Extremely well done.
I was for a long time trying to wrap my head around why Druckmann decided to have the saddest part at the beginning and not the end of the game but after several days I understood it. The scene shows the incredible connection between father and daughter and even if we had seen the scene at the end it would have been harder to appreciate the development that's going on between Joel and Ellie. In the beginning you can already kind of see where it is going and then it's getting more and more emotional during all the cutscenes.
I only wished ND had mirrored the scene where Sarah dies somewhere later in the game because no matter how much Joel feels for Ellie, you never see him be in such a desperate state as in the end of the prologue. Sure he carries Ellie but he seems to be pretty rational still.
Still absolutely fantastic work.
I REALLY enjoyed 'Hometown' from start to finish the first time I played the game. Fantastic sense of chaos and terror, and one of the best experiences of playing a 'zombie game' I've had (and I've played just about every zombie game ever made!).
Replaying it, though, it lost some of its shine, I think.
The Sarah part at the start still holds up, besides obviously being less scary since you now know what's going to happen; first time through, I was expecting Infected in every corner of the dark house!
The car ride is still fantastic, and I even noticed a few things I didn't the first time, like the family packing their car as you leave Joel's street. Though I wish they'd added more small touches to spot on subsequent playthroughs, like maybe a guy running across the field in the distance chased by Runners on the other side of the road from Lewis' farm, where 95% of players won't be looking first time, or someone boarding up their doors and windows on one of the houses in the distance.
The "carrying Sarah" part, though, isn't as cool on subsequent playthroughs, when you realize how linear and "railroaded" you are. It felt organic to run where you are guided the first time; subsequent playthroughs, I discovered how you got insta-killed from trying to go another way meant replay was alwasy going to be following the same set path every time (but then that's a bit of a problem with the whoel game overall).
Also on replaying, I found myself wanting the prologue to go longer and feature some 'normal' gameplay elements, such as letting you melee or even shoot Runners during the escape. I expect this wasn't done so as not to reduce the intense prologue by adding tutorial elements, and that makes sense, so I can't complain too much... but it's something I felt on replaying.
As to the sadness of the final prologue moments? Have to say, I saw that death coming from the first cutscene of the chapter (that birthday card = "soooo dead!") and knew what was going to happen the moment the soldier appeared. Didn't make it less of a great performance by the actors, though I prefered some of the takes we see in the Making Of, on reflection, actually.
Saddest part for me was actually playing the start of Spring (characters giving an amazing sense of the game ending and me not wanting it to), with some of the sewer town rooms/notes and the cutscenes that end Summer (especially Ellie's chat with Sam) as runners up.