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Disappointing Opening Levels That Almost Ruined Great Games

First impressions are important — especially when it comes to a video game you just dished out 60 bucks to buy. And while some titles aim to drop jaws and boggle minds from the get-go, others hold off on the good stuff, saving cinematic battles, epic conquests, and dramatic plot points for Chapter 2. Sometimes, this conservative approach can add to a game's appeal. Other times, it can turn off gamers quicker than you can say "press A to jump." 

From soul-crushing tutorial levels to prologues suspiciously missing their protagonist, let's take a look at the most disappointing opening levels that almost ruined awesome video games.

Driver's ed

Driver takes inspiration from 1960s and '70s car chase flicks. And since "Drive" is literally in the title, players wouldn't be foolish to assume that Reflections Interactive's 1999 Driver kickstarts the action right from the start. Unfortunately for gamers prepared to put the pedal to the metal, Driver's opening level is less reminiscent of a high-chase pursuit, and more akin to parallel parking lessons with your dad in the empty middle school parking lot. 

Players were forced to prove their abilities by performing a laundry list of maneuvers — including a reverse 180, slalom, and burnout — before taking to the open road on their first bank job. Not what we signed up for when we leapt behind the wheel as former race car driver-turned-undercover cop John Tanner. Grown-up gamers recall this tutorial with a mixture of nostalgia and rage, fondly reminiscing about all the times they chucked their controllers and forced their parents to take the wheel.

The Kingdom Hearts 2 Roxas fake-out

By the time Kingdom Hearts came to a close, JRPG fans everywhere had fallen in love with the likes of Sora, Riku, and Kairi, and we couldn't wait to hop back into their oversized shoes to hack up some Heartless in the inevitable sequel. But when that sequel finally came to the PlayStation 2 in March 2006, gamers were a little confused. Rather than picking up where the first game left off, the opening hour or so centered around a group of new characters as they explored their hometown, investigated odd phenomena, and completed their school projects. 

Obviously, this seemingly random shift to a whole new cast baffled players expecting their keyblade-wielding crew. Who was this blonde-haired Sora wannabe, and what was he doing dreaming of our hero? What was this so-called "Twilight Town?" And why does everyone just sit around all day eating sea salt ice cream?

Acting like a tutorial for the main game, the opening section of Kingdom Hearts 2 — in which players took control of Roxas — dragged on for what seemed like forever, and it didn't make a whole lot of sense. Suffice to say, the revelation that Roxas was Sora's "Nobody" — the body and soul of someone who's lost their heart — didn't exactly help clear up much confusion. It would be another two and a half years before Roxas' mysterious backstory would be fully explored in the Nintendo DS exclusive prequel to Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.

A closed world in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion received critical acclaim when it dropped in 2006. Celebrated for its massive scope, intense gameplay, and captivating graphics, Bethesda's fourth entry in the fantasy RPG series was considered by many to be an achievement of both technical and narrative excellence. But you wouldn't have guessed that from its tedious introductory quest, which sees Emperor Uriel Septim and his personal bodyguard escorting you — some prisoner rando — through a secret passageway in the Imperial Prison.

Unbelievability aside — the Emperor claims he's seen your face in his dreams, thus granting your freedom — what follows is a blend of monotonous combat, ugly interiors, and intrusive tutorial popups that detract from what should be an exciting introduction to your adventures across Cyrodiil.

The problem with Oblivion's opening level isn't that it's an exposition-heavy, hyper-linear trek through a dark, dusty, and overall dull dungeon, but rather that it doesn't stick to its own open-world script. In other words, gamers popping this beloved Bethesda RPG into their consoles for the first time would be forgiven for assuming that the remainder of their quest took place in a series of interconnected goblin dens.

Enough with the tutorials, Ōkami

Speaking of intrusive tutorial popups, Ōkami is frequently called one of the greatest games ever made — usually by gamers who've surely forgotten about its annoying opening level. Wielding her celestial brush, the lazily titled "Celestial Brush god" Amaterasu makes a grand entrance in a nearly 20-minute unskippable opening filled with phantasmagorical graphics, intriguing lore, and characters who prattle on and on in a maddening, mumbly, made-up language. Like most game intros, Ōkami's first level also features a number of tutorial prompts aiming to guide newbies through their quest to clear the demonic forces from ancient Japan as the all-powerful sun goddess.

No one's arguing that Ōkami's tutorials aren't thorough. On the contrary, Amaterasu's very own personal Jiminy Cricket, the Poncle artist Issun, explains Ōkami's many gameplay elements in clear, concise, and even quirky language. His advice also happens to crop up at the most inopportune moments, interrupting action and immediately hindering immersion after players complete each feat — in other words, every few steps. The game picks up after this instructional onslaught, offering one of the most memorable gameplay experiences of the last decade. But dang, if that opening tutorial isn't aggravating enough to get gamers putting their discs to better use — like as frisbees, maybe.

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II opens in the worst way

The sequel to Bioware's 2003 Star Wars RPG, The Sith Lords had a lot to live up to. For the most part, it succeeded, capturing the epic feel of its predecessor while swapping out a lively tale of war and triumph for a brooding examination of the obscured line between good and evil. This darker vision — which came courtesy of Obsidian Entertainment this time around — kicked off early following a skippable tutorial prologue, with an eerie opening reminiscent of a survival horror title like Dead Space

Awakening in a life support tank in the Peragus Mining Facility medical bay, supposed last Jedi Meetra Suric discovers that she's been pulled from the Ebon Hawk, a freighter ship, after a deadly battle aboard the vessel left her the sole survivor. Turns out the mining station houses its own fair share of the dead, thanks to crazed droids and toxic fumes that picked off every last miner.

