By wumbo3000 7 Comments
First impressions make lasting impressions. Sounds corny, but it’s usually true. Not only does this apply for people, but for games as well. For me personally, introductions for games are vital because they not only set up the tone for the rest of the game, but also offer a glimpse into what the player can expect for the entire experience. Here is a list of some of my favorite gaming intros. As a note, introductions don’t necessarily have to be a cut scene. It can be a segment of starting missions or a chunk of gameplay.
Resident Evil 4
In the very first scene, you see Leon Kennedy in a car with two local police officers. You find out that Leon is looking for the president’s daughter. Standard action game stuff. The very enemy you meet is a dude who’s taking tending a fireplace in a house. Leon asks him a question, dude turns around to attack him, Leon shoots him in the face. More standard action game stuff. At this point, you’re thinking, “They’ll probably start off with one or two enemies at a time and gradually ramp up the intensity of the fights.” But as soon as you think that, you stumble across a village.
Leon looks through his binoculars to scan the village, only to see the same two police officers he was just with burning at the stake. At this moment, the player knows that something is wrong. With no other choice to move forward and investigate the village, the player is swarmed with crazed villagers armed with knives and pitchforks. With nothing but a dinky pistol for defense, you’re forced to go into the houses and scavenge for ammo. Once you start searching for anything to help you, you come across a shotgun. With a shotgun in hand, you believe that the rest of this should be cake. Then you hear a chainsaw rev.
The beauty of this introductory sequence is the way Capcom leads the player to expect one thing, only to pull a massive U-turn and jump kick the player in the face. Another aspect that makes it so memorable is the difficulty. For me personally, the intro was one of the hardest parts in the entire game. Due to the fact that developers want people to ease into the experience, games are usually astoundingly easy during the beginning. But Capcom says forget all that and proceeds to dunk the player’s face into what is one of the most heart-pounding and exciting introductions of all time. Another reason this portion of the game is amazing is the fact that Leon only dons that sweet jacket during this section. Also, late title card.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Although this introduction is short, it’s done in such a cool and sleek fashion that it deserves recognition. I love the way the camera moves and the style in which the credits are placed on the screen. And as Rockstar is wont to do, there is no short of the humor and sarcasm, even in the beginning cut scene. The player is introduced to Niko and his aspirations to live in the great country of America. He talks to another person on the boat about his cousin Roman, and how Roman has hit the big time in the USA and is swimming in the dough. The moment the player hears that, there is already a twinge of doubt and speculation if Roman really is that successful. You question Roman’s personality and already have a preconception of what he’s really like. And when you finally meet him, he lives up to your expectations and more.
Roman drives up in a car that isn’t indicative of his so-called wealth and already you know something’s fishy. And even though when Roman opens his mouth he sounds like an arrogant and obnoxious slob, the fact that he seems genuinely ecstatic to see his cousin shows that he values family. In the first cut scene alone, the player is shown the intricacies of each personality of the two most important characters in the game.
Another aspect that I really like about this intro is the part when the cook places a diamond in a vat of food. For those who haven’t played the two expansions, this may seem like a worthless scene, but in the DLC, it is a pretty significant story beat. Putting an important plot point of the DLC into the GTA IV initial cut scene is a cool wink and a nod to those who have beaten the expansions.
This intro is simply haunting. The atmosphere, lighting, and music all contribute into what makes the revelation of Rapture an awe inspiring moment. The plane crash and the subsequent swim to land are done superbly. But once you’re walking in that building and the door slowly slams shut, is when the first sense of dread is instilled into the player. As you’re descending in the elevator and listening to what Andrew Ryan has to say, you hear the music swell up and finally see Rapture in all of its glory.
The execution and attention to detail is why I remember this introduction. The precise lighting is sublime and helps set a mood of terror. The instant you see the dystopia that is Rapture is when the music really hits its stride…the exact timing of it all is done supremely well.
Assassin's Creed II
The gameplay missions during the intro aren’t really anything to get excited about. They’re basic tutorials that teach the player on how to move and run. The real effectiveness of the introductory sequence is the establishment of the main character, Ezio. He comes off as an immediately likable guy: confident, good with the ladies, and very funny. This may seem like a standard archetype (a suave and sarcastic lead male protagonist), but it’s done in such a jaunty and playful way that you can’t help but have an attraction towards him. But the defining moment for me is when Ezio and his brother are on top the tower, looking towards Firenze. The music that plays during this fits perfectly with the grand scale of it all, as you witness the massive scope of the city. Also, late title card.
Another fantastic aspect of the intro is that it sets up a too good to be true-kind of life for Ezio. As a player, you know that Ezio’s life is too ideal to last, and you expect something to go horribly wrong. And oh boy, does it go wrong.
Final Fantasy VI (or III)
This is one of my favorites mainly because of the music. Plain and simple. The starting text does an effective job at conveying the world in its current state, as well as telling the story about the war of magic, but the lasting impression is the music. The theme that plays when Terra and the two guards are walking through the snow in their robot suits is one of the best themes in video game history.
Remember, this is just one man's opinion. I would love to hear your thoughts on my choices, as well as some of your favorite video game introductions!