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Good morning, and welcome to the Black Mesa Transit System. This automated train is provided for the security and convenience of the Black Mesa Research Facility personnel.
Black Mesa Transit Announcement System, Half Life

Any form of scene setting in a game that allows you to explore a very limited area of the setting while getting a tour of the level. Often gives you a small chance to get familiar with the controls and shows off the scenery. Sometimes throws the player right through an area of combat, or even drops him right into it. This section of the game generally helps to build the atmosphere and set the tone that the player can expect from the game in the hours to come.

Usually laden with Scenery Porn, or in contrast Scenery Gorn, and Video Game Set Pieces, and can be used as part of a Justified Tutorial. Occasionally overlaps with Developing Doomed Characters. Expect to be given Non Combatant Immunity during this section

Examples of Black Mesa Commute include:


  • Batman: Arkham Asylum opens with Batman escorting The Joker through the halls of Arkham, following the guards through the halls, broken up with an encounter with Killer Croc.
  • Its sequel, Batman: Arkham City, has a similar sequence where you must control Bruce Wayne being brought into Arkham City itself as a prisoner. Add in the opening cutscene at the beginning of the game and you get a pretty good introduction to how completely messed up the situation has become.
  • The tutorial levels in Star Wars Rebel Assault later become action levels when The Empire attacks Tatooine.
  • In Famous has Cole McGrath walk through the crater created by the Ray Sphere. (Granted, it's a bit short, and it leads to an expo cutscene.)

First Person Shooter

  • Half-Life is the Trope Namer and essentially the codifier if not Trope Maker, beginning with a slow tram ride through Black Mesa. The player can move freely inside the tram and look in all directions, but the tram itself moves independently.
    • Half-Life: Opposing Force was somewhat related, in that the player was introduced to the military's insertion and situation (even if Adrian awakes hours after his chopper crashes). Half-Life: Blue Shift starts in the same way, and, amusingly enough, once the ride is over it inverts the original game's opening sequence, as the player plays the role of the security guard who gets stuck just outside a door at the start, and can watch from the side as Freeman passes him by in another car.
    • Half-Life 2 also has the scene in the Citadel, where an immobile Gordon is transported the fortress for several minutes and giving the player some of the only glimpses of the inner workings of their adversary.
    • Half-Life 2's intro also fits this, where you are introduced to City 17 by walking around in the train station and then the surrounding city. Admittedly, the cops provide a semi-enemy (they will attack you if you get too close), but you can't really be killed in this, so it still counts.
    • Additionally, Half-Life's opening is split into the uncontrolled tram sequence and the controlled "get yourself to the lab" sequence. Both help introduce you to the controls, specific characters, and the current situation, and if you pay attention, certain plot points.
  • Bioshock has one of the most memorable such sequences in recent memory, thanks in part to the inital shock value of seeing Rapture in all its underwater glory for the first time through the bathysphere window.
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution Begins with a walk through the R&D Department of Sarif Industries. Everything and everyone you see (with the exception of the Department of Defense representative) is important to the story.
  • In System Shock 2 character creation and tutorial, which to some extent also introduce you to the AFGNCAAP you are, are done this way.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay has a scene where you are being led into the prison but can look around on your own. It's not quite the beginning as there was a short dream sequence tutorial first, but it's the opening of the game proper. The developers even said it was their tribute to Half-Life.
  • Halo 2's opening level has Sgt. Johnson taking you on a short tram-ride tour of the Cairo space station after your Justified Tutorial. The level design and Johnson's dialogue draws your attention to the Human fleet sitting at anchor and the view of Earth from orbit.
    • The original Halo also had this with the Master Chief waking up out of stasis before rushing off to the bridge to meet up with Captain Keyes and picking up his first weapons. He passes by several firefights with the Covenant en route.
  • Call of Duty 2's Russian boot camp (which ends in an actual attack by Germans) and, in Modern Warfare, Soap going through the basics with Gaz at an SAS station, both of which are justified tutorials. Also many of the levels start with a quick helicopter ride to the starting area. It's possible to shoot, but doing so is a waste of ammo so you're pretty clearly just supposed to kick back and hum The Ride Of The Valkyries.
    • Also in Modern Warfare's 'The Coup', when Al-Fulani is driven through the streets of the city to his execution. And you're watching through his eyes.
    • Continues in Modern Warfare 2, when the game opens with the player at an American base in Afghanistan, where he trains some local militia, runs an obstacle course, and can walk around and observe the other soldiers.
  • Prey starts you off at a bar owned by the main character's girlfriend, where you can talk to people, gamble on poker machines and headbang to Judas Priest until the inevitable alien abduction occurs.
    • Also when you are first abducted, you are restrained and taken by some automated system on a brief tour of a part of the alien vessel.
  • Doom 3 does this with the player character's arrival to the Mars base.
  • Red Faction, the tutorial, and the early part in the mines just before the rebellion starts.
  • Undying, before too many mangled corpses begin showing up.
  • Far Cry 2 begins with the protagonist being driven to his hotel from the airfield, with his driver giving some background exposition about the country he's just entered.
  • Quake 4 has Matthew Kane take a short stroll through a Strogg building before the actual combat begins.
  • The Darkness follows the Half-Life tradition by starting in first person, while riding a vehicle you are not controlling.
  • The third and fourth Myst games have something similar. Until the inciting action that kicks off the plot, you're present at Atrus' home as his guest.
  • The first actual level of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault is Pearl Harbor. It involves a guided tour of the island by jeep by a friendly officer, before you are to report to the USS Arizona. You can guess what happens next.
  • Portal 2 has many segments seemingly designed to show off just how big Aperture Laboratories is:
    • The game begins with Wheatley moving your room, with a crane, from the Relaxation Vault to an old testing track, allowing you to observe the dilapidation of the facility.
    • Just before the fight against GLaDOS, you crawl into a pneumatic transportation tube that pumps you through a whole series of tubes, to show how massive the testing facilities are, and how elaborate the transportation system is.
    • After Wheatley takes over Aperture Science, you fall down an elevator shaft in a sequence that is several minutes long, just to indicate how far down the labs go.
  • The second and third levels of Duke Nukem Forever take place at Duke's Vegas hotel, and allow the player to walk around Duke's highrise condo (and see his awards and magazine covers) before going down the elevator to the bottom floor for a TV show appearance, allowing you to walk through the halls and talk show set. Interestingly, these levels occur after the Game Within a Game Justified Tutorial where you wield the Devastator and face off against a boss. Also notable because Duke gains a permanent health bonus for doing things like winning at pool or admiring himself in the mirror, meaning that skipping straight to the action is inadvisable.
  • Home Front begins with Robert Jacobs being arrested by North Korean forces in his apartment and forced onto a bus that travels through a warzone (complete with images of families being gunned down on the street in front of their children and prisoners being marched into other buses).


