My newest PopMatters article is up: Playing the Ultimate Sacrifice.
Warning: This post contains widely known albeit significant spoilers for Halo: Reach and Left 4 Dead 2's 'The Sacrifice' campaign.
There are certain types of story, or narrative trops, I am disproportionately drawn to, and not necessarily because they are always done correctly or deserve no critical eye. Father/Son stories, for example, are simply fascinating to me. Another is the noble sacrifice, a final act of bravery for your friends. What better medium than videogames to express such a raw emotional moment?
I might come off as overly critical in this piece. I actually really enjoy 'The Sacrifice' campaign and the Lone Wolf level of Reach, but neither game capitalized on what could have been a really meaningful moment for players. In fact, taking the "gaming as usual" path was more jarring than anything else. Why can't I stay on the ground and shoot off enemies for as long as I can in L4D2 before being over run? Why can't I spend my final moments running around while my allies watch helpless from above? Even the "Kill Bill" achievement given to players for sacrificing the character according to canon is distracting.
Reach has a similar moment if you run too far away from enemies, warning you not to exit the battlefield. If there is no immediate reason to sacrifice herself, why can't Noble Six try to actually survive the ordeal? I would have preferred to go out in a decisive blaze of glory, maybe by crashing a vehicle into space ship like Randy Quaid from Independence Day (too soon?). I did find the overall story compelling, but actually playing Noble Six's death scene just meaningless.