Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Past and Times of Yore: Half-Life 2, Episode 2, caves, bugs, slugs and the great outdoors

Release Date: October 10th 2007
Genre:First-person Shooter
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Mac OS X, Linux, Shield Portable
Players: 1
Classification: M (Mature)

I hadn’t realised it had been so long since I reviewed Half-Life 2 Episode 1 as it’s been a whole year and a bit since (7 years since my Half-Life 2 review) so I guess it’s High time I get the series review finished though to be perfectly honest the way things are going with the mysterious third sequel I think I’ll have more than enough time before that comes along. As you can probably guess Episode 2 is a direct continuation of Episode 1 running with the same story (and game engine) of Half-Life 2, this was the last of the ‘Episodes’ of Half-Life 2 and the ending has sparked huge anticipation of a supposed Half-Life 3 as well as much quarrelling, complaining and speculating of when it will finally arrive. I’m not going to comment on much about the gameplay or graphics as we all know this is the same as Half-Life 2 so I will concentrate on the adventure inc the story, location and new friends and enemies.

A Hunter, one of the new enemies in Episode 2
So we when we left previously our two heroes Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance they were speeding away from City 17 on the caboose of a train watching the Citadel after the events of Episode One, the citadel then explodes and everything goes black, Gordon then wakes up to Alex freeing him with the Gravity Gun  out of the wreckage of the train, miraculously alive again. The storyline for the game as before is divided up into chapters of which once completed you can re-do at any time. The first chapter To the White Forest  has Gordon and Alyx setting off to the White Forest base to deliver a data packet to Dr Kleiner and Eli Vance who are there currently. I must admit it was good to get outside after being indoors for most of Episode 1 and also in the great outdoors too similar to the coastal run you did in Half-Life 2. 

The spectacular view of the Citidel from the train wreck
 Though this scenery was short lived as after battling through a Zombie infested mine Alyx is injured by a new Combine Hunter enemy which you don’t get to fight just yet and then you are saved by a Vortigaunt who takes you through the beautiful Antlion caves, these caves are quite a sight to behold as they are beautifully rendered and lit with the light shining off the rocks. It’s here that you first meet Antlion Grubs and Workers, the grubs being like fireflies as their glowing bodies serve as the primary source of light in the caves and they are pretty disgusting as you have to hit them with your crowbar or step on some to get past, the workers are new version of Antlion that hurls acid at you that was easy enough to dodge, I had great fun playing hunter with my shotgun and watching them explode when shot was very satisfying.

I go hunting through the Antlion Caves

The next chapter has one of my favourite moments in the Half-Life series, you are led to a resistance outpost in an abandoned mine where you and two other resistance fighters have to defend a group of Vortigaunts who are trying to heal Alyx who is lying on a table. The resistance fighters have a sort of Antlion Detector system going which uses red lights to tell how many Antlions are approaching, the more lights, the more antlions and there is four tunnels they can come from, why they chose this place to heal Alyx I would not know. You are given access to reprogrammed Hopper Mines and Sentry Guns though not quite enough to hold off the antlions by themselves though I was still pleased by this as I love Sentry guns with their auto-firey goodness and I had lots of fun repositioning them accordingly until they both exploded L. It looked bad but then a whole party of other Vortigaunts came and you kicked ass with them, truly a great moment.

Hold the Line! man watching this makes me want to do it again, need more sentry guns

You then follow your Vortigaunt companion deeper into the mines to find an Antlion Larvae to save Alyx and I saw quite a few sights along the way as well as doing a brilliant cat-and-mouse sequence with an Antlion Guardian, when you get back you get a brief visit from The G-Man just before Alex is revived as he says that the was waiting for a time when the Vortigaunts were otherwise occupied (as per their previous hinderance of him in Episode 1) and gives a cryptic warning to the sleeping Alex before she wakes up.

