A few days ago I wrote about the first hour of Bioshock and its shrewd method of establishing a world and delivering exposition. The game may unravel a bit later on, but it does a remarkably effective job of setting its hook in the player during the early stages of the journey through Rapture.
This prompted a discussion with several of my students about games and their capacity to grab us or leave us cold. Naturally, we began tossing around titles of games with great openings.
One student cited Halo's intro sequence as especially magnetic, drawing him into a fight. Another mentioned the G-Man's "Rise and shine, Mr. Freeman," and stepping off the train in Half-Life 2's City 17 with no clear objective or destination. One student claimed that Peggle's opening levels possess a mysterious power to lure players, game vets and noobs alike, into its mad can't-stop-playing vortex.
I thought it might be fun to expand the conversation here by including your 2 cents on the question. Can you think of a game you've played that contains an especially effective opening or beginning? If so, why do you think it work so well?
Like my Peggle-addled student, you needn't limit yourself to narrative titles. All games face the same imperative to hook players early on, lest they grow bored or frustrated and move on to the next time-wasting, brain-shrinking, culture-in-decline activity.
So, what do you say? Got any openings?