Which is to say that it's not usually all that surprising or fun, escaping from sinking ships. Some games do it better than others. From worst to best, here are the sinking-ship sequences I've played recently.
3. Army of Two
The biggest problem with Army of Two's ship-sinking sequence is that half of the cool stuff happens offscreen. The aircraft carrier is loaded with nuclear warheads that could fall into the wrong hands unless our intrepid duo -- you guessed it -- sinks the ship, and detonates the explosives underwater. There's a little cutscene where you push the warheads onto an elevator, and then suddenly you appear on the flight deck with a minute to run to a lifeboat. Not only do you need only about twenty seconds to make it, but the only obstacles are a bunch of shipping containers that appear from the ether and tumble toward you. It's bush league. You hear me? Bush league.
2. Dark Sector
Dark Sector's sinking ship sequence plays out a bit better than does Army of Two's -- but on the downside, it happens in the game Dark Sector. Here, you have ten minutes to escape a sinking ship, and it may be a sign of how muddy the storytelling is that mere days later I cannot recall what I was doing on the ship or why. To escape, you have to solve a few puzzles using the glaive's "aftertouch" ability, steering it around corners and through gaps in fences and whatnot, all while fending off a bunch of brainless mutants.
The biggest problem, like much of the game, is that the puzzles aren't integrated well into the game. Why would a ship have doors that can only be unlocked by hurling an electrified boomerang at them? It just doesn't make sense. Plus, they tried to increase the drama by having the ship spring leaks all over the place, but the leaks are all identical: they're all at the same height on the walls, they all spray the same amount of water, and they're usually evenly spaced along your path. It's not good when these things call attention to themselves.
1. Call of Duty 4
As I've said before, Call of Duty 4 is awesome, and the funny thing is that it doesn't do anything that hasn't already been done in other games. It just does everything so much better -- including sinking a ship.
Once again, I don't really remember what we were doing on the ship, although I think it had something to do with retrieving some vital documents. What matters is that the escape is executed brilliantly. The ship lists to one side, with the controls providing just the right amount of resistance, and various committed foes take potshots at you. In the Call of Duty way, the whole sequence is a sensory overload. I felt something like panic my first time through, particularly when I lost sight of my squad and found myself charging blindly down corridors -- the wrong corridors, as it turns out. It was to be the first of my approximately seven thousand deaths over the course of the single-player campaign.
In conclusion, if you really want to escape from a sinking ship, do it in Call of Duty 4. Or, more likely, do it in every game for the next five years, until somebody comes up with a better idea and suddenly you're making one hang-glider escape after another from mountaintop fortresses.