WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING GAMES: Final Fantasy VII, Goldeneye, God of War, Halo 2, Knights of the Old Republic, GTA Vice City, Uncharted 2, Portal 2, Bioshock.
Hey folks. Another month is about to pass, and I think it’s time we saw this one out with yet another one of my monthly video gaming top 10 list! So it’s July. Do you know what this month is named after? The famed Julius Caesar, the famed would-be emperor of ancient Rome was such an ego-maniac about his own self worth that he went and named an entire month after himself. He was an ambitious ruler and cunning military strategist. Until he was stabbed in the back that is. Everyone knows the story of how Caesar came to rise and fall, ending with the famous line “Et tu Brute? Then fall Caesar!” So in the spirit of the month I present to you:
JULY’S TOP 10: GAMING BACKSTABS!
10: Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7.
This is more so speaking from the Crisis Core game than the original FFVII, but Sephiroth’s betrayal of Cloud and the Shinra company stands out as one of the most iconic plot points in gaming history. While the final fantasy series is no stranger to betrayals (eg Kain, Yuffie, Cait Sith etc) Sephiroth was the only one to become a major villain. For those that don’t know, Sephiroth started out as a loyal elite soldier for the Shinra company, and was their strongest asset. However, during a mission to the Cloud’s (FFVII protagonist)hometown of Nibelheim, Sephiroth, Cloud and Zack all learned about the experiments spawning monsters in the town’s Mako reactor. Discovering his otherworldly mother was the root of the process drove Sephiroth to madness veiled in hatred. He betrayed Shinra, as well as Cloud and Zack and became the major antagonist of the series. And he did so with a bang: setting all of Nibelheim on fire and killing off almost all of its inhabitants. Years later it was followed up by a LITERAL backstab which killed Aeris, one of Cloud’s party members. This action remains a constant reminder to this day of how even some of our most beloved characters may soon be killed off.
9: 006 Trevelyan from Goldeneye 64
We all remember this from the Brosnan movie, but even so,the betrayal of 006 Trevelyan was an iconic scene of the Goldeneye video game. Up until that point, the players were of the belief that codename “Janus” was some sort of terrorist mastermind or general, not a turncoat MI6 agent. The experience of seeing another 00 agent featured in a game was a cool concept as it was, but to make a man of similar skill, intellect and deadliness as Bond the primary villain was a big thing at the time. It felt memorable because we experienced his betrayal, even after he was shot in the head in the Facility level. The memory of 006’s return from beyond the grave was chilling and memorable in the Park level, mostly due to the dark and eerie atmosphere, but also the number of times the player had to replay the entire thing because they forgot to put their weapon away during the Janus meeting. Seeing 006 as a traitor and backstabber to MI6 was a real surprise, especially to those like me who played the game before seeing the movie.
8: Ares from God of War
The God of War before Kratos himself, Ares’ betrayal of the Spartan Warrior is still seen by many gamers as one of the biggest Dick Moves of all time. The betrayal was very reminiscent of the film “Gladiator” where the protagonist’s wife and child are taken and killed as a result of a betrayal by a trusted confidant. Ares’ manipulation would ultimately in his downfall, as a man who has lost everything is capable of anything, even killing a god. Violently. This is also considered a major event in the game’s chronology as this backstabbing ultimately acted as the catalyst which set in motion a series of events that resulted in the upheaval of Olympus and would incite a revolution across the mythological world. And needless to say, when Kratos is pissed, HE’S PISSED.
