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Game: Mass Effect
The deceased: Ashley Williams
20 hours into this epic sci-fi RPG and we found ourselves with a decision to make. Mass Effect is a game that's all about decisions and at the time we didn't realise it was actually of the 'life or death' kind. Seems a bit stupid now, but we just didn't see what was coming. Two loyal crew members - Ashley Williams and Kaiden Alenko - were each stuck in hopeless predicaments, both pinned down by enemies at different locations.
Despite the game spelling out pretty bloody clearly that we could only rescue one of them, we thought it was just the usual empty threats. One of those inescapable jaws of death moments that would - somehow, probably very heroically - arrive at a happy ending with everyone reunited for high-fives and hugs. We made our choice. We decided to rescue Alenko, thinking that obviously we'd somehow miraculously save Williams' backside as well. It didn't quite work out like that.
After an explosive skirmish and a penultimate showdown with the game's alien antagonist, a cut-scene kicked in and we were whisked to safety. B-B-B-But we haven't rescued Williams, we thought with a dawning realisation that the game maybe wasn't bullshitting us after all. Sure enough, the next shot showed our ship hurtling into space away from the planet and - BOOM - a blinding flood of nuclear white saturates the screen as a warhead explodes. And that, we figured, really was an inescapable jaws of death moment for Williams. Check out the whole episode of sadness on the movie...
We didn't realise quite how fond we'd got of Williams until she was gone. Since rescuing her at the start of the game, we'd invested a lot of time in developing her character. Williams' death felt like a real loss. In fact, it was so insufferable, we reloaded to our last save point and made the fatal decision again. This time deciding that Alenko would be the one to get vapourised in the nuclear blast. We hadn't been bothering with him for the whole game - he'd never once been in our party - so we really didn't care about signing his death warrant. Sorry Alenko, but them's the breaks.
Game: Call of Duty 4
The deceased: Sgt Paul Jackson, Captain Price (?), Gaz, Sgt Griggs (?)
One of the greatest games of all time and an absolute master class in emotional warfare. From start to finish Call of Duty 4 delivers emotional impact like a sledgehammer to the guts. Despite the game's high body count, its portrayal of death can be so powerful, so provocative, that at times it left us shell-shocked and thoroughly depressed. It elicited the same kind of gloomy despair we might get when watching a particularly harrowing war movie, in fact.
The opening sequence taught us in rather brutal fashion that developer Infinity Ward wasn't scared of shocking the player by killing them dead during scripted moments, but nothing could have prepared us for the fate that awaited us when we took control of US Marine Sgt Paul Jackson. You can see how Jackson bites it in the movie below.
When we crawled out of the downed helicopter, felt Jackson's heartbeat grow weak in our hands and watched helplessly as the screen faded to white, we felt chills down our spine. We actually shuddered. Maybe it was because we had bonded with Jackson as he - we - frantically fought our way through the chaos and dust of a Middle Eastern hell hole. Perhaps it was the powerful image of a mushroom cloud towering over the scene of complete devastation and the resonating futility of it all. Whatever it was, it left us with a lingering sense of intense despondency and sadness that stayed with us long after we'd left the game.
And, masochistic to the end, Infinity Ward hit us where it hurt the most at the game's final showdown, making us watch in horror as everything went completely shit-shaped. Had Gaz been built up as one of the most likeable characters just so it would hurt even more when he was executed at point-blank range? Does Captain Price - who we'd played as earlier in the game - and Gaz - who pulled us to safety - even survive? Pretty much the antithesis of a happy ending. Watch the whole traumatic ordeal below. WARNING: this video contains scenes of graphic violence.
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