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The Top 7... Loading screens that don't suck quite as hard as loading screens normally do

 

4) Resident Evil

Does anyone else miss the old opening doors of Resident Evil? Sure, they were just doors that opened slowly (and jerkily if the game was loading lots of data which it usually was), but they also gave you a sense of foreboding. Would a jump cut to the next room make you jump as much if there was a zombie waiting for you on the other side?

Resident Evil Code: Veronica one-upped the old games by utilising the Dreamcast's vibration unit, feeding Claire Redfield's heartbeat back through your hands every time there was significant or wildly unknown danger likely to be waiting on the other side.


Above: Did you really want to open that door? The hallway did look kinda safe...

These days you can see through the cheap trick just as much as the 'vintage' 3D graphics, but at the time, they were a marked step forward for the genre's sense of dread. In fact, when the Gamecube remake was in development, game testers said that the immediate switch between rooms was too fast, so the 'loading' screens were put back in, even though they weren't actually needed to mask loading any more. It's the loading screen that was so good, it was put in even when there was no loading to be done. Imagine that.

The intellectual analysis:
The suspense of the opening door satisfies a deep-rooted desire to explore the unknown, giving the gamer a cathartic sense of explorative bravery that may not necessarily manifest frequently enough in their own lives. The step into the unknown is a risk that can be taken in the safety of a videogame, still preserving (and delivering) a substantial percentage of the thrill.

The layman's analysis:
It's, like, a door, man.

 

3) Ridge Racer

Namco holds the rights to the 'minigame while a game loads from an optical disc' idea, which is a shame because we'd like to see more of them. However, the company arguably hit the nail on the head with the first Ridge Racer, and it's been downhill from there ever since. Yes, I'm talking about Galaxian. None of that Rally X nonsense, thanks.

The arcade version of Ridge Racer featured a large animated billboard over the mouth of the tunnel at the end of the start/finish straight, which would show pictures of Ridge girl Reiko Nagase, your car position and occasionally a little animation of Namco's classic arcade shooter.


Above: This is a shot from the N64 version of Ridge Racer. Little details like this should be put in more games

So imagine our joy when the home conversion of Ridge let you play Galaxian for a few fleeting moments before the game began. Yes, yes and triple-yes. It's little things like this that turn good games into great games. The game is fan-pleasing before it's even begun! Great job to all concerned. 



 

The intellectual analysis:
The juxtaposition of old and new effortlessly demonstrates just how far the medium has come in the time between Galaxian and Ridge Racer. Offering an admittedly bitesized yet undeniably free bonus version of a game people formerly paid money to play could be construed as belittling past achievements, but it does so in such a charming manner that the audience warms to the actual game before it's even begun.

The intellectual analysis:
It's annoying when you get blown up.

 

2) Invade-a-load

Namco wasn't the first to let you play games while other games loaded. Back in the 1980s, cassette loading times were awful. No, seriously atrocious. Imagine having to sit through a PS3 install every single time you want to play a five-minute game of Super Stardust HD. It was like that, only the game at the end was nowhere near as good as Super Stardust HD. But anyway, '80s videogame quality aside, you really could go and make a cup of tea while they loaded. BUT WAIT!


Above: Invade-a-load knows what you want to do and demands you play a lo-fi Space Invaders clone instead

Having played a Commodore 64 when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I remember realising that the loading picture itself took over a minute to load on various games, then thinking how much faster the process would be if the game didn't have to load the loading screen. Yo dawg...

Admittedly, some old loading screens hold a special place in my heart (for once I'm not going to mention the 'D' word that rhymes with 'tizzy') and arguably set the scene perfectly for the game that was to follow. But even I have to admit, an actual game to relieve the tedium is clearly much better than staring at a strangely-coloured picture for ages. It appeared on Mastertronic budget re-releases on games like Ghostbusters. So here it is in action on an original Commodore 64: 



The intellectual analysis:
In the modern era, games-during-loading are a fun diversion for a few seconds. But contemporaneously they were invaluable and a genuine improvement in user-friendliness.

The layman's analysis:
'Invade'-a-load. Hur hur... I don't get it.

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Top 7

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51 comments

  • Its_Over_9000! - August 23, 2011 6:09 p.m.

