"Now this is class"

I recently installed and started playing Half-Life 2 for the very first time - I realise this is a game, but I’m making a wider point about creative works in general, mods - only eight years after it was released. I have no idea why I didn’t rush out and buy it when it was new; I loved the original Half-Life, because it was a class act. It was exciting and had lots of new ideas executed brilliantly.

There was a point early on in Half-Life when I thought to myself “now, this is class”. And after five minutes of Half-Life 2 I’ve just had the same sensation; the feeling that this is a class act and that I’m in good hands. The writing, the voice acting, the looks, everything seems grown-up and thought-out in a way rare in the modern world.

Rewind back to The Dark Knight and I had a similar sensation as the Joker’s men robbed a bank and then turned on each other; this is a cut above. It was subtle. A combination of the performances, the editing, the cinematography, the care lavished on little things, they all gave the impression that the fundamentals were sound and that the people who made it had sat down and thought about it. That none of it was accidental. That they cared. Too many things are reactive, assembled from components by people who don’t know how the components work.

Saving Private Ryan:

"THE LEAD CRAFT RAMP GOES DOWN

A river of MACHINE GUN FIRE pours into the craft. A dozen men are INSTANTLY KILLED."

It was jarring, but I could tell at that moment that this was operating on a conscious level. Okay, it bogged down in the middle; but the bits that worked, worked.

I’ve only rarely had this experience. It goes beyond being simply good, occasionally even beyond being good, period. The Spy Who Loved Me is fun but by no means a classic on a par with Lawrence of Arabia; but when Roger Moore’s parachute opens and it’s a giant Union Jack - one giant flag, one giant screw you to the skiers pursuing him - I can’t help but feel that the next two hours are going to be a splendid drinking game. The Spy Who Loved Me is pure class in a way that Moonraker is not, even though they’re basically the same thing. Insert example drawn from the world of literature here; something by Umberto Eco or one of those clever authors. Pretend to have read Midnight’s Children. Also: music.

It’s not necessarily near the beginning, either; it took until the swordfight on the mountain that I realised The Princess Bride was super-ultra-class. “I’m not left-handed either.”

Hit me with some more examples, men. Women. People. Vortigaunts. I surmise that Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones had moments when you realised they weren’t just a crime drama / low-budget fantasy epic but, ahrg, I haven’t seen a single episode of either. No doubt circa 2019 I’ll finally get round to it.

Seriously, it makes me weep for joy that a game this well-made - Half-Life 2, that’s where I came in - was also hugely popular; there have been too many poorly-received masterpieces for my taste, it’s depressing. I’m looking at you, the Thief series.

Opening scene of the first episode of the first season of Rome. When I saw it I thought “OK, what I’m watching is legit.” Hell, the entire episode. Fuck, the entire show.

It’s funny the OP mentions The Spy Who Loved Me; I re-watched that just a few days ago. Staying on the Bondwagon, I’d say the opening scene of Casino Royale (2006) – the writing, acting, pacing, editing, cinematography (the black-and-white flashbacks in particular) – did a bang-up job of stating: “Here’s the new Bond, and here’s how things are going to be. The franchise is in good hands once again.”

I think a big contributor to that is the fact that all of the dialogue and exposition is done in-game, without cutscenes.

The Firefly pilot (the REAL pilot). In my mind, that was the best introduction of characters, universe, and story arc I’d ever seen.

And since its now been ten years since it came out, you’re free to watch it!

For me it’s the little touches, too.

The beginning of The Big Lebowski:

The Dude: “Do you see a wedding ring on my finger? Does this place look like I’m fucking married? The toilet seat’s up, man!” While holding up his right hand (sans wedding band).
**
Ashley**, you might enjoy this Half-Life 2 webcomic. I never played the game, but the comic works fine on its own. Make sure you hit “show notes” at the bottom.

The Buffy musical episode, “Once More With Feeling,” was the first introduction I had to anything by Joss Whedon. My impression of the show up until then was that it was silly, campy, and probably really stupid.

It took until roughly one minute into the first song for me to get exactly that sensation you described - that feeling that this was a work by someone who knew what they were doing, authorially. By the time the song had finished brilliantly skewering Disney musicals, romance novel tropes, and rhyming “Faking it somehow” with “She’s not even half the girl she… owwww,” I had been won over 100%. Fully invested in the ride to come, with zero doubt in my mind that I was in good hands and that it would be worth it in the end.

The pilot episode for “The West Wing” did this for me as well - specifically, President Bartlet’s memorable entrance speech. Perfectly bombastic and barbed in equal measure. Thank you, Aaron Sorkin - you had me at “I am the Lord your God.”

I trying to remember the times I’ve had this reaction to a creative work. There’s been quite a few, but my memory’s poor.

For me, too. I had passed on the show when it aired, because I had yet to be introduced to Whedon’s talent, and, meh, a space Western wasn’t going to be my thing. Reading the SDMB convinced me to try it, and I my preconceptions were quickly washed away during the pilot, and something somewhere in there sealed the deal. “Travellers…”

Another example, one where a smile spread across my face because I knew I was in for a great ride, was the several seconds after the line, “I love you too, Honey Bunny.”

It almost never happens with video games for me. I’ve been burned too often on the one hand, and on the other, the early, tutorial sections rarely have the kind of effort that goes into a great game, even if the rest of a game does. Even with Half-Life 2, my appreciation for the game grew incrementally so that there was never that moment.

Mass Effect was different. Right in the opening sequence, camera panning along with you as you move through the ship, setting the mood and the expectation of a smart, comprehensive space fantasy adventure, I knew I was in for a real treat.

Agreed. that’s a huge contribution to the game as opposed to the jolting disruption the experience cutscenes give

Speaking of Valve games, Portal is the first thing that’s ever given me that “class” feeling just from its teaser trailer.

I watched that trailer shortly after it was posted in 2006 and instantly knew that this game was going to be something special. I had no idea just HOW special it was going to be, but I knew it was going to be damn good.

Damn. Just reading the first 3 issues of that comic made me want to start a new game of HL2. Every time I do, I have that same awesome feeling that OP did. Walking into the courtyard of City17 for the first time ranks right up there, as well.

I think Halflife 2 is maybe still my favorite game of all time. So damned tight.
Aside from Nethack, which is a different animal.