The Impact of an Ending

Video games are a strange medium. Gameplay is paramount and story usually takes a backseat to fun. Sometimes, though, endings can bolster an otherwise lackluster experience into something worth venturing through.

That is the case with Suda51’s “Shadows of the Damned.” While not a bad game by any means, the gameplay is fairly conventional. Influenced by Shinji Mikami of “Resident Evil” fame, Shadows plays almost exactly like “Resident Evil 4,” with the improvements EA made with “Dead Space.” It’s fun, but it lacks creativity and originality.

What really sells the experience is the plotline and its ultimate ending. Not to spread too many spoilers, but when Garcia finally accepts his fate and the player is left powerless to change the outcome, the game comes full circle and you truly feel sad.

This contrasts with “The Dark Knight Rises,” the latest film I saw this weekend. I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about the movie, but suffice to say the ending is a complete disaster. Certain elements I was taking away from the film become null and void when the cop-out ending occurs.

I’m really not going to spoil that, but if you find yourself more intrigued by the Bruce/Alfred dynamic like I was, you’ll leave the film completely disappointed. Nolan throws a completely idiotic and ridiculous twist at the last second and it ruins all emotional build-up that could have saved the lackluster movie.

From everything I’ve read on “Mass Effect 3,” I can understand why people feel so angry about Bioware’s failure to capture a climatic and cathartic conclusion. Investing so much into the characters and their fates and seeing nothing come of it is just frustrating. I wish Nolan stuck to the red herring he planted instead of giving us the “Hollywood” ending.

One of my favorite series from last generation, “Splinter Cell,” did something very similar in its second outing, Pandora Tomorrow. During the climax in the airport, Fisher runs through a gauntlet of terrorists guarding a bomb that will decimate the airport. Once he finishes them off and confronts the bomb, he realizes that he cannot disarm it.

So what’s the only option left? Well, planting it in the middle of the airport and letting the police deal with it. In an unexpected turn of events, Fisher isn’t required for the ending and the player feels completely useless. Why did Fisher even go to the damn airport? Third Echelon should have just called the police and let them deal with the problem.

As for ending that improve the drab parts of the movie, Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” is a shining example. I am not a fan of that film. The movie is typical Tarantino self-indulgence and most scenes linger on for 15 minutes longer than they should. Still, the movie is pretty much redeemed by the ending in the movie theater.

Seeing the Basterd’s plan come to fruition, even with failures from the group, is just thrilling. The unadulterated violence and cleansing feeling of seeing bad guys getting eviscerated is unparalleled. I’ll still argue with you that the film isn’t worth a watch, but bombastic endings like that really make it hard to stand by my own stance.

I’ve heard the counter-argument that the journey through something is better than the ultimate outcome. The only thing I’ve agreed with that on is the Bill Murray film “Broken Flowers.” Still, encapsulating everything that works with a film or game during the final minutes really sells a product for me.

So what if some of the set-pieces are dull or the game isn’t “innovative?” If your journey ends on the highest note possible, isn’t everything worth the struggle? Doesn’t that kind of reflect life, as well? My trips with shitty customer service at restaurants are sometimes worth it when the food is exceptional.

While this blog is pretty unfocused, I just wanted to share some of these thoughts. Endings, to me, are the alpha and omega of an experience. Maybe I shouldn’t put so much emphasis on conclusions, but I prefer having my media end in a grandiose fashion instead of fizzling out.

Resident Evil 4 – Conquering My Fears

One of the definitions of “Haunt,” as according to Merriam-Webster, is; “to have a disquieting or harmful effect on.” I cannot recall much in my life that has done that to me, other than one video game. That belongs to “Resident Evil 4.”

My friend and I were eagerly anticipating this game. We watched pretty much every trailer and I even recollect a moment where I claimed the game would, “Be the Best video game ever.” While that statement isn’t too far from the truth, something funny happened along the lines.

I became afraid of what I was seeing. Villagers with demonic eyes, wielding sharp objects and bum rushing you with murderous intent; it was terrifying to me in a way I had never experienced before. Throw in the idea of instant death enemies and gigantic, over-powered boss fights and I was almost ready to give up.


Ah christ!

I put on a façade that I was hardcore, though. I really did want the game and I wanted others to believe I cared about it. I’m not quite sure why, but those were my actions. When the game finally came out, I immediately picked it up and popped it in my Gamecube. I played for a grand total of 20 minutes before I gave up out of fright.

I couldn’t take the tension of facing the unknown. The way death was lurking around the corner or bear traps were waiting for me or gigantic boulders were coming; it was insane. Couple all of that with the fierce difficulty curve and I was dead on arrival.

What didn’t help was how my friend was using Action Replay and still failing. Even he couldn’t deal with the difficulty and cheats couldn’t help him. I was so terrified at this point that I almost traded the game back, but I held onto the hope that I would be able to conquer my fear one day.

It took me 2 full years before I tried playing the game again. During that time, I heard from another friend of mine that most of the game was difficult. He had trouble slaying some of the bosses and he often had to quit for a few days to rebuild his strength to continue. How was that supposed to alleviate my fear?

Well, when I got my Wii and was out of games to fool around with, I figured that I might as well attack the cause of my anxiety once and for all. As it turns out, the game actually kept me scared for other reasons.


This is not an uncommon sight.

Before that point in time, not many games existed with the sole intent of destroying your morale. “Resident Evil 4” is unique in that death isn’t simply a game over screen. Most of the time, your character is mutilated or decapitated. If you check YouTube, you can find a near 10 minute video of character deaths.

That idea, alone, scares the ever-living soul out of me. When I’m trekking through a game, I don’t want to feel like I’ve failed and life is over. That’s what makes the game work, though. When you conquer a tough situation and know how gruesome failure can be, the accomplishment is like curing a major crisis.

The few successes I had in the beginning just made the entire experience wonderful. You come up to a tough area, get eviscerated or annihilated and then come back with a new found fear/respect for your foes. It makes you more careful, more calculated and even tenser at the thought of death.

One of my best moments from the game comes during the middle. You face off against this enemy that looks like a Predator. He is called Verdugo and he is nearly impossible to kill. The entire idea is to freeze him with canisters of CO2 and wait for an elevator.


He is your nightmares personified.

Well, aside from scaring the piss out of me, I was constantly running away and screaming while doing so. I was so afraid of failing that I didn’t even want to look the beast in the eye. Well, during an almost successful attempt, the guy jumped at me and decapitated me. I can remember my reaction clear as day.

The buildup of astriction and angst was tenfold, but the failure was just incredible. I couldn’t believe that I lost and I immediately headed back to surmount this bastard. When I finally overcame the beast, I was ready to throw a party.

Circumventing this foe wasn’t the end of my troubles, though. When I watched my friend cheating, he was on a boss I hadn’t even encountered yet. I saw the creature lash out and devour my friend, so I was so damn terrified of that happening to me.

Not too far after, I finally strolled into the very same boss battle. It was a fight with the antagonist, Salazaar, and I wasn’t ready. While I didn’t get consumed by him, I was nearly paralyzed at the thought of that giant creature eating me. I failed a few times out of adrenaline build up.


Thought you could best me? Think again!

When I eventually beat the game, I began to wonder what all the fear was for. Maybe just anticipation got the best of me? Hearing the stories of friends bombing at the game didn’t provide any sense of ease to me, so I let that thought permeate in my mind.

To this day, though, nothing was managed to give me a sense of dread like this. There are some other games that I’m sure will be scary to me, but I now know that I have the strength to tackle nearly any obstacle put in front of me.

Thank you, Capcom. You managed to scare me silly and make me feel invincible. That is definitely an amazing feat.