Hello and welcome to Instant RePlay; a new gaming feature article which aims to undress the games industry and reveal its hidden secrets and celebrate its triumphs. For the first edition, I am going to take a look at games that have no hook. What do I mean by this? Well, I mean a game that fails to deliver in the most crucial and pivotal moments of its life; the opening sequence.
We may not realise it but we make a decision about a game when we first load it up and begin playing it. Much like we make a decision about someone from their first impression, we subconsciously do the same with games and other forms of media too. You may argue otherwise but let’s face it, how many times have we loaded a game up and found ourselves doing something else because we don’t care what’s going on? Too many I think you’ll find is the answer.
You see, if you want to make a lasting impression then you would do your best to ensure that you show some of your best bits or unique selling point without giving too much away and enticing your audience into playing more of the game.
Let me give you an example; Call of Duty: World at War. Technically not the best game in the world, but it sure made a lasting impression based on its opening sequence. Why? Because it gave you a reason to carry on. It made you want to find out where the hell you were and exact revenge on the enemy for treating you and your squad like utter crap. The key word there is ‘want’, we were so compelled to do it that we did so without question. We never felt forced or obliged but we did it for ourselves and because we felt an element of care about what was going on on our TV sets.
Want a better example? Well they don’t get much better than this; Bioshock. It’s much the same as WaW, as you are so engrossed in the dialogue with regards to your family a plane crash is the last thing you expect. It’s hectic, it’s dangerous and makes you take shelter in that mysterious building sticking out of the ocean despite your better instincts telling you otherwise.
Ok so it’s unlikely that you wouldn’t have avoided these games if their openings were a bit pap but let’s face it, the developers knew exactly what they were doing when they planned them. They knew that you would stick it out to see where your adventure would take you and what all the fuss is about.
On the flip side, let’s take a moment to consider those games out there that did not make a big splash in its opening hour. Firstly let’s have a look at Far Cry 2 which received mixed reviews upon its release. Offering a massive island for you to explore, hundreds of places to discover and bad guys aplenty to pop off you couldn’t go far wrong. Or so you would have thought.
That was until they decided to open the game with the most boring introduction in the world. EVER! Whoever thought it would be nice to listen to some guy waffle on whilst sitting in a jeep for near ten minutes is beyond me. I had to fight the unrelenting claws of sleep just writing about the sequence, that’s how dull it was. Joking aside though, this set the benchmark very low in some people’s eyes which in turn probably spoilt their enjoyment of the package as a whole. Heck it may have even made people avoid it completely, I know it didn’t help my enjoyment of the title.
Since it’s our first edition, I think it’d be good to have a bit of controversy in it. What better way to make our introduction compelling? See what I’m doing here? Before I pull out any more shocking puns, let me play the controversy card. I’m talking controversy that’s on the same level as that snare drum sound from Metallica’s St. Anger album. You know why? ‘Cos Skyrim’s intro sucked too. I told you it was controversial.
You see, we all know Skyrim is excellent there’s no denying it but what we don’t want is to be walked like a toddler wearing a harness through a beautiful landscape that we can’t touch or interact with. Why restrict us to this extent when your game is intent on advertising its amount of freedom and scale, yet we see so little of it here? At the same time we’re heaped with tonnes of spiel that makes little to no sense at all until we break the shackles of gaming oppression and can go explore the great outdoors.
I think by now, you get my point. Developers need to peak our interests as soon as we boot the title up to even have a chance of us playing the game for a couple of hours let alone seeing it through to completion. Is there one set formula? Of course there isn’t but there are, of course, methods and ways to achieve maximum saturation of interest.