Top 10 - Video Game Set Pieces
Let's Do That Again!
Certain parts of certain games stick in the mind. A single event or set piece in a title can rise it out of the depth of mediocrity and give it a certain timeless charm that will result in you wanting to play at least that part again and again. We’re even at a point now where some of these games are built around a constant stream of these, however these games have a tenancy to forfeit control to QTE’s which can water down the overall experience.
This month we are going to recount our favourite moments from games that we saw as a spectacle and want to play over again and again. We’re looking at titles which at least for the most part retain the standard games controls and put you into seemingly impossible situations from which you somehow survive. Only other rule is that there’s only 1 entry per game and/or series. Enjoy!
Please be forewarned that rampant spoilers follow;
A relatively unknown title from Capcom comes chock full of great scenes but in a lot of places sacrifices control in the name of spectacle. Some of that spectacle is worth it though which includes the boss fight with Wyzen of the seven deities. This battle starts off relatively grounded but as Asura’s rage grows so does his power and this causes wizen to transform into his various, more and more powerful forms. Starting on the ground Wyzen transforms into Vajra Wyzen, giving him enormous size and the ability to launch energy blasts. Finally upon besting him in this form he turns into Gongen Wyzen who is literally larger than then planet itself that you’re fighting on and he tries to crush you with his mere finger… This is spectacle at its best. Be prepared for some RSI with the amount of button mashing required to stop this foe!
In my opinion Nier Automata got the open world formula just right. It avoided using locations only once in the most part and events changed the shape of the landscape making it new and fresh again.
After some big quests in the forest you’re left with a rather benign task of checking the missile silo in the flooded city. Once here you’re informed that a resistance ship is under attack so you supply air support and eliminate the threat only for the whole ship to be destroyed once another battle starts. Grun is a virtually invincible 1,000ft high behemoth who has survived under the sea for hundreds of years. Destroying him is no simple task and requires you to destroy several weak points whilst the clock is ticking as if he reaches ground he is capable for firing an EMP which can take out a whole country. Ultimately he is felled by disabling his shield before firing a missile down his throat. You see dozens of your comrades destroyed in the process and spend the following mission locating your lost partner.
Whilst the battle itself is fun, it’s not the best here or even in the game, but it’s a sight to behold.
Megaman’s 3D outings have a sort of cult following. Starting in the early days of 3D the games look better in motion than in any still picture. They also often have you running around dark underground caves but there were a few deviations. One mission has you taking your (adorably named) Flutter to open the “main gate” on the island, upon returning from doing this you will be attacked in 3 waves. Whilst the normal mechanics apply the game shifts to a sort of tower defence where you need to defeat the various enemies whilst ensuring that you and the Flutter don’t take too much damage. Wave 1 is a group of flying enemies which are little trouble. Wave 2 is a ginormous airship called the Gesellschaft, which has you isolating weak points on the ship to eventually take it down and when you’re all done…The final wave is an all out attack from Tron Bonne in her Fokkerwolf, a bird like craft which focuses on hitting the ship hard and it becomes a race against time to take her down before she does the same to you and your allies…
It should all have been so easy. After casing a small, local bank the GTAV boys plan to hold the place up making away with the bank vault contents. Get in, get out, get rich. And that’s how the first half of the mission plays out. Trevor and Michael enter the bank, announce their intentions and crowd control whilst the hired help make their way into the vault with a blow torch. The alarm has been set off and we know police are on their way. Taking a little longer than anticipated getting into the vault the police surround the bank. This would be a problem is we had not already played the side mission in the build up getting access to high grade military armour and weaponry. Cue Trevor, in what looks to be a bomb disposal suit and minigun coming through the front of the bank guns blazing! After a long shootout through a destroyed hotel (courtesy of the helicopter Trevor shot down) Michael and Trevor find themselves pinned down by the recently arrived army forces in a construction yard. Enter Franklin. In a Bulldozer. What follows is a great “car chase” between tanks and a bulldozer with Michael and Trevor shooting from the now raised bulldozer bucket.
Whilst there are bigger and more outlandish heists in the game, this is the one that stands out to me as a set piece moment. The way the job goes sideways and each of our protagonists have their own moments of glory leaves for a hugely satisfying mission.
“Tell me Bats, what do you really fear?”
Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum and now has access to an amazing back catalogue of all the greatest hits from the Batman Villain playlist. It’s down to you, as Batman, to restore order in this wonderful gothic setting. Whilst the majority of the game is the bone crushing combo and counter hand to hand combat mixed with stealth takedowns combat we now have come to expect from the Batman games (although it was fresh and exciting back them), the set piece that stands out for me most was the section of your “trip” with Scarecrow.
You had already seen up to this point the effect that Scarecrows Toxins had on the patients at Arkham, sheer terror and lashing out violence, but the effect on Batman is quite an experience. Being taken through his parents death, being asked if he could have “Stood up like man” and stopped it, seeing commissioner Gordon in a body bag, all of these through the cutscenes are emotion envoking but it’s the part where you get back in control that stays with me. Changing perspective to take in the sheer scale of Scarecrows image, towering over you as the syringe fingered, hooded villain searches for you amongst the ruins of Arkham makes for a cinematic and enjoyable experience.
If you haven’t ever watched a zombie movie then looked around your house and wondered how you would defend against a sudden wave of the undead trying to break in then I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Whilst my first flood flat is appalling for fire safety, the single entrance at the top of a stair case is perfect to barricade against the zombie horde.
This is the situation Leon finds himself in. An old abandoned cabin in a creepy town is surrounded by the undead and we, as the player, have to guide him to surviving the onslaught. With multiple windows and doors over different floors, Leon runs from room to room using furniture as make shift barricades and taking down those who have broken through.
