Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Past and Times of Yore: Half-Life 2, Episode 1, Let's get the hell outta here

Release Date: June 1st, 2006
Genre: First Person Shooter

Valve Software
Developer: Valve Software
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac OS X, Linux
Players: 1
Classification: M (Mature)

Yes here it is, Half Life 2 Episode 1, oddly named title I know, it’s basically the first episode after the original game which I did a review of in the past. Episode 1 was actually meant to be called “Aftermath” but was changed to Episode 1 to support valve’s episodic structure. I obtained this game by purchasing the Orange Box which contained five games: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 and it’s true what they said about it, it really was the greatest deal in gaming history, even if I did already own Half Life 2.

Episode 1 is basically starts right after the end of Half Life 2, you have a brief intervention by G-man where several Vortigaunts appear to save Alyx and also block G-man who is perturbed by the experience, which is interestingly the only time you see him in episode 1, it then cuts to DOG pulling you out of the wreckage with Alyx close by.

A shot from the humorous situation where you and Alex get into a junked car and DOG throws you into the Citadel.
Basically the story revolves around you and Alyx trying to escape theCitadel and City 17 in general, which I quite enjoyed actually, at the start you get reminisce about the end of the previous game seeing some recordings of Dr. Breen and a Combine Advisor as well as an actual Combine Advisor trying to evacuate the Citadel and also encounter the gruesome Stalkers along the way. You end up stopping the Citadel’s core meltdown and have an amusing Razor Train ride before crashing into the sewer systems underneath the Citidel in some awesomely frightening pitch black tunnels where you encounter lots of zombies and the new zombified Combine soldiers who Alyx dubs “Zombines” hah!

The pulsating Citidel Core
After a while you get back to the surface and continue fighting along with other resistance members similar to the Anticitizen One and “Follow Freeman!” chapters in the Half Life 2 story. I love the start of this chapter as it features Dr. Isaac Kleiner who has taken over Dr. Breen’s public broadcast system and reports to everyone that the Suppression Field has been deactivated and basically they should all “give serious thought to doing their part for the revival of the species" in which Alyx remarks that Kleiner is telling them to “get busy”. The ending is one of the coolest scenes where you race to evacuate citizens to a train station then jump on one yourself just in time to see the citadel exploding behind you.

The Citidel exploding as you watch from the train, dang if we were just faster.
 I enjoyed this shorter experience of Half-Life as I enjoyed the areas in the Citadel probably the most from the previous story so this one was pretty damn fun though there was a bit too much use of the Gravity gun, I always like “let’s get out of here” storylines in games and this was a good one. The pace of this story really works and having Alyx with you all the time is pretty cool too as she has infinite bullets and can finish off any annoying enemies such as headcrabs which you couldn’t be bothered wasting ammo or switching to the crowbar for, the episode focuses on story development mostly between you and Alyx and goddamn it’s getting heated but nothing yet. I always wonder how they would pull of a story of the two of you working together without ever explaining why Freeman never talks though they do and do it well even if Alyx is doing all the talking.  As far I could tell the only new enemy were the “Zombines” though you have more contact with the Stalkers as in HL2 you just see them randomly throughout the citadel. You get to see a few new parts of the Citadel and City 17 itself though there are no new characters introduced, my favourite parts are when you encounter the Combine advisors and get assaulted by their physic blasts.

Stalkers preventing Gordon and Alyx from continuing into the Citidel, you never confront them directly just shoot powerballs and roller mines at them.
Controls and base gameplay are basically the same though the graphics have had a small upgrade to the Source engine and a new version of its facial animation/expression technology. I felt that there was relatively few places and things in Episode 1 that made me go WOW! It’s strong point was basically the mostly face-paced story that made you keep on going, the music helped a bit too with its pumping techno and eerie haunts in the darker sections and the sounds were as good as ever. I don’t really have much to say apart from that, there was some general consensus about the game being particularly short but for the price and package I got it in I have absolutely no problem with that, besides this one is just a prelude to what will probably be an awesome 3 part series.

The main menu screen where you can listen to Kleiner giving his freedom speech which is a hoot to listen to.
Of course you probably have all  already played the first and second episodes years ago and are waiting for the third and final conclusion if it ever comes, well we’ll discuss that in my review of the next episode.


Forget saving humanity, first we have to do our part, priorities people.

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