Total Nerd The Top 10 Greatest Modern Video Games Gadgets  

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These handy dandy devices our favorite characters like to carry on them that we all wish we could have in our homes, mounted on the wall, or helping us while on the bus. Devices we all know we'd sign up for a case of indentured servitude for if only we could get our hands on them. Definitely check out Top 5 Gaming: Greatest Gadgets over at Metacafe for the best run-down.

Ideally these aren't weapons, or used as armor, or at least not primarily used as such, and also none of them are necessarily ingrained in your body as a form of cybernetics. These should all be things that if the gaming 'verse had a CES of their own, you could be sure they'd be promoting the hell out of them in the Las Vegas strip. Next to the porn convention that would most assuredly feature a washed up Lara Croft.

The Portal Gun (Portal)

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OK, you knew this was going to be on the list. I mean, come on!

Well actually I was debating this and the gravity gun form Half-Life 2, since apparently Valve likes to create the coolest tech in all of gaming history, but then I remembered, oh yeah, there's at least a little bit OF the gravity gun in the "Aperture Science Hand-held Portal Device" since it can pick up various objects around you.

OK fine that's just "you" picking up those objects without a graphical representation . . . but you see, there's a very good reason why that's actually the Portal gun in the form of whydon'tyoujustshutupandgoalongwithmyargument?

But come on - this thing is super awesome! It's fits in your hand and allows you to set up completely stable working portals! Sure it's got a few limitations, as apparently the surface of the matter you set a portal on is crucial, but for the most part the thing works like a dream! That's instantaneous transference of both matter and energy in every form between disparate locations!

That's taking some of our furthest concepts in physics and putting it at your ACTUAL fingertips!

People like to get hung up on GlaDOS, or the cake, or the Companion Cube in this game. But seriously, this thing is truly why any of the rest of it works, and if you don't want one after you're done with it, I can only assume you have fewer base emotions than the AI construct you just helped to destroy . . . OK well temporarily terminate the activities of as we all know of GlaDOS' status since she cheerily reminds us of it as the credits roll.

Speaking of AI constructs . . .

Cortana (Halo)

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You know how that Microsoft Word Paperclip sucks balls? So much so that he's not only been regulated to a joke, but pretty much no longer shows up in f*ture products, yeah, Cortana's like that paperclip but WAY better, and oddly sexy to a number of Halo fanboys who have too much time on their hands. Trust me, do not type in "Cortana" and "Rule 34" into a google search unless you want to see physically impossible sex (seriously, she's AI and at best a simple hologram, how the hell does it even work?).

While I know there's plenty of awesome technology in the Halo universe, since it does take place in the f*ture and what with a war going on, the military is obviously pumping money into R&D, creating force fields, laser cannons, cloaking tech and cybernetically enhanced super soldiers that for once don't rebel and become the primary antagonists in a game. But to me, it's Cortana who takes the cake.

And yeah, she's not exactly a "gadget" in a traditional sense, but in this day and age, a single application can enhance another device's functionality in ways well beyond what the original hardware might have allowed. Cortana certainly enhances Master Cheif's functionality, or at least his usefulness and importance well beyond what he would normally be. For proof, just go and see if anyone on Noble Team was as integral to the Halo saga. Why is it fine for them to die? None of them had Cortana.

She's an at least semi-sentient, if not fully aware AI program that can be transferred into a variety of systems via a storage device that makes you're recent acquisition of a multi-gig micro SD card look like a 1950's punch card. She can activate ancient alien databases, take command of various vehicular weaponry, defuse bombs and probably knows how to mix a mean martini. She's capable of analyzing vast amounts of data and coming to cogent and logical conclusions as to what to do with it - hell in that Halo Legends movie she says it took her a mere two hours to absorb information as to ALL of human history!

Yeah, that damn paperclip can suck it.

OK, well I don't mean that literally because I'm sure that's going to lead to Word Paperclip/Cortana porn and . . . gah! I'll stop, I don't want to give Rule 34 fans any more ideas.

Plus on top of it all, she provides encouragement and a sassy attitude without ever going insane and deciding to destroy the human race . . . unlike plenty of other AIs that show up in games.

If there's a problem though it seems to be one of longevity, she can only operate for seven years before her program burns out, literally due to overthinking. So yeah that kind of blows, but by that time, there might be a handy dandy Cortana 2.0 to purchase at your local MJOLNIR app store. Or at least, one can only hope.

