Crate Classic: Half-Life (1998)
The original Half-Life masterfully built suspense during its now-legendary opening sequence. You are Dr. Gordon Freeman, theoretical crate-physicist and all around looker. You know the crates are somewhere, but where? When? Will the crates exist in a mere three-dimensions or could there be more?
The true genius of Half-Life lies in the game designers ability to tease out the crates, first tantalizing you with the terrifying suggestion of crates a mere 1 second into the action with a forklift bustling to your immediate left.
Already tense, I navigated to the front of the most famous train in video game history, my eyes already peeled for more crates. Rounding the next corner, I thought I spied some triple-stacked crates at the 24 second mark, but after a momentary frisson I realized these were what filing cabinets looked like in 1998.
After a brief loading delay, rounding the next corner at 45 seconds I spied what looking to be a crate holding up the traintrack, but it too, proved, illusory, and in fact, likely made of concrete.
But a classic game of (Valve’s signature) misdirection was afoot. My attention occupied on the rail-support below, I failed to notice the crate SUSPENDED FROM THE CEILING AHEAD! Incongruously hung in the path of the train, and inexplicably made of wood in a laboratory full of glass, plastics, and fissile materials, the crate defies belief in a Lovecraftian stroke of the macabre.
See that squarish blur in the middle-right of that bigger rectangular blur? Yeah, that’s what crates looked like in games in 1998.
The crate of the opening sequence merely foreshadows what is to come, thematically linked to the cosmically indifferent, otherworldly crates from Xen, and secures Half-Life forever in the pantheon of games which approach true litecrature.