What's Your Favorite Beginning of a Game? - GameSpot Q&A
Welcome back to GameSpot Q&A, a weekly section where we ask our staff and readers an interesting discussion question about video games. Look at this as a forum where you and others can discuss and compare your opinions of this beloved hobby of ours. So don't hesitate to let us know what your answer is to this week's question in the comments below!
This week's question is as follows:
What’s your favorite beginning of a game?
The opening sequence of Half-Life is an absolute masterclass in game design and though you're forced to spend five minutes walking around a tiny rectangular area, it's one of the most engrossing five minutes in video game history. It's not a cut-scene, you're actually moving through the world - understanding it's shapes, rules and mechanisms before you ever get to step into it. It's a safe zone to get used to the games controls while also showing off the vast scale of the facility you spend the next ten hours trying to escape. It sets the slow pace of the early game and expresses the culture of Black Mesa - from bumbling scientists getting locked out of their offices, to updates on the company decathlon and it's health and safety policies. Half-Life's intro manages to dispense an absolute wealth of information on the player - and all they had to do was watch. We've never seen it done as well since.
Final Fantasy VIII--Zorine Te
I’d say Final Fantasy VIII, because it had magic and teenagers fighting to the backdrop of some epic music with a chorus chanting lyrics in Latin. LATIN! The emotional themes touched upon in the opening resonated well with me at the time, being an emo teenager myself.
Shadow of the Colossus--Kevin VanOrd
Shadow of the Colossus. It has a sad beauty to it that perfectly suits the story's overall arc, and the music that accompanies the start of Wander's journey is absolutely rapturous. In the intro, there's a profile shot of Wander riding Agro in the midst of rainfall, and soon after, they emerge into the light to see a bridge stretching in front of them. The result is melancholy, then uplift, a classic emotional response to excellent cinematography.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater--Daniel Hindes
The Virtuous Mission in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It plays out in true Bond fashion, as a self-contained mission which sets up the plot for the rest of the game. It's quite long, too--over an hour--so it's not entirely clear that this is actually an opening sequence. But once you complete it, and the Bond-inspired title montage and song begin, the tone of the rest of the game is made crystal clear.
Final Fantasy X--Alexa Ray Corriea
The sequence I still randomly think about to this is that first cutscene from Final Fantasy X. It's not even 10 minutes long, and conveys so much by doing so little. The camera pans over Yuna and her Guardians, all sorrowfully hunched over a tiny campfire, while Tidus narrates the most despondent, bleak outlook on his situation. "Listen to my story," immediately made me think that someone wasn't making it out of this game alive, and that made me nervous. This cold open was so tense, so anxiety-inducing that it had me on edge for the first few hours of the game. Sin destroying Zanarkand was shocking (and beautifully orchestrated) in itself, but that wasn't the worst that could happen. When was the REALLY bad stuff going to happen? When was Tidus or someone going to die? That look on Yuna's face as she looks up at him says it all: this is a war that they probably won't win, at least not without some serious sacrifice. And running over all of it is "To Zanarkand," the saddest goddamn piano track Nobuo Uematsu has ever made.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare--Eddie Makuch
2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare remains one of my favorite games of all time; and I adored it right from the opening scene. [Spoilers, of course] After touring a war-torn city, your character is taken into a city square and shot in the head execution style. It was brutal, but it was effective. It set the tone for what was to come--one of the best games I've ever played.
Half-Life 2--Rob Crossley
Half-Life 2. It's just so incredibly bold, even to this day, to open with a close-up of a character's face. It was a technical marvel (lip-syncing you could lip-read; lifelike eye behaviour; brilliant texture detail) but also so beautifully written and acted. You really can sense, through his odd stammers and inexact phrases, that the G-Man is merely pretending to be human. The audio and visual effects are exceptional; you're looking through the eyes of a man lurching back to life from stasis, memories flashing into view, along with these wonderfully strange sounds of electrical charges.
The Last of Us--Chris Watters
Well, since my esteemed colleague Rob Crossley already called Half-Life 2, I'll tell you why I love The Last of Us. Many games are about living in a broken world, but the catastrophe that broke the world is often left in the distant past. TLoU shows you not only the moment that the world breaks, but the moment that Joel, the protagonist, breaks. This trauma feeds everything that comes after and draws you into the world as you find yourself wondering, "When did this town crumble? How did this person break?"
Metal Warriors--Peter Brown
My favorite opening sequence is from a Super Nintendo game called Metal Warriors, from LucasArts and Konami. The intro to this side-scrolling action game features impressive sprite work that captures the essence of sci-fi anime from the 80's and 90's. Mind, the narrative element is paper thin, but I can't help to gawk at the heavily-saturated colors and nuanced animations within. It's a brief but satisfying treat for anyone who likes anime and mecha.
Silent Hill 2--Matt Espineli
Silent Hill 2. That opening close-up shot of James Sunderland's face looking into a bathroom mirror is so eerie and introspective. When you hear James desperately question the impossibility of his deceased wife being still alive in Silent Hill, it instantly pulls you into his plight. The scene's tone is well complimented by Akira Yamaoka's relaxing yet ominous soundtrack that furthers the alluring sense of melancholy that fills in these first moments. What is setup here is so utterly attracting that it's bound to hold you in a trance...until you realize that you absolutely have no idea how to solve the clock puzzle at the Wood Side Apartment complex.