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Power Member - Level 10
Upon completing the main campaign of Half Life 2 (I still
have the episodes to play), I laughed.
Oh, cheeky Valve.
Traditionally, I struggle with first person shooters and
even though I picked up the Xbox 360's The Orange Box for a mere $20 I largely
avoided the titles while I played other games.
Sometimes a gun with a chainsaw attachment applied to an enemy's head is
a cathartic release and other times it is a mindless grind rolling from one
convenient waist high cover to the next.
Mostly my struggles with FPS games are based on the overwhelming horde
that never ends. A chokepoint with
enemies rushing from every corner is fought with many deaths, strategic
changes, and a sweaty controller as the tension builds with the final but
superhuman enemy rushing towards me with a scream. In the end, there is no relief. Only a brief headset conversation from the
intelligence operative (usually a woman in science fiction but a man in
"realistic" military shooters) while I rush forward into an eerily similar
shootout. From one high stress map to the next I usually switch games because I
must build up the wherewithal to face the overwhelming horde again and again.
I figured that my early gaming years on JRPGs with turn
based enemy encounters broken up with wildly distant checkpoints but with the reward
of emerging out of an enchanted forest into the next town full of
conversations, shops, and mini games (most often hide and seek with cheeky children) established my gaming expectations that made me struggle with playing FPS games for hours.
Is it coming? Maybe, maybe not.
Half Life 2 was an obligation, a gaming requirement to at
least appreciate the fans' hair pulling wails for Half Life 3. HL2 may not rank as one of my favorite games
of all times but now I get it. The
beloved but tough as dirt grandparent franchise of first person shooters
remains unseated from its throne. HL2
may wish that a younger game with more energy would usurp its position as high
ruler of all FPS games but the title must be earned, not given.
Why? Must you ask?
Follow? Follow Who?
HL2 is open level, not open world, but even that limited
openness allows us to become lost.
Nearly any current FPS release nowadays includes the immortal NPC,
Follow, who can lead us through any dangerous obstacle course and emerge
unscathed. In fact, refusal to comply
with the command inherent in Follow's name results in a video game meltdown
that throws the player back to the last checkpoint. Leave Follow's side at your own risk.
Ravenholm is a fantastically designed level, I even forgave the infinitely spawning zombies.
The open levels of HL2 do not "lead the way." The open levels range from a maze of a map
that requires puzzle solving to unlock the next door or hidden ramp to the clearly attainable roof to a sequence that is more linear than open with its
high concrete walls and directive to ride the airboat to the end of a
radioactive canal. Also, items of
interest are not highlighted (hint: the watermelon is totally destructible). HL2's minimal game developer assistance to
the player is not a retro throwback to the impossible difficulties of bygone
games. In fact, HL2 is not a
particularly hard game because the solution is on the screen and the answer is
reasonably apparent which perfectly captures that sense of achievement in gaming
upon discovering the solution rather than the button mashing luck that cannot
Door To Door Jumping
In First Person Platforming
Admittedly, this is exactly what I thought when I played through this level.
Take note Assassin's Creed: Revelations, first person platforming
can be done. Of course, Mirrors Edge has
remained as the lone game based entirely on first person platforming
based. As the next generation gifts
video game developers with much more computing power first person platformers
are becoming a revived genre before the new consoles even launch with Mirror's
Edge 2 finally announced and games such as Sunset Overdrive garnering much
attention. Admittedly, the first person platforming in Half Life 2 is one of
the game's rougher edges. Jumping across
the sandy beach on alternating pieces of scrap metal, driftwood, and the
inexplicable numerous doors littering the beach was not my favorite level but
the level was done well. The platforming
was doable with a fun and immediate consequence for missing the platform and
made me decide whether or not I had the patience to hopscotch far out of my way
for tantalizing supplies (I did not).
Who Needs A Gun?
If only real life imitated video games more often.
