much all of it done through gameplay, but the gentle pace and prominent soundtrack really help it to sink in. Once you do enter the light, you’re seen traveling through the previous levels as a figure of light, and you then have the option to replay the game by starting a new journey. By revisiting/looking back on these levels and then giving your character what is essentially rebirth, the game reinforces the old saying “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”
8. Max Payne 3 – Opening scene
One of the themes that’s prevalent in this scene is denial. Throughout Max’s initial tour of his apartment, he keeps telling himself that he’s feeling better now. He’s gotten over himself. Of course, he hasn’t really, and we can we pretty much tell when he starts downing booze and throwing a picture frame across the room.
James McCaffrey’s narration does a wonderful job of putting you into Max Payne’s mindset. He’s a tragic hero who has fell far from grace, and this scene establishes that he needs to find a way to face his past demons ASAP. The sombre music and dizzying color-distortion effects only serve to drive this fact home further.
7. Assassin’s Creed III – Connor’s First Encounter with Charles Lee
One thing you certainly don’t see often in games is violent acts being performed on children. That’s exactly what happens here when Connor first encounters Charles Lee, but to leave our reasoning at that would be selling this scene massively short.
The reason it’s so great is that it introduced Connor to the cruel nature of his world, a brutal world where men will plunder and murder to further their agendas at any cost. It’s something that Connor eventually does himself when he becomes an assassin, so you get the sense that this event was very influential on his life, for better or worse. When Charles Lee mentions how easy it would be to snap Connor’s neck, it’s a stark reminder of just how fragile we humans are, and how easily others can exploit us. A cynical scene, then, but still an effective one. It’s easy to see why this would be so scarring for Connor.
6. Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Best Possible Ending
A lot of people seem to forget that Black Ops II had multiple endings. This one, in which you spare Menendez and Mason actually lives, is arguably the most satisfying of them all.
To spare Mason, you have to shoot him in the legs rather than the head in that one scene in Panama, which in itself was a strong contender for the list. However, seeing this ultimate conclusion play out proved to be more emotionally fulfilling because it wrapped up the character arcs in a satisfying way. Menendez is left to ponder the idea that his malicious and often self-destructive attitude didn’t compliment his grand ambitions, and Mason is admired by his father, who states that even though he fell, he ultimately “got back up.” Beautiful stuff.
5. Mass Effect 3 – Ending
After five years with their Commander Shepard (redhead Vanguard FemShep, for the record), fans were abuzz with speculation about how the series would end. What story beats would the final game hit? How could BioWare possibly tie up all of our choices – five years worth of choices – to our satisfaction? The above was the result – or at least part of it. The “choose your own ending” divided fans, most of whom expected their decisions to have more impact. But as they say, it’s not the destination but the journey that’s important, and we honour that journey through this symbolic end point. This scene is not on our list because of how emotional it is, but rather for the end of the series and culmination of our decisions that it signifies. We remember our losses, our sacrifices, our struggles with Shepard along the way, and every other emotion that Mass Effect has made us feel.
4. Spec Ops: The Line – White Phosphorous
The white phosphorous scene in Spec Ops: The Line is a perfect encapsulation of the game’s message; in war, there are no winners.
As you approach what looks to be a huge enemy force below, Walker takes it upon himself to use a mortar carrying white phosphorous rounds on the troops. Cue going into the control panel, which uncannily resembles the AC-130 segments from Call of Duty, right down to the black and white imaging and red targets. The weird thing is that you occasionally see Walker’s reflection in the screen as you fire off the mortars. Nevertheless, you feel like a total badass when you’re dropping those bombs.
Nothing could be further from the truth when you eventually step down onto the battlefield below. As the game forces you to walk through your path of destruction and witness the suffering you’ve caused, it’s hard not to feel guilty. Oh dear, that fellow is burning alive. And that other fellow is missing his leg. At least they’re all bad guys, right?
Wrong. Very soon, you stumble upon a survivor, who informs you that these troops were protecting evacuated civilians. Now, all of these brave and innocent souls are dead, all thanks to you. The worst part? You’re now probably thinking of that reflection of Walker on the screen a while back, reminding you that this was his, and ultimately your, choice.
3. Medal of Honor: Warfighter – Mother
Quality of the game notwithstanding, it’s hard to deny the impact that the death of Mother had on those who witnessed it. I didn’t play the first game in the rebooted franchise, so I wasn’t as attached to the character as some others were, however it is difficult to not be moved in some way by this scene. Brutality and the shock of war is thrown in our faces, and we see the effect death has on soldiers. It’s cold, it’s harsh, some would say it’s insensitive or manipulative, but it is emotional – whether that emotion is shock, revulsion, grief, or disgust.
2. The Walking Dead – Lee’s “goodbye”
Though we met (and lost) a number of characters over the course of the five episodes of The Walking Dead: The Game, the focal point of the whole experience was the relationship between protagonist Lee Everett and his young companion, Clementine. The interaction between these two characters was unlike anything we’ve experienced in a game before. Watching their relationship grow from that of complete strangers to something more akin to a father and daughter was genuinely touching. Appropriately, the last scene of the game is the final interaction between these two individuals.
While The Walking Dead placed a significant focus on your choices and their ramifications throughout the game, all optional paths converged, bringing players to this heartbreaking finale. Players are asked to make one last decision: Whether or not to have Clementine shoot Lee. The dialogue here is painfully real for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, particularly when he utters his last words: “I’ll miss you.” Regardless of which option players choose, the end result is the same. In this post-apocalyptic world, Lee and Clementine had nothing left, except one another. Now, they had lost everything and were, for the first time, alone.
1. Halo 4 – Cortana
Master Chief and Cortana have one of the strongest relationships in video games. She’s always been by your side, alerting you to threats, and comforting you when you need it. In Halo 4, all of that is taken away. The one thing that Chief actually cared about, and had the mission of protecting, is gone, and this scene does that separation justice. Halo 4 explores the concept of humanity, and in the first five minutes of the game the UNSC is asking Halsey that question. Are Spartans just robotic soldiers, or is there still a human inside that suit of armor?