Playing Them In Reverse

In PC on July 29, 2009 at 3:13 am


Half-Life 2: Episode One- PC

Writing about Episode Two, and wanting to play more Half-Life, was enough to make me reinstall the first episode in an effort to refresh my memory (as I think I’d only played it through the once, all the way back in 2006) and organise some thoughts.

To put it bluntly, Episode One is a greatest hits collection of Half-Life 2, and more than a little reminiscent of the Half-Life: Blue Shift expansion, which chronicled Barney’s escape from Black Mesa, and was, essentially, the original Half-Life condensed down to about four hours. Episode One revisits most of the main set pieces: street fighting with the Combine, exploring the Citadel (a place that looked even more spectacular in ruins), strider and gunship “boss battles”, all that stuff.

But I’m also being unfair, as it does have some unique flourishes of its own, including a closer look at the Stalkers, running around the infested, pitch black bowels of the city, and the introduction of the “Zombine”- which, rather than being one-off foes, are now part of the standard Half-Life menagerie. And then there’s Alyx.

Episode One is Valve’s experiment with having Alyx go from being a supporting character, to someone who’s at your side for the entire journey. The concept of the two of you working as a team is reinforced constantly, most notably early on, in the pitch black areas, when she’s the only one with ammunition, and you’re reliant on marking targets for her with the flash light. You’re working together, rather than babysitting her.

That’s the success of Episode One, creating a sidekick that doesn’t make the game feel like the longest escort mission ever, by creating a competent, memorable character. One we’re still happy to travel with.

  1. You’re right about the escort mission thing; a lot of the squad stuff in HL2 was just trying to keep the rebels out from underfoot or ignoring them completely. Alyx never got on my nerves. I wanted to do more stuff with barney though; with Alyx, Valve made me feel uncomfortably shoe-horned into a romantic circumstance. She obviously likes Gordon, and that’s fine, but Gordon is me, you know? Playing as Max Payne, I could let Max fall in love with Mona, and I could enjoy their relationship. Gordon is me with a beard and a weird name.

    • There’s that rumour of some kind of large battle in Episode 3, so we can hope that Barney appears for that.

      And yeah, the romance thing is a bit weird, I suppose; Freeman is you, but you’re on the outside, looking in on a doomed relationship.

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