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Half-Life 2, Ep. 1, Ep. 2 Review
3/5ths of a box.
In the world of video gaming, there are several titles that are generally accepted as the best games of our time, no matter how many trolls say otherwise. The Legend of Zelda series and the Mario series are generally front-runners, and occasionally included in such decrees of perfection is the Half-Life series. So when I started to play the only other games that had yet to be touched by my hands inside the Orange Box, my hopes were high. Which of course led to them falling farther then I thought possible.
Before I begin I think a little history between first person shooters and me is in order. I despise puzzle FPS' who are created for the sole reason that the developers think the players who play dozens of similar games want to have to think between every other enemy encounter. Fools. Shooting games exist simply because people enjoy killing aliens, Nazis, dinos, terrorists, and zombies with massive firepower. There is no other reason why FPS games are played. The fact that Half-Life 2 tries to make you think, coupled with the fact that the default rotation of the right analog stick is so fast that it makes me want to hurl, and that's two strikes for it already.
The story is pretty basic throughout all of Half-Life 2. You play as Gordon "Can do anything with a crowbar and physics" Freeman as he once again saves the entire planet while inspiring thousands and never saying a word. Along for the ride are trusty sidekicks Love-Interest #762 "The survivor" and Easy Going Friend #2, the former of which is the only one you ever spend any time with, and even then you're the one doing all the work until the enemies are practically violating her every orifice. It's the basic yawn of a plot that has plagued many "let's stick it to the evil dominating military presence" for years, and will continue if these stupid reviewers continue to call these games the "greatest of all time".
The female of shooters: hardened and hot, yet comes crying to the hero even though he has the emotional warmth of a MP5.
The controls are the basic shooter fare, but the weapon switching system is very irritating, particularly because you have eleven weapons and only four buttons to press to switch them, meaning you have to press a certain button several times to access a weapon of a certain type. This really becomes a problem in the later episodes because you get the weapons out of order. So you expect a weapon to be the first on your list when it's really the fourth, but there are no weapons in the other 3 slots on the way there. You press the button too few times and you're stuck holding the weapon you were when you wanted to change in the first place. Beyond that, the vehicle controls are utter crap and almost made me stop playing the game entirely. Whether it's a boat, a land vehicle or any other vehicle they can throw at you, you will never like the vehicle controls unless you are blinded to them by everything else. Not that there is much else to be blinded by. The combat is simple and generic, resulting entirely on "shoot these guys until they die", solve puzzle, repeat, near end of game, disaster occurs, begin from start again. There are very few parts of the game that are good enough to warrant the high praise the game gets. Below are the few that I found.
-Controlling a massive herd of insects and telling them to attack people on a balcony, then proceeding to watch the heard swoop in with the moon on their backs as they eat them alive
-The first time I realized that I could pick of buzzsaw blades with the gravity gun and use them on people.
-Every time the gravity gun can be used on humans
-Defending Love Interest's injured body from swarms of said insects
Beyond those instances, I have not found any other entertainment value in the game beyond checking out Love Interest's body from every possible angle and hating the game for not having "comfort" button.
The graphics are nothing incredibly special compared to games like Call of Duty 4, Turok, and Devil May Cry 4, but Valve seems to have put more effort into the physics engine, which is used way too much for so many different things. In both Episodes 1 and 2 the gravity gun will almost always be your weapon of choice because that's the only weapon you have half the time. The physics engine is thus overused at every chance it gets to show off the gravity gun. You'll do the "put a ton of weight on one end of this board so you can climb up the other side" puzzle at least three times, the "add additional weight to the elevator to force it down" puzzle dozens of times, and the "do this because we say so" puzzle until the cows come home.
The other problem is the length of the games. Half-Life 2 is a decent length, my violent hatred of the vehicles and Strider battles notwithstanding. I finished Episode 1 in three hours, and Episode 2 in a little over six. Nerd claims this is episodic gaming, but I say it's a pathetic attempt by Valve to suck every dollar they can out of us instead of just making a twelve hour game like everyone else in the industry.
I wouldn't say I hate Half Life 2. It's about at the level of Dark Forces in terms of enjoyment, playability, camera control, and irritating puzzles. What it doesn't match, however, are the expectations that should be met when the words "greatest game ever" and "a shining masterpiece" are thrown around. It should be one of the most incredible experiences you have playing video games, not a ho hum game that does everything average.
Number of games in the Orange Box: 5