2010 has been a fantastic year for gamers. It's not often we are able to compile a solid list of 'Game of the Year' contenders only half way through the calender year. Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain, God of War III, Final Fantasy XIII, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, and more are all high quality experiences that would normally be reserved for the holiday season.
With that in mind, we decided to examine some of the most intense moments so far this year. Intense could be anything from terrifying to awe inspiring, anything that really got our blood pumping. It should go without saying that if you haven't played these games yet and want to avoid spoilers, stop reading after each headline. The following is the top five most intense moments of 2010... so far.
5. Red Dead Redemption: Hanging of Bonnie MacFarlane
This mission is not the most crucial to the overall story in Red Dead, however it comes as a genuine surprise and manages to create a sense of urgency based on your previous relationship with the character. In it Bonnie MacFarlane is kidnapped and held for ransom by Bill Williamson's gang. John Marston, along with several members of the local law enforcement, have to fight their way through an ambush of thugs to rescue Bonnie as her life quickly fades. Bonnie is a central character at the beginning of Red Dead, one which John Marston immediately gets along well with. This gives added weight to the moment she's hung and makes her eventual rescue all the more satisfying.
4. Mass Effect 2: Suicide Mission
The final mission in Mass Effect 2, dubbed the Suicide Mission, is something that's alluded to from early on in the story. Through the game most of your time is spent directly preparing your team and ship for this mission. So, by the time your ready to proceed with it, the anticipation and tension are at a fever pitch. After traveling through the Omega 4 relay to the heart of the Collector base, you must assign members of your squad to different tasks based on their skills. The results of these choices decide whether you and your team live or die - saying there's pressure is an understatement. Additionally, the thought of these choices impacting what happens in Mass Effect 3 is also weighing on your thought process. The mission is filled with action and (depending on your choices) heartbreak. It's a strong conclusion to an outstanding game that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
3. God of War III: Intro Sequence
The God of War series has become synonymous with mind-blowing intro sequences that set the tone for the rest of the game. God of War III's intro is arguably the most intense in the trilogy. Kratos begins right where he left off at the conclusion of God of War II, storming mount Olympus with his army of Titans, hellbent on killing the Gods for good. Players are immediately thrust into one of the most awe inspiring set pieces in gaming. Kratos fights hordes of minions all over the giant titan's body, while other Gods and Titans battle each other in the background. The camera pans in and out to reveal the incredible scope of this epic battle. The climax of this intro sends the player into a first-person view of a beaten up Poseidon as Kratos tosses him around the room at will. Finally, players press both analog sticks down to gouge out the defeated God's eyes. It's horrifyingly visceral, yet fantastic at the same time.
2. Alan Wake: Carl Stucky Encounter
Alan Wake's bread and butter is creating a tense experience for the player at every turn. The rural, nighttime forest setting, filled with dense foliage and fog is the perfect setting for a relaxing getaway gone wrong. While the game has tension throughout, it's by far most effective at the beginning when the player is still figuring out the controls and mechanics. It's here we find the painstakingly tense encounter with Carl Stucky. Shortly beforehand, Alan picks up a manuscript page that foreshadows a meeting with a chainsaw wielding foe, so you're constantly on alert for when this may occur. When forced to pass through an abandoned lumber yard, you're senses are on edge for every slight movement and sound. You can barely see anything through the thick fog and darkness, so when the powerful Stucky finally appears, it's time to run for your life.
1. Heavy Rain: The Cross Scene
Let's start by saying there were a number of other scenes throughout Heavy Rain that could have easily made this list, but we decided to limit it to one per game to make things interesting. Maybe it's just me, but religious extremists make me uneasy regardless of the context. So, I was particularly on edge when investigating the apartment of a Christian fundamentalist, who also happens to be a suspect in a murder.
The rooms are littered with crosses hanging from the ceiling, on the walls, and sitting on the ground. When the apartment's owner, named Nathaniel, finally comes home, he's not at all pleased to find detectives snooping around his place. He pulls out a gun and a tense standoff ensues. You have to keep your cool and convince him to put his gun down, if you want any hope of information. If you manage that, things may finally seem at ease, however Nathaniel abruptly reaches for an object out of his pocket. This key moment in time causes your senses to play tricks, shaking the screen and blurring your vision. You have a split second to make a critical decision - hesitate and risk your partner's life, or shoot him and lose potential leads. This is one of many fantastic scenes in a game that brilliantly uses consequence to create incredibly tense moments.