i.e. FreeSpace 2, hmm? For example, the Sathanas emerging from the wreckage of the Knossos, Bosch escaping past the Colossus, the first use of the ETAK device?
What? No, that's not what I mean at all. That's almost exactly the same as the Doom text dumps, just with pictures and sounds.
(It's not much, but) what I mean is something like what happened during the last part of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. Godsmack and metal thongs aside, I really appreciated the segment of the game where the Prince, as the Sandwraith, must travel through the Isle of Time in order to intercept his past self before he can screw up the past again and lock him into a timeline where he is doomed to die.
Throughout the game you've been travelling freely throughout the hub-based Fortress, going back and forth between the various towers, returning to places you've already been to pick up special powers and new upgrades and whatnot. Because it's hub based, getting from one place to the other is pretty quick and easy; as such, it should be no problem for the Sandwraith Prince to get to the Throne Room before his past self does.
Except that it's not that easy. As the Sandwraith, you're constantly forced into following a path that leads you away from the hub and away from the Throne Room. The Central Hall is inaccessible because the bridges aren't aligned; on your way back to try another route, the Dahaka, agent of fate and chief antagonist, pops up and throws you down a well; you reach the Sacrificial Altar, but you're stuck in the rafters with no way down to the main path; the Gatehouse, easily traversable in the present, is solidly barred in the past; you reach the Library, but the Dahaka shows up (again) and chases you into a series of mystic caves.
All the while, you're (re)encountering events you saw when you were playing as your past self in the first half of the game. Each and every time, events pass as they did before, coming a little bit closer to dooming your effort to change the past and your fate. 'Random' chance and happenstance seem to conspire to railroad you into fulfilling your fate - dying at the hands of the Dahaka.
Do you see what I'm talking about? Sure, simple level design tells me "you're going to all these new places because it's the last segment of the game and we need new content to excite you". However, this merges with a higher game design principle to become something more. The change from free, short-length, hub-based, (sort of) non-linear gaming in the first two-thirds/three-quarters of the game to the linear, circuitous track that you follow in the last segment really emphasises, in my view, the desperation of the Prince's fight against the inevitability of fate.
It's beyond just having Alyx or Breen in the game with you, talking and acting on screen... it's a meta-game consideration, where the very design of the game itself reinforces the message that the developers want to put forth. That's what makes games different from 'interactive movies' or what-have-you; that is where the potential of games to be even greater story-tellers than books or cinema lies. Now, Warrior Within doesn't take it far enough, or even very far at all, but it's still going places that I want to be.