This section is a lot of fun and potentially would make a good spin off for the series in the same vein as a number of action/tower defence games.
Too often in gaming the final boss sequence doesn’t live up to the fun and originality of the game that precedes it. Luckily, for me at least, the Warrior battle capping the end of the Borderlands 2 journey stands out as one of the most satisfying endings to a long RPG I have played in a while. Not going for the cheap quick time event style, it lets you use the skills you have spent 30+ hours honing and the weapons you have grown used to using to take down a literally huge beast. Add this in the rising and falling lava to add a little challenge and to stop you camping then I think this lived up to the larger than life persona of Handsome Jack better than any “Mano a mano” fight could have been.
These events unfold midway through the main game. The lead into this scene starts with vengeance, includes some fan-service and ultimately culminates in a battle you don’t think they could seriously be asking you to complete.
Following events which lead to the Heartless attacking Hollow Bastion, you’re lead to believe…that Goofy died saving King Mickey (yes, you think Disney’s Goofy is actually dead). Fire ignited in your belly you make a run down the ravine where you fight alongside your Final Fantasy 7 & 8 comrades in several skirmishes (FOR GOOFY!).
You’re grateful to discover that Goofy did survive and joins the battle again where you split up and individually have to take on 1,000 armoured heartless. You are alerted to the number with a counter at the top of the screen which you immediately want to question but it soon becomes clear, yes, it has 4 digits, you need to take out 1,000 of the blighters, singlehanded…
Your colony is swarmed with the never-ending waves of the Zerg forces. Vicious, ruthless aliens commanded by the overmind to complete a single goal – Destroy all in their way. Just when all seems hopeless a comms link comes in offering your colonists a way off the planet. But it comes from an unlikely source, the rebel leader and outlaw Mengsk. With no other option you accept, but will he and his drop ships arrive in time. He’s 30 minutes away, all you have to do is survive. Barracks are built, bunkers constructed and soldiers hastily trained. But just when you think you are safe, the Zerg throw a curve ball at you, some of them can now fly…
Timed missions in games are usually against my cool, collected style in RTS games, especially when you have to rush to take or save a target on the other side of the map. However I can’t deny loving this section of the game as a kid. I think it’s almost innate for us to imagine yourself boxed in against a seemingly endless force setting up last ditch lines of defence and so when this is presented to you in the game it was the perfect mix of frantic fun.
Halo 2 gave us the first glimpse of the Covenant Scarab. Whereas in Halo 2 you were tasked in boarding from above as it passed in Halo 3 you wage battle on the ground during the stage – The Covenant. The battleground is broad and open with a drop off the end which you’ll be accustomed to by this point in the Halo series. It’s when the giant quadrupedal tank cambers into the frey and starts raining down havoc from all directions that your next objective becomes clear, you got to take that beast down. Before you can begin there’s another distraction however…a second one climbs in from the abyss…As with all good set pieces, you’ve got options. If you have managed to grab a vehicle you can ramp or fly onto the back of the beast. On foot you’re forced to disable it temporarily before climbing on, fight through several floors of covenant soldiers before locating the core which must be destroyed giving you 7 seconds to escape before the behemoth explodes…then you have to do it again. Because there’s 2. Remember, tough guys don’t look at explosions, they just turn and walk away.
Much of the game in Metal Gear is spent fighting some pretty epic boss battles. There’s Tanks, Hind-D Helicopter, sniper duels…But none of this prepares you for the big confrontation with Metal Gear Rex…Actually it all sort of does and that is what makes it a great scene. The finale of your mission leads you into the Metal Gear Hangar with the intent on destroying it…
Metal Gear behaves more like an animal than a machine (to the point it actually roars). There’s a technique of sorts but ultimately it feels like it’s doing what it want’s rather than mindlessly following it’s pattern.
You get alerted early into the battle that the radome is the weak spot which when destroyed will blind the radar (and release the cockpit allowing you to attack the pilot directly).
The battle itself is in 2 stages, initially you’ll be using chaff grenades to throw off Rex’s homing missiles but this is at the cost of your own homing on your stingers. What follows is a cut scene revealing hidden identities, acrobatics, dismemberment, quotable dialogue and self-sacrifice before attention once again turns to you to carry on the battle with Liquid Snake exposed and vulnerable now to your stun grenades
The battle allows you to choose your method of attack or defence whilst utilising the skills the game has taught you up until this point. Mix in a big reveal cutscene that’ll push you make sure you take it down to avenge your fallen comrade as well as to complete your mission.
It was always going to make the list but where does it belong and which of the scenes should it be? The Train? The Tank? The Burning Chateau? My personal choice was the Armoured Car chase in Madagascar.
Our scene begins when you escaping through a familiar street from which you’re then attacked by an armoured truck with a seemingly armoured turret on the roof. Time is of the essence as any cover you are using is swiftly being destroyed by the heavy machine gun installed on the vehicle. You duck and dive between cover and through buildings which doesn’t stop it as it smashes through walls and obstacles to try and stop you. Reaching a jeep you take to the streets as the locals run in panic as you hurtle downhill. The game does a great trick where you believe you’re making your own choice as to where to escape whilst unknowingly being lead down the correct path. You’re pursued mercilessly by the truck until you see a chance to rope onto a moving truck on the bridge above. Avoiding some scaffold you climb on the truck and make your way up the convoy of vehicles jumping between until you get to the front where you crash, barely escape and get picked up by your brother only to be pursued by that truck again…but you won’t beat it now, just escape.
Those are our thoughts. What part of a game do you keep that precious save file for? We’d love to know.