A video game, much like a movie, must immediately make an impression on the player, and the GTA franchise has had its fair share of good opening sequences along with mediocre ones.
The pressure on a game to deliver a good opening sequence is quite real, as it must immediately do a number of things, such as:
- Set the tone
- Introduce the major players
- Setup the main plot/conflict
- Generate excitement about the game
Thus, an opening sequence is highly crucial for a game to nail, and Rockstar has been notoriously inconsistent with the quality openings that are for GTA games.
For instance, GTA III's opening sequence immediately sets the tone as a fast-paced crime thriller with a hyper-stylized cutscene that sets up the major plot and conflict. On the other hand, GTA San Andreas' opening sequence is not a firecracker as much as it is a slow burn.
This article takes a look at the best opening sequence in the series and what makes it so.
Note: This article is subjective and solely reflects the opinion of the writer.
The best opening sequence in the GTA series
The first 10 minutes of a game should immediately grab the audience and assure them that the rest of their time in the game will be just as exciting as this. GTA 4's opening does a great job of setting up Niko and his arrival to Liberty City, giving players a good glimpse of the immigrant story that is about to unfold.
Even Vice City has a pretty solid opening, with Tommy Vercetti immediately thrown into an ambush and faced with dangerous odds. After which, the player must start at the lowest point of the character, which is what makes the come-up so gratifying.
But perhaps the game that nails its opening and immediately hooks the player is GTA 5.
Why is GTA 5's opening so effective?
To quickly recap what happens in the opening, Michael, Trevor, and Brad hold up a bank in Ludendorff, which immediately throws players off. Extensive marketing and trailers showcase the game's lush, summery setting in Los Santos.
Ludendorff instead is perennially under a heavy layer of snow and is as small a town the player has ever seen in the GTA series. The trio then blast their way into the vault and make their escape after holding off the entire police force of the small town.
Shortly after, Brad is shot and killed, while Michael is gravely injured (or so it seems), and Trevor escapes the law and is visibly angry over his crew's death. Immediately after, we see Michael Townley attend his own funeral, which is quite surprising and immediately poetic.
The logo splashes across the screen, and we follow Michael much later in his life, having left his days as a stick-up artist behind and in a therapist's office. In just 20 minutes, the game sets up one of its main characters, Michael, and his conflict with Trevor that will later come into play.
On top of the plot, the game has also given players plenty of exciting gameplay and has set the tone for what players can expect: backstabbing, high-octane action, and tons of irony.
With the opening, Rockstar was able to balance both gameplay and story and not waste too much time on exposition. Instead of Michael and Trevor talking about their past, the players are made to play the events rather than watch a cutscene or read the text.
GTA 5, being one of Rockstar's most ambitious works to date, truly showcases just how much the studio has learned over its nearly 2-decade run in the industry. The complexity and nuance of their writing have indeed come a long way, and Grand Theft Auto 5's opening sequence alone is a testament to that.