7: Revan returns to the Dark side from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
The revelation that took place during the events of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) that revealed the player character to be the infamous former Sith Lord Revan remains one of my favourite plot twists to ever be featured in a video game. This shocking discovery was met by disdain by some party members, pride by others and support from a select few. Suffice to say, it had a major bearing on the events that were to follow. One of the most impacting scenes in the game that occurred not too long after the revelation was the discovery that Bastila, your Jedi ally, had fallen to the dark side after being captured by Revan’s former apprentice. When she next appeared before Revan, she attempts to re-convert him/her back to the dark side of the force, to overthrow his former apprentice and bring back his own particular brand of badass to the galaxy. This is where the game feels memorable, as the players are ultimately faced with a choice. Either shrug off their former identity as Revan to continue fighting the Sith, or re-join the Sith while backstabbing your allies in the process. Because this was a choice the players got to make, it felt more real to us. Should the player choose to once again take up the mantle of Darth Revan, the player must turn on their former allies, either striking them down, or ordering those bound by honour to execute each other. (For instance ordering the Wookie whose sworn a life-debt to you to kill his best friend.) Choosing the dark side path is a sure way to bring out the inner backstabber in anyone.
6: The Brute Uprising from Halo 2
Many of the fans who paid attention to the story of Halo 2 whilst playing through would definitely have seen this coming. The newly introduced Brute race was quick to establish itself amongst the ranks of the Covenant, the alien coalition that had declared war on humanity. There were clearly an ambitious, power hunger race that wanted a larger role in the grand scheme of the “Great Journey”, and tension between themselves and the Elites was already clear. Playing through parts of Halo 2 as the Arbiter showed us a greater insight into the inner workings of the political structure of the Covenant. It showed us that the Prophets were the ones pulling the strings and that the Elite race was in fact a noble-honour bound race that was simply following orders. When the Prophets saw it fit to cut the Elites from their ranks, they sent the Brutes in to do it as their new attack dogs. From what was shown, the Brutes were tougher, stronger, faster and above all stupider than the Elites. Everything a megalomaniac wants in a lackey. This essentially sparked a Covenant civil war which tore High Charity several new ones and, compiled with the arrival of the Flood, pretty much ended the Covenant alliance altogether. Clearly a backstab that backfired. Made all the more ironic by the fact that the Arbiter was the one to silence the Prophet of Truth in Halo 3 with a literal backstab of his own.
5: Lance Vance from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
In the business of running a criminal empire, there’ll always be someone looking to throw you under a bus to further their own agendas. We’ve seen it time and again in the GTA series, in Getaway, Saints Row, Mafia, Yakuza, True Crime etc. To crime games, the backstab is nothing new. But this is probably the most well known. Lance Vance turned out to be one of Tommy Verceti’s (player character’s) first and most reliable allies. Both have had to save each other’s necks at some point in time, and both lost something to the former drug lord Riccardo Diaz when their initial deal went bust. The pair went about the task of bringing Diaz down and building an empire of their own, while trying to avoid the Mafia’s pressure from Liberty City. It was just after the pair began running the city’s criminal rings in Vice City that Lance began to show signs of wavering. He began to act more selfishly and independently of Tommy’s plans. His pride was getting the better of him. His concern over not being properly respected ultimately led him to betray Tommy for the Mafia, a move which very soon resulted in his death at Tommy’s hands. Still… 1 less share of the loot, right?
4: Harry Flynn from Uncharted 2
Truly highlighting to the world that there is no honour among thieves, Harry Flynn, despite his appearance as a friendly British ally is VERY quick to betray Nathan Drake. Oddly enough this betrayal really surprised nobody, because, as the game’s title suggests, it wouldn’t be much of a game if there weren’t going to be a few backstabs between people in the “treasure hunter” profession. Many gamers and sci-fi fans like to draw comparisons between Uncharted and Firefly. If this is assumed to be the case that would make Drake himself Malcolm Reynolds, and it would certainly make Harry Jayne Cobb. In a sinister business, there is always someone who will backstab you, and Harry Flynn acts as a very strong reminder of that.
