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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Half Life 2: Episode One, First Impressions

Seriously, it's everything that annoyed the heck out of me with Half-Life 2 - times ten.

Gordon refuses to talk, even when people are just so darn glad to see him. I'm sorry, I just can't accept this as a Good Thing(tm) anymore. It's a Bad Thing. It's jarring. It's distracting. It reminds me I'm playing a game. In any other medium, there would be dialog here. Not here. Here there is just silence and some wild assumption from non-player characters that I'm simply being laconic.

Yes, Alyx and Dog are brimming with personality here. It's a shame that just makes me envious and feel like a voyeur.

Nothing but grav gun. I was never a huge fan of the grav gun. Honestly, it's just a physics demo gone amok. It's also a complete noob gun - just click somewhere around were you think enemies might be and keep clicking wildly. They'll die soon enough. No skill required.

Oh - and gone is the impressive strategy and AI from Half-Life 1. These guys will not only run right up to you - many will continue to do so even if they had the advantage from just staying put. The only ones that won't, if fact, are the ones Alyx will shoot. Don't run and gun here - just click. Click a lot.

I will give this to Valve though - I think they may have perfected the First Person Jumper. I mean, this isn't really a shooter because you don't really have any guns to speak of. But there is plenty of precision jumping and running around ... 99% of which will reward you with instant death on failure.

I'm actually at a point in the game where I'm not sure what platform I'm supposed to be trying to jump on. Oddly, that's about where I quit.

It might be where it stays quit.

Don't get me wrong - I get that Valve can produce some of the prettiest assets, animations and staged cinematics this side of the hemisphere. Just stop trying to tell me that it amounts to actual storytelling and innovative gameplay. Especially when I spent half my time trying to figure out how soldiers kept appearing behind me. Just because they aren't actually closets doesn't mean they aren't monster closets, people.


Thomas said...

I've been trying to think of something helpful to write here, other than "but I loved Episode 1!" And I've got nothing.

Honestly, at this point Gordon's silence is a running joke, and it becomes a lot less annoying if you treat it that way.

As for the other problems you seem to be having, I guess they didn't bother me because I don't remember them. The only part of the episode that annoyed me was that I didn't figure out at first how to shut down the ant lions, and was trying to fight off way more of them than I should have had to. Once I worked that out, the rest of it just fell into place. I'm actually on my seconod playthrough in occasional bursts, listening to the commentary track.

Josh said...

The problem with treating Gordon's silence as a gag, though, is the constant nagging of many that it's some kind of statement of art or breakthrough concept in narration.

I would agree the AI doesn't seem bad until you compare your average Combine soldier with the marines from the first game. I remember entering a room, watching three people take cover as one lobbed a grenade at me. That was exciting. That was thrilling.

Much of this first part of Ep1 features soldiers just stupidly running to their deaths as they gang rush my uber grav gun. Once - once - I had one actually hide behind a corner. Course, the grav gun is such an easy weapon it didn't really do him any good.

If anything - I think this is rather unfortunate. Half-Life 2, Ep 1 is prettier than any of it's counterparts - but it seemed to get a lobotomy in the process. Sure, the animation and cinematics between Alyx and Dog are way impressive - but rather non-interactive.

The jumping part, I'll confess, is just Half-Life design. It's a staple of the franchise. I've never liked it, but there it is. And my frustration level may be higher than the norm because jumping "puzzles" are one of my top five pet peeves of game design.