  • Dynamite Headdy sort of has this. The first level is a fast forced-scroller where your character runs at the same speed as the screen, so you can get used to the basic controls and get a feel for the Mercy Invincibility that enemies get without having any impact on how quickly you finish the level.

Role Playing Game

  • The first several days of Persona 3 gradually introduce the different areas the protagonist can visit. The effect is more obvious in FES, where the Main Character automatically walks with a friend through different parts of town, giving the player a good look in the process.
    • Persona 4 does something similar, introducing the player to the city of Inaba and some of the characters therein. The plot gets started much faster than Persona 3, but the characters are understandably more cautious about getting involved in it, and it ends up taking about the same amount of time to get the game proper started.
  • Skyrim starts the player in chains on a cart where they are given some scene setting by fellow prisoners. The scene is notable for letting you know just enough of the setting to get by (there's a rebellion, these guys against these other guys), but telling you nothing about the history between the last game and this one (a span of two hundred years). You have to find that out for yourself.
  • Final Fantasy VII's opening in Midgar, and your explorations of it in Crisis Core. For all the very interesting and visually appealing scenery, the party never explores more than a small percentage of it.

Third Person Shooter

  • Heavy Metal F.A.K.K.2, up until the first boss. And, to a lesser extent, before the planetary shield is destroyed.
  • In Dead Space You start off just cruisin' through space in your little ship, approaching the big mining-ship, having a bit of excitement on the landing, and then getting your first look around inside, while surrounded by friendly, heavily-armed Marines. Which is how you know that everything is going to go to hell in short order.
  • Dead Rising starts with a helicopter ride into the city. You can see the first signs of the zombie infection, along with taking some pictures of it. Nailing all the pictures and doing the first escort mission (right outside the start) ad nauseum is actually good way to grind the first few levels.
  • Dark Void starts you off as a random Resistance member flying around in your jetpack, in a quick Justified Tutorial of the flight controls, followed by a short aerial battle before you even see the actual protagonist.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours has much gameplay before the opening credits/theme song. Then you get Tony taking a somewhat leisurely drive to his lawyer's office.
  • Duke's base in Duke Nukem: Zero Hour, which gets overrun in the post-apocalyptic future.
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