Have you ever had a wide open Saturday afternoon, where there was nothing to do outside because of the weather, and all that was on TV is garbage college football and re-runs of early 90’s movies? I can’t really say that I have, at least not for several years, but there was a time in my life where I would stare at my video game shelf and all my completed games and ponder what to play. Nowadays, I have an adult life and so many games to play (just on Xbox 360 I need to finish The Walking Dead Episodes 2-4, Dead Space 3, Batman Arkham City, Forza Horizon, Alan Wake : American Nightmare all the while needing to start Call of Duty Black Ops 2 while my attention now is wholly diverted to Grand Theft Auto V. And this isn’t even mentioning the 20 or so titles on original Xbox that I would love to get around to) that I don’t have time to go through some of my favorite games and their nostalgic replay value. But, if in such a fantasy land this were possible, here are the five missions I would choose to replay.
5. Star Wars Battlefront II – A Line in the Sand
As a kid, this was the game that got me in the most trouble with my parents, and that I played the most. Back when I was 15 or so, on summer nights I would often steal my parents 20-year-old JC Penny television and put it in my room. Because they never used it, and it was usually sitting unplugged in their room, it would take a couple of days for them to realize that it went missing. By that time, I had already logged a good 10-15 hours playing Battlefront II, staying up late in the warm summer air blitzing my way through missions, and getting to the point where I was untouchable in this game. As far as the campaign goes, although not quite as solid an overall game as the original Battlefront, the storyline was far superior. In order to get the full realization of this mission, you have to play it on the hardest difficulty. Taking place on the planet of Kashyyyk, the most difficult parts originate from having to defend the oil fields (which have a finite amount of health) from a non-stop Separatist onslaught for about three minutes or so. While on lower difficulties you can just get in a tank and run a train, you’re dead in the water if you try this on hard, as the droid tanks will tear you a new one, while their buddies on foot will massacre the oil fields. It’s best to take out some rockets, lay mines, and get into the thick of things and just get messy to beat this mission. Once you defend the fields, you have to take the fight to the droid army using Yoda, who was in my experience the hardest Jedi to use thanks to the absence of saber throw and his small stature. And on hard difficulty, if you die as Yoda when the enemies focus their fire on you, you might as well give up because at that point the reinforcement count is so small that a comeback is next to impossible.
4. Mass Effect 2 – Suicide Mission
Mass Effect 2 wasn’t the best playing experience for me. I was massively disappointed with how it started following the masterpiece that was the original Mass Effect. The new ammunition, removal of the inventory system, and overall hijacking that EA did of the game didn’t make me too happy. There were plenty of bright spots in the game, but despite improved graphics and gameplay, it felt a lot clunkier to me. Still, some of the missions in the game were very well done, such as boarding the Collector ship or the derelict reaper. This includes the final mission, which if you played your cards right, not only did you get to have, um, “relations” with the mega-babe Miranda, but you got to save the galaxy afterward. Being able to choose who would go accomplish what task, such as scouting through the vents (always use Legion) and who creates the biotic shield (Samara or Jack if you desire victory), and seeing how exactly your actions and choices panned out were only part of what made this mission awesome. You also got to rescue your crew, shred Collectors with (if you chose it on the Collector Ship) the Widow sniper rifle, and lay waste to a human reaper with a nuke launcher. Plus, at the end you get to stick it to Martin Sheen, (I mean, The Illusive Man) and get yourself amped up for what was supposed to be an awesome third title.
3. Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare : All Ghillied Up
This has to be the best mission in any Call of Duty game made. One of the first ones I have personally ever played, this mission is just completely nail-biting. Crawling under trucks, through wasteland, under brush with a silenced pistol and sniper rifle, trying to remain completely off the grid by placing your shots and timing them perfectly, is just part of the experience that this mission offers. Plus, it’s one of the few missions where you get to play as series protagonist John Price, and it’s a good flashback that offers insight into the story. Having to make the shot that blows off Imran Zakhev’s arm by adjusting for wind and distance is one of the most difficult aspects of the game at first. After that shot, upon being discovered you have to escape to an extraction point while supporting the injured Captain Macmillian, all the while running and gunning with one free arm. It’s the perfect mid Saturday morning mission, right after pancakes and hot chocolate. I really need to be waking up earlier so that I can enjoy some of these things.
