hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

The Memory Card .53: The nuclear blast

4:00 PM on 02.05.2009 // Chad Concelmo

Death usually falls into two categories in videogames.

There is category one, the more commonly seen of the two, when a main character such as Mario or Samus falls into a pit or depletes his/her health bar and just quickly returns to the last checkpoint to tackle the challenge once again (see: basically every videogame ever created).

Then there is category two, in which a character in the game actual dies permanently because the story takes a dramatic and unexpected twist. This category of videogame death usually occurs in a role-playing game and, more often that not, results in said deceased character magically rising from the grave to appear later in the game (see: Final Fantasy IV).

In the very rare case, though, death hits a videogame character in a completely unexpected way. The perfect example of this is in the recent Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. In this game, death rears its ugly, tragic head when the player least expects it.

Hit the jump to witness a moment that blurs the line of what can happen in a videogame.

The Set-Up

To say I wasn’t a fan of FPSes years ago is a complete understatement. I was so snobby when it came to the “hardcore” genre that I refused to even touch a Halo disc. But all of this changed with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. While I loved more story based FPS games like Half-Life and BioShock, Modern Warfare was the first “traditional” first-person shooter to truly blow me away and actually get me interested in the genre. Look, I am even rubbing Halo 2 all over my face right now to prove it!

In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare you actually play as two characters: Sergeant “Soap” MacTavish and Sergeant Paul Jackson. Technically, six characters are controlled throughout the game’s entirety, but MacTavish and Jackson are featured in the majority of the levels.

As the game begins, MacTavish and some fellow soldiers infiltrate a ship in the middle of the ocean. After finding a nuclear device and discovering a dangerous tie between Russian terrorists and a rebel faction in the Middle East, the ship begins to sink and MacTavish and crew barely manage to escape.

From this point on, the game alternates control between MacTavish and Jackson (and occasionally a surprise one-level character) as they both attempt to stop the Russian and Middle Eastern antagonists from obtaining and detonating a large nuclear arsenal. (Of course, the plot is far more complicated than that, but do you really want to read paragraph after paragraph of fancy war talk that I, honestly, don’t really understand?)

A little before halfway through the game, control once again falls into the boots of Sergeant Jackson as he attempts to infiltrate the Middle Eastern stronghold where one of the main terrorists resides.

The level opens with an epic helicopter sequence, with Jackson behind the controls of a giant turret. After destroying a number of enemies and securing a landing spot, the helicopter touches down and Jackson and company head off to find and hopefully vanquish the terrorist threat.

As the U.S. team of soldiers searches the compound, they are informed by Central Command that a nuclear bomb has been located inside the terrorist stronghold. Instead of continuing their quest, Central Command recommends that all forces evacuate the area while a special team comes in to try and disarm the bomb.

With these new orders, Jackson and his team set off to help rescue a platoon pinned down by enemy fire and, well, get the heck out of there!

After saving his allies, Jackson jumps in the back of the helicopter and takes off into the bullet-filled sky.

It is here when the next Memory Card moment occurs: the nuclear blast.

The Moment

As the helicopter flies away into the distance, Jackson hears Central Command come on his radio and tell him that the special team has reached the bomb and is attempting to disarm it.

Before Command can even finish its sentence, a huge explosion turns the sky white.

The nuclear bomb has detonated.

Flying as fast as possible, the helicopter containing Jackson and his team can’t seem to outrun the quickly approaching explosion.

In an awful, visceral turn of events the helicopter crashes to the ground.

The screen goes black.

After a montage of various news stations reporting on the nuclear blast, the screen fades back up into Jackson’s first-person perspective once again.

He is hurt, but still alive.

Looking around, Jackson realizes he is still in the crushed remains of the helicopter. He can see the bodies of all his allies littered around him in every direction.

Jackson breathes in the dirty air, any kind of movement sending immense pain through his body.

Crawling outside the wreckage, Jackson sees a tragically beautiful mushroom cloud filling the Middle Eastern sky. Ashes from God knows where dance in the wind around him.

Jackson’s heartbeat echoes in his ears.

Using all his remaining strength, Jackson pulls himself along the destroyed grounds of the city, hoping to find some way to save himself from this terrible situation.

As he moves forward he sees a destroyed playground out of the corner of his eye.

The city around him is gone. No one is there to help him.

With the sounds of his radio fading away, Jackson collapses to the ground and takes one final breath.

The screen goes white.

And with that, the brave Sergeant dies.

At this point in the game, control returns to MacTavish as he vows revenge on the terrorist that caused such chaos to the world.

You can watch the entire mission -- from the helicopter rescue to the nuclear blast -- right here:

The Impact

The unexpected nuclear explosion and violent death of Jackson are completely shocking on their own, but keep in mind that all of this is presented completely in-game and from a first-person perspective. Everything -- from the explosion going off in the distance to the gruesome death scene -- is shown through Jackson’s eyes. This immersive viewpoint only adds to the emotional devastation of the scene.

Unfortunately, I didn’t play Call of Duty 4 until a few months after it was released, so I had heard some rumblings about a scene like this happening.

But, honestly, my small amount of prior knowledge did not ruin the scene’s overall impact one bit.

The nuclear bomb going off is surprising enough, but I never in a million years would I have expected one of the main characters in the game -- a playable character, for that matter -- to die from it. And not just die! During this scene Jackson goes through absolute torture and excruciating pain as he basically burns to death from the nuclear blast.

