Reviews: Half Life 2
No hurry for a third game...
This might be blasphemous but I am one of the few Valve fans who isn't in a great deal of hurry for the Game That Was Promised. The reason is that Half-Life 2 and especially its Episodes, and the finale of Episode 2 of riding the car and fighting all those striders from invading the base has essentially taken First Person Action Adventure to its limits. In terms of gameplay with weapons, use of terrain, non-interactive cutscenes and the like there probably isn't a lot left to do. Valve being a gameplay over story company were aware of that, and that's probably why they moved on to other projects rather than complete a story and give closure. And besides there's still so much to achieve with Portal that I'd rather see Portal 3... The main thing about the games is the wit, the moment to moment trades that make it work. Like in Episode 2, Gordon crawling up that ladder(or rope?) to find a Vortigaunt staring at him and telling him, "No pit is complete without a freeman crawling out of it." The story itself isn't really special and that's why they underplayed it and removed cutscenes so we get know characters like Eli Vance and Alyx and her D0g. Video games are the only medium where something like the Gravity Gun or the Portal Gun can make sense and be compelling objects and make interaction with physics something amazing to behold. I have never liked First Person Shooter games but even then the Half-Life games are something you can't ignore and it's such a powerful example of its kind that you really never need to play any other game of its kind, constantly changing the gameplay bit by bit. Going from a boating to a driving machine and literally giving you the sense of physically traveling a great deal of terrain in a way that even GTA haven't achieved. And then there's Ravenholm, a game within a game, survival horror zombie stage that's better than any Zombie game ever made, especially if you use the Gravity Gun and collect those saws and clubs along the way. Episode 1 is essentially Gordon and Alyx buddy-cop game and Episode 2 is a return to form with the final level being the greatest video game end fight and of course there's that ending. To people who's playing Half Life 2 (and episodes) for the first time, well fasten your seatbelts it's going to be a bumpy ride and one you'll never forget.
...Am I missing something?
I'm sorry but...I don't see why so many people like this. People have constantly told me about how this is the most immersive, well paced and well written game ever made and how it shines above others and how it uses wise gameplay mechanics such as a wide arsenal of weapons and no regenerating health. The weapons are nothing special, just your generic standard FPS weapons minus the gravity gun, which was ammusing at first but became annoying after awhile. The characters seemed rather flat, the only thing I can honestly say about most people is "they're nice to me because I'm awesome" not exactly anything to write shome about other than that they go through a couple of good emotional moments, Alyx getting angry when her father was betrayed I could get behind, but apart from that these characters didn't really stand out from all of the others that I've seen in the past few years. Also the puzzle system feels really gimmicky and really forced, for a game that is universally praised for immersion, I have to say that stopping to stack a bunch of boxes on top of one another for figure out how a pully system works, that breaks the immersion for me, it becomes very clear that I am playing a game because stuff like this would never ever happen in the real world. The combat is, for the most part, ok. Fair and stable and the assualt rifle's secondary weapon is fairly ammusing but apart from that it's pretty bland with me just fighting swarms of the same enemies over and over again. This last complaint is rather personal and slightly nitpicky, but the level design just bugs me. Something about Combine building design just bothers me, it feels like it's just a bunch of scrap metal slapped together and it doesn't reflect servents of an interdimensional empire that well, in my opinion at least. Other levels feel repetitive, generic and oddly dirty for no real reason. Overall, not bad, but not the groundbreaking, immersive best game ever made that I've heard about. The sad thing is that I was really excited when I got this game, thinking that I was in for the ride of my life. Sadly though, it just didn't deliver.
It's Pretty Good...just ignore the hype
This is easily one of my favorite games, although that may be considerably biased as I am a massive fan of almost anything Valve puts out and I have a very limited exposure to FP Ses, as most of what I play are indie and simulation games. The story is nice, even if it is difficult to find in certain parts. Some parts of the game are on the line between 'fun challenge' and 'so hard its just plain mean spirited', although thanks to plenty of available walkthroughs this is considerably less of a problem than it was in the past. I can understand how some people dislike the game, though, given that the fan base treats as a flawless work of genius. I don't think there's a single game that could live up to that kind of expectations. To summarize, Half Life 2 is a great game so long as you have patience, acess to walkthroughs, and can ignore the hype.
A Chapter By Chapter review.
