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Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

24 Feb 2014

The set piece has always strived to bring a little touch of the cinematic to enliven games and, regardless of hardware limitations, each generation has some jaw-dropping spectacle or immersive scenario to boast. So strap yourself in as games™ presents the 35 most exhilarating set piece moments in gaming history…

1. A Tale of Two Scarabs

Game: Halo 3
Year: 2007

Driving into a glacial valley swarming with Covenant forces and heavy UNSC artillery completely staggered us; the grandiosity of it was stunning. Then, when not one but two Scarabs dropped down into the fray, we remember pulling over our Warthog and just marveling at the sheer scale of the task that lay before us.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

2. “A Man Chooses, A Slave Obeys”

Game: BioShock
Year: 2007

Walking into Ryan’s offices, seeing him calmly play golf and make his speech to you… it’s a masterclass in tension-building and interactive narrative. The moment blurs the line expertly between player agency and motivation.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

3. Of Striders and Silos

Game: Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Year: 2007

Seemingly designed to showcase the gravity physics of the game and the incredible pacing Valve can pull off, the final mission of Half-Life, Episode 2 felt like a constant uphill struggle – the Striders just kept on coming, and when the dust settled around the dismembered limbs, the relief was palpable.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

4. Into The Mouth of Sin

Game: Final Fantasy X
Year: 2001

The last of a four-part battle against the game’s premier big bad, Tidus and co. feel like they’re pretty much taking on a suicide mission by driving head-on into the mouth of Sin. Timed with an invisible counter that’ll insta-Game Over you upon completion, the whole setpiece is thick with tension and threat.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

5. Scarecrow’s Nightmare

Game: Batman: Arkham Asylum
Year: 2009

Taking advantage of the deepest fears of a psychologically damaged orphan shouldn’t result in such an entertaining setpiece, but Bruce Wayne’s Fear Gas-induced Scarecrow nightmare is our highlight of the entire Arkham series. Fusing incredible level design and a unique look into Bats’ brain, the whole encounter left us feeling eerily unsettled.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

6. Mother Pus Bucket

Game: Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Year: 2009

While Ghostbusters: The Video Game as a whole was deeply flawed, there’s no denying that the city-sized bust-up with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man massages the nostalgia glands in all the right ways. Luigi may have his vacuum and Arthur can keep his Ghouls’n Ghosts, but for a real ghost- busting experience, we’ll take toasting one of the cinema’s most iconic monsters in the middle of Time Square every time.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

7. Havin’ A Whale of a Time

Game: Sonic Adventure
Year: 2003

Setpieces in Sonic games are done surprisingly well (or at least they were when Sonic games were still actually good). The best example is the infamous Orca Chase in Sonic Adventure’s Emerald Coast level – the sequence proved it’s not impossible to make a half-decent 3D Sonic level, if nothing else.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

8. “Worst Family Fun Vacation Ever”

Game: Bulletstorm
Year: 2011

After breaking into an abandoned theme park and slaying its crazed squatters, you attract the attention of the park’s main attraction; MechaTon – a gigantic cyborg-dinosaur. After a quick game of cat-and-mouse, you come into possession of the machination’s control panel, prompting a ridiculous dino- stomping romp of death across Bulletstorm’s best level.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

9. Escaping The Normandy

Game: Mass Effect 2
Year: 2010

It takes confidence in your story to wipe the slate clean at the start of the second instalment, and in a symbolic gesture of rebirth, BioWare decided to kill off not just Shepard, but his prized vessel; the Normandy. Starting up a game to find everything you came back to the franchise for being torn apart? An inspired decision.

Top 35 Set Pieces Of All Time

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