And what makes it all hit home is that you, the player, control it all.

When Jackson regains consciousness after the helicopter crash you are in full control of him. Granted, you can’t do much given the fact that he is so close to death, but the player can still control him as he crawls around to figure out what to do.

At this point in the game I actually thought Jackson would be okay. True, not many people survive a nuclear blast (where is a refrigerator when you need one!), but Jackson was one of the main characters in the game -- of course someone was going to swoop in, rescue him, and nurse him back to health.

But that doesn’t happen.

Instead, Jackson just crawls along the ash-covered ground and dies alone and in horrible pain. And the fact that all of this is presented in a first-person perspective means the player is experiencing everything. In a way, this is all happening to you.

But it’s not only the first-person viewpoint that makes the scene work so devastatingly well. It is the combination of all the little details that, for lack of better term, take my breath away.

Watch the last two minutes of the above scene again before reading on.

Listen to the way the sound effects are ingeniously used throughout the sequence. The way Jackson breathes; the sound of his heartbeat; the distant, ghostly sounds of people screaming. It all comes together so well.

Now pay attention to the visuals. The game’s director had to make some pretty creative choices as to how to present the entire final scene. Choosing to slowly fade in as Jackson is at the back of the crashed helicopter is extremely effective. Not only does it take the player (and in turn Jackson) a few seconds to figure out where they are, hiding the mushroom cloud reveal until a minute later when the player has to physically crawl out of the downed helicopter works wonders. Seeing the mushroom cloud for the first time is both awe-inspiring and horribly depressing. The minute you see it you know Jackson is lost.

And then, of course, the player controls Jackson as he crawls his last few feet before dying. The stunning visuals of the surroundings combined with the haunting sound effects create a truly staggering and breathtaking videogame scene.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare surprised me with its revolutionary presentation and dramatic story. While the whole game is stellar, the nuclear blast sequence easily ranks as one of the most powerful and memorable videogame moments of all time.

The Memory Card Save Files

.01 - .20 (Season 1)
.21 - .40 (Season 2)
.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars)
.42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2)
.43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
.44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
.45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden)
.46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island)
.47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
.48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard)
.49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana)
.50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two)
.51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim)
.52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)

Chad Concelmo,
 Follow Blog + disclosure

This blog submitted to our editor via our Community Blogs, and then it made it to the home page! You can follow community members and vote up their blogs - support each other so we can promote a more diverse and deep content mix on our home page.

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Robo Panda Z avatarRobo Panda Z
I have been accused of the greatest of crimes - cookie snobbery.
Yanick Bourbeau avatarYanick Bourbeau
Zombie eating player from my game: [img][/img]
KyWii avatarKyWii
Rock Band 4 is really fun...takes me back to my teenage days of high school. Also reminds me of all the hours I wasted on a plastic guitar instead of getting better on a real one xD
Avoclefo avatarAvoclefo
Team Fortress 2 just got a massive community-made Invasion update. SFM short, reskins, cosmetics, and 4 brand new maps?!?! God, I love this game and its wonderful community so, so much. [youtube][/youtube]
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
AARRGGGHHHH!!!, GODDAMIT!, fucking SOMA has crashed 3 fucking times in a row and I always lose ~20 minutes of playtime!, playing the same section over and over kinda ruins the tension! >.<'
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
N-Not that P1 isn't perfect the way she is! Isn't that right sweetie? Yes it... Oh, now don't you go and listen to those P2 fans! They just go around spreading rumors and pretending Hitler was just a handsome gentleman in sunglasses, that's what THEY do!
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Persona Q has made me realize I really want a Persona 1 remake on 3DS in a similar style. A lot. A loooooooot. You listening, Atlus?
Super Mario Maker, the announcement of Sonic Lost World for Steam, and remembering all of the mods that got made for the PC version of Sonic Generations makes me wish SEGA/Sonic Team would make their own dedicated Sonic level creation game.
gajknight avatargajknight
Hey, is your fridge running? You better catch it. I mean, it has all your food, and without food, you die. Like, forever. You don't wanna die right? If you die, how will you watch The Good wife with your favourite bowl of Ben and Jerry's ice cream? Go.
CJ Andriessen avatarCJ Andriessen
My local Best Buy is drowning in Marth & Dark Pit amiibo
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Spooky yet totally true gaming fact: the bushes and the clouds in Super Mario Bros are the same exact shape. #Spooky
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
It is coming fast AAAAAAH
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
The newest PS4 update finally got rid of that bug where I'd get the "you can customize your power options" message every time I turned on my console!
El Dango avatarEl Dango
Should I just pass on MGSV? I haven't really liked any of the games after Snake Eater, and it's being used as a money sink at the moment.
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
[Youtube][/youtube] All the episodes are on youtube now. Also I never knew they got to do a season 3. Pretty cool. Now back to Transformers. Scored a gc to my favorite thai place too. Pad ahoy bitches. It's been too long.
ashamasha avatarashamasha
i have almost all the pieces i need to build my own Arcade machine... and the last one arrive this Saturday! Soon, one my childhood dream will became true!
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Interviewer: Konami, why are you selling cosmetic DLC for MGSV? Konami exec: I breathe through my skin.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
What is the Dtoid chat room?
TysonOfTime avatarTysonOfTime
Batthink avatarBatthink
This GrumpOut video was pretty funny to me (props to TheBadSpoon on the Dtoid chat room);
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -