What it is: A free, high-resolution rebuild of the original Half-Life.
The Moment: Getting your crowbar
It’s almost like cheating, including Black Mesa on this list. The fact is, Half-Life is one of the greatest games ever made, and thanks to the folks who developed Black Mesa (for free, mind you), you can play it again with modern graphics.
What’s amazing is the game is absolutely every bit as good as you remember. Sure, a decade and a half of game development has polished a few of Half-Life’s rough-in-hindsight ideas or methods, but at the same time you can see the nearly pervasive effect Half-Life has had on the entire gaming industry over that same amount of time.
As you spend the first hour or so completely weaponless, searching dark hallways while headcrabs leap at you, that moment where you get the crowbar and start being able to fight back is as brilliant now as it was then. Stop what you’re doing and go download this.
What it is: A free zombie survival simulator mod for ArmA:II
The Moment: Finding my first gun
Day Z is sort of a first person shooter, except, you’ll play for hours and never actually shoot anything. In fact, you don’t want to shoot anything: the noise will attract too much attention. The game begins on the shore of a massive and detailed island. The goal is simply to survive.
After playing for several hours, and dying regularly, I stumbled upon a large town. I could hear a firefight, and could see several survivors in a running shootout. I hid in a building near the edge of town. In one of the rooms I found a pistol. EXCITEMENT! Now I could actually defend myself. I crossed the street to a convenience store, which had been pretty well ransacked. I found some bandages though. However, someone discovered me, got a shot off before I did. Dead. Reset to the shore. All supplies gone. Awful, but awesome.
What it is: The only massively multiplayer online shooter
The Moment: Lots.
There are so many epic moments in Planetside 2, that it’s hard to narrow down just one. This is as good an example as any:
My team had valiantly tried and failed to defend a massive base. We were driven out, only to regroup at tiny outlying base nearby. Then, with air support and dozens of tanks, scores of us ran/drove/flew across rolling open fields to re-engage the enemy. Once more unto the breach, dear friends. After at least an hour of fighting, we re-took the base.
Read my review of the Planetside 2 beta (btw, the game has gotten even better since release).
What it is: Stealth-based steampunk/fantasy shooter
The Moment: My first glimpse of Dunwall.
A major new release from a big publisher that isn’t a sequel, remake, or based on a movie/book/comic/etc is a rare thing. Dishonored had gotten a lot of buzz for this and many other reasons. That first glimpse of the city of Dunwall, all steampunk gorgeousness, was a one of the best gaming moments of the year because at that moment, the game held so much promise. The art design is jaw-dropping, in that perfect man-I-can’t-wait-to-explore-this-universe kind of way.
What it is: The conclusion to Bioware’s sci-fi mashup.
The Moment: The ending
I promised no spoilers, and there won’t be any spoilers. Which makes this a pretty short writeup. Without giving anything away, I was impressed by the choices given at the end. True choice is not something you see in games very often. I found it a fitting end to the series.
What it is: beyond description, that’s what it is.
The Moment: Again, so many. When you first encounter another being.
In my review I said to describe this game would be to give too much away, and I still feel that way. The reason why this is a moment is that you start the game exploring this abandoned, empty world. Yet, it’s neither...
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