Spoiler Warning: Half-Life 2: The IT Guy

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jul 20, 2011

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 176 comments

After a year and a half of constant rage and bile, Spoiler Warning brings you a long, uncomfortable love letter to Half-Life 2. Will our sickeningly sweet gushing throw you into a diabetic shock? Let’s find out…

Link (YouTube)

Note how City 17 is run-down, disheveled, and dirty, while at the same time still colorful. Everyone who has ever inflicted a brown shooter on the public should be made to sit in the corner and watch these first few levels. And then they should have to write on the chalkboard, “I will not squander tens of millions of dollars making colorless gameworlds which are devoid of contrast have no visual separation between foreground, background, and character elements.” 100 times.


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176 thoughts on “Spoiler Warning: Half-Life 2: The IT Guy

  1. Mumbles says:

    You guys make me sick.

    1. X2-Eliah says:


      1. Kibbin says:

        Clearly she left ‘cos it got too mainstream, they do have there own tvtropes page now afterall

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Trolling Mumbles is too mainstream as well, now its Shamus’s or Josh’s turn (or nobody’s, but apparently we can’t have that :( ).

          No, but seriously, maybe it’s high time to lay off the ‘lol at mumbles’ bandwagon..

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            You mean,we should stop riding Mumbles?

            1. Kibbin says:

              *ahem* I shall never stop riding mumbles
              “Bow Chika Bow Wow!”

              1. Dragomok says:

                You have just grabbed a moderate double entendre and changed it into a sexist, disturbing bad joke devoid of irony.


                1. M the cheddar Monk says:

                  It was funny until you pointed that out. By the way, how is that sexist? Sexual for sure, but not sexist. And I don’t think most people would find that disturbing- especially not you, since you watch a show that advocates shoving high explosives into people’s pants and then eating them.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Yeah,its not like Mumbles is underaged or something.If we said something about riding Rutskarn,that would be disturbing.

                    1. WILL says:

                      As long as no one rides Josh. Too much bunnyhopping.


                    2. Irridium says:

                      So am I the only one who thought of piggy-back riding?

                      You people have sick minds!

                  2. Gale says:

                    It was funny until you pointed that out. By the way, how is that sexist? Sexual for sure, but not sexist. And I don't think most people would find that disturbing- especially not you, since you watch a show that advocates shoving high explosives into people's pants and then eating them.

                    If you don’t understand what’s sexist about making creepy sex jokes about the one of the few prominent women in an inordinately male group – if the thing you take issue with is the one person saying “Hey, come on, not cool” – then you simply do not understand what sexism is, and why it’s so difficult to remove it from a culture.

                    Or maybe you see the exclusionary and unrepentant boys’ club that exemplifies so much of gaming culture, and you don’t even understand what’s wrong with the picture.

                    Also? If you can’t see what the difference is between messing around in a videogame, and making a tasteless sex joke aimed a real fucking person, then you have problems far greater than a little unexamined privilege.

                    1. Kibbin says:

                      To be fair it was an obvious set up and someone took it. I would have said the same thing had we been talking about Josh or Shamus (but not Rut’s even I draw the line somewhere ;))
                      So climb down off your pedestal put the burning bra away and stick to complaining about me going for an obvious joke or an unfunny joke like the rest of the grown ups.

                    2. Shamus says:

                      “So climb down off your pedestal put the burning bra away and stick to complaining about me going for an obvious joke or an unfunny joke like the rest of the grown ups.”

                      Yes, that is an excellent way to tone down an argument: MORE inflammatory speech.

                      Consider this topic closed, along with any further creepy innuendo aimed at Mumbles.

                    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      What about creepy innuendo aimed at Rutskarn?

                      Sorry,sorry,Ill shut up now.

                  3. Dragomok says:

                    EDIT: Oops.

                    I replied before reading Shamus’ comment and now I’m reanimating topic that was officially closed.

                    Grhh. Damn you hasty reactions, DAMN YOU TO HELL.
                    This is an apology, so I’m posting it anyway, partly censored.
                    For me it appeared that Kibbin sexually objectified a person whose personality he’s familiar with and…

                    *thinks about implications of what he just said, including sex during marriage as something disturbing*

                    In retrospect, my reaction was really, really stupid.
                    I’m a screwed up person.

                    Anyway, my tone was rude, so the fault for starting a flamewar lies on me.
                    Sorry, Kibbin and everyone else.

      2. Grag says:

        Are you saying that Mumbles is why they can’t have nice things?

        Go watch the Fallout 3 spoiler warning and say it again.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Won’t even bother to say anything more. Kudos on giving a real bad meaning of your own imagining to my words, though.

