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The 10 most shocking game moments of the decade

House of the Dead: Overkill | Incest | 2009

Officially the sweariest game ever made, clocking in 189 uses of a work that rhymes with “woodchuck”, Headstrong and Sega’s exploitastic HotD: Overkill also gave us flying mutant cripples, corpses in meat grinders and monsters growing our of other monster’s stomachs. But however hard the game beat the puss-spewing, desensitised life out of anything even threatening to be good taste, the gloriously foul ending still knocked our socks into a different post code the first time we saw it.

By the last level we thought we’d shot our way through every video game taboo ever to upset a disbarred lawyer, but Overkill had saved the best for last in the form of a big slobbery kiss of mother/son incest. Revealing the true villain of the game to be Clement Darling, a prison warden experimenting with zombification in order to prolong his own mother’s life span, Overkill wasted no time in showing us – on camera – just how close some families can be.

His plan in tatters, Clement finally resorted to performing a brain swap between dear old mum and Varla Gunns, the far younger, far hotter sidekick of our heroes. The mum/Varla hybrid then mutated into a Godzilla-sized beast, before eventually being subdued by way of two smoking miniguns.

And the screwed up little man behind it all? He decided that the only way to atone would be to cancel out his entire life by returning to the womb. Given its now oversized proportions, this was entirely feasible, and so he did. Mercifully off-camera this time.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare | Death by nuke | 2007

Call of Duty 4’s move to the modern era didn’t just change things in terms of setting and hardware, it also cranked up the severity of the franchise’s tone. With a properly adult rating at its disposal for the first time, Infinity Ward went all out to depict the uncompromising brutality of modern war and weaponry, making us see and do things that no other game had had the balls to include before.

You were manhandled, beaten and first-person executed during the opening title sequence. You silently murdered sleeping enemies in their bunks. You were allowed to play with an AC-130 gun turret just to show you how easy and detached the experience of killing can be. But then, during a frantic escape at the end of the ninth level, Shock and Awe, it scaled things up horribly.

You get back to the chopper. You get off the ground. You’re safe and you’re out of there. But then the cornered Al-Asad sets off a nuke and levels the city. You get caught in the blast. Your chopper goes down and you wake up in the burning ruins of the city. As you regain control, you think you’ve survived against the odds, as action heroes tend to do. But that notion is just silly.

That was a nuke that took you down, and this is modern warfare, not an Arnie movie. So you die. But the game lets you stay in control until the moment you gasp your last, letting you stumble, hobble and crawl through an uncomfortably protracted demise with only the sound of burning buildings and your own gasping breath for company. You can try as hard as you like to get away, and for a moment CoD4 will let you think you’re going to pull it off. But then you’ll just die, because that was a nuke, and this is what they do.

GTA III | Picking up prostitutes | 2001

Grand Theft Auto III sets itself up right from the start as being a bit risqué. One of your first missions is to pick up a prostitute and deliver her safely to Sex Club 7, with the warning from her pimp to keep your hands on the wheel. That's hardly Sesame Street, is it?

But who would have thought that you would be calling upon the services of ladies of the night in a PlayStation game at will? You can pay a few dollars, have your wicked way with them and even get a health boost above your normal maximum. Neat! But of course it was all too much for the more reserved members of our society, years before the whole Hot Coffee scandal broke around GTA: San Andreas.

You see, for some reason, everyone who's never played the game thinks that the game tells you to have sex with a hooker, kill her and steal her money. It doesn't. But hey - if that's what you did given the choice, look at yourself, not the game.

Sadly the reality is much more disturbing even than those naysayers believed. You curb-crawl for a little while, then wait as a girl gets into your car. You find somewhere quiet off the beaten track to perform your sordid deeds. The car starts rocking. And then… Hold R3 and you can see that instead of doing the wild thing, Claude and ladyfriend are sitting bolt upright in their respective seats, while the car rocks up and down on its suspension all by itself. Now that's shocking.

Dec29, 2009

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