Because starting on a high is always a good thing.
It's generally agreed that the endings for video games tend to suck, for a number of reasons. Whether the developer has run out of time or money, or just doesn't care at all, it's often the case that you'll plow through hours and hours of gameplay to experience some variation on "Well done, you saved the world" and a credits screen.
However, it's a completely different kettle of fish for a game's introduction sequence. Here, it's up to the developers to really grab your attention and make you go 'wow', lest you get bored and go find another game to play. So while there are a lot of great intro sequences around, it's made it hard to cull them down into a list of ten (well okay, actually eleven) - but here are the picks of Alan, Liam, Emily, and Mayur, compiled for your reading pleasure!
Valve's epic first person shooter will no doubt be remembered for its incredible gameplay, laying the groundwork for future scripted FPS titles like Call of Duty and showing us that shooting stuff with guns was not all that could be done with the genre. It's easy to forget, then, that in addition to killer gameplay, Half-Life kicked off with one of the most atmospheric intro sequences ever seen. Jumping into the head of the protagonist, Gordon Freeman, you're introduced to your environment by way of an interactive journey to the heart of the story on an overhead rail car. An announcer keeps you informed as to your progress (along with other amusing tidbits) as you wander around the carriage, viewing the (then) astounding amount of detail in the game environment.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
It's clear, right from the very beginning, that Hideo Kojima (MGS director / producer) and Konami both have aspirations that extend well beyond merely making a game. The cinematic presentation and emotive music get the juices pumping from the very beginning, introducing key characters and sequences as if what you are about to participate in is the very height of the creative endeavour. Which, if MGS fans are to be believed, you are. Crank those speakers right up!
Day of the Tentacle
Day of the Tentacle starts off with a wild intro which sets the scene for the whole game. A bio-engineered sentient tentacle drinks something he shouldn't have and becomes all-powerful. He decides to take over the world and it becomes the mission of three high-school nobodies to stop this from happening. It's funny, visually impressive and has stood the test of time so many years later. Most of us here at NZGamer could probably quote the intro word for word.
Technically you can replace "Diablo 2" with "Anything Blizzard have ever made", but my editor is looking at me funny and he's good with knives. So Diablo 2 it is. Blizzard's attention to detail and level of polish is so impressive that, even ten years later, their work on Diablo 2 is still capable of standing shoulder to shoulder (or better) with almost anything else out there. The cinematic presentation and sheer technical prowess demonstrated in this clip shows an understanding and mastery of the media that has yet to be seriously challenged.
Whilst the NZGamer staff rants about the incomplete plot of Fahrenheit have been long, loud and numerous, the introduction is superb. I once said, “The story started out exactly as a decent game should – with you murdering a guy in the bathroom of a diner and having absolutely no memory of committing the deed,” and I still stand by that. Falling red petals turn into flurries of snow and we’re taken through New York city to the start of our story by the flight of a solitary black crow. It's the cinematic beginning of a strange and haunting journey into the twilight zone.
I’ve only had one person remain unimpressed when I’ve shown them the beginning of Bioshock, and that was my mother. Ever supportive of my passion for games, she was happy to sit by and watch my expert ‘demo’ of the first few minutes - but failed to be even remotely alarmed by a snarling splicer, shrieking and hacking its way into the bathysphere I was hiding in. The horrific plane crash, gorgeously life-like rippling water and uplifting orchestral score elicited only a polite “Mmm, that’s nice”, as she was half way out of the lounge room once more. There’s just no impressing some people.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Not being a fan of the Call of Duty games, the entire fourth title was a pleasant surprise. Not only did Modern Warfare reignite my interest in the series but also featured an unusual scene used to display the introductory credits. Unfolding through the eyes of the country’s President, you are thrown into the back of a car, driven through winding back streets, eventually booted out into the middle of a courtyard and then shot in the head. With the ability to control the camera direction but not the action, this was a perfect way to sneak in some credits without distracting from vital gameplay sequences or losing the interest of its often short attention-spanned audience.
Onimusha 3: Demon Siege
I jumped into the Onimusha series as a newbie at number 3 – a wise move according to Mayur. Admittedly, the game won’t appeal to everyone but the introduction to Demon Siege is not to be sniffed at. At just over five minutes in length, the opening sequence is epic enough regardless of the content. However, when the content in question happens to involve the gruesome destruction of a giant roaming Genma beast and some fantastical ninja fight sequences, it’s easy to see why the Onimusha 3 opening has garnered such a lot of praise.
Street Fighter II
Street Fighter II’s introduction is relatively simple but it’s iconic and instantly recognisable. It’s also a classic merely for the fact that it tends to raise a few eyebrows amongst the culturally sensitive. It begins with two people at the bottom of a street fighting, with one getting knocked out before the screen scrolls up a large skyscraper to reveal the Street Fighter II logo. The interesting part is that it is a white man who knocks out a black man. Is this racist? It ultimately depends on intent, but it certainly raised enough eyebrows; the Mega Drive version was changed so that it was two white men, and the SNES versions of the game were absent of this intro altogether. Eventually, as Street Fighter became more pretentious about its story, this intro was changed to an angry Ryu throwing a fireball as images of the cast scrolled in the background, but Street Fighter II’s original introduction will always remain a classic reminder of how something seemingly innocuous can be read as racist and insensitive.
Resident Evil might be a well respected series, but it’s always been the video game equivalent of a B-movie. It’s fitting then that the original game had an introduction so wonderfully cheesy that it clogs the arteries. The live-action extravaganza features a bunch of no-name actors who deliver a performance so wooden that it’s hard not to believe that they aren’t puppets. The Thunderbirds showed more emotion. Along with the bad acting and atrocious dialogue are the ridiculously bad special effects that make Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste look like Lord of the Rings. The best part, however, is the character profiles that appear right at the end of the introduction. Some of the actors look legitimately embarrassed to be appearing in this work of art. It’s so bad, it’s brilliant. Indeed, there can only be one introduction that is better for all the wrong reasons.
What happens when a group of Japanese developers translate directly from the dictionary? You get Zero’s Wing’s fantastic introduction. Perhaps the finest piece of “Engrish” ever, Zero Wing’s introduction is responsible for nearly half the great classic lines in video game culture. “Somebody set up us the bomb”; “All your base are belong to us”; “You have no chance to survive make your time”; and “For great justice”: Zero Wing’s introduction is host to them all. So popular it became an Internet meme of epic proportions, Zero Wing’s Engrish-filled introduction will forever remain the best video game introduction of all time. Not bad for a game that isn’t worth remembering otherwise.