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The Best Game Openings Ever December 20, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
1 comment so far

With the end of November, all the major game releases have come out before the holidays. With all the games coming out, the importance of how a game starts is increased tenfold. A game has to grip the player immediately in order to keep their attention and having amazing opening is essential.

I wanted to share with you guys a list of some of my favorite game openings over the years. These are presented in no paticular order.

Max Payne – The Prologue Level. My best memory playing the opening cutscene to the game was right after I had just installed a GeForce 2 MX 64MB into my new PC. In fact somewhere in my video archives there’s a high-8 tape of that reaction. Seeing the sweeping landscape of New York City as helicopters flew through it recording the journey brought upon it by just one person, the player. The camera climbs up the building and holds on our hero, Max Payne, finished with his journey. Then the game flashes back to the beginning where Max’s perfect life is destroyed. Really it could have happened to anyone. Drug addicts break into Max’s house and he is too late to stop them from doing what they intended to do, kill his wife and baby daughter. The developers chose to have this scene playable as you fight your way though the house trying to save them to give you a deeper connection to Max and his story. To this day it’s one of the most tragic scenes I’ve ever witnessed in any media.

Half-Life – Tram Ride. Everyone cites this game as having one of the best openings in the history of games and who am I to argue with them? The first game’s opening was perfect at setting the stage for the game and the environment you would be playing in. As you ride the tram on the way to work, you are teased with the diverse environments of the Black Mesa Research Facility. As the ride continues the information about just who the character the player is controlling. It was one of the first games to give a player downtime before the fighting started and it was a great design decision which foreshadowed where the player would be going over the course of the game.

Dead Space – Introduction. As our protagonist watches the brief transmission from his girlfriend silently, we know what’s at stake in this game within the first few seconds. Suddenly we’re shown the most beautiful vista of space that I’ve ever seen, as glowing light fills up the cockpit and we see our destination. We’re introduced to the supporting characters, and their archtypes are set up very quickly as all of a sudden, a dangerous situation is presented and they have to react to it at the immediate possiblity of peril. As Mr. Plinkett would say, is it cheap and easy? Yes. Does it work? Also yes. Another interesting note is that rewatching the sequence after playing through the whole game a second time, with full knowledge of all the supporting character’s real motiviations, the scene still works perfectly. I can’t say the same for a lot of poorly written movies or comic books which have twist endings.

God of War – The Hydra Battle. I don’t think anyone would ever question my choice of this opening. I know some would argue that the openings for each subsequent God of War game had been designed to outdo the previous game’s opening (in a lot of respects the Collosus of Rhodes in the second game was a bigger more epic battle then the hydra battle, in that you’re given the Blade of Olympus from Zeus to slay it) but there is just something so classic about the first God of War in that it’s an all encompassing beginning that plays a part with the game’s ending, something that no other God of War game has done. By the time we first hit the start button, the game menu morphs into the opening cutscene and we see our protagonist attempt suicide. Then the game flashes back to the events that started him on that path and we find ourselves on a ship under attack from the hydra. Everything from the atmosphere to the music feels right to complement the opening to this story as it serves to introduce the player to Kratos and the whole game’s universe. After the defeat of the hydra the game continues and we not only find ourselves being a jerk to a guy who’s been recently swallowed by the creature but we are also treated to some fully exposed breasts, something unusual for games of the time, but now more commonly accepted because of that game.

Bioshock – The lighthouse. Almost immediately upon hitting the start button you find yourself treading water in the middle of the ocean. The only safe venue to swim to is a lighthouse not too far from where you crashed. As you enter it and you see the first inklings of Rapture and it’s creator Andrew Ryan. Quotes of Ryan’s and statues made of him adorn the interior of the lighthouse. You step into the bathosphere and are treated to a short filmstrip about the ideals of where you are headed, but nothing in the film can compare to the vista you’re treated to of underwater city as the bathosphere makes its approach. When you enter you see a disturbing sight, a beautiful location with the remains of a protest. Hand carried Signs are all over the ground, but no people, not even any bodies. You ask yourself, “What happened here?”

Uncharted 2 – The Train Crash. The beginning of the game is actually the…middle of the game. Teased originally in preview videos, Nathan Drake found himself bleeding inside a train dangling off the side of a cliff. The player has no idea how he got there or if he will survive. Injured, you start the game’s first platforming segment, which the series is famous for. In no time, you’re climbing up the train cars as they dangle over a snow covered cliff. As you climb, things bend and break under your weight. It’s the perfect mash of suspense and adventure and it starts immediately. As soon as you see the dagger the scene ends and you see how Drake got to be there.

So those are my ideas but I want to hear yours too! What do you think are some of the best introductions in games? Post a comment!