So on Monday morning I started playing Half Life 2. I’d bought the game back in ‘08 if memory serves as part of the Orange Box. I completed Portal fairly early on, and got comfortable with Team Fortress. But HL2 remained uncompleted. As you’re told early on ‘we don’t go to Ravenholm’. And I got there, and stopped. I’m no fan of survival horror, so the change between gunning down folks in streets, or running them over with a boat to shooting in the dark at howling ‘fast zombies’ was not a change I liked.
However I’ve been wanting to clear out my backlog this summer, and with the recent achievement update for HL2 and Ep1 I had an extra incentive. So I sat down on Monday, booted up Half Life 2. Heard the familiar jingle to a bald dude with a pipe stuck in his head and got ‘in the zone’. I got through the sewers and canal rather quickly, having done it multiple times already, then finally ended up in Ravenholm. I suckered up and got through it rather quickly once I put my mind to it. It went rather well. Especially as I’d come to respect the power of the gravity gun. On previous attempts I’d tried to run and gun it. That’s not how you’re meant to play. And an achievement for completing Ravenholm purely with the gravity gun shows you’re meant to be using the saw blades embedded in the walls everywhere. After about 20 minutes I then found myself on a train track the sunlight against my face and overwatch shooting me.
I’d done it.
After 2 years I’d finally gotten past Ravenholm and was back in the Half Life I liked. From there it was as smooth as gravy. I was soon blasting along with the buggy, then invading Nova Prospekt with my army of Antlions. Which I just loved. The little squiggy…thing. Back in City 17 later on you get you squad, which are no match to the Antlions. ‘Sorry Freeman’ was heard way to often when they get in your way. You only had simple commands to control them, and ‘stay right here while I explore’ was not one of them. Which got a pain in the cramped corridors of urban warfare. But the combine were glad to help with my NPC problem. And Valve were glad to through in extra NPC’s every 15 feet in case I ran out. Actually that’s one of the things I really liked about Half Life was how almost godly accurate it’s pacing was. It’s like they knew to throw enough bullets and health packs at me and at exactly which spots. The general pacing too was pretty much spot on. Which has it’s pro’s and cons. There wasn’t really any slow times, mostly being the scripted sequences, which were all high quality so they didn’t drag. But on the other hand there were few occasions where there was much of a sense of urgency even if the plot called for it. I will say that they sometimes don’t make things too obvious. I hit up http://www.visualwalkthroughs.com/index.html several times toward the end as I wandered around lost wondering what to do or how to complere a certain puzzle. Another issue I had was sound in conversation. It might be an issue on my end, I use 5.1 speakers, but when NPC’s talked I’d only hear them if I looked right at them. I turned either way by a smidge the volume had a very quick drop off.
After many hours I end up in The Citadel. Where Valve try their best to highlight how silly this games premise is. Breen calls me a “rogue physicist” over his ‘Breencast’. And I’m like “Wow, he’s right. I’m a scientist who’s just gunned his way to the central command of an alien army. This makes no sense”. Then there’s a rather silly part where to break in I end up putting myself in a prisoner pod. No way of knowing where I’d be going, or any way to escape. It was silly. Then a few hours late the G-man greats me. The credits roll and I’m done. First game I’ve completed to the end for a long time.
Episode one felt a bit off. It was very much just setting up Episode 2, which story wise was great. Episode 1 had the Super-Gravity Gun though, which is what made up for the fact I ended up with another ‘ravenholm’ again in the collapsed tunnel. Bad Valve. Thankfully it all ends and we end up coming to Episode 2. Episode 2 is really polished. The story is much better, the events are much more impactful. And on the technical side it has some nice improvements like a torch that doesn’t affect your ability to breath under water. Something I’d of thought possible to retroactively add to HL2 and Ep1. I’d tried to do the gnome achievement, but a physics glitch in the engine propelled him off the map faster than a tachyon. I was annoyed that a glitch cost me the achievement, but on the other hand it helped my enjoy the rest of the game without needing to carry this gnome everywhere. Finally getting to the end of the game, to white forest and seeing the Aperture Laboratories logo on the Borealis made me giddy. And some what annoyed with myself that I hadn’t completed this when I did Portal. It’d of made me even more giddy. The end I had unfortunately already been spoiled for me, as is the way of the internet, so it lost some of it’s emotional impact. But it was still a bit sad. And I really now look forward to Episode 3 for whenever it arrives.