This has been on my mind recently, and with the addition of choices in Call of Duty: Black Ops II I figured I could post this now. In a nutshell this is going to cover those hard choices that appear in games, and just how they really shape the atmosphere of the game. I'll be mentioning games besides Call of Duty, however it's just to give an all-encompassing view over the hard choices players are given. There may be some spoilers, but I'm mainly talking about old games.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
I'll start on home territory to keep to the theme. While the game is filled with minor choices such as "SOC-T or Drone?", there are multiple important choices that really impact the game, and cause the player to think. The two major choices would have to be choosing between Harper and Menendez, and the final end choice. While personally choosing these were quite easy for me, I'm well aware for others this was a hard choice. For the choice of Harper or Menendez I suppose what sort of ruined it for me was in my head I was just going "It's too early in the game, if I shoot Menendez it'll likely fail", so I just went ahead and shot Harper. But if I had taken it from a different angle it would of been much harder to choose, sadly with the lack of any real character development I didn't really feel bad about having to shoot Harper, for all I care it's just another soldier, but the prospect of shooting someone on my side would of still weighed heavily on me. The end game choice for me really weighted more on morality, if given a choice of capture/kill on the 'bad guy' I often prefer the capture option. However after everything this guy has done I can see why people would want to take the kill option. I suppose what also swayed my choice was how I saw Menendez asking to be shot, that didn't sit well with me. When the main bad guy looks you in the eye and tells you "Do it, for Cordis Die" I sort of think it's a bad idea. While these choices were easy for me, they weren't for everyone, and while there is a 'best' ending there's not really a 'correct' choice and that's what I feel makes the choices in Black Ops II somewhat hard and integral.
Mass Effect is full of major choices, which comes with the RPG territory. Now most of these are just morality based, to which I normally stick to Paragon, sometimes I call Udina a dick on a few playthoughs, but that's probably the right thing to do. But the most interesting and hardest choices would have to be the ones that aren't based on morality, and one of the hardest choices I've ever faced in any game happened in the very first game. During the mission to Virmire the player is given an incredibly hard choice, which squad-mate to save. What made this so hard for me, I'd been spending the whole game talking to them, I knew both them, and I liked both of them. Now I wasn't using either of them in my squad set-ups, so I wasn't able to choose over necessity. When I finally made my choice (went with Ashley) I honestly felt sad for having to make that choice, and while it never has any major impact on the story (aside from available squad members) I felt it had the biggest impact. The series is full of choices like this, but to name another it would have to be the final ending, and before people are complete plebeians and start spouting "all the endings are the same", then you're not thinking into the choices enough. Frankly, I could not think of any of the endings that seemed best. Destroy, which I ultimately went for, would complete the mission once and for all and remove the Reaper threat forever, but I would also be killing the Geth and EDI, and after setting EDI up with Joker, as well as having to witness Legion's sacrifice it felt wrong to just wipe them all out. Control seemed no better, since it doesn't remove the threat, and you "lose everything that you are", and with recent DLC, one can wonder could Shepard stay in command, or would Leviathan be able to take over? Finally, Symbiosis, to me this just seemed wrong, whilst destroy or control would leave the galaxy as it were, this would just rewrite every species, while it would essentially save everyone, it still seems wrong forcing a change such as this on the galaxy.
These were my main choices in Mass Effect, but there were many more times that may of been just as important, such as saving the council, and choosing the fate of the Collector base.
Now while throughout the series we're used to the "Harvest/Save", BioShock 2 gave me another extremely hard choice, now while every other NPC I simply went "Oh I'll save them, it's the good thing" I finally came across the final NPC you had to choose for, Gilbert Alexander. Now this was hard because frankly I didn't see the "good" choice, while on the one hand letting him out would've been the good thing since it lets him live, it seemed wrong to do when at the same time there were audio logs of himself telling the player to kill him because he knows what he's turned into. There seemed to be no morality here, no right or wrong choice at all. I either let him go, but forever lost to insanity he didn't want, or commit a mercy killing and give him the peace he wanted. After thinking it over, I chose to perform a mercy killing on him since it seems to be what he wanted. The rest of the series seemed rather straight forward to me. I haven't played infinite, so I can't talk for that however.
Now due to the size of the blog thus far this will be my final section. The major choice I faced was in Fallout 3: The Pitt. Once again there seemed to be no good choices, either I left slaves to their fate, but kept a baby safe with her parents. Or I stole the baby, killed the parents but freed the slaves. In the end I chose to steal the baby, since frankly it seemed to be the greater good. Another major factor within Fallout: New Vegas would have to be the factions to choose from, personally I like dealing with the NCR. But all the other factions have their own charms which I can see the appeal to, and I often consider who I want to work with when I make a new character. To sum up Fallout, another hard choice is what you tell Veronica at the end of her personal quest, sadly no matter what you do, her ending is always sad, and it makes choosing her future so hard, since you need to try and deduce what the lesser of two evils is.
In closing, games that feature choices are simply amazing. The fact Black Ops II included them was a massive game changer, even if they are quite basic compared to RPGs. I would like to give some honourable mention to both The Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age for the choices available in those games, however I felt there simply was not enough room.
But I'm more than happy to hear about other peoples experiences with hard choices in games, perhaps by responding to one of my choices, or telling me about another game I didn't mention.
None the less, thank you for reading, and have a good day!