Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Half-Life 2

There was a bit of a time delay between my post about the first game and its side stories and this post, wasn't there?

Well, I had some motivation to play Half-Life 2 recently.  An LPer that I follow is playing through the entire Half-Life series, and loves to talk about level design and various other things that can easily spoil the game.  Being that I hadn't played Half-Life 2 yet, I started playing it when he was about 75% of the way through Half-Life: Source, with the goal of staying ahead of him.  A success was had: I just finished Half-Life 2, and he's a mere few episodes in.

Half-Life 2 did a lot of things better than Half-Life 1.  The Source engine, first and foremost, is way better.  Second, there's that one checkbox, buried in the options, that enables fast weapon switching.  That option makes switching weapons in the middle of a battle so much easier.  I don't know how anyone could ever play with it off.

The graphics and music are amazing, and as far as controls go, it's a PC FPS, so you have all the configurability you need should you want to change something.  I took the experience a step further and played the entire game using my Logitech G930 headset's 7.1 surround mode, of course with the relevant option in the Audio options set, and it was amazing.  Being able to more precisely hear what direction enemies are coming from came in very handy towards the end of the game.

Half-Life 2's one major innovation in the FPS genre, the Gravity Gun, is quite the fun tool.  I imagine it was just as fun for Valve's level designers, being able to design parts of the game around providing things for the player to shoot at enemies with the Gravity Gun, as it was for me, the player, shooting sawblades and toilets at my enemies.  The upgrade it gets towards the end of the game makes it even more powerful, where it also becomes your only weapon.

The Gravity Gun is made possible by the game's physics engine.  Pretty much any object in the world around you is a "physics object", and can be affected by explosions, or impacts with other objects.  There are several spots throughout the game where you'll have to use objects to hold something down or lift something up in order to continue.  It all works pretty well.  I do have one minor complaint, though, and that's that you can't sprint when you've grabbed something with the Gravity Gun.

On multiple occasions, I found myself in a situation where I felt like the way forward wasn't clear.  Either I was told to go somewhere, or informed that a crate of rockets that I could use on the Striders was somewhere in the area, but I wasn't really set in the correct direction.  The resulting running around like a chicken with its head cut off, and in the latter case, the repeated deaths, was rather frustrating.  This is a hard one to suggest a fix for, because we don't want to hold the player's hand too much.

Overall, if you like FPSes and want something more heavily story-driven, but without the idiocy of the modern Call of Duty games, look no further than Half-Life 2.  It's an excellent experience from beginning to end.  Also worth noting, it goes on sale during pretty much every Steam sale ever, so chances are you can pick it up for cheap.

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