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Veteran Member - Level 13
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:
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
Examples: Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Bioshock,
Homefront, Singularity, The Darkness, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Batman: Arkham
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.