TA Top Five: Missions/Levels

By Jonathan Barnes, 2 years ago
While many games forgo the more-traditional "Level 1-1" system of yesteryear, it doesn't mean that they don't have iconic and memorable missions and levels. This week's TA Top Five takes a close look at some of our favorite missions and levels that stand out due to their excellence, their uniqueness (in comparison to the rest of the game), or their general "je ne sais quoi".

As always, be sure to let us know of our egregious and seppuku worthy errors in the comments!

Honorable Mentions

Scarecrow Levels - Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)

Wildly different from most of the gameplay in the Arkham series, the Scarecrow levels represent a more difficult and deadly version of Batman's "hide and seek" gameplay. While encounters outside of the Scarecrow's gas-induced nightmares see Batman on the offensive as he stalks enemies for takedowns, the action inside of these hallucinations puts The Dark Knight on the defensive, as he has to avoid the Scarecrow's attention under the penalty of an insta-fail.

Tranquility Lane - Fallout 3

Another wild diversion from the standard gameplay of a classic, the Tranquility Lane section of Fallout 3 puts the Lone Wanderer into a "Tranquility Lounger" that whisks them away to an "idyllic" setting that's straight out of Leave it to Beaver. Tasked with either committing escalating actions which result in "bad Karma" or finding the "failsafe" which will instantly kill everyone in the simulation (for some ironic "good Karma"), the mission allows for a more-tranquil escape from the everyday, post-apocalyptic grind of the Capital Wasteland.

Top Five

5- The Suicide Mission - Mass Effect 2

Throughout the course of Mass Effect 2, Shepard's mission was to collect allies, gain assets, improve relations, and generally prepare for "The Suicide Mission" to the Collector Base. With a high degree of difficulty, many possible outcomes, the necessity to make life-or-death decisions, an amazing boss fight, and different levels of success, "The Suicide Mission" of Mass Effect 2 basically shows how amazing building a game around a final mission can be when properly executed.

4- A New Life - Hitman: Blood Money

It's been ages since I've played a Hitman game, but always remember the amazing variety in the mission design. That being said, I called in some backup with the Newshound Team's furriest hitman, ChewieOnIce, to regale us with one of Agent 47's best missions:

There are a few great levels in IO Interactive's fourth instalment of the Hitman series, but this one takes the cake for sheer subversive glee with its suburban carnage. There are so many fun ways to manipulate and kill your targets, a snitch and his wife, by making it look like a series of unfortunate accidents. And on their child's birthday, no less. The level features such choice moments as Agent 47 in a clown suit, cops eating poisoned donuts, a barbecue "malfunction", the wife getting frisky with the pool boy (47 again) and a very pervy FBI agent. It's also a great opportunity to get this achievement. Two words: hedge cutters.
3- The GLaDOS Fight - Portal

It's so easy to mess up a final boss fight, so kudos are certainly due when a developer gets it right. Throughout the platforming, puzzle-solving craziness of Portal, GLaDOS is nine parts tormentor and one part cheerleader. The final confrontation brings the greater part of that ratio to bear. As GLaDOS spends the encounter firing rockets, warming up the neurotoxin (making the encounter a race against the clock), and insulting Chell, the player uses the Portal Device to redirect those rockets back at GLaDOS and then collect and destroy the pieces that fall off. The best part? There was even cake at the end.

2- Fort Frolic - BioShock (Xbox 360)

Yes, yes, I know that BioShock gets tons of love in these Top Fives... perhaps too much, but it wouldn't be right not to have Fort Frolic on this list. While the level may be little more than an extensive fetch quest, helping Sander Cohen assemble his masterpiece is one of the most nerve-wracking and satisfying bits of Irrational's masterpiece.

1- Lady Boyle's Last Party - Dishonored
Lady Boyle

Dishonored has so many excellent levels, each with multiple ways to succeed, but "Lady Boyle's Last Party" may take the prize for the best in the game. Tasked with eliminating Lady Boyle, Corvo first needs to infiltrate the Estate District of Dunwall and slip into a masquerade party (which is an interesting twist, given that Corvo already wears a mask). After gaining entry, the real task becomes finding the correct Lady Boyle. Presented with three possible targets, it's up to the player to deduce which of the Ladies is the correct target (you could just kill them all, but where's the stealthy fun in that?) and then eliminate them either lethally or non-lethally. As a fun bonus, the mission also features a chance to participate in a duel.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After the first drafts and ideas were submitted on Tuesday, "Lady Boyle's Last Party was highlighted in a great Kotaku feature on Wednesday.
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.