2. Halo 4 : Arrival
Although this is the most recent game by far, once this mission hit me I was immediately wowed, making it an instant classic in my mind. The second half of this game and storyline is simply brilliant, and starting a mission where I’m gunning through a Star Wars-esque trench run in a ship as the Master Chief, attempting to stop the Didact from reaching Earth is just so great. Then, I’m tasked with slaying my way through the Forerunner ship, picking up Gravity Hammers, Incineration Cannons and Binary Rifles along the way, while facing down hordes of Knights and Elite Battlewagons. To cap it off, Cortana is completely losing her mind, and decides to go crazy in the general direction of the Didact, who is busy assimilating the members of Earth to achieve his master plan. You inject Cortana into the system to digitally fight the Didact, and then burn your way through masses of Knights with a complete sense of urgency while the best score of any video game yet plays in the background. You come to the last terminal, and face down at least eight or nine Knights, one or two of which is always wielding an Incineration Cannon, and fight desperately for your life. The first time I played this on merely Heroic difficulty, I may have gotten slaughtered ten or eleven times in a row, before finally defeating the Knight Chieftain. Then with a sense of final victory, you get to blow the Didact to kingdom come, but are immediately captivated by the death of Cortana, who heroically takes one for the team to save the Chief. The gameplay, graphics, storyline, and cut scenes make this my favorite Halo mission yet.
1. Lord of the Rings : The Return of the King – Minas Tirith Top of the Wall
Along with Star Wars Battlefront II, this was my favorite game of my teenage years, aside from Halo. Based on, but released before New Line’s feature film, it’s amazing to play this game and remember that 10 years ago that these were cutting edge graphics. At its release, I didn’t yet own a new generation gaming console (being stuck playing NBA Shootout 2000 on PlayStation) so I could only play it in small amounts at the house of my friends or family. In fact, when I first actually bought this game around the age of 14 (about a year and a half after release), my parents forced me to sell it because they deemed it too violent for me, even though it was rated T for Teen. I played an excessive amount of it at my cousin’s house, who they at first didn’t have a memory card for their PS2. Which meant, in Sony’s nickel-and-dime-you-for-all-your-money plot, we could not save the game at any point whatsoever. So unless they kept the console on and paused at the game, we had to start over every single time. The furthest we had ever gotten was to this level, which on the Gandalf track of levels follows Helm’s Deep and The Road to Isengard. It involves playing as Gandalf on the top of the walls in Minas Tirith (as the level title would suggest), knocking down ladders and holding off being overrun by the forces of Mordor. The mini-map was at first rather difficult to decipher, but once you figured out where ladders were dropping and on what side the siege towers were advancing, the game got significantly easier. Apparently there’s a catapult somewhere on the map as well, which can be used to take down siege towers, but to this day I can’t recall how to get there, as instead I would use Gandalf’s ranged lightning attack to destroy them. It’s also possible to take down the flying Nazgul that terrorize the walls, but usually I would be so frantic to prevent being overrun that I paid them no mind. I take pride in the fact that I was the first one to beat this level on the memory card-less Playstation 2, advancing to the next level being Minas Tirith : Courtyard, before getting smashed to bits by trolls.
There are so many other games I could easily add, such as anything from Halo : Combat Evolved, Halo 3, Alan Wake, Mass Effect, Math Blaster, Commander Keen, KoTOR, or any GTA/Red Dead title, but these are the ones that happen to stick out in my mind. As the Pennsylvania weather gets colder, and if I possibly get bored with the massive amounts of titles that I currently have on my to-do list, maybe, just maybe, I will have to make some pancakes and hot chocolate, and play through a casual favorite flashback on a chilly Saturday morning.