Half Life 2: Episode One (VIEWPOINT)

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Best $20 date around

PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts/Valve Software DEVELOPER: Valve Software GENRE: Shooter AVAILABILITY: Retail Box, Download (www.steampowered.com) ESRB RATING: Mature REQUIRED: 1.2GHz CPU, 256MB RAM, 4GB hard drive space, DirectX 7 capable videocard, Internet connection RECOMMENDED: 2.4GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, DirectX 9 capable videocard, Half-Life 2 MULTIPLAYER: None

THE FIRST EXTENSION OF HALF-LIFE 2
arrives after much anticipation of what it may hold and an equal dose of hoopla over episodic
gaming. As the fi rst in a planned series of three such episodic follow-ups to HL2, Episode One picks up mere moments after the explosive cliff-hanger conclusion of HL2 which makes a lot of sense for a series that’s zero-for-two on satisfying endings. Contentwise, Episode One delivers the epilogue and wraps things up by following hero-types Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman as they escape from the chaos they unleashed in the Citadel and, ultimately, City 17.

A couple of recurring concerns surface as you browse the discussion surrounding Episode One. The fi rst involves the heavy recycling of content from the original game; while backtracking through a familiar progression of environments in your escape from City 17, you face (mostly) the same set of foes along the way. Aside from a slight twist on the headcrab zombie, most threats consist of the familiar Combine soldiers, manhacks, and ant lions. As IGN reviewer Tom McNamara aptly summarizes, “Episode One doesn’t feel as fresh as a result, since it largely reuses previous content, and it doesn’t advance the story as much as a fourhour experience should.”

The game’s second stumbling point: It comes to an end far too quickly. Experienced FPS gamers—those who’ve played HL2, for instance—might spend around fi ve hours on their fi rst run. Even for rookies, it’s easily accomplished in a weekend sitting; as GameSpot critic Jason Ocampo explains, “Before you know it, you’ve escaped from City 17, the credits are rolling, and you’re left wanting more.” But I would go a step further: When I reached the end, I had a sense that I’d basically treaded water to get to the real ending of HL2…a notion I blame partly on the lack of what IGN’s McNamara terms the “wow” factor, a defi cit brought about by the combination of short length and reused content.

ALYX TO THE RESCUE
But Alyx Vance steals the spotlight as the star of the show. Solely from a gameplay perspective,
her presence at your side through most of the game brings a new teamwork dynamic to working through the otherwise same old environments of City 17. But she’s no mechanical drone excellent voice work (I don’t even hold it against her that she blurts out “Oh, snap!” at one point) and naturally animated gestures give her a palpable personality. Your interactions with Alyx account for the most memorable moments in the game, action and all.

Not surprisingly, HL2’s Source engine puts on a pretty show with its latest improvements, keeping good visual pace with recent videocard technology. The commentary mode from the Lost Coast demo level also returns, giving curious players a fascinating look behind the curtain. I enjoyed the insightful discussion about how much goes into every detail—even those we sail past for but a brief moment during a fi refi ght—but I also felt a little like I was attending an academic lecture. Fans will revel in it, though, as they will in the game itself. It’s more Half-Life, after all—and that’s what really matters.

REALITY CHECK
1UP NETWORK 8/10
GAMESPOT 7.8/10
GAMESPY 3.5/5

I HAD A SENSE THAT I’D BASICALLY TREADED WATER TO GET TO THE REAL ENDING OF HALF-LIFE 2.

Written by: blend

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