Every week on The Free Cheese, we ask a question about video games. We, the editors and contributors, answer that question and post those answers in an article format for you to read and respond to. It’s a conversation that we start, and you continue.
During this month, our cover story focuses partially on nostalgia, and the power of remembering to help carry us forward. We’ve talked about games that are special to us and where those franchises are headed, but this week we’re focusing on a specific moment that sticks out to us. It might be a particular in-game moment, or one that we created ourselves.
I remember us turning on “paintball mode” in Goldeneye 007 and having very specific rules about where combat could take place. We’d memorize the drop points of different weapons and make a game around who could get which weapon and kill the other the fastest. Hours spent in the Facility continued into Perfect Dark when the developers brought the same map to a new set of weapons. The first to the Farsight was the one to win. We’d also run rounds where you could only use laptop guns set in turret mode to trap and kill one another. Of course, there was always the all-proximity mine match that left everyone careful of any step and bred endless creativity when we tried to hide proximity mines in new areas.
This type of making our own game inside of the game carried us through to Grand Theft Auto III, where we would design our own missions and see if we could carry them out. They usually ended with us going on a mass-murdering spree and being shot down or blown up by the military. We’d repeat this over and over through Vice City and San Andreas, even into GTA IV, as each game added new obstacles to volley over in new vehicles. I remember us having a big dirt bike race that led into a cop chase that carried us into the sky and we’d parachute our way back to safety in the hilltops. We’d lose ourselves in these worlds, creating something just to make us laugh for a while.
These moments are the ones that remain most memorable to me, not because of some big story twist or cool thing that someone mapped out for us, but because of the randomness we’d fall in love with as we just made stuff up for hours. It’s these things that no game designer can ever create and that I might never be able to replicate, but it harkens back to when we were just dumb kids having fun in play pretend worlds. Video games gave us the keys to our own empires and together, my brother and I created our own fun.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was a trip down memory lane in so many ways. There were little flashbacks you could cut to during cutscenes. There are many characters that make nice surprise reappearances throughout the game. The end boss fight with Ocelot that goes through phases relating to the other games in the series. There are so many of these little things that remind you how awesome this series is. The most effective part of this game is act 4, especially the beginning and the end of it.
The act starts with a direct port of the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 1 where you first start the game trying to infiltrate the facility on Shadow Moses. It’s so cool to play that segment at this point, because you know the mechanics of 4 so well at this point. It’s Kojima showing how far this series has come. I actually died on my first try because I was so spoiled by the mechanics of 4 that I forgot how to effectively play the 1st one. After infiltrating the facility you find out that it’s a very clever dream sequence and that Old Snake was sleeping on his way to revisit Shadow Moses. After a cutscene, you are left going through the same exact area, but now in real time as Old Snake. As you progress to the facility, there are flashbacks to MGS1 with the vocal song from MGS1 playing as you walk/run. It’s quite the moment that gives you chills as you remember what has got you to this point, both in MGS4 and in the series as a whole.
Before discussing the end boss fight, I have to give an honorable mention to the Crying Wolf boss fight. It’s in the same area as the fight from MGS1 and is the same high pressure sniper dual that MGS1 had. There is even a call back to having to switch disks at this point in the game in MGS1. This act is just filled with memories.
The end of this act is a callback as well and answers the question which metal gear was better, REX or RAY. In yet another epic moment, Snake faces off against Ocelot in a Metal Gear showdown. Snake is in REX from MGS1 and Ocelot is in RAY from MGS2. It’s great fanfare and is a fun boss fight itself. I remember finishing this act and moving on from Shadow Moses once and for all but thinking to myself that there was no other way you could end that act effectively. I have gone through MGS4 twice, but there is something very magical about playing that act in MGS4 for the first time that I will never forget.
So I believe this was circa 2006-07. I had recently purchased my own PlayStation 2 so I could stop borrowing my friends console. I was obsessed with Guitar Hero. I had heard that a local a venue (r.i.p. Recher Theatre) was holding a Guitar Hero II tournament. My friend Charlie who happens to be quite fluent with rhythm games was stoked about this so we both decided to enter this tournament together. This was why I finally bought my own PS2. I only had a couple weeks to practice.
It’s not often that you’ll find me competing with other people that are not my friends, but this was one of the few exceptions. These matches consisted of Pro-Face off on expert I believe. I can’t remember if difficulty was a choice. Charlie clear our first rounds with ease. I root Charlie on as he succeeds the second round and heads to the semi-finals. My second round is about to happen…except I’m still waiting for my opponent. I’m just sitting in front of a crowd doing nothing. Due to time constraints, my invisible opponent was disqualified which advanced me to the semi-finals. LOOPHOLES!
So now it’s the moment I wasn’t expecting to happen just yet; Me versus Charlie. We’re going note for note for a good while. I start messing up which means there’s no chance of catching up now unless he messes up too, but he doesn’t. He’s had way more time to perfect his craft. He deserves to win. I wasn’t even mad. If I’m gonna lose to someone, I’d want to be one of my best friends. I continued to support him in the finals. Charlie won the tournament and rightfully so. He got to move on to play against other winners on stage at Warped Tour. I believe he came in second at that one.
So why is this a memorable moment for me? Because if you know me, you know that I’m not really a competitive player. I’m more of a cooperative player. Even though I wasn’t the winner of this and I probably shouldn’t have even made it that far thanks to a loop hole, I love the experience overall of two of my favorite worlds were combined in one moment and I was able to share that moment with a good friend; Music and Games.
Here it is 10 years later and I’m playing Rock Band 4 and I want to keep sharing these moments with my friends.
So, what moment do you remember fondly?