Good Games With Painful Introductions
Image: Half-Life Lambda Logo
Written by: Elijah Moon Blackwell
Furious clicking and frantic button mashing isn’t enough. I’ve tried everything and the opening cut scene won’t end any faster. Bunny hopping around and rushing to the next scripted event does nothing. I still have to wait for what seems like an eternity.
There are a lot of video games that have high replay value. However, sometimes I keep myself from hitting “start new game” because I don’t want to endure the painful introduction.
These are good games (or at least I think so) with slow, often times boring, opening sequences. They are in no particular order.
Assassin’s Creed III
I just wanted to hurry up and free roam. Even when I first played Assassin’s Creed III I was slightly annoyed with the lengthy introduction. I understood that it was to establish the new lore and to build up to the shocking revelation I won’t spoil but it took forever.
If you haven’t played the game then I’ll explain it like this. You ride a ship from Europe to the New World in the 1700s. There is a lot that happens on said ship that has nothing to do with the over-arcing story. It’s just to teach you how the game works. It does an okay job of showing what life is like on a ship that takes nearly month to reach it’s destination…I guess.
After you reach land you go through a series of tutorial missions. Then after a couple cut scenes you control the main character as a teenager. Eventually they grow up. Eventually you get to actually free roam and play for real. It takes roughly 6 hours. It would take much longer if the player were to achieve every side objective and trigger optional dialogue.
The worst part about this introduction is when you want to play the game again. There is no “skip opening” option. Nowadays I save my game right when the actual game begins and make a back up. Whenever I play it again I just reload the save.
It is one of my favorite Assassin’s Creed games that is plagued with an extremely long and boring introduction.
You know an introduction is bad when there is a mod to skip it.
I remember the first time I played Fallout 3 (I dedicated a whole article to it) and the vault was pretty amazing.
Fallout is a series of games taking place after atomic bombs hit the United States. The third game starts by witnessing your own character’s birth…yeah. Then you grow up in what the game calls a vault. It is a super high tech bunker.
The outside world was a mystery. The vault my character grew up in was a claustrophobic living space. I couldn’t wait to explore the open wasteland. The tension was high when I first left the vault. When I first set my eyes on what had become of Washington D.C. I was amazed. Beautiful graphics at the time mixed with sheer surprise (as I had never seen anything like a atomic wasteland in a 3D video game before).
But when you play the game again it’s a snooze-fest. Honestly this is one of those great-for-the-first-playthrough type introductions. It’s purpose is to slowly feed the story to the player. It sets up a lot of questions and assumptions that are later addressed. Once you have seen it there is no reason to experience it again because the story isn’t complex. You don’t need a refresher to remember what’s going on. The plot could be summed up in a paragraph.
The developers should have programmed a “skip the Vault sequences” option or something.
The last two games mentioned were painful due to length. Driver is different. Driver is seemingly impossible.
To start the actual game, you have to beat the training level. It is a timed session where you have to perform all sorts of maneuvers in the provided vehicle.
On paper this seems easy. Perform a 180 turn, finish a lap around the level, test the breaks, Slalom….wait Slalom?
Child me had no idea what a Slalom was and the training mission didn’t give you any clues which defeats the whole purpose of a training mission.
Because the mission is timed you can’t fiddle about to see what a Slalom is. Even when you do know what that is, it often doesn’t trigger.
I would explain how to beat this mission but it would be impossible to do in words and it would just make me angry if I didn’t beat it on the first try. So just know that if you can beat this opening level, you deserve to announce that fact proudly.
Other than that the rest of the game is pretty amazing…if you ever get to see it.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Even on the first playthrough this is an annoying start. You ride in the back of a horse drawn cart as a prisoner. With the loud music and ambiance you can barely hear what the other prisoners are saying. Even when you can hear the dialogue it isn’t anything to write home about. It’s not memorable. It drags on for ever.
When you escape captivity and make your choice as to which forgettable character you leave with the game still doesn’t truly start.
I don’t know what it is about Skryim but I feel like they didn’t do a good job of effectively releasing the player to the open world. Look at Oblivion. You leave the first dungeon (the prison’s sewers) and you are left to do whatever you want. Same with Daggerfall. Morrowind cuts all this out by just starting.
Maybe Skyrim’s intro is bad just because it has other games to compare it to…
Nah, I still think it’s garbage.
Metal Gear Solid V: the Phantom Pain
The worst on this list, hands down.
Seriously, this intro deserves a medal for being so slow. Cut scenes can be skipped but hobbling along a hospital hallway cannot.
In classic Hideo Kojima fashion, the story is slowly handed out. I’m okay with that and on a first playthrough I had no beef with the introduction. But every time I start a new game I yearn for a way to skip to the first real mission.
It’s honestly not that long, maybe an hour or so, but it doesn’t feel that way.
Crawling around on the ground, performing basic stealth, being taught to shoot-it all just drains my energy. It’s a snooze-fest. There is nothing riveting or exciting about the intro. Experiencing it multiple times is a chore.
Okay, okay…put the pitch forks away…hear me out.
Yes, I feel that the Half-Life opening tram ride is way too long and it super boring. At the time, however, it was mind blowing. It was a super cool way to tell a story and set the atmosphere.
These days I just try to glitch out of the monorail or use console commands to speed it up.
Back when the game originally released the tram ride was supposed to be a giant “Hey look at what our engine can do!” with some story telling mixed in. Each time you experience the ride it gets less and less cool as the effect wears off.
From a retrospective angle I will hold firm that Half-Life has one of the best introductions. But when it’s Saturday morning and you just want to go over cook some scientists’ lunch in a microwave….I use console commands to skip the boring tram ride.
Feel differently? Got a game that has a worse introduction? Let us know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org!