3: Wheatley from Portal 2
This has to be the betrayal that brought a tear to all of our eyes. Following the events of Portal 1, in which Chell (the player character) shut down the maniacal and homicidally insane AI GLaDoS, she somehow winds up in suspended animation for who-knows-how-long. Chell suddenly awakens in a bedroom when she hears a mad knocking at the door. On the other side is a thick cockney British accent, and one very hilarious intelligence core named Wheatley. Knowing that Apeture labs had pretty much gone to hell, he took it upon himself to awaken Chell and help her escape her room. With the ominous feel of the facility starting up again, Wheatley tells Chell that they have to work together to escape. After accidently re-awakening GLaDoS, Chell and Wheatley eventually escape her grasp, disable her neurotoxin and turrets, and confront her to remove her completely from the Science Centre system. Unfortunately to do so, an alternative core was required. Wheatley volunteered to take control. After doing so, he begins to marvel at the power he now controls. Suddenly, his attitude changes. It’s obvious that the command controls are corrupting him, as GLaDoS seems to snap out of her homicidal and narcissistic personality. Wheatley ultimately becomes Chell’s enemy as a result of his corruption, attempting to put her through even more deadly tests that even GLaDoS had ever created. Additionally, his lack of ability to maintain the facility almost resulted in it’s complete destruction. Wheatley’s betrayal really hit a lot of players in the heart. After all, we all worked together with him when we tried to escape the facility. His final fate makes the experience all the more harrowing when we find out he was not in full control. In the end, we all kinda felt sorry for the little guy. We’re Sorry Wheatley. :'(
2: Atlas from Bioshock
Talk about one you REALLY did not see coming. When we discover the truth behind the player character’s origins in Bioshock, as well as his brainwashing by Andrew Ryan, the notion that the player was in full control of the character is brought severely into question. Every time the phrase “would you kindly” has been uttered, the player has been forced to inadvertently take an action. After finally killing Andrew Ryan at his own Behest, you ally Atlas comes over the radio. Atlas was pretty much the only friend the player had during the first half of the game, and a person who appeared to still be one of the normal people in Rapture. His advice kept the player alive long enough to gather their own bearings in a strange city such as this one. When the player’s realise that Atlas would consistantly say “Would you kindly” we at first dismissed the idea of betrayal, seeing as how his goals and your own to take Ryan down co-incided. But after Ryan’s death, players learn Atlas’s true identity. Atlas was really Frank Fontaine, Ryan’s archenemy and a power hungry megalomaniac seeking control of Rapture and the Adam power source for his own ends. The betrayal of someone we grow to trust under such harrowing revelations places Atlas at the number 2 top backstab spot on this list. So who could be number 1?
1: The Spy from Team Fortress 2
Anyone that has played, or knows of Team Fortress 2 will know that this entry at number 1 on the top 10 list needs no explanation. 🙂 But here is the low-down. Team Fortress 2 (TF2) is a competitive multiplayer shooter that has a simple premise of pitting red team against blue in a variety of objective based games. There are 9 different character classes to choose from. However among them, one stands out in infamy. The Spy class is a class both loved and hated by fans of TF2. Hated mostly by Snipers and Heavies. Te Spy’s specialty play style is that of stealth and sabotage. The spy has a cloaking field which allows him to turn invisible to infiltrate enemy ranks. But even more harrowing is the ability that Spy’s have to take on the persona of an enemy player. To allies, the spy will simply be wearing a silly paper mask on his face. But the enemy players will see the spy as the unit he is disguised as. Using this stealth ability, skilled Spy’s can infiltrate enemy lines, sap Sentries, and utilise their 1 hit kill attack. What is it? Naturally, the Backstab. Using the Spy’s signature butterfly knife, Spies are well known for ending killing streaks and halting the advancement of even the best players. This 1 hit kill move is the bane of many Heavies and Snipers, and, to a lesser degree, the Engineers. These backstabbers make them onto the number 1 spot not only because of their infamy, but also because that they are not pre-programmed story or gameplay elements, but actually have living, thinking people controlling them. The is, and pretty much always will be, the ULTIMATE Video game backstabber.