There's not much to dislike about Half-Life 2. With the exception of its sometimes dreary atmosphere and the deafening silence of empty vessel Gordon Freeman, it gets just about everything right. The screenwriting team at Valve should be commended for fashioning one of the few ongoing story lines in which I actually find myself invested, now nine years in the telling. But the team at Valve, I believe, deserves credit for one of Episode Two's most welcome features: the recap.
For those who haven't played Episode Two, it begins with a quick summary of the events of Episode One. That's extremely helpful, as I'd completed that portion of the post-Half-Life 2 trilogy almost 18-months ago. Rather than having to re-read some FAQ, check the Wikipedia entry on the episode, or, God forbid, look into the recesses of my grey matter for the plot synopsis, Valve provides a quick, pre-rendered brush up. Why don't more games do this?In the case of something like Super Mario Galaxy, it might not be warranted, as the kidnapping of Princess Peach and subsequent gathering of shiny things to rescue her has formed a storytelling groove in my noodle by now. However, in the case of games whose stories require dozens of hours of gameplay—Mass Effect, Final Fantasy XII—or span multiple console generations—Metal Gear Solid, Halo—an in-game cinematic Cliffs Notes wouldn't just be welcome, I now find it unacceptable to not have access to it.
There are plenty of games that I simply never finish or revisit simply because my interest in wrapping up the storyline seems like a chore. Who's that guy? Where am I going? Who's betraying me now? Look, I've got a dozen games in my backlog and I'm simply not interested in keeping notes or hitting up GameFAQs for a refresher course.
Please, storytellers, give me a quickly accessible recap of the game's events and an easy way to access it. Ideally, I'd like to, at any point, be given an edited selection of cinematic moments of your game, not unlike something I'd see at the beginning of an episode of 24 or Lost.
Admittedly, I'm not aware of what games may actually do this currently, as my personal tastes have turned away from long, story driven games, in part because of this annoyance. Maybe our helpful commenters can clue me in to games that already do this (or do something better).