Because everyone loves to feel like a total badass.
Whether it’s film, literature, television or otherwise, modern media has given us so many absolutely intense moments of badassery over the years, but none of them can deliver those moments in the way video games can. A good storyteller can make you feel like you’re in the centre of the action, right there next to the protagonist as they pull off their heroics; that gives us some incredible experiences to share with friends and family, but it’s nothing compared to actually being the protagonist, seeing the world through their eyes and actually pulling those heroics off in real-time.
This month, the members of the Doublejump team jumped straight from talking about the games they play when they want to relax to the other end of the spectrum, and had a chat about some of the most intense, badass moments they’ve played through in their favourite games. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride!
Ben: The Ashtray Maze in Control
The Ashtray Maze! I guarantee if you talk to anyone who tackled Control, the surrealist third person shooter from last year, they’ll talk about how incredible this 5-odd minute sequence is, and how it’s the best bit of the game. I agree, obviously, which is why I’m writing this, but the thing that brings the Ashtray Maze from “a good video game level” to “the best part of Control” is all contextual. Let me flesh it out a bit for you.
Control is largely brutalist, square, oppressive concrete. For most of the game, the joy is using your telekinetic powers to wreak havoc on the miserable architecture, tearing off chunks and hurling them at errant enemies. That combat is very strategic, though, requiring you to balance these powers with gunfire, evasion and cover to avoid getting overwhelmed by lots of foes. In the leadup to the maze, you’ll have recently unlocked the hover ability, but mostly used it for platforming puzzles in between some challenging fights. It’s a relatively quiet, odd sequence, only serving to help you get the keys to the maze that you’ve seen staring at you on the map, but have been unable to access for the whole game thus far.
Then you enter the maze. The key, it seems, was the janitor’s portable radio, and as you slip in the earbuds the ambient electronic soundtrack gives way to an 80s hair metal band that screams “Take! Control!”. The geometry is now every shape, constantly moving around you, shifting and changing paths — enemy groups are small and the arenas are aggressively open, so you run and gun and finally you have command over the combat instead of being on the tactical back foot. You hover through swirling hallways that seem to work with you, taking you on paths away from enemies instead of into them. The song flits into soft, contemplative acoustic guitar and adrenaline-fuelled distorted solos as you progress, matching your progress perfectly. As you exit the final hallway, the maze completed, the song changes one final time: “I. Control.” Your character, Jesse, removes her earbuds and laughs, “that was awesome”.
The Ashtray Maze works because it earns its status; you’re aware of and learning about it, but you can’t access it until you meet certain criteria. You work hard and slowly grow and become more powerful, but you never feel it until this one moment when you become an unstoppable god, fueled by an atmosphere and environment that finally favours you, and with a soundtrack that isn’t cheapened by repetition. It’s a whole game that’s brilliantly constructed to reach this one five minute sequence and make you feel like the ultimate badass… And then swiftly cut you down again and keep being the game it was before, but that’s neither here nor there.
Cai: The Final Mission in Invisible, Inc.
Invisible, Inc. lays its hand out very clearly at the moment you start. You’ve got 72 in-game hours to prepare in whatever way you choose, and then the final mission tests your skills. Your team beams down into the base, already on the back foot against heavily-armed guards that you haven’t seen before, and you split them up between different rooms. This is the point where usually, you split up and things rapidly go wrong. Your computer runs out of power. Your best agent gets spotted and taken down with no revives. Game over.
Or not, because there’s another way. Your agent escapes from the room, methodically hiding behind boxes until they can make a break for it.. You manage your computer’s power better, conserving it right up until the critical moment. Your A-team makes it to the final door, with guards closing in and time running out. You throw one of your agents in front of the guards in a desperate bid to buy time, and their sacrifice pays off.
You spend the entirety of Invisible, Inc. clawing your way back from nothing, collecting teammates, computer upgrades and gear, and the final mission puts all of your hard work to the test. If you did it right, you spent those few hours pulling together a crack team of well-equipped agents, and now you’re a force to be reckoned with. After countless failures, having everything finally work perfectly and pulling off a mission against such stacked odds is an incredible and very well-deserved payoff.
