Do you know how the the first line in almost any body of text should be able to captivate the reader? Well, it’s the same basic principle for video games, in which their opening levels should garner interest in order to keep the player engaged. One misplaced word, or even an unnecessarily long phrase — and you can basically kiss that audience goodbye. And it doesn’t really matter if the bulk of the game is fleshed out with pages of award-winning chapters, because without a compelling prologue to fortify it — it’s essentially a torn book.
The point I’m trying to make is this: if you can’t make a killer opening level — then your chances of keeping players around for the long haul are as good as dead in the water. Sure, it’s not the simplest thing to do. But then, nothing ever really is. However, if you’re keen to craft such a thing, then heed my advice before getting stuck in. That advice, regrettably, is to avoid replicating these following five levels at all costs. They will, in all honesty, crush your chances of keeping players on your side.
If you think back to the angriest moment in your gaming career, then chances are, it’ll involve a parking lot, a car that drifts like a paving slab, and a whole lot of near impossible tasks that can only be completed through blood, sweat and desperation. Ring any bells? Yeah. That game. Thanks to developer Reflections Interactive, Driver’s opening tutorial practically cemented its place in the archives of some of the worst video games ever made, giving us a prime example of how not to open an otherwise adrenaline-fueled adventure.
With a mere 90-seconds on the clock, a checklist of relatively simple tasks, and a compact parking lot as a training ground, your goal is to blitz through the lot and prove that you’re the go-to wheelman in the city. Unfortunately for most, that very city never even makes it into the spotlight, simply because the unskippable tutorial has the majority of trainees exit the vehicle and never look back. And to think — people actually paid upwards of $40 on launch — just to give up at the tutorial.
4. Heavy Rain
As much as we love being in the front row for a strong video game narrative, some shows, unfortunately, really aren’t all that worth watching the opening credits for. Heavy Rain, being one of these examples, is exactly why said credits should be slotted near the end rather than being spread all over the opening sequence.
Before the story unravels and reveals its origami nexus, players are first left to get a feel for the protagonist and his family. By doing mundane chores and everyday household tasks (like shuffling the plates, for example), you’re basically forced to spend the first two hours sludging through pointless activities before reaching anything remotely challenging. So, not the greatest opening in the world.
3. Kingdom Hearts 2
In a desperate attempt to cram more content into an already jam-packed series, Square Enix made the bold move to implement an entire story arc based around Roxas in Kingdom Hearts 2. The problem with that? Well, it takes place before the actual game begins, and annoyingly drags on for what feels like centuries. And what’s worse, frustratingly, is that it doesn’t even really contribute towards anything once you get going.
For the first few hours of the game, you take on the role of Roxas, along with his school chums, Hayner, Pence and Olette. But rather than being enlisted in all-out warfare against the Heartless like the previous entries to the series, the four are instead put on a quest to complete their school projects and, in turn, go to the beach. In order to check the boxes, you’ll have to carry out a thread of mundane chores, engage in worthless activities, and essentially build on relationships that won’t mean anything once you finally reach Sora and begin the main game. So, you know — thanks for that, Square. Worst summer ever.
We get it. Survival games are supposed to be tough. They’re also built to test our patience, as well as hurl obstacles at us left, right and centre to find our biting point before sending us over the edge. But Frostpunk, on the other hand — now that’s just unnecessarily hard. And that opening phase that can either make or break the rest of the game? Evil, plain and simple. There’s not a lot more I can say about it.
Basically, if you can’t wrap your head around Frostpunk’s harsh weather conditions and dire circumstances in under ten minutes — you’ll find yourself hurled out into the ice and staring failure dead in the eye, banished from the community you fought tooth and nail to establish. But if, however, you’re able to crack the system and survive the first storm, then Frostpunk turns out to be a pretty awesome game. It’s getting there that’s the hard part.
1. Metal Gear Solid V
On the surface, Metal Gear Solid V has all the right components to make a super contraption. Unfortunately, the part that loosens the cogs and acts like a spanner in the works, so to speak, is the bulk of the opening chapter. And considering 90% of the journey that follows is flawless — it’s sort of a major disappointment, to be honest.
Before embarking on a great quest filled with sand, sea and storms as the remarkably robust Snake, you’re first led on a cinematic journey in which you’ll spend a solid hour stumbling through hospital wards. And while the stealth aspect is still alive and present, the bulk of the opening is pretty much spent just waiting for the game to usher you into the actual open world you’ve been craving for years. Of course, it’s not a bad opening by a long shot. But then, it’s not the greatest, either.
So, what do you make of the above five? Were you happy to stick them out? What would you put up as the worst opening levels? Let us know over on our socials here.