Gordon Freeman loves exploding Striders and collapsing portals

half-life 2 ep 2 overall thoughts gd copy

Well, looks like I’ve finally caught up with the videogaming community, having to now join the hordes of many waiting for Valve to release Episode Three for its Half-Life 2 series. Or the hordes that have given up waiting. Take that, you sneaky headcrabs, bullet-sponge Hunters, and dozen-plus Striders from the final battle. No, really, take it, and never bother me again because that final fight was a bit overwhelming.

Yup, that’s right. Over the weekend, on a random whim–are there really any other kind?–I popped in The Orange Box, loaded up my last hard save for Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and remembered why I walked away from that game some many months ago. First, for those keeping score at home, I played through maybe fifty or sixty percent of Half-Life 2, but ended up getting stuck on the “Nova Prospekt” level due to a nasty switch glitch. Bummed out on that, I simply skipped over to Episode One, and burned through that adventure rather fast, enjoying it quite a bit, especially for its bite-sized aspects. I don’t remember when I started Episode Two, but it probably wasn’t directly afterwards. I’d check Achievement dates, but I’m too lazy; now there’s some stark honesty for y’all.

According to my last manual save, I stopped playing at the part where two large and very aggressive antlions are attacking Gordon, Alyx, and one of those Resistance-friendly alien dudes. If he/she/it had a name, I no longer remember it. Gorbak? Zymla? Naaaah. Anyways, took me three attempts to figure out how to kill both antlions effectively without losing too much health and ammo. Once they were out of the way, the path was pretty clear, and Freeman and Alyx hurried down it, eager to reach White Forest and pass on the data they had, which could help in closing the Combine’s looming sky-portal. Along the way, there was a bridge puzzle, some seriously great zombie sniping by Alyx, a short bit of sneaking, really bad driving from points A to B to C, and then a pretty tough final fight with a lot of to and fro and frantic shooting. I had to try that final fight two more times before I got it right.

Despite being released about six years ago, Episode Two still holds up extremely well, mostly from a story and pacing perspective. The graphics are fine though clearly dated to what most current gen titles can produce, like how boxes break into large, polygonal chunks. Some gameplay elements like no third-person view for driving and a lot of first-person platforming feel stiff and unfriendly. Also, you can’t zoom in with all the weapons and shoot, which is a bit weird, considering every FPS these days at least lets you look down ironsights. Also, this is one of those rare games where I actually used the shotgun more than any other firearm, and that’s because it can take down enemies wielding headcrabs in one clean shot. Pistols were complete junk, as was the Gravity Gun, surprisingly. The Magnusson Device, which is introduced during the final fight, is not easy to pick up, especially since you mostly have to guess how to arc the sticky bombs; I would have appreciated getting it earlier on to test it out on the field against live, moving targets. Oh well.

Thanks to Alyx, D0g, and Alyx’s father, the story is emotionally engaging, which makes the adventure to White Forest feel burly and vital, and like I mentioned, once I got past those two antlions, I burned through the remainder of it all, having to see it through. I appreciate that for most dialogue, Freeman is free to walk around and explore the area while still listening to whoever talk. Sometimes, like with Alyx’s father, I just stood there, locked into his words, but it is nice to know that you are not forced to. Shame the whole story ends on one crazy big cliffhanger…

Maybe one day I’ll go back and see how Half-Life 2 played out, though I kind of already know from Episode One and Episode Two. And now we wait…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s