I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint the exact moment that I realised what a great game this is. Having just used the mortar for the first time in a chaperone mission through an exquisitely detailed abandoned and half-destroyed town, I went back to the ladder by which I had gained access to the rooftop. Instead of my character shouldering his weapon and using the steps like practically every other game to date, he vaulted over the edge, swinging his way down, before performing a graceful pirouette to dismount that would have been dainty if he wasn’t 6’4″, built like a rugby player and wearing enough metal to clad a tank or two.
Or maybe it was after I had unknowingly played for four straight hours and didn’t want to put the controller down, because the story was so damn engrossing. Or during the armoured assault through a landscape straight out of Tolkien. Or the time when half-breed mutants were smashing out of their stasis tanks in full-blown gothic horror, and I was down to a handful of bullets so had to use the oh-so-gory chainsaw to fight my way out, my heart pounding in fright.
No, wait. It was when, after being swallowed by a stone worm the size of a skyscraper while taking the battle to the Locust underground lair, I set out through its internal organs – fighting my way through an obstacle course of digestive teeth, stomach acid and noxious fumes – in order to dispatch its three hearts in a deluge of blood, and stop it sinking the human cities above.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t any one moment. It was the accumulation of details, like the imaginative and almost beautiful aliens (who are actually difficult to dispatch), the pacing of the encounters with them and the ratcheting up of tension, the voice acting that made me believe in the characters, the way the storyline constantly surprised with its refusal to be cheap and nasty, and the inspired sound effects and music that give such solidity to the experience. Not to forget the amazing art direction, with its baroque and cyberpunk overtones, and the hints of HR Giger inspiration.
And I’m only three-quarters of the way through, and haven’t touched the multiplayer yet. Enough reviewing – I’m going back to play some more!