Point Insertion/Red Letter Day: 7/10. Nothing really exciting here, but exposition is always important, as is getting familiar with the controls. Route Kanal: 6/10. Easily my least favorite part of the game. It's just a bunch of tedious "puzzles" to me. Water Hazard: 6.75/10. Slightly better than Route Kanal, in that you get to shoot that goddamn helicopter out of the sky. Black Mesa East: 8/10. Short, but sweet. N Ice to not have everything shooting at you for a few minutes, and the getting the Gravity Gun is a plus. "We Don't Go to Ravenholm..." 8/10. Infamous as it is, I give it an 8 simply for scaring the hell out of me at 4:00 A.M., and for having Father Grigori. Highway 17: 6/10. The Antlions. That is all you need to know about this chapter. Sandtraps: 8/10. I liked it, honestly. The "don't touch the sand" bit was hard, but it was a fun challenge, honestly. But still, poor Lazslo... Nova Prospekt/Entanglement: 7.5/10. It was nice finally being able to order the antlions to maul the Combine soldiers, but I give this section a 7.5 because of those damn "set up the turrets and fight a bunch of soldiers while Alyx dicks around for a few minutes" parts in Entanglement. Anticitizen One: 9.5/10. This is where I believe all of the truly awesome stuff starts. Seeing the rebellion standing up and fighting for their freddom just felt great, and commanding squads of rebels was pleasant. The only reason it doesn't get a 10 is because of the end. It took me 3 HOURS to get out of that area. Follow Freeman!: 9/10. Continuing from the last chapter, leading the rebellion was cool, and I liked the challenge of fighting the Striders. Also, I loved fighting alongside Barney, and I don't think he could have delivired a better ending line: "And if you see Dr. Breen, tell 'im I said 'F[crash] you!'" Our Benefactors/Dark Energy: 10/10, Easily the best parts of the game. Losing all of your weapons except for the Gravity Gun is initially a letdown, but once you discover what it can do now that you're in the Citadel...it's just the most fun I think I've ever had in a single-player FPS. All in all, though it may be a bit overhyped, it's definitely worth a weekend of your time, and any subsequent playthroughs.
Half Life 2
The Half Life series is often lauded as being one of the greatest FPS series of all time, with almost everyone saying its completely perfect. Simply put: it's not. Its great, but not perfect. Let me explain in this review of Half Life 2: The game is often lauded for its great production values, enemy AI, immersion, physics engine, and easy modding tools. It deserves a lot of this praise, but the game no doubt has some problems. For example: some of the "puzzles" are really really stupid. Like in one chapter, "Route Canal", you make your way through a sewer, gunning down a whole bunch of Civil Protection officers, when you come across this unreachable area. To get to the area and proceed, you must locate a valve on a pipe to flood the sewer. Thats not even a puzzle. Thats just "find this random red thing located in a red and gray background". However most of the puzzles are pretty good, especially the ones with the gravity gun. Also, I never really felt immersed. Maybe its the giant health bar, or the fact that you cant see your hands while driving, but I never really felt that I was' Gordon Freeman. One more thing: my biggest complaint with the game is that the gunplay is horribly unbalanced. While the MP7 (SMG) and the USP Match (pistol) feel powerful when you are fighting CP officers, they simply feel like toys when fighting combine soldiers (it takes over a dozen MP7 shots to kill one soldier). Later in the game, the only really useful weapon is the shotgun. It kills most enemies with one shot at close range, has plentiful ammo, and has tight enough spread for medium range fighting. The Colt Python (magnum) and the crossbow have nowhere near enough ammo to be effective in normal gameplay. The AR2 is pretty powerful and is a bit more accurate than the shotgun, but the shotgun is still way stronger. Now this might sound like I'm bashing the game, but I'm only pointing out its flaws because the game receives enough praise as it is. It has good AI (even on the resistance members), high quality voice acting, likable characters (especially Alyx) and an awesome physics engine. However, its not the perfect god send everyone makes it out to be. Its a great game (the pros far outweigh the cons), but not perfect. Final Verdict: 8/10 I'd recommend buying it on steam, but chances are you already have.
Alright, But Overrated
I've heard lots of praise for Half Life 2, and when I finally played it through to the end, it didn't quite live up to the hype. I'll begin with what I liked. The combat was alright for the most part. I liked the variety of weapons, and the gravity gun is just awesome. Most of the character were alright, with few exceptions. The pace was decent, and I loved most of the level designs, especially Ravenholm. However, there are some things that just plain sucked in my opinion. The developers apparently think puzzles stop and start with variations of balancing a seesaw, the enemies (particularly Antlions) become more annoying than fun to fight as the game does on, and way too much time is spent running, boating, or driving to the next proper level. This gets to the point where the actual levels feel miniscule in comparison. That last part is compounded by the fact that the vehicle controls in the PC are a bitch to handle, and like to reverse themselves for no apparent reason. my biggest issue, though, is that the good people at Valve forgot the basic rules of story telling. They don't properly set up the plot, they just throw the player into a situation and expect them to figure out absolutely everything between long segments of driving and running for your life. I don't want to be spoon fed the plot, but having to look at vague newspaper headlines on the ground and on walls to get the most basic facts of the backstory is just plain ridiculous. Did a cut scene kill the developers' parents or something? Overall, it's an okay game, but it's also way overhyped. 6/10