The Half Life franchise's hero, Gordon Freeman, is a maniac
with a crowbar. The crowbar is a last
ditch melee tool, most effective for head crabs, and its value is well
established as the best and most satisfying method of breaking open boxes. The crowbar as the most iconic weapon in a
game that also features a pistol, a magnum, a shotgun, a crossbow and more is a
fun irony that a gun is not the featured weapon of a FPS game. FPS games nowadays may use HL2's overall
arsenal of guns, grenades, and mines but it is the unexpected weapon that is a
Far Cry 3 includes a blowtorch. The blowtorch's function for vehicle repair
is not as helpful as a box breaking crowbar. At the point that my vehicle
required repairing the needed repairs were often beyond the blowtorch's
capabilities. Fact, the blowtorch will
not repair your fully submerged vehicle, I tried. Yet, the ability to use the blowtorch as an
impromptu melee weapon was reason enough for me to equip the blowtorch now and
then, just in case I needed to melt off an enemy's face (that is not an actual
mini cut scene but take this idea under advisement Ubisoft).
The modern FPS game uses a checkpoint save system. Nowadays, such checkpoints are not clearly
defined record books (that are always in a house of worship) or tape recorders (that
are always in a utility closet) where players stop and save but an animation in
the corner of the television triggered by an invisible line. Undoubtedly, the worst part of a reload is
waiting for the revelation of where the last checkpoint was. By a show of hands, who here has become
frustrated enough to turn a chokepoint into a full out sprint towards the enemy
horde hoping to trigger a checkpoint before certain death? Me.
I died a lot here, I mean a lot and then I died some more.
HL2's and Valve's overall commitment to the save anywhere
feature allows us to test out our different theories for puzzle solving as well
as experiment with our weapon choices and battle plans. Again, a show of hands for who stopped plans
worthy of an action hero after remembering the location of the last
checkpoint? Again, as the rare modern
FPS open world game, Far Cry 3 required reloading at unlocked safe houses and
radio towers. The sudden memory that the
nearest unlocked spawn point was across the map of the outpost that I had under
siege kept my sniper rifle aimed on patrolling guards rather than a Molotov
cocktail based approach. Whereas, after
a save before opening a door in HL2, I threw barrels (the gravity gun is simply
Gordon imitating Donkey Kong after all), aimed for a magnum head shot, attempted
the perfect grenade throw, or whatever else I felt like trying.
Is That Pain You
Felt?: Closed Captions
Truly an epic experience with closed captions.
Remember that I laughed when I finished the game? The endgame joke is only truly funny for
those who know the ending of the original Half Life. I did not play the game and ultimately gave
up on Game Informer's Super Replay of Half Life because the game featured no
subtitles or captioning of any kind.
However, and this topic deserves more space than I will dedicate here,
Valve responded to complaints regarding no captions in Half Life with actual
closed captioning in Portal, Half Life 2, and Portal 2. No other game developer that I am aware of
provides this option in the menus and then provides actual closed captions. The quick explanation of this importance is
that subtitles are for the hearing because subtitles are simply a language
translation that does not include auditory clues. HL2's closed captions are truly impressive
including "*pain*" when an enemy is hit or "distant zombie groan" and I felt
included rather than a befuddled by countless cheap deaths.
Zipping down the water chased by a helicopter...the original experience.
When I initially began HL2 I was not stunned, merely
appreciative of one of the original FPS games.
While my airboat sped down the seemingly endless canal full of
radioactive sludge and a helicopter's guns aiming for me, I flashed back to
Call Of Duty: Black Ops. I remembered
the thrill of zipping from land to sea to sky culminating with a helicopter
versus helicopter battle. At that moment
I realized that the original thrill came from HL2 and I kept my eyes open for
how else HL2 made the genre that we know today as a staple of current
We cannot argue with science.
HL2's narrative is not even particularly more substantial
than Call Of Duty or Halo. Go here and
get that and spend the majority of the game enroute to the "go here" objective. But HL2 took the time to make a game that
forces the gamer to actively participate in order to advance.
Thank you for your readership, I appreciate you. I was disappointed to miss a week last week
after life's responsibilities all but eradicated my gaming and writing
time. All problems may not be solved but
I just bought XCOM: Enemy Unknown to play on my birthday and my GIO fantasy
football team will rise from the infirmary to crush the opposition. Life is good.
What is your favorite
What is your favorite
gameplay mechanic of HL2?
Do you think that FPS
games can include a more substantial story?