A creepy, abandoned environment littered with bodies? Check. An intriguing mystery to uncover via computer terminals? Check. Murderous, malfunctioning droids? Check! The premise seems promising — and it is, until you realize that corpses, data logs, and repetitive robots are all you have to look forward to for the entire first hour of the game (with the occasional insufferable exposition-spouting hologram cropping up every so often). Not only that, but the enemies are repetitive, the Mining Facility's layout makes it easy to get lost, and you're forced to run around in your undies until you finally stumble onto a miner uniform and some two-bit gear. 

Try not to break your keyboard when you start Fallout 2

Fallout 2's bleak, tongue-in-cheek take on post-apocalyptic America is the stuff of CRPG legend. That said, the retrofuturistic end-of-the-world sim also plays host to one of the most rage quit-inducing areas in any Fallout game — or any game, period. Before accepting their destiny as the champion of Arroyo and tracking down a G.E.C.K. — or Garden of Eden Creation Kit — the Chosen One must prove their mettle in the aptly named Temple of Trials.

Rather than emphasizing improvisation and allowing players to put their newly customized build to use, Fallout 2's tutorial-disguised-as-a-dungeon forces players into hand-to-hand combat with giant ants and radscorpians — later providing them with a spear to properly defend themselves, regardless of their preferred weapon of choice. It also demands that they know their way around a lockpick and explosives. In other words, players are forced to compromise their preferred play style in order to complete their very first quest. And in a game that lets you play it just about any way you want, being all but forced to lump all of your points into three stats you could care less about really puts a damper on character customization.

You'd think a game called Bloodrayne would be okay with water

If the Blade film trilogy taught us anything, it's that human-vampire hybrids are supposed to snag all of their parents' strengths and none of their weaknesses. So when Terminal Reality's Bloodrayne dropped gamers into the high-heeled boots of all-powerful dhampir Rayne, "death by water" was probably the last thing on their minds. Unfortunately, chief among the badass half-vamp's weaknesses is a deadly aversion to H2O. If she finds herself submerged for too long, she'll begin to lose health, eventually succumbing to the big sleep. And if she wanders too far out of the gameplay designated area, she'll suffer an oh-so-infuriating insta-death.

Of course, given these unfortunate mechanics, you'd expect the opening level — players' first taste of the journey ahead — to be dry as a bone so as to slowly acclimate gamers to their new Achilles' heel. Sadly, you'd be wrong. In fact, Bloodrayne's first post-prologue level takes place in and around a Louisiana graveyard surrounded by a swamp, meaning bounding from platform to platform — and "tightroping" along wires—is a necessary evil. On the plus side, Rayne is immune to holy items like crucifixes, so wandering around the local firearm-filled church is no biggie. Better to die well armed than not armed at all.

The beginning of God Hand is a test of faith

The obscure PlayStation 2 exclusive God Hand — directed by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami — is one of those peculiar titles that just never received the acclaim it deserved. This was partly due to a now-notorious negative review that inspired serious conversations about reviewer bias in gaming, and partly due to its zany, over-the-top tone. Still, with a Metacritic user score of 8.2, this wacky neo-western beat-em-up knew its audience and catered to their appetite for challenging gameplay and strange sensibilities — even if it may have gotten off on the wrong foot. 

After the briefest of cutscenes depicting a warrior? — outlaw? — named Gene and a young woman later identified as Olivia, players are thrust into the action without so much as an ounce of expository dialogue or combat tutorial.

Before you know it, you're pounding on thugs, beating statues until they spit out items, and powering up your titular "God Hand" to send demons reeling back to Hell. Whereas some of the most annoying opening levels in gaming feature arduous explanations of every single character, conflict, and core game mechanic, God Hand throws players into the deep end and forces them to learn to swim all on their own.

Hiding in the hospital action in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

We get it, Hideo Kojima — you love messing with your fans. He's been screwing with us as far back as 2001, when he released Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, casting aside protagonist Snake for whiny bishounen-turned-cybernetic killing machine Raiden. And while each of the games in his long-running stealth shooter franchise has since flaunted its own troll-tastic mind-effery, it's the opening of the grand finale, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, that had gamers mustering up one last collective groan. 

After a series of events that are far too complicated to explain here — and a 20-minute scene depicting, a fake-out character customization sequence, attempted assassinations, and weaponized bedpans — players finally take control of protagonist Venom Snake. His first mission? Clumsily crawling through a hospital and avoiding trigger-happy soldiers for 20 minutes after which Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater antagonist Yevgeny Borisovitch Volgin shows off his newfound pyrokinetic powers and a younger, ginger-haired Psycho Mantis does his best impression of F.E.A.R.'s Alma Wade. 

It's gripping, tense, and exactly long as hell at nearly an hour. And while it's worth it in the long run — especially once the many complexities of Phantom Pain's multi-layered plot begin to unravel — we can't help but feel that, like Snake's poor arm, it could've been cut down by at least a third.