My 10 Favorite Gaming Moments Of 2008

I played through dozens of games this year and tried at least a hundred more. And through them all, I experienced some amazing moments.

As I have done in years previous, here are my picks for My 10 Favorite Moments in Video Games for 2008. (As spoiler-light as I can make them.)

Check out my 10 favorite moments and then share your own below:

All Feet, And It Works – Dropping A Ball In The Table-Tilt “Wii Fit” Mini-Game

At last, a Wii game with subtle and precise motion control.

Moms may like “Wii Fit” for its fitness-causing design. Serious gamers may like it for something else: the balance game. The best presents one of the best pure-play moments available on the Wii. It’s a mini-game called Table Tilt, which involves tilting a tabletop so that the pool balls atop it roll into holes on the tabletop. It’s all done with the feet, of course, using the “Wii Fit” balance board. A player’s weight shifts on the balance board, tilting the platform just right to drop the balls down to the next level.

At last, a Wii game with subtle and precise motion control.

At last, a game you can play with just your feet.

At last, a reason to go back to “Wii Fit,” six months after getting it, to play a simple little game that doesn’t get old.

All Hands, And It Works – Fighting An All-Aerial Battle In “Devil May Cry 4″

The game is a cheesy combat spectacle. That’s a “Devil May Cry” game for you. This is the series with the hero who shoots bad guys after eating pizza and chops guys in half while wearing big headphones. It’s the series that revels in speed-metal extremes but keeps the discipline of tight controls.

The newest entry, “Devil May Cry 4” plays like one long joke. How else to explain a game that arms its hero with the ultimate weapon of a suitcase that can turn into a flying chair covered in cannons? One big joke. How else to explain all the gratuitous cleavage in the game? The gratuitous amount of fighting styles? The gratuitous amount of backtracking?

Love it and want to leave it at the same time, but appreciate the moments of airborne combat in “DMC4″ during which the new grappling-hook/hand, the Devil Bringer, allows the player to fight one enemy after the other in mid-air without feet touching the ground. You zip from one enemy to the next, grabbing, throwing, practically dancing in mid-air, for the best aerial combat ballet any developer has ever allowed in their game.

The moment you first get it right and stay aloft for a full fight is a moment to relish throughout the year.

A Dream Of An End – Experiencing The Bravura Finale To “Fable II”

It feels, one might dare assume, like what death or near-death might feel like, full of reflection and consequence, suddenness and slowness all at once.

The end of “Fable II” is not a dream. But it plays out as if presented in such a haze. It feels, one might dare assume, like what death or near-death might feel like, full of reflection and consequence, suddenness and slowness all at once. It comes in three parts.

First, an exit: the hero whose life you’ve guided, whose body and heart you’ve shaped through your choices in this folktale of a game, leaves the world he knows to be somewhere else. He goes to a beautiful, haunting place, a place that is both the easiest and hardest place to depart of any location a player will visit in a video game this year.

Then, part two, a retrospective: but of course, developers at Lionhead, you were watching how I played this game, weren’t you? You programmed the game to take snapshots of my character and are now playing them back for me, my character’s life flashing before my eyes. Did I really used to look like that? Did I really let my body go at that point and dress so badly in my youth?

And part three: the game requires a decision to be made. Three options are presented. You’ll never forget the choice you make. After that? The game doesn’t really end. You can keep playing in its open world, but everything will feel changed because of what you’ve been through.

Sorry, Ubisoft Montreal, in any other year, the virtuoso shock ending of “Prince of Persia” would have been the finale of the year, but Peter Molyneux’s team out maneuvered you in 2008.

A Drive To The Train Station – Completing The Quietest Mission Of “Grand Theft Auto IV”

Niko Bellic is a bad man. There’s no internal conflict in him, nto after the first few hours of his game.

The missions he agrees to undertake — the assassinations, the thefts, the demolition of lives — are not the jobs of a man wishing to wake up a hero.

Yet there are things that happen in Niko Bellic’s “Grand Theft Auto IV” journey that hint at another way of living. People walk up to him on the street. They ask for money. They ask for help dealing with their abusive boyfriend. They offer sex for drugs and settle for a free ride to the dealers. And that last one, the girl who takes the ride… she finds Niko a second time. And during that second meeting she asks for a different kind of escape. Niko agrees. This is  Niko Bellic at his most manly — braver than racing motorcycles in subway tunnels; more macho than shooting up thugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He pulls up his car. Lets her in. He drives her to the train station and lets her, at least, find peace beyond the jaws of Liberty City.

Faith’s Slide – Taking A Slide Off The Rooftop Jungle Gyms Of “Mirror’s Edge”

They can’t really mean for Faith to… jump there?

