Thursday, October 11, 2007

Half-Life²: Episode Two

I have just finished playing Half-Life²: Episode Two. Thoughts:

The Good:

- New enviroments: These include outdoor forests, mountains, underground caverns, and a rebel base.

- New gameplay situations: Teaming up with rebels against antlions, running around with a vortigaunt ally. Thse new gameplay situations refresh the old combat in new ways.

- The physics puzzles actually make sense and don't feel tacked on.

- New graphical features (motion blurs, dynamic flashlight shadows) add a nice touch to old graphics.

- Some of the new AI is very impressive. The combine are smarter than before (I think) and some of the cave enemies are very intelligent and elusive.

The Bad:

- Some minor, reoccuring graphical glitches.

- The WOW factor of seeing real-time enviroments and characters interact has died down since 2004. If Half-Life is going to continue, they need to upgrade the gameplay and not rely on the "frosting" to get gamers through. Right now the gameplay is somewhat shallow, acting only as a constant "problem solver" to every barrier in the story. This is not bad in theory, yet Half-Life is feeling more like an interactive movie with pauses of mundane combat to keep the interaction.

- Due to the episodic content, the story suffers from a lack of completeness as a whole, and thus is less satisfying.

- Every time you must do an inane old-school FPS jumping sequence, Alyx still leaves the room.

- Some sequences felt predictable and had a sense of deja-vu. It seemed like the game was redoing the same sequences from older games in slightly different ways.

The Best part in the game:

Driving through the forest, you make a pit stop and search an abandoned hotel for supplies. You get in your car to continue yet a surprise forcefield activates, blocking you in. The Combine have sprung a trap on you. You retreat back into the hotel with Alyx and take out multiple Combine troopers and several Hunters in an epic battle of two versus fifty.

Overall, Half-Life²: Episode Two is on par, or better than Half-Life² and certainly much better than Episode One. However, the repeating combat system, recycled graphics and short story arc keeps this from being a completely enjoyable experience.

Half-Life²: Episode Two


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