The Antlion Spawning Cave
The next chapters involve exiting the mine and another car driving and stopping sequence similar to the coastal “Highway 17” chapter in Half-Life 2 except this time you have Alyx with you. There was a sequence I liked in “Freeman Pontifex” where you searched through a mining town with Alex supporting you from above with a sniper rifle, really saved some ammo that time hah. The “muscle” car you eventually find has more bodywork this time and room for two people and boy was that thing fun to drive, jumping over bridges and hills though it was only in short bursts as it was always over so quick.

Shotgun!, oh wait I'm driving
 The “Riding shotgun” chapter was good as this was the first time you faced Hunters which are bloody fast and tough to kill though not when you run into them of course :D, you also have probably the closest encounter ever with an Advisor where you can see what they do to humans first hand. You fight more combine soldiers and Hunters and a Hunter-Chopper along the way. The next chapter has a scene where you duck-and-cover through a junkyard with an autogun firing over your head and then get in a massive fight with combine soldiers and Hunters in the White Forest Inn, you also meet Dog again who defeats a strider for you.

The Combine Advisor in the barn
Dog wrestles a Strider
Once you finally get to White Forest you are reunited with Dr. Kleiner and Eli Vance and also a new character Dr. Magnussen, another former Black Mesa Scientist who you saw previously through radio/visual contact, I almost liked him as much as Dr Breen with his grumpy and aloof demeanor. White forest is a large Resistance base where Dr. Kleiner and Magnussen are organising the launch of a special rocket which they plan to use, in conjunction with the satellite array launched during the events of Half-Life and Alyx's data packet, to close the Combine superportal. This part has a lot of speculation for the supposed sequel, Kleiner and Vance decode the message that Gordon and Alyx brought and it appears to be a message from Judith Mossman in an arctic location saying that she has found the Borealis, which is a ship that contained a secret project started by the Aperture Science company who we know from the Portal series. Kleiner and Vance are at odds for the first time, the former saying they should use the technology to fight the combine, the latter saying they should destroy it to avoid another Black Mesa Incident, I feel like this may be a choice in the future, woo that’d be a first for Half-Life. 

The crew discussing Dr. Mossman's discovery iof the Borealis
This is where Alyx speak the “unforeseen consequences” line to Eli without knowing it and then Eli privately tells Gordon that the G-Man spoke those same words to him just before the Black Mesa Incident.  You then have to defend the base from a huge combine attack of Hunter and Striders and combine troops in which I used the muscle car to run over the hunters and the special Magnusson Device which is a sort of sticky bomb that needs to be shot to blow up, in order to defeat the Striders which is difficult to do and had a bit of trouble this time with a Strider almost reaching the base but managed to finish it.

Defending the base from Striders using the Magnussen Device and running over Hunters.

The rocket is then launched and successfully destroys the combine portal effectively stopping the remaining combine from receiving any reinforces from other combine worlds. There is a brief celebration then comes the very climactic final scene where Gordon and Alex are about to embark on a journey to the Borealis in a helicopter and we all know what happens then, if you don’t then play the damn game, all of them if you haven’t, play the entire series do it now! I can’t stress this enough if you haven’t played any of the Half-Life series you should definitely play through the original Half-Life, then 2 then the episodes as it’s a brilliant experience.

The Portal is finally closed
Saying that I can’t remember whether that was the second or third time I’ve done that, possibly the third and although sometimes it can be a bit of a grind, I purposefully play it on easy to get through some of the repetitive shooting of mass amounts of combine soldiers quicker but it’s amazing each time as the graphics are great and the menu design is so click that I sometimes wanna play it just to use it again as there’s nothing like it in other games really.

That slick menu
 So that marks the end of the Half-Life 2 series of games with the exception of Lost Coast but that’s barely worth a mention, now we sit back and wait (patiently) for the next installment. Frankly I don’t know which I’d prefer, for it to be the last in the series and explain everything or fore there to be many, many more but I expect the latter.


Hurry up Mr. Freeman

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