Callum: Beating the final mission in Homeworld
Homeworld was a pretty grueling experience for 14-year-old me. Not only was it a strategy game when I’d mostly stuck to RPGs to that point, but it had true 3D space combat. There was enough of a learning curve that, mechanically speaking, finishing the game felt awesome — but there’s more to it than that.
I’m a nerd. I love sci-fi, but so often my favorite sci-fi strategy games (looking at you Sins of a Solar Empire) lack a sense of investment in the units being used — they’re either expendable pawns or they’re practically invulnerable — but in Homeworld, every ship became part of a narrative, right down to the smallest fighter. I couldn’t just throw my ships at the advancing enemy, I had to think, weigh up which ships were most valuable, and consider formations. Through all of this, there was one looming question: did I have enough ships?
My ragtag refugee fleet transformed from a handful of second-rate interceptors into a cutting-edge navy in exile over the course of the campaign, but there was one problem: half the ships I’d built or captured had been destroyed just before the final mission, and now I had to face a galactic empire’s last, most desperate line of defence. Positioning took ten minutes, and the fight lasted five. Every loss was excruciating, but then my fleet broke through the enemy lines and their flagship went down in flames less than a minute later. It felt like something right out of Star Wars.
Cav: “Macho Man” Randy Savage firing the shot that saved humanity in XCOM 2
It was 2016’s XCOM 2 that finally, after two decades of iteration, unlocked the feature’s full potential, with Steam Workshop functionality. Rather than spend hours trying to approximate characters’ looks on your own, you could just download the work of the community’s best creators, netting you a small army of pop culture’s finest in minutes.
After a long, hard road, strewn with the bodies of many noble fighters, I finally reached Operation Leviathan, XCOM 2’s final mission. An epic strike against the alien forces’ ruthless Avatars, my men were forced to hold out against everything the invaders could throw at us. Slowly advancing room to room, their strength being slowly whittled down by each wave of bug-eyed creeps, things were already looking grim when they made it to the Avatars, and it was getting worse by the second. Deadpool took a plasma blast to the face, and Big Boss was punished for good by a stray grenade. One by one, my team was going down, and it looked like it would take a miracle to win the day.
Enter wrestling legend “Macho Man” Randy Savage, with one lucky burst from his assault rifle that was enough to take down the last Avatar. It was a fluke shot that would be heard around the world, crippling the alien forces and allowing humanity to take back the planet. Many legends came from this war, but it will be forever known how the Macho Madness saved the Earth, and secured XCOM 2 a place in my heart forever. Oooh yeeeeeeah.
Jake: Getting out of the hotel basement in The Last of Us
I’m not good with horror in any medium, and I spent every last second of The Last of Us absolutely convinced that something insanely, ridiculously scary that I would take years to recover from was around every single corner I turned. I figured that the more I prepared myself for that moment, the less risk I had of jumping through my roof or perforating every eardrum in a two kilometre radius, or straight-up going into cardiac arrest… and that moment never came. Using incredible audio visual and environmental design, Naughty Dog created an experience wherein the threat of being scared was worse than the actual scare; it was an experience designed to keep your heart rate up nice and high without ever giving you the heart attack it made you anticipate, and that’s why it’ll go down as one of my favourite gaming experiences of all time.
With that being said, though, I don’t think I’ve ever discussed The Last of Us without mentioning the scene in the hotel basement. Right after confronting my intense fear of deep water (in this case, drowning) by forcing me to swim through a room where there wasn’t even an air pocket, the game had me tip-toeing around in almost complete darkness, looking for a way out of a basement crawling with Cordyceps zombies. I didn’t go into this room with any strategy at all: most people spot the door first and are able to plot their path, but I found the keycard and stumbled across the generator — the ridiculously loud generator in a basement full of creatures with super-hearing — without ever seeing what it would power. All I knew was that there’s never been a keycard scanner that didn’t require power. My heart started to race as soon as I saw the generator, but that was absolutely nothing compared to the palpitations that came after I turned it on and heard the entire population of the basement shriek and start running head-first at me (fortunately for me, I wasn’t the only one).
