Friday, 7 October 2011

The Past and times of Yore: Half-Life 2


Also Known As: Half-Life II, Half Life 2
Availiable on: 
PC, Mac, Xbox
Genre:
First-Person Shooter
Publisher:
Vivendi Games
Developer:
Valve
Release Date: November 16, 2004 

Your probably all thinking to yourselves after seeing this post title: “Half-Life 2? everyone knows Half-Life 2 was awesome and we’re sick of hearing about how great it was”. And this is more or less correct, which is why this is probably going to be a shorter review than usual.

I’ve just finished going through Half-Life 2 for about the 4th time and I can fairly say that it’s still a good play, perhaps not as good as the very first or second times, the first time being that I didn’t know what to expect or really what I had to do in order to pass certain sections and spent a large amount of time looking around at certain crossroads and puzzles and going “hmmmmmmmm” a lot, the first time through everything was a learning experience and I must say took awhile. The second time through was probably the best in a way that you roughly knew what was going to happen and were able to experience it again without getting stuck too much while noticing new and exciting things on the way. The third and fourth time was basically a speed run, as I just wanted to have the experience again but was just slightly less patient but man did I get through it fast that time, it’s amazing how much quicker you go when you know what to do. Speaking of re-living the events Christopher C. Livingston does a remarkable job of adding a humerous charcter "Gordon Frohman" who goes through basically the whole game in a clumsy ill-fated and impossibly silly journey which is a huge hoot if you have played the game through before. Check it out here

Ahh gawd it's a fence! woe is me for I can only jump so high
A scene from Concerned
What attracted me most to Half-Life 2 was the cleanliness of both the graphics and the interface, both Half-Life 2 and Counter-strike source have excellent visuals even by today’s standards in my opinion and second to that is the game interface itself, which when set on your monitors default resolution it looks incredibly slick and quite possibly my favourite and best looking game interface of all time. There’s something engaging about the lip synching and the way the ragdolls flail around when you land that headshot, the textures are spot on with that gritty feel to them, the way chairs and tables fall over as you push past them and also the interesting way of how you never actually picked up objects with your hand they just sort of hovered in midair in front of you. But that was ok it was all good. I enjoyed how there were some friendly aliens this time around like the vortigaunts and the semi-friendly antlions. I have to mention the Nova Prospekt chapter where you storm a converted combine jail with a swarm of antlions assisting you against your enemies, this is my favourite part of the game second only to the grim starting level which is the credits themselves. I love the way you spend most of your time finding new and innovative ways to slaughter zombies or the Combine's Overwatch enemy forces using exploding barrels, heavy objects, automatic sentry guns or even getting them to fight each other.

The Half Life-2 menu screen: slick
Your personal anti-combine Antlion Army, aren't they cute?
I do now have to mention the atmosphere that Half-Life 2 creates, it is absolutely amazing, right from the start the way the flying ID photo bots (lookup name) or whatever their called constantly take your photo to identify you, and the hugely powerful combine force watching you and towering over you, literally in some cases, you really feel like you are quite small and oppressed, until you don your hazard suit and become the big bad science professor turned field combat and weapons expert Gordon Freeman who strangely does not speak a word throughout this game and the previous one as well.  This isn’t really much of a problem in most FPS as there isn’t much interaction with other characters who would otherwise question you directly but with the amount of fame that Gordon Freeman has and him being probably the most talked about person in the entire game it does seem strange that you never get to hear him voice his own opinions, or maybe that’s either the whole point or a metaphor for something. 

Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance: the conversation was fairly one-sided
The other characters in a large part make the whole experience better and more engaging for the player but I will have to take my hat off (not that I wear hats much but I’ll put one on in this case) to the infamous Dr.Breen who I regard as one of my favourite (if not my single most) villains of all time in all of the games, not to mention TV shows and movies I have played and watched. Dr Breen, who I first thought was called “Dr. Brain” is the overwhelmingly propraganda’ered administrator of City 17 (yes that’s what the cities are called now, just numbers) who is brilliantly voiced by (insert actor name here) which you hear throughout a large part of the game through screens and loudspeakers and eventually in person. One of my favourite speeches by Dr. Breen comes from when you have infiltrated a combine base and are able to listen to him scold his forces via radio for not being able to capture you. 

The Combine, arresting and assaulting citizens since 2020

Dr. Breen, hats off to the master villian
 To say the least Half-Life 2 gets my vote for best singleplayer First-Person shooter experience, the two expansions that came out were equally good as well and judging by the end of the last one we may not have seen the last of Half-Life either. Don’t get me wrong though, Doom, Quake and to a lesser extent the Vietcong series which I had played were both great examples of singleplayer first person shooter beauty but in the end, graphically, storyline, sound and gameplay-wise and overall experience Half-Life 2 wins.. for now

That’s got me wondering which is my FPS multiplayer product of most esteem.

JD




The one free man somehow doesn’t appear to be....

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