In the second day of our 'Decade in gaming' mega-feature, we're looking at the most downright abominable gaming moments of the last 10 years. Just to clarify, we don't mean 'shockingly bad'. Or in the other sense of the word, 'surprising'.
What we're looking at here is when games made us jump out of our seats and say, "Woah, did that really just happen?!". Moments that were transgressive, scandalous, exploitative or downright offensive.
Some of these instances were lambasted by the moral majority, demonised by the press and held up as gaming witchcraft, while others were less publicised. One thing unites them all - they broke gaming taboos. Bask in their illicit thrills...
WARNING: The videos and accompanying text in this feature deal with themes and imagery that some may find offensive and are definitely not suitable for anyone under the age of 18. Please note that all videos are age-gated.
The Darkness | Jenny's Death | 2007
Gamers talk a lot about emotion in games. But without the benefit of real humans portraying real human emotions, it's undoubtedly a tough challenge. Shit, with movies we choke back the tears on a regular basis. But with games? We've yet to weep for any of the supposedly heart-wrenching tragedies that we've been put through over the years. That said, the brutal execution of Jackie Estacado's girlfriend, Jenny Romano, in The Darkness demonstrated that video games really can make us hurt with sadness.
Beneath the demons and mob violence, The Darkness is a touching love story. It's impossible not to let out a little 'aaaaawwww' as the couple snuggle up on the sofa and watch a movie together. They look genuinely happy. It's sweet, it's touching and it's completely believable. Sitting on the couch and having a cuddle with your lady is something that many of us do every day. It establishes Jenny as the only normal thing in Jackie's extra-ordinary life.
So when Jenny is captured by bent police chief Eddie Shrote and mob boss Uncle Paulie, it's no wonder that we - as the player - desperately want to rescue her. Once the grim realisation sinks in that it isn't going to have a happy ending, the sense of panic and helplessness is paralyzing. There's nothing we can do but watch. Which is exactly
all Jackie can do, as the darkness restrains and holds him back.
Once Jenny's brains have been splattered, the urge to run in and make a bloody mess out of the perpetrators is overwhelming. But, of course, Jackie is grief-stricken by what has happened. Games are great at doing death, but rarely do they even attempt to deal with the emotional fallout. Still, when we do finally catch up with Paulie at the end of the game and he's on his back begging for mercy, putting a bullet in his head is mighty satisfying. And the reward? One last moment with Jenny...
Resident Evil 4 | Getting decapitated by Doctor Salvador | 2005
What’s that noise? Sounds a bit like whirring to us. Ah well, we’re sure it’s nothing. Oh look, here comes a fat chap with a bag on his head. What’s that he’s got his hand? Best shoot him. Shit, we’ve missed… AAAHHHHHH, holy f**k! That’s pretty much an accurate recounting of the first time we’ve ever got our head torn off by Resi 4’s Doctor Salvador and his rusty chainsaw.
A clear homage to Leatherface and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this sociopathic Spaniard with decidedly dodgy medical credentials is perhaps the most iconic baddie of the decade. It’s not just the act of him dislodging Leon’s head from his neck that’s shocking, either – although the agonisingly slow nature of the tiny whirring blades slicing through the hero’s neck is horrendous. No, it’s the build-up that’s actually more off putting.
Just hearing the noise of the dull instrument of death in the distance growling at you like an aggressive pit-bull, long before you can see Salvador, is hugely unsettling. In a series built on suspense, the sense of dread that’s drilled into you at the sound of the doctor’s weapon is unmatched. And for the sheer nerve-wracking build-up and genuinely shocking gore – that the game revels in with its close up death cams – this merits a place in the list.
Silent Hill 2 | Pyramid Head raping mannequin monsters | 2001
Oh dear God. We had to watch this about three times before we could finally make out the soul-souffléing terror that’s going on in the above Silent Hill 2 scene. When you actually clock what Pyramid Head’s doing with that razor-sharp bonce of his, there’s simply no question that this one of the most shocking moments of the past ten years. The vigorous gyrating, the fact his helpless mannequin victims can’t scream because they’ve got legs of where their mouths should be; it’s just a shocking moment of sexual violence.
The emotionally-loaded subject of rape has never really been dealt with in games before or since Konami’s survival horror. While we applaud the Silent Hill team’s for being confident enough to broach the subject, it’s not exactly something we’re in a rush to see again. Still, even though it’s a hugely disquieting moment, there’s no question it further adds to Pyramid Head’s mystique as one of the most terrifying video game villains ever.
C’mon, a dude that goes around molesting other monsters? It may be seven different shades of wrong, but it undoubtedly makes him one of the scariest characters ever to grace the medium. We’re used to our foes murdering and maiming, but throwing the sexual element into the equation adds such an uncomfortable rawness that this moment easily out shocks almost every other act of violence from the last decade.
Next: Full-frontal nudity, snuff movies and pissing on people...