I should probably remind you at this point that I hadn’t seen the door I was looking for. I just started running around like a headless chicken looking for whatever this keycard I’d found would open, praying that I wouldn’t stay still long enough to get absolutely feasted on. I made it through that door by the skin of my teeth, with a Bloater about to harvest my soul through the controller… and then delayed my review by a week while I recovered.
Hell, my pulse started racing just talking about it.
John: A fistfight on the moon in Asura’s Wrath
I wish there were more games like Asura’s Wrath. Besides CyberConnect2’s Naruto-centric output and maybe PlatinumGames, I can’t think of many games that so fully embrace the crazy cosmic bombast of large-scale anime combat like Asura’s Wrath does. Not the quick-time events so much, or the too-simple combat, but the ludicrous scale, unrestrained style and just the sheer absurdity of it all is so rare to see anywhere else in video games.
Which brings me to the only part of Asura’s Wrath I remember (I’m due for a replay) and the sequence used in the demo I played at least five times: Asura versus Augus. Set to the orchestral epic “From the New World”, Asura faces up against his cheery mentor in a fight-to-the-death between two gods on the moon. It ends with Augus spearing Asura off of the moon with his impossible extending katana Wailing Dark (YES) and flying down through space until he stabs him into the Earth. The rest of the sword skewers through Asura and the planet’s core until it comes out the other side. It’s totally ridiculous and also the coolest fucking thing in the world.
It isn’t very hard — none of the game is, from what I remember — but it’s the sort of pure battle anime spectacle I cherish.
Lucas: The lead up to Final Fantasy XV’s Leviathan battle
Panic, paranoia, eerie orchestration and waves of enemies are all that stand between you and perhaps Final Fantasy XV’s most honourable antagonist thus far. Built up as the God of the Sea and protector of Altissia, Leviathan also has an insatiable appetite for destruction and devastation. The city Leviathan protects is serene, with amazing ocean views and sunlit architecture. It’s a zen-like city-state… until you enter the city looking for the ocean astral’s power. Leviathan is one of the six Astrals who bestows the King of Kings with the power he needs to defeat the Starscourge, but she’s not about to help Noctis so easily.
Walking around the beautiful city of Altissia, I felt a sense of calm, even relaxation, as though the rest of the game’s events had never happened, but everything changed when I summoned Leviathan in order to protect Insomnia from destruction. The once-peaceful city was buried under her majestic tide. Pathways broke, traversal was almost impossible and the battles against waves of troopers, robots and water familiars made the lead-up to this battle absolutely breathtaking. I demanded her power as a show of strength — as expected, she dismissed me as a little boy playing with fire and proceeded to show me her power. I couldn’t do anything but dodge and weave my way through broken households and warp across vast distances to avoid her tail swipes. I was on the verge of just rage-quitting when she took out the last patch of ground I could walk on, and then something clicked: I was severely underpowered and not equipped to even contend with this Goddess of the Sea, but after a few short, heart-wrenching cutscenes, the game played me a song I would never forget.
That soundtrack marked a complete change of circumstances. Finally, with the Armiger available to me, I was able to flying through the air and launch all manner of ethereal weapons at Leviathan, tearing bits and pieces off her and taking control of the battle — by the three-quarter mark, Leviathan realised that I had her outmatched and threw everything she could think of at me, but I was able to smite her where she stood and she finally saw me for who I was and granted me her power.
This fight was everything I’ve ever wanted out of a video game, especially a Final Fantasy one, and lead-up to that moment — that feeling of weakness and defeat that came before I took the upper hand… That whole stanza was just incredible.
Matt: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’s Jeep Chase
The Uncharted series is my favourite in all of gaming, and although I can’t choose a favourite from the bunch, I can safely say that each entry brought a few of those intense, badass moments we’re talking about. I’ve settled for the iconic Jeep chase in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, though, simply because it feels like a culmination of everything developer Naughty Dog had learned up to that point. It’s fluid, engaging, tense and most importantly… badass.
The sequence sees protagonist Nathan Drake and his mentor Victory “Sully” Sullivan chasing after Drake’s brother, Sam, as he tries to evade them. The chase is incredibly fun in terms of gameplay alone, but in true Uncharted fashion, the jokes that Nate and Sully crack while they’re destroying everything in (and around) their path make it so much better. There are multiple branching paths to keep you on your toes and force you to make decisions on the fly, and you’ve also got to avoid capture by the military truck that’s chasing you — all while keeping the sequence’s scripted flow intact. It’s as challenging as it is fun, but it’s what happens soon afterward that takes it right over the top.