I just wonder if she'll work on the latest incarnation of the Droid? Probably not. She is owned by Microsoft after all. So you might want to invest in a Windows Phone if you want this app . . . in about 200 or so years. Which will be the amount of time it takes for Microsoft to catch up to Apple's diverse array of smartphone apps.

Assuming cyberpunk is incorrect and there isn't a massive MS/Apple corporate techwar in the next couple of decades anyway.

The Animus (Assassin's Creed)

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So what if I told you I had a device, a bit smaller than an MRI machine, that could read your genetic code, right down to the memories contained within? It would be super useful for medical knowledge right? Capable of identifying any and every genetic disorder you might harbor at the very root blueprint of who you are. It could even let you form a rather comprehensive family tree useful in all sorts of historical and even legal purposes. All in all, VERY useful.

What If I also told you that I had a computer program that could read complex strands of information and create a fully interactive virtual environment for you to explore the data in? But way more detailed than that crappy virtual office we all saw in Michael Crichton's "Disclosure". hell, even better than the Metaverse in "Snow Crash". Again, very useful tech for examining data in three dimensional space.

Both of these technologies could prove infinitely useful in a great number of applications across a wide variety of fields, but if you're a multi-national uber-conglomerate bent on world domination and hunting for secret Alien technology what would you do with them?

Apparently kidnap people who MIGHT have useful information to your cause, stick them in a chair that combines the two technologies and use it to pry into the lives of their ancestors in the hope that their genetic memories contain useful information pertinent to your cause. Rather than just the boring lives of various farmers, potters, and peons who spent most of their days trying to get laid, mired in tragedy and gambling debts and being on the wrong side of historical causes. Come on, in all likelihood most of our ancestor's lives are probably pretty mundane, since there are aren't as many action heroes who survive long enough to produce some offspring.

Don't get me wrong, the Animus is one of the most impressive pieces of technology in gaming, and completely integral to the Assassin's Creed universe since the vast majority of each game takes place inside the virtual worlds formed in the machine. But it also seems like Abstergo industries needed to perform a bit more research on the people they tossed into the thing. By the time the first game gets going, Desmond Miles is the 17th person to get to use it, (at the very least, since the intro of AC2 implies many others are stuck in these things) and it seems like he's probably the first person who actually has useful information for their cause, as well as a string of totally awesome family members that make my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, who was an accomplished inventor and explorer look like the town drunk in a colonial recreation society.

I suppose in product development everything hits a trial and error testing phase, and maybe that's where Miles is, in sort of a late Beta of the Animus' development. But there are still some bugs both good and bad that the machine has with it. On the plus side, stay in the chair a while, and learn how to perform feats your ancestors were capable of, which again, has limitless educational applications. I mean, man if your grandfather was an accomplished painter, machinist, or even master janitor, these skills could be yours in just a few short weeks!

On the other hand it does seem like it blurs your ability to perceive reality in any sort of normal fashion, and you'll probably lose it after extended use. And when I say lose it, I mean completely, as in "write on walls in your own (apparently semi-invisible) blood", sort of like the guy before Miles did.

So yeah, the Animus is a pretty awesome piece of tech, but methinks it needs just a bit more work before every university on the planet buys one for each of their major departments.

Detective Vision (Batman Arkham Asylum)

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Leave it to Batman to have the coolest toys in the room.


Yeah, sure we all know the vigilante billionaire with abandonment issues is going to have neat stuff. He has remote controlled boomerangs, radio-based hacking equipment (complete with needless PS2 Dual Shock analog sticks), grappling hooks, and some nice explosive gel that I hope he doesn't mix up with his toothpaste lest he need some serious dental work. But if there's one thing that proved fundamental in everyone's exploration of the madhouse/prison nightmare that occurred in Arkham Asylum, it was his detective vision. This sensor suite definitely puts the emphasis on the "sweet" side, allowing Bats to look through walls, analyze structural weakness and track enemies all in real time!

In fact, it might have been TOO good, as it was difficult not to play the game with this thing on all the damn time. Often it seemed as if I wasn't fighting the Joker so much as that army of skeletons Jason and the Argonauts faced off against.

Plus despite all of this it doesn't reveal the various junk of the mostly male enemies that the caped crusader encounters on the long foray into the fight for justice that occurs. I'm thinking this is technology we'd like to see in the hands of the TSA rather than those reprehensible body scanners they're currently using.

Come on, I know I'd by my scanning equipment from WayneTech. Why isn't airport security? I mean really!

Also, an honorable mention should go out to Sam Fisher's sonar goggles, which do pretty much the same thing, but not quite as well. However they are cooler to look at at least, and are definitely more recognizable. But man, Detective Vision is just, well, better.