EA’s experimental first-person platforming game “Mirror’s Edge” peaks early by presenting one extraordinary plummet.

You are in the game’s first full level, chased by cops with helicopters incoming. You’ve learned to hurdle, clamber, leap fences and slide under pipes like a good base-stealer.

What you’ve not learned is what to do when you’ve run outside onto a skyscraper rooftop into the blinding sun, hit a dead end and see no escape.

But, wait.

Look down.

The glass and steel façade of the building you’re standing on is sloped. Remember the slide? Remember the leap? They can’t really mean for Faith to… jump there? You’re sliding down the slope of a building’s façade by the seat of your pants, seeing it all in first person.

More of this, please.

Out of the Ooze – Deciding The Fate Of A Species In “Spore”

It’s the dawn of the creature stage in “Spore” and the first sign that the promise of meaningfully interactive player-guided species evolution is actually in this game.

Early choices of limb length and joint placement allow some fruit on trees to be within reach, and so the chance of taking the herbivore’s path is taken.

But over the hill comes some other user’s creature, plopped into my world. And it’s ready for a beating. The carnivore’s path has been picked.

In the distance a UFO made by someone else is abducting yet another person’s creature. At this moment, “Spore” is teeming with energy, exploding with the consequence of players’ choices.

It’s alive.

Snake’s Crawl – Mashing The Triangle Button To Beautiful Tragedy In “Metal Gear Solid 4″

It was interactive agony, rendered beautifully.

Konami’s “Metal Gear Solid 4″contains what its predecessors did: a complex story, splendid art direction, memorable voice-acting, unique controls, fantastic bosses, in-jokes and a controversial ratio of interactivity to non-interactivity. Plus, it’s almost all melodrama, which for those who have enjoyed the series, is nothing but a good thing.

There’s no more melodramatic moment in “Metal Gear Solid 4″ than the barely interactive crawl of series hero Solid Snake through a radiation chamber in the game’s final act.

If ever you were going to do your damnedest to keep a video game character alive — if ever you were going to care about one to do so — this was the moment.

It was interactive agony, rendered beautifully.

Someone Else’s Fight – Doing Less Than Expected In “No More Heroes”

Some games have boss battles. Some games don’t. Those that do have boss battles sometimes have good boss battles. Sometimes they have bad ones.

Some games, like “No More Heroes” and “Metal Gear Solid 4″ have a surprising number of super-powered female bosses for their male heroes to beat on.

Some games, like “No More Heroes” and “Prince of Persia,” conduct their boss battles with a charismatic choreography that creators of music videos and action movies would envy.

But only “No More Heroes” has a boss that struts to the battlefield, dramatically prepares for the fight, faces down your hero and then — gets annihilated by someone else jumping in from off screen.

Time Walks With Me – Changing The Flow Of Time In “Braid”

In one level of Jonathan Blow and David Hellman’s “Braid,” time stands still when your character does. When your character moves to the right, time moves forward. When you walk to the left, time moves in reverse.

Time works this way at the site of a re-creation of the classic first stage of “Donkey Kong” the iconic level of video game left-to-right movement. Climbing to the top, to the “Braid” version of gorilla and girl, under these rules is like traipsing through the world you know, operating under a different set of physics.

Well, it’s not like that.

It is that.

Weapon Jam – Learning To Love Frustration In “Far Cry 2″

Please don’t — because it really doesn’t sound good on paper — leave us to the mercy of malaria and rusty guns.

We’re not supposed to like bad things, not when they happen to us in video games.

Character death should be a nuisance, so, developers, don’t bother giving our character a recurring, merely treatable illness.

Getting shot is bad enough, so please let us always be able to shoot back. Don’t make our weapons jam at random.

If you’re going to pull strings and mess with us, do it like “Left 4 Dead” does it and make the director of the zombie-horror mini-movie we’re playing in be ever-aware of our favorite fighting strategies and capable of undermining them. In other words, let that director be able to make things cooler.

Please don’t — because it really doesn’t sound good on paper — leave us to the mercy of malaria and rusty guns. Don’t leave our fate to sudden rainstorms that negate our flamethrowers and temperamental friends who sometimes save or skin and sometimes don’t. Don’t, whatever you do, throw us into a game with one goal and countless variables and make us fend for ourselves.

Don’t make us play by what seem like no rules.

Or do. Let us try it, if it feels as frenetic, as unhinged, as hotly alive as “Far Cry 2.” The first time your assault rifle jams in this game, you’ll either hate it or decide you’ve just entered the most bravely-designed game of 2008.

Related Posts
My 10 Favorite Gaming Moments Of 2005, 2006 and 2007