The Top 7… games with fantastic flashbacks that give amnesia the middle finger

1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The level: All Ghillied Up/One Shot, One Kill

Just like Robert De Niro told us as we were wistfully staring into his ice cold eyes in The Deer Hunter, the ‘One shot’ rule is a pretty good way to live. Namely, do everything perfectly the first time you try it or you’re royally screwed.

Above: If it's good enough for Bobby, it's good enough for us

This is something a young Captain Price clearly took to heart in Modern Warfare’s incredible Chernobyl flashback missions, when he takes evil Ruskie Imran Zakhaev’s arm off with one bullet. Or eh, several if, like us, you f*cked up the shot fourteen times on the spin.

Above: 14th time’s the charm

Sniping your target from the best part of a mile away, though, is just a small part of what surely has to rank as one of the best paced FPS levels ever. Set in 1996, when Price was but a humble leftenant, you’re guided through Chernobyl’s grassy fields and wastelands by the most awesome man in Scottish history not to go by the name of Rab C. Nesbit.

Above: Sorry Rab, our hearts belong to the captain

Captain MacMillan doesn’t just look good in a ghillie sniper suit. He’s also a soothing, admittedly murderous, presence as he guides you through treacherous enemy terrain. He tells you when to hide in long grass. Informs you when you should take a shot. And mostly importantly, shouts at you to eat dirt when you both get accosted by a small army packing tanks.

Above: We sooo could have taken them

Of course, you could simply ignore his advice and do things your own way. After all, you’re Captain goddamn Price, owner of the finest military moustache ever to fight in any video game war. What could possibly go wrong?

On second thoughts, we’ll stick with the Scottish bloke.

Why it’s a fab flashback: Simply put, they're among two of the best FPS levels ever.

Pacing. That’s the key to COD 4’s best two levels. Radically different to any other part of the game (and arguably the franchise up until that point), the stealth-driven assassination mission is a master class in level design and scripting.

Unlike Black Ops, you always feel like you’re in control. And even though both levels are heavily scripted, the action remains incredibly tense, because it’s easy to screw things up at anytime. When you have to crawl past all the guards and tanks. When you have to take the sniper shot against Johnny Terrorist. When you desperately defend your position at the big wheel. It’s all brilliant heart-in-mouth stuff because Infinity Ward perfected the balance between player freedom and cinematic scripting.

Above: From the attempted hit to your eventual extraction, this is COD at its most breathless and thrilling

It’s not all spectacular helicopter chases or rappelling from exploding buildings, either. All Ghillied Up, in particular, is packed with small, quiet moments, which pay tribute to Chernobyl’s nuclear tragedy. No moment sums this up more eloquently than when you’re staring out at the deserted city from a dilapidated building. As MacMillian comments that ‘50, 000 people used to live in this city, but now it’s a ghost town’, you hear the faint, ghostly laughter of children on the wind. It’s a scene which shows Infinity Ward can nail small cinematic moments just as well as blowing shit to a kingdom named Come.

Above: Hey, we can appreciate the quiet moments... we just like the 'shooting men's spleens' moments more

Although, to be fair, the helicopter chases and rappelling bits do send our thumbs all a quiver with their awesomeness.

Above: Our thumbs are shaking as we type

So there you have it, our favourite flashback ever. Now, lets raise our deep-fried Mars Bars in honour of MacMillan’s heroics.

Dec 6, 2010

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  • Skykid - January 20, 2011 3:58 p.m.

    That one quiet moment between you and MacMillan in 'All Ghillied Up' was one of the few scenes in CoD4 that haunts me. It's the erie quiet, MacMillan's statement and the creepy laughter of children on the wind that still sets my nerves on edge to this day. *Shudders*
  • LizarDAZZLE - December 11, 2010 12:15 a.m.

    I remember that I managed to hit the terrorist guy in cod4 on my first try. I was pissed because I also managed to curve the bullet into what was clearly right in the face, but of course, that somehow only shot his arm off.
  • sternparez - December 9, 2010 9:40 a.m.

    Clearly MGS is the best one! Gave me chills when I first played it
  • josuerosales - December 9, 2010 4:20 a.m.

    ahh nm, someone already said something
  • josuerosales - December 9, 2010 4:18 a.m.

    for the ODST part, isn't the captain of the odst team Buck and not Dutch?
  • ClassicCreation - December 8, 2010 8:44 p.m.

