Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Episode One, and Episode Two

This finishes my playthrough of the Half-Life series.  Technically I ragequit Half-Life: Opposing Force, so maybe I'll go back to that someday and try to see what I was doing wrong.  Anyway, here's my thoughts on the three games in this post's title.

Half-Life 2: Lost Coast

This is less of a game and more of a release-polished tech demo for HDR effects in the Source engine.  For the uninitiated, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and to put it simply, it deals with realism in lighting.  Having realistic lighting can make a game's atmosphere so much more believable, and in a game like Half-Life 2 which is supposed to have realistic graphics, getting the lighting right is crucial.

This game is a short mission where you work your way up a cliffside, to a church, so you can stop a gun from shelling a nearby village.  Once you've done that, you take out one last group of Combine including shooting down a helicopter, do some light platforming, and it ends.  However, you can play through it with the developer commentary on, and get an insight into Valve's design choices and the technical details, as well as any difficulties that arose.  It's pretty neat.  I recommend doing two playthroughs.  One serious, just to experience the content, and the second with sv_cheats 1 and god mode enabled, with the developer commentary.

So, if it's so short and playing through it twice is recommended, then why does Steam say I have 2.5 hours of play time?  Well, I was derping around with sk_max_rpg_rounds 100.

Half-Life 2: Episode One

Episode One is a direct continuation from the end of Half-Life 2 proper.  You see how the heck you and Alyx get out of the citadel, and then work to get away from the citadel after a brief trek back into it to get some crucial information, during which time you get the awesome version of the Gravity Gun.

In addition, I made it a bit more challenging on myself by going for, and obtaining, the achievement "The One Free Bullet", which requires you to complete Episode One while firing exactly one bullet.  Other ammunition types, such as grenades and rockets, are acceptable, as are the Gravity Gun and the crowbar.  Also, a big source of damage is Alyx, who follows you around through the vast majority of the game.  Where do you use that one bullet?  To break a lock, fairly early on.

The final area, a train station, is incredibly hectic as you have Combine trying to surround you, and a Strider in relatively close quarters taking potshots whenever it can.  It makes for quite the challenge, even if you aren't going for the one bullet achievement.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Episode Two is a bit more challenging, and a bit longer.  It houses the achievement for carrying a garden gnome from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.  It also makes a reference allllllllll the way back to the beginning of Half-Life 1, when you blow up Dr. Magnusson's lunch in the microwave.

This time around we get acquainted with a couple new Combine enemies: the Hunter, and the Advisor.  The Hunter has a ridiculous amount of firepower and only a few weapons are really effective against them.  The Advisor, well... it can telekinetically lift its prey up and kill it.  You only encounter one Advisor, ever, although more are shown in the ending.

Speaking of the ending, it's a huge cliffhanger.  Since Valve can't count to three, we'll never know how things go from here...

So, that garden gnome.  As my previous rant would tell, it's a bitch to transport in the car.  I did some poking around on the internet, though, and found that you can cheese the loading screen at the end of that segment to despawn the helicopter.  All of this would be so much better if the garden gnome would actually collide with the seats in the car, but no, it goes right through them.  So, your objective is to end up with a screenshot similar to this one.

However, since that's my screenshot, it happened, but I DIDN'T GET THE ACHIEVEMENT.  FIX YOUR GAME VALVE.

Overall Thoughts

Lost Coast is interesting.  Episode 1 is a nice addition to the story and is quite the challenge, even with Alyx backing you up.  Episode 2 is frustrating in parts and ends on a giant cliffhanger, but is still good.

Side note: ugh Valve y u no let us disable "Change weapon on pickup".

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