      3. Entropy says:

        So when Mumbles, the ‘positive’ one leaves, they only say nice things about games? They are only bile-filled cynics in her presence?

        1. Raygereio says:

          Nah, they start saying nice things when exposed to games that excel in being utterly average. Like Half Life 2.
          They only say mean thing when playing bad or good games. Funny how that works. ^_0

          1. Cineris says:

            I tend to agree that Half Life 2 is overrated, and the constant Valve fanboyism gets old. The problem is, at least for me, when you sit down and look critically at games, the things that HL2 gets right are pretty much the things every other game in existence does in a shoddy or hamfisted way.

            It’s kind of like reading a book, and every book except the mediocre, unoriginal sci-fi cliche book is full of egregious spelling errors, incorrect grammar usage, or random shifts in style.

            1. Raygereio says:

              For me the problem is that the things HL2 does really good aren’t the important things and/or don’t outweigh the things it doesn’t do really good.

              Yes, it has a good, solid artdesign. To bad it’s actual level design isn’t equally awesome.
              Yes, it has an AI that works well. To bad the actual combat isn’t any fun.
              Yes, it’s use of narrative techniques is excellent. To bad it’s plot inhabits the space between non-existant and boring.
              Yes, it has a physics engine that isn’t terrible. To bad the puzzles they’ve build around that engine aren’t any fun.

        2. X2-Eliah says:

          No. You’re reading a completely different idea from what I intended.

          1. Mumbles says:

            guys guys it’s best that i wasn’t there. i would have the urge to do the unthinkable: complain about everything

            1. Fat Tony says:

              but i want the bile back.

            2. It would be like an inverse Bioshock. Might be interesting to see.

            3. WILL says:

              HL2 needs less love, too much praise for it, you would’ve been a great addition.

        3. Andrew says:

          Clearly, Spoiler Warning was created for the sole purpose of ruining Mumbles’ favourite games for her; slowly transforming a once-content fangirl into a bitter, recluse cynic. The first two seasons were merely training for the task ahead, and this is their temporary vacation.

          That, or they’re all a bunch of shameless Valve fanboys.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “That, or they're all a bunch of shameless Valve fanboys.”

            You say it like its a bad thing.

            1. Raygereio says:

              To those who don’t worship everything that slides out of Valve’s ass like it’s pure gold it actually is somewhat of a bad thing.
              If anything because if you’re like me and don’t hold Half Life 2 up as the greatest game ever, then these love letters to HL2 from the Spoiler Warning crew are kinda boring to watch.

              I guess I’m just immune to whatever Valve is using to brainwash you lot.
              *rubs his lucky tinfoil hat*
              Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m off to worship at the altar of Obsidian.[/hyprocritical humor]

              1. Entropy says:

                haha! You think you escape Valve, yet you put on a hat. Hats do not protect from Valve. HATS ARE VALVE

                1. Raygereio says:

                  No, I… err… Well, you see. That is to say. I’m not actually wearing it, I just rubbed it. Yes, that’s it. I just rubbed it.
                  Oh, crap.

                  1. Dragomok says:

                    It has BEGUUUUUUUUUUUN.

                    1. James says:

                      “one of us, one of us, one of us”

                      OT: i actually kinda enjoyed the combat in HL2 sure fighting gunships can be a pain in the ass, but alittle shotgun sprint, fire a disk at people sawing them in half is cool. also i can see why people don’t go to ravenholm, bastard poisonous headcrab throwing asshole zombie assholes

                    2. krellen says:

                      If you’re going to link it, link the actual source and not someone’s lame reference to a meme few people actually recognise.

              2. Greg says:

                Yeah, as non Valve fanboy I’m probably going to skip the rest of the HL2 episodes before all the gushing over it makes me fall asleep.

                1. qwksndmonster says:

                  Because you HAVE to be a Valve fanboy to enjoy a well made game…

              3. WILL says:

                I have a golden statue of Chris Avellone in *my* altar. I bring it gifts and sacrifices in hopes of more wonderful stories from him.

                1. Raygereio says:

                  While I’ll admit that I have nothing but highly inappropriate man-love for Avellone; you shouldn’t ignore such wonders as George Zeits for example. He gave us MotB, after all.

              4. Lord Of Rapture says:

                I’ll worship at both of them, thank you very much.

    2. BeamSplashX says:

      Talkin’ ’bout… MUUUUUUMBLES a-yeaaaah yeaaaaah wa-oh!

      Seriously though, this is one of the longest reply nests I’ve seen on here in ages. Kelly’s milkshake brings all the comments to Shamus’ yard.

  2. ? says:

    100 