    I used to love the loading screen for Devil May Cry 3 (or dmc 1, don't remember) ... coz you can shoot/slice up the loading bar :-3 , great stress reliever considering that the game was hard as hell
  • IPostedThis4U - June 22, 2011 5:13 a.m.

    I loved the concept of Star Wars: Battlefront's loading screen, where it zoomed in to where the battlefield you were fighting.
  • philipshaw - June 21, 2011 2:43 p.m.

    Great top 7, I would have ridge racer at number 1
  • yonderTheGreat - June 21, 2011 10:18 a.m.

    Still don't understand all the whining about the Mass Effect elevators. Would you really prefer a "loading" screen instead of a "watch well-written, witty, and sometimes awesome banter between the characters, something BioWare is famous for"? Sure... the loading screens weren't quick... but changing it to "LOADING... LOADING..." wasn't exactly going to speed things up. Give me elevators any day (but make them load faster)!
  • Dondada - June 21, 2011 6:05 a.m.

    Bayonetta wins. I played Bayonetta on the PS3 after the update and loved every single second, loading and all.
  • FauxFurry - June 21, 2011 3:15 a.m.

    What about Castlevania:Symphony of the Night's loading screens? One could manipulate the games logo. One could even make it spin! It was impressive for it's time, I can assure you! That's nothing compared to Mass Effect's elevators, though. Those were on a whole other level. They not only let one witness characterization one would have otherwise missed out on in conversations sure to lift one's spirits as surely as one's character(s), the elevators gave one a chance to think over the latest bit of story information or to go over one's strategy. Why were there so many elevator haters, anyway? They need to get off their high horses, preferably by taking a nice,long ride down on one of Mass Effect's elevators so they can have time to think about how mistaken they've been all of this time.
  • V13Dragongal - June 21, 2011 2:28 a.m.

    I loved the loading screens in Okami. They were one of the most fun ways to get demon fangs
  • Robusken - June 21, 2011 1:38 a.m.

    This isnt a good example but its what come to mind first, the DBZ fighting games always had some weird mini gamewere you moved both analog sticks while loading.
  • Camoxide - June 20, 2011 11:43 p.m.

    Seriously? Non of the DBZ games?
  • EnragedTortoise1 - June 20, 2011 10:53 p.m.

    Didn't The Darkness have some pretty cool loads too?
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - June 20, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    I personally like all the Assassin's Creed loading screens, at least they're interactive. I also liked most of Bioware's loading screens, especially Mass Effect 2.
  • AngryScotsman - June 20, 2011 8:35 p.m.

    I liked Okami's loading screens as each one had one of two hidden rhythm minigames. Beat the minigames, get treasure! What a system. It also helps you get used to the loading. When you start doing well in them, it's gutting for it to finish loading.
  • Kisokuiki - June 20, 2011 8:21 p.m.

    3D Dot Game Heroes should have made the list instead of Plants vs. Zombies.
  • LTS - June 20, 2011 8:01 p.m.

    I can't remember the exact title, but some EA Sports college basketball game from a few years ago let you play a game of pick up hoops on a practice court while the game was loading.
  • AntistaLovebot0069 - June 20, 2011 7:59 p.m.

    What about Test Drive for the Xbox/Playstation 2. My cousin and I reted it and ended up playing the loading screen instead of the game because it was the original Pong.
  • asspills - June 20, 2011 7:50 p.m.

    The Darkness. Each one was a monologue from Jackie, furthering the story, explaining backstory, telling a random anecdote, or sometimes, just trying to spin his guns. Until you had seen each one a few too many times, each loading screen was exciting, and really just seemed like part of the game.
  • babyhenchy1 - June 20, 2011 6:32 p.m.

    You can pause the loading screens in Bayonetta by pushing select.
  • babyhenchy1 - June 20, 2011 6:32 p.m.

    You can pause the loading screens in Bayonetta by pushing select.
  • RicePuddingUK - June 20, 2011 5:52 p.m.

    I hate interactive loading screens, just means the actual game will take longer to load because at the same time its running code for the loading screen.
  • jackthemenace - June 20, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    The Bayonetta load screens were perfect. They gave you a chance between levels to work out how to pull off the tricky combos that you couldn't while you were having your face and/or boobs smashed in by angel-birds. But, let's face it, who WOULDN'T want to see Old Snake smoking for "up to four minutes" between EVERY SINGLE ACT of MGS4?

Showing 1-20 of 51 comments

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