As game experiences have become more cinematic, set-pieces have grown in importance. Set-pieces are the big, one-time only events that happen on a timer, or when a player passes a specific point in the game. They’re the “wow” moments in a video game; the spots where the developers go out of their way to knock your socks. off. Set-pieces can make a huge impression on gamers, so we’ve gathered eight of the very best for your enjoyment.
Don’t see your favorite? Tell us what it is in the comments!
Nuking Megaton (Fallout 3)
Once you’ve left the Vault in Fallout 3, the first place you encounter other people is in the small settlement of Megaton. Basically a large steel ring with dwellings inside, Megaton is unique because it’s built around a gigantic, undetonated atomic bomb. Shortly after you’ve found the town, you’ll get an odd request – help Allistair Tenpenny explode the nuke. No matter your intentions, the temptation of seeing that nuke go off is almost impossible to resist. Go through with, and the mushroom cloud you see from the top of Tenpenny Tower is both beautiful and horrifying. It’s a great moment in the game.
The Ryan Doctrine (Bioshock)
Throughout Bioshock, you’re constantly bombarded with information about the founder of the city, Andrew Ryan – and none of it is all that flattering. As Atlas encourages you to find Ryan and take him out, you’ll find yourself relishing the idea of dealing with the tyrant. But once you reach his office, you find yourself enthralled in the speech the man gives. He explains that you (Jack) are nothing more than a slave, then hands you the golf club in his hand and orders you to kill him. As you do, he continues screaming, “A man chooses! A slave obeys! OBEY!” It’s a hugely powerful scene; one of the best of all time.
Taking the Train (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
The Uncharted series has always been about cinematic moments, and nowhere is that more obvious than in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’ train scenes. Although it’s told out of order, the train scenes build on one another. It starts when Nate wakes up on the train that’s hanging over a cliff in the mountains. Later, we see how he got there, from shooting it out with loads of bad guys to taking out a freaking attack helicopter, it’s one long sequence that shows you just why Nathan Drake is considered a videogame action star.
Rex vs. Ray (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is chock-full of setpieces, but none are more powerful (or awesome) than the sight of the two enormous Metal Gear robots going toe-to-toe. As a bonus, it takes place in the same facility where the Metal Gear Solid series began: Shadow Moses. Although REX was missing its railgun, the remaining weaponry (plus a little help from Otacon) allowed Snake to take out Metal Gear Ray.
The Destruction of the Normandy (Mass Effect 2)
One of the touchstones of the first Mass Effect was the Normandy. Throughout Shepard’s travels, the ship was his barracks, his base of operations, and his home. That’s why the beginning of Mass Effect 2 was so powerful: it blew the Normandy to bits. Not only that, but Shepard himself doesn’t make it out of the doomed ship, meaning that Bioware kicked off the sequel by killing off the both the central character and his ship. What a way to welcome players back, eh
The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (Ghostbusters: The Video Game)
If you were going to make a game about the Ghostbusters films, there are a few things you’d have to include. The biggest of them all (literally) is The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. The gigantic paranormal creature resembles the Michelin Man made entirely of marshmallows, with an extremely bad attitude. One of the most iconic movie scenes involves the Ghostbusters duking it out with him, so of course Ghostbusters: The Video Game includes a similar scene, and it’s just as awesome as you might think. Blasting a giant marshmallow with your proton pack as it climbs a skyscraper is almost unsurpassed as a moment in a videogame.
The Trench Run (Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader)
One of the most iconic moments in film history (at least if you’re in my generation) is Luke Skywalker’s run down the Death Star trench in Star Wars Despite all the efforts to recreate that scene in video games, none of them felt right until Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Not only did it look right, it even included all the audio cues to make you really believe that you were reliving that scene from the movies.
Nuclear Aftermath (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
About halfway through Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, you’ll find yourself fighting in the Middle East. After hearing warnings about terrorists having a nuke, you actually see it go off. As you’re scrambling to outrun the blast wave, the helicopter you’re traveling in doesn’t make it. After the crash, your character actually comes to, gets to his feet, and stumbles around a bit before collapsing and succumbing to his injuries. It was a hugely powerful moment in the game, and in my opinion, was the scene that transformed Call of Duty from FPS contender to the juggernaut we know today.