Running out of road, Nate and Sully find themselves approaching a river, with a large truck following overhead. In typical Uncharted fashion, Nate whips out his grappling hook, latching onto the truck above, as he is flung about over the river. As you (controlling Nate, of course) reach the other side, the game asks you to start shooting enemies off the back of multiple trucks while you’re getting thrown about the mud on the literal edge of your rope. Once you’ve collected yourself and made it to the front of the convoy, you watch your Jeep get t-boned as Sam swings around to collect you on his bike, launching you into another intense chase as the truck that was chasing your Jeep finds you again. As you turn around to unleash a storm of bullets into its grate, Sam slides the bike underneath an incoming truck and you get to watch your pursuers burst into flames.
This might seem like an extremely detailed explanation of the moment, and it is, but it’s ultimately the best way to talk about it — it plays just as well as it sounds. It’s a truly incredible, memorable moment that’ll live in my memory for a long, long time to come.
Max: Completing Divinity Original Sin 2 in Honor Mode on Tactician difficulty
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a fairly challenging game by itself, even for those who aren’t strangers to the turn-based tactical RPG formula. Enemies can and will employ abilities against you that you can’t acquire yourself, or will just be plain over-levelled in comparison to your meek party of adventurers. Divinity does do a stellar job of equipping you with the tools and knowledge to overcome these often unbalanced threats, basically all of that work is undone in Honor mode.
Honor Mode is the hardest difficulty setting with the added caveat of permadeath: you get one save file, which overwrites itself when a party member dies and deletes itself if they all perish. It’s gruellingly difficult if you play it without “cheesing” encounters or employing underhanded tactics (I’m looking at you, oil barrel stackers!), so completing it honestly is still one of my proudest achievements.
Enemies hit harder more often, some have new abilities that completely change the encounter and some are just buffed to the moon and back, but with some planning, patience and a little bit of ingenuity, you can overcome those obstacles. The added layer of tension, knowing that an encounter could turn in the enemies’ favor any turn, that any fight might be your last makes playing this critically-acclaimed RPG a completely different experience.
It took many tries and a good dose of blood, sweat and tears but I finally had a plan in place for each and every enemy encounter so as to thwart them entirely. My party of Lohse and Fane slashed and burned their way to a hero’s victory, and although the tea leaves in Arx trivialised the final boss a little, it was still just as epic as I’d imagined it would be.
Tom: Defeating Sans in the Genocide run of Undertale
After first playing Undertale on a laptop back in 2016, I decided to go for the complete experience on the Nintendo Switch. Regardless of which version you’re playing, the blue-eyed skeleton Sans always lingers on the sidelines, cracking jokes and ominously suggesting a showdown if you give in to evil. The showdown finally takes place after you murder every character you can murder — and make no mistake, the game makes you feel like an absolute monster for that — and boy oh boy, you’re in for a bad time: Sans lies, cheats and changes the rules, and he does. Not. Stop. After you’ve spent hours getting used to a consistent turn-based combat experience, Sans is suddenly a platforming, bullet-storming love letter to arcade gaming. The outstanding Megolovania track serves to fuel the adrenaline even further, raising the stakes as Sans puts you in your place.
There is no forgiveness to be found in this marathon of offense as you tackle the chortling demon. Days went by and I slowly progressed further and further into his attack phases with each playthrough, with no end in sight. Finally, during a flight home to Melbourne after Christmas, I survived his penultimate attack (an out-of-nowhere, rapid, side-scrolling obstacle course) as the plane jolted into turbulence and my Switch almost slid straight out of my sweat-drenched palms. I won’t spoil Sans’ big finish, but it was one of my greatest highs in gaming… before Undertale did what it does best, pulling reality out from underneath me and reminding me of the monster I became to bring this nightmarish battle about in the first place.
Those are our picks, but as is the nature of these Multiplayer features, there are so many options that we haven’t been able to cover. Be sure to join us in our community and let us know the most intense, badass moment you’ve ever played through as well!
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Also published on Medium.