Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 was released back in the year 2004 so…it took me like 11 years to get my own copy and actually play the game. Totally did not take me a decade to do so.

Now all we need is for me to either get Half-Life 1 or play the full version of Black Mesa.I have to admit I was really impressed with Half-Life 2. I find that Half-Life 2 is an amazing first-person shooter that has elements that made Half-Life (or Black Mesa in my case) such a great and beloved experience. Many of those now feel familiar, and the story is interesting although not necessarily the same caliber as the predecessor. I still enjoyed the story nevertheless.

You once more step into the role as Gordon Freeman, former theoretical physicist and one-man fighting machine. You find yourself in a world where humanity has fallen, a mysterious enemy known only as The Combine has taken over the Earth. You begin the game getting off the train at City 17, finding the city being patrolled by an ever-present security force. Propaganda endlessly blasts out of video screens all over the city from the human puppet government. Valve did exceedingly well in capturing the atmosphere of what it is like being in a dystopian police-controlled state.

In case of problem, break glass and find Gordon Freeman
Don’t worry, break glass and find Gordon Freeman

You are quickly thrust into action as you get caught in the middle of a Combine apartment raid. From there, it is non-stop action as you join the resistance and try to overthrow the Combine; with help from familiar and new faces.

The game is broken down into several chapters, however these chapters are broken into inconspicuous sections. Although there is a slight pause to load the next level, which I have to admit annoyed me at times. Mostly because some of the timing for loading new sections was badly done. However, it did not affect the flow of the game very much. The single-player campaign will take you several hours, between 10 or 20 hours. Longer if you are going for the full achievements. I took 10 hours with about 58% of the achievements unlocked. Gordon Freeman certainly leads a very eventful life. I wonder if he ever gets a vacation.

Oh hell no, do not want. Black Mesa was bad enough with underwater monsters
Oh hell no, do not want. Black Mesa was bad enough with underwater monsters

I really enjoyed the opening levels of Half-Life 2 where you are being pursued by the Combine through train yards and tunnel system. Although I enjoyed the air-boat levels the most since I was able to enjoy the scenery. Also driving around on the boat was tons of fun. Gotta go fast!

You have access to impressive weaponry (although I don’t know where Gordon keeps/carries them all) ranging from the ever-trusted crowbar, shotgun, crossbow and submachine gun to name a few. Most of these are recycled from the first game (or Black Mesa which is just a remake of Half-Life on the Source engine). However, there are three new weapons introduced such as the pulse rifle (with a devastating secondary attack) and the “bug-bait” (pheromone pod) which allows you to summon and control the dangerous ant lions. That was great, watching your army of giant insects ripping the Combine soldiers to shred, and being to summon them to your location or directing them to a specific location. Although I think that is only for a specific chapter. Last but not least, there is also the gravity gun which lets you pick and throw objects, although in the last chapter it gets a little “boost” which makes it into an overpowered weapon of pure fun.2015-07-19_00004I think the gravity gun is the most versatile tool you will have in your arsenal. You can use it for combat and non-combat purposes. Such as solving puzzles or throwing a saw-blade at a headcrab zombie.

You even can lead a squad of resistance members, although that only happens when you return to City 17 and the city has broken out into a large-scale battle. I normally do not like having a squad following me since they usually get in my way. The squads are often expendable in my mind, since replacements often appear in regular intervals. I find the standoffs with the Combine in the city to be the best moments of the game. Especially when you are on the defense and are forced to hold off wave after wave of Combine forces.

Although I ended up being disappointed since very few enemies posed a real danger/challenge to the player. Those being the strider and the ant-lion, possibly the Combine gun-ship as well. Ant-Lions will chase you endlessly unless you can gain enough distance away from them or unload clips of bullets into them. Striders need several rockets to take them down, while you avoid getting killed. While for the gun-ship, you have to make sure the rocket hits the ship.

I enjoyed the story of Half-Life 2 very much, although I am disappointed that a lot of questions were left unanswered. It just feels like there is more to the story, and it has yet to be concluded.

What a lovely view from the Citadel
What a lovely view from the Citadel

There is a lot of fantastic level design in Half-Life 2, although I feel that the jumping puzzles were not that impressive. Ravenholm’s design however was very memorable for me due to the gloomy atmosphere and the ‘madness’ of Father Grigori. I was actually really glad to see sunlight after the Ravenholm map. Even the Citadel was well-designed, giving you the feeling of an alien structure that does not belong to the planet.

Now I shall play Episodes One and Two to see how the story progresses. Although it would amuse me to no end if Gordon suddenly talks or does something to flip the G-man off.

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