The lights are on
As old-time music plays (“Maybe” by The Ink Spots), the images on a black and white television tell the story of life before the apocalypse. Soldiers murder citizens in the streets, cars cost $200,000, and there is a promise of a better life by sealing yourself away in an underground vault. Then, Ron Perlman begins his chilling narration: “War. War never changes.” Now that’s how you establish a setting.
As if destroying a bipedal tank weren’t enough, Snake’s boarding of the tanker in Metal Gear Solid 2 establishes him as a *** of the highest order. Smoking a cigarette and strolling across the George Washington Bridge in the rain, Snake suddenly breaks into a run. Then he throws off his raincoat, turns invisible (!), and dives off the bridge, landing on the ship below. If only we had gotten to play as him the whole game…
Not only does the intro show Kratos decked out in his godly glory, but the entire first level is a boss fight against the legendary Colossus of Rhodes. You beat up on regular chumps, and just when you think you’re safe, a foot the size of a dumptruck bursts through a wall to crush you. When Kratos finally beats the giant statue, Zeus shows up to strike the new god low. Good thing Kratos isn’t the revenge-seeking type, right?
You know all that stuff you’re kind of tired of in World War II games these days? The Medal of Honor series did it when it was still inventive. The first level in Frontline had players storming the beach at Normandy on D-Day, conveying intense combat and abject fear similar to the beginning of Saving Private Ryan. The level also appeared on the PC’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, though that title didn’t open with it.
Before you even gain control of Indigo Prophecy’s main character, you watch him murder a man in a diner restroom. The game thrusts into action immediately afterward, forcing you to frantically clean up the scene and hide evidence as the threat of discovery gets higher and higher. It generates tension and urgency, and introduces you to the game’s core mystery right away.
Anything we miss that makes your list? My personal favorites include Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, Resident Evil Code: Veronica, The Beatles: Rock Band, and Mass Effect 2. Oh, and the Skate openers aren’t to be missed. Share your favorites below!