    The Batman: Arkham Asylum flashback was beautifully done. It's no fluke that it remains my favourite game.
  • Mode - December 8, 2010 5:54 p.m.

    MGS4 man...I love MGS, and Shadow Moses did it for me. “Sacré bleu! Come quick my American papa! Ma seebling eez drowning!” This article is hilarious.
  • bass88 - December 8, 2010 12:52 p.m.

    The greatest Scotsman accolade goes to Connor MacCleod. Piss on MacMillan.
  • pizzasmellslikechrisantista - December 7, 2010 10:06 p.m.

    gamesradar should do a top 7 of psychedelic hallucinations. I nominate fallout 3: point lookout
  • dfhrfktk - December 7, 2010 9:10 p.m.

    I was kind of surprised to see ODST on this list, I thought I was the only one who actually enjoyed the storytelling in that game.
  • crumbdunky - December 7, 2010 8:34 p.m.

    MGS4 is still this gens besst all round gaming experience for me-tying up all the loose ends of that story(seemingly MADE of them_) was amazing on it's own. That Kojima did it while still allowing some amazing interactive touches and his usual eye for anal detail was just mindblowing and the old to new(but old, natch) Snake after the Moses flashback was one of the best in a great game. I never replayed MGS1 until AFTER playing Guns sol the original jerk to the mind of suddenly being back there DURING MGS4 was a lever touch for me personally and to think some people are daft enough to knock the game as little more than cutscene after cutscene is really, really sad to my mind-just a great example showing exactly why Kojima -and the series-are so great. So, though All Ghillied Up is among my favourite FPS levels ever, I'd have made MGS4 number one. Thing is, to this day, the missus, who likes to snipe sometimes, still can't drop a guy before whispering "Oi! Suzy!" in a Scots brogue first. A level that leaves an impression and that's for sure, great stuff up there with anything from more affecting games in the genre like HL or Bioshock and definitely worth inclusion.
  • sleepy92ismypsn - December 7, 2010 8:26 p.m.

    Even though I played MGS4 before MGS1,2 and 3, I really liked that flashback level. I wish more developers would pay homage to the predecessors of a beloved series.
  • waffman11 - December 7, 2010 8:10 p.m.

    I was expecting Reznov's flashback from Black Ops to be in here, that was the greatest piece of fanservice I have ever seen. It also had quickscoping with the scoped Mosin-Nagant in the level (a bonus easter egg as it mimics almost perfectly CoD2 sniper rifles), just so Treyarch can say, "No, there's still quickscoping in Black Ops, just play the campaign."
  • philipshaw - December 7, 2010 5:58 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more with number 1. Also MGS4 is the only time that I felt proper nostalgic in a game
  • MJHAYLETT - December 7, 2010 2:10 p.m.

    'All Ghillied Up' was awesome and I am not the world's biggest FPS fan. MGS4 takes the No. 1 spot for me though, it was pure magic having Act 4 start off PSOne-Era MGS only to be woken up and have his face revert from old Snake to um Old Snake :D
  • quincytheodore - December 7, 2010 6:19 a.m.

    lol I see you used the pistol-in-chicken-ass trick too for the Meat King.. Yeah.. those were the times.. If only I had grenade or something.. Agree with no.1.. It was the best mission of COD, I played it in veteran I think. My first FPS in X360, I still fumbled the controller back then and then came the helipad defense, I went Rambo, floated like butterfly and stung like bee, after maannnyy retries, I finally nailed it. Man, did I screamed that times.. Then my friend told me there was a sweet camping spot OTL..
  • TeaserTuesday - December 7, 2010 6:12 a.m.

    This is the best Top 7 in quite a while, I agree with pretty much all of the entries (the ones I played anyway). Plus it's true, these moments are all the best parts of these great games.
  • Jamahl - December 7, 2010 3:52 a.m.

    That CoD mission was the best CoD mission ever. No exceptions. If only all of them were full of missions like that.
  • soren7550 - December 7, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    @KnightDehumidifier - As awesome, atmospheric and epic it is, I don't think it counts since the only flashbacks that happen are quick pictures that pop up from ME1.
  • mrm1138 - December 7, 2010 12:55 a.m.

    How about almost the entirety of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time? "No, no, no, that's not the way it happened!"

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