For those who haven't seen the news or do not have an Internet connection (which makes me wonder how you are reading this), the United States was recently pummelled by a big-ass snowstorm people are now dubbing "Snowzilla".
Seeing as the country I live in does not have snow - at least not yet - I figure the best way to experience snowfall would be to turn up the air-conditioning and look through some games with snow in them!
Now, snow levels have been done to death in video games; they're right up there with jungle levels, lava levels, and really horrible sewer levels. There seems to be something so enticing in seeing water freeze over and fall that makes developers want to put it whenever they can.
It's because of this that snow-level lists are just as numerous since we all have our own opinions on what the best levels are based on the graphics, sound, and overall feeling of being in a winter wonderland.
But this is not a happy list.
Snow, when in numerous quantities, can kill a lot of people. So it is within this list that we look not just at snow levels, but some outright blizzards that helped shape the games they are found in.
[insert Let It Go/ Frozen reference here]
Let's start off with a little nostalgia. The entirety of Max Payne 1 is set in New York City amidst a raging blizzard (sound familiar?) and it is within this frozen setting that you get to see Max's transformation from loving husband to crazed mass murderer.
Sure video games were all about the senseless violence back then so they may have never intended this, but the moments you spend outside in the freezing cold could serve as a symbolism of Max Payne becoming number and number to the...well, pain, of losing a loved one.
Or maybe it's just that the devs wanted it to snow so bad so they would not need to render more civilians for Max to murder.
blizzard sets a very fine setting of loneliness you otherwise wouldn't
experience in a fine-weathered New York and lets you go about your revenge
without hurting innocent bystanders.
A classic, this one.
If you didn't know it yet, Silent Hill is a series that involves a seriously messed-up ghost town and the various people unlucky enough to end up there; and while we will probably never get to see Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro's take on the game, we can always count on this creepy franchise to deprive us of sleep at night.
Though the series' various outings take place more or less within the crazy town, it was the first visit to Silent Hill that set the tone for the entire series. The moment you step into the shoes of Harry Mason, you are thrust into the middle of a blizzard (I say "blizzard" because you can barely see two feet ahead of you) and are told to look for your daughter. Good luck with that.
What makes this
one so memorable is that the snow and fog is literally all you can see for the
vast majority of the time you spend in the outer levels - there is almost
nothing to see unless you're smack dab against a building and no other sound
except your footsteps and the occasional tones from the game's soundtrack.
Most players even curse the weather itself over the course of the series since it is just as much a deterrent as any other challenge you find in the game.
METAL GEAR SOLID
Anyone who has
played the first Metal Gear Solid on
the original PlayStation will tell
you that the game takes place on Shadow Moses Island in the middle of another
raging blizzard. But what makes this one different from the aforementioned
games is that it was one of the first games where the weather actually had an
effect on gameplay.
While trudging through the exteriors of the island for example, Solid Snake (that's you) would leave footprints in the snow which would alert nearby guards to his position or, if you're smart, could be used to lead guards to less advantageous locations. Another cool thing was that Thermal Goggles were actually useful in spotting enemies or mines that you otherwise couldn't see through the naked eye.
touches were small when compared to today's standards, but it was the little
things like these that really made the game feel more immersive and not just a retooling
of past levels.
To top it off, you even get to return to Shadow Moses in Metal Gear Solid 4 and revisit all the old places with an updated engine that utilizes wind direction, more advanced weather effects, and characters who get affected by the ever-changing blizzard, making this one of the few blizzard-prone areas that get to be explored by players over more than once in a different console generation.
FAHRENHEIT / INDIGO PROPHECY
For the many who do not know, before David Cage released his weird story-driven, downpour-focused Heavy Rain, he released another weird story-driven, SNOW-focused game by way of Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy... whichever one you want to call it). And just like Heavy Rain after it, Fahrenheit capitalized on its crazy-ass weather to deliver a just as crazy-ass story about a serial murder with occult themes thrown in there because why not.
Granted, you could replace the snow with rain and you would almost have the exact same effect but the game is best played rather than described and the blizzard really sets the tone for this noir-esque story that was pretty good for its time.
Also, this game
had one of the best ending dance
sequences I've seen in a video game... for some reason. Yes, I bolded
and underlined that.
DEAD SPACE 3
Like the aforementioned Silent Hill, Dead Space 3 capitalizes on using a raging blizzard to deliver horrors unlike none which we have seen before. Unlike Silent Hill though, Dead Space 3 takes place in... you guessed it - space. And it's within the icy planet of Tau Volantis that majority of the game takes place and delivers jump scares in ways the series has not done before. Whereas before you would be walking down a dimly-lit corridor and peeking around every corner, now you cannot even see what's in front or BELOW you.
See, in this
raging blizzard, you not only have to deal with the falling snow that's
distorting your vision but you also have to keep in mind the snow that has
already fallen and covers everything on the floor.
It's all well and good if there wasn't anything there to begin with but when you realize that some necromorphs (those are the game's equivalent of "things that are trying to eat you") actually play dead to get the drop on you while others tunnel through the snow, you'll soon be looking at each piece of solid floor like it was a godsend.
I could not have
made this list without mentioning Journey's
climax. Throughout your... um, journey, you have seen sand.
Lots of it.
So you would be
forgiven in thinking that the summit that you are headed to - your goal in the
game - would be full of the stuff. But surprise!
It's full of snow!
No big deal, right? Snow is just like sand, only cold.
What you don't know yet is that as you trek up the mountain, various things differ in terms of gameplay. As the storm gets stronger and stronger, your little scarf character gets more and more sluggish while fighting against the gales pummelling him. You can glide for a much shorter as well and you see fewer and fewer creatures as you make your way up.
All of this
suffering then tantamount to a final stretch of blizzard that you cannot fight
against. That's right, you die.
It's one of the most moving parts in this masterpiece and just shows how cruel nature can be given the circumstances and that you should never mess with it.
THE LAST OF US
Sadly, Uncharted 2 had to be kicked off this list due to its bigger brother. While Nathan Drake's Running Escapades did have a blizzard, Naughty Dog reached the epitome of a good snow level with their winter segment in The Last of Us.
From the moment you first take control of Ellie to rescuing her as Joel, you see the weather develop from a gentle snowfall into a full-on snowstorm.
It's not just
for show, either.
The way the more quiet scenes are conveyed during the lighter snowfalls - the wind blowing ever so slightly and every footprint making its presence known through its echo - is a stark contrast to the panic that grips you when the blizzard howls, your vision blurs, and every step gets drowned out as you try to escape your captors who are affected by the weather as well.
This is one storm that not only affects gameplay but also highlights and adds weight to the emotions these characters must be feeling.