I’m taking a look at various types of game introductions that are used to hook a player into the experience. A lot of games tend to share common intros, so I decided to name them and specify how the intros played out and how they were used to hook the player into the experience. Some do a better job than others; some games tend to stitch together elements of several introduction sequences, others stick with one with some games having an uncannily similar opening. The 9 types of gaming intro I’ve noticed reused in games often are:


1.      In Medias Res :


Examples: Prototype, Uncharted 2, God of War, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne


What it is: It’s basically a look at a crazy event later in the game, a look at what happens later. Players see their characters in the middle of their journey or at some point towards the end, maybe they are overpowered or maybe they are weak and about to die, once things begin to shake up you are thrust back into the present (or the past, depending how you look at it).


Memorable moment: Uncharted 2, after waking up in a dangling train (a rather “rude awakening”), Drake tries to remember where he is before wincing in pain at the bullet wound in his gut. Things start to fall down the train aisle, causing Nate to realize he is in fact dangling of a cliff once he nearly falls to his death and manages to catch his breath. After climbing to the top and collapsing in a heap we begin to see flashbacks to the job he took on that led to this predicament, creating one of the most memorable and effective intros in gaming, and one that plays out almost the same when we come back to it later, with a few perspective changes to shake things up.


2.      The slow burn:


Examples: Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Homefront, Singularity, The Darkness, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Batman: Arkham Asylum


What it is: A very slow build up where the player gets a look at the scenery or setting, done fully in game. It usually leads up to some climactic event where players are thrust into combat, but before then it’s all sightseeing and admiring the graphics and whatever story elements the developers choose to present. In some cases (as with Bioshock and The Darkness), you might get a little more action or some more gameplay during the segment, but it’s still the same basic idea with a few tweaks.


Memorable moment: The original Half-Life is an often cited example and is considered the main source for this kind of intro, and for good reason. Players get a nice tram ride to work, getting a chance to see what is happening around the facility, maybe see an important character or two. Upon arriving they see NPC’s going about their job, allowing players to interact with them or listen in on conversations, and maybe mess around with the environment or explore a bit on their way to the test chamber. Even when players get there it’s a somewhat mundane activity upon until the resonance cascade begins, and that’s where the fun really begins.


3.      Something isn’t right:


Examples: Resident Evil series, Amnesia, Dead Space, Max Payne, Portal, Dead Island, Dead Rising, Spec Ops: The Line


What it is: An unsettling start where nothing really happens, but nothing feels right. Usually used in horror games, this culminates in an incredibly unsettling or action packed moment that defines the experience and sets the tone for what’s to come. The defining shock moment may never really show up, or you might get an unfortunate surprise in the very first level, but you’ll have an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach throughout.


Memorable moment: Resident Evil 4’s village introduction is a game start not many can forget. After encountering a few hostile villagers, you finally come to their village to see them all working normally, with a rather unsettling sight in the middle letting you know that something is wrong. After being spotted, you see the cunning they display and are forced to fight for your life against their attacks and shambling movements towards you where they wield deadly weapons (like pickaxes, hatchets or even a deadly chainsaw) and have nowhere to go or any objective except to survive, when mercifully a church bell rings in the distance, summoning them away mid battle and setting the tone for the rest of the game.



4.      The training room intro:


Examples: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2, Thief: The Dark Project, Fallout 2


What it is: Basically, the beginning of the game puts you in a literal training room to familiarize players within the realm of the story. This intro doesn’t try to really rope a player in too much, but usually is used in conjunction with one of the other intro types being used in the second level or so, though in some cases (as with Modern Warfare 2), they just throw the player into normal combat after and don’t really bring an epic intro or set piece until a tad later, like a more action packed slow burn. Interestingly enough, many games will put a training room or tutorial outside of the main game, such as Half-Life and Deus Ex.


Memorable moment: Call of Duty 4 starts the player out as a new recruit who has to familiarize themselves with their gear. The simple but massive change in series from WWII to the modern era was enough to make the training segment alone a very great start, especially with a nice story set up at the beginning and a fun obstacle course, but the game uses two more intro types in the next two levels (the “right into action” and the “slow burn”) to show off a fantastic ship level and the last few minutes in the life of a leader, shown in first person. This is a game that started off strong and kept one hell of a lasting impression.



5.      Nothing to lose, everything to prove:


Examples: Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption, Saints Row 2, most open world games.


What it is: The player is dropped into a world with almost nothing to their name and one or two contacts or missions they can take on. They are at rock bottom and must work their way up in the world they are in, maybe they went there themselves, maybe they were forced there or simply got screwed on the way to somewhere else, either way players must now do whatever they can to rise up and survive.


Memorable moment: Grand Theft Auto III was a genre defining title, and it did a rather good job of setting the player up for a fall. After a small cinematic intro where the player is shot and arrested, players start the game in the midst of a breakout on the streets of their convoy, with no money and only the assistance of one other prisoner who gives the location of a safehouse. From there, the player is free to do as they wish, go about the mission as planned, screw about, etc. Once at the safehouse they meet a mission giver and are free to do side missions and tasks as they please to earn money, with the inevitable goal of finding and taking revenge on the person who betrayed you.


6.      Right into the action:


Examples: Red Faction I and II, Modern Warfare 3, Left 4 Dead series, Metal Gear Solid, Hitman: Blood Money, Knights of the Old Republic


What it is: Basically just having you jump right into the action, maybe with occasional tips dropped during the first level, but for the most part it’s what you might expect in the rest of the game, but with better gear and worse enemies to face. Depending on the game, it could be an action packed start to fighting throughout, or a look at the importance of the mechanics and gameplay style the game is trying to teach. In most cases, the game springs some major event on you, like a prison break out or a revolution, or simply thrusts you right into action without much explanation. Usually though, the first level is always easier and much more survivable then what’s to come so it can be a tutorial, even if it’s a rather spectacular event or set piece where death is at every cornet.


Memorable moment: After living in oppressive conditions with other miners and witnessing them die from a plague, one line is finally crossed when a miner is brutally slain by a guard on shift. The player then takes up arms with other miners and sparks a revolution, fighting their way to the rebel base and completing objectives to take control of Mars and get the EDF to help fight the Ultor corporation. Though the game’s destruction is toned down later on, it is on full display in the rocky caverns at the beginning, with many hidden paths and weapon stashes hidden behind destructible walls or floors, with players able to blast their way around doors and take out a rocky bridge full of enemies by destroying the supports. The game did a great job of presenting a fun and explosive introduction that also paced the difficulty very well thanks to the progressive unlocks and action that didn’t let up for long throughout.



7.      The proving grounds:


Examples: Saints Row, Deus Ex, Assassin’s Creed, Red Faction: Guerrilla, LA Noire, Mafia II, Fallout: Tactics


What it is: You’ve just become a part of an organization or group of some sort and must prove yourself, usually with some sort of risky mission. Maybe you joined recently, maybe you’ve been a member a long time, or maybe you were forced to join as a favor or repayment. Either way, you have to do something for these guys and your reputation all hinges on whether or not you screw up or succeed with flying colors.


Memorable moment: In Deus Ex, after a small story set up and some slight character creation, players are put in a situation on Liberty Island where they are put to the test with their augmentations and skills. After selecting the kind of weapon and approach you’d like to take, you then get free reign over the island and your mission to do as you like. Shoot your way through, use stealth and shadows, take the vents, pick the locks on the way in, talk to a contact who can let you in, take on side missions, explore, etc. The game sets up the freedom they allow the player right from the start, and once the mission is over it does a great job of hinting at greater things to come and allowing the player to mold their JC Denton.


8.      The rude awakening:


Examples: inFAMOUS, Half-Life: Opposing Force, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal 2, Fallout: New Vegas, RAGE, Bioshock 2, Halo: Combat Evolved, Fallout 3


What it is: Players are awoken at the start of the game from their slumber; maybe they were peacefully sleeping beforehand, or maybe they were knocked out or in some sort of coma. Either way, players are immediately awoken from some sort of traumatic event only to either undergo some training, some tests to ensure they are mentally ok or just shot straight into action after a quick look up and down.


Memorable moment: Fallout 3, in an in interesting twist on the formula players start the game immediately upon being born. Fresh from the womb, players are then given character creation options and almost literally thrust into their father’s hands. Your father (voiced by Liam Neeson) then removes his mask to reveal features similar to yours in a nice genetic tie in so you know that he is, in fact, your father. What proceeds is a rather slow series of tutorials and character development sessions before heading out into the real world, but this intro was an interesting way to set up the brutal world of Fallout and tie players closer to their character.


9.      The cinematic intro:


Examples: Metal Gear Solid 2, Max Payne 3, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception


What it is: A relatively long or moderately sized cutscene sets up the story, characters and game before putting players on a normal path through the game, or possibly mixing it up with a second intro type (though usually its straight to business, with the cutscene then “right into the action”). The cutscene is where any of the “wow” factor shows, and it could set up things to come or set up a scenario for you to use certain gameplay mechanics.


Memorable moment: Metal Gear Solid 2 starts off with a lone figure smoking a cigarette on the George Washington bridge in New York, wearing a poncho in pouring rain while intro credits show us the names of the developers involved. The man proceeds to break out into a run before jumping off the bridge, turning invisible (!), and deploying a parachute to land on a ship passing below, before the camera zooms in to reveal… Solid Snake! What followed was a series of cutscenes and codec conversations then setting up the scenario, explaining gameplay and generally showing the players why they are here and how to play. It was very lengthy, but very well done and the gameplay that proceeded was very solid and fun indeed, and not hard to get into thanks to the lengthy tutorial video that explains how to do things.


10. (Bonus sequence) The power trip :

Examples: God of War II, Saints Row: The Third, Dragon Age II, Prototype


What it is: Players start off with high level gear and abilities they can expect later, being able to mow down enemies left and right with their abilities only to either lose them, or go back in time to before they had them (as seen in Prototype). This is a good way to introduce players to mechanics, let them know what to expect later on, and give an explanation on why things are so easy when trying to ease the player into the experience.


Memorable moment: God of War II, after having defeated Ares, Kratos sits upon his throne high up on Olympus. He's been abusing his powers and during a take over of yet another city with his Spartan army, Kratos goes down there himself and begins to wreak havoc. He is shrunken down to mortal size, but even that doesn't deter him with his awesome might and power. At the end of it, he loses his powers to an act of trickery and players must build themselves up all over again.

* This addition was one I had originally in the post, but I removed it since I figured the entries all fit into the other introduction types, though looking back I decided it would still fit and round up my list to an even 10


Well, those are the intros I've noticed used in gaming often, and very effectively too. I might be missing some common introductions, but I think these cover most of the popular and commonly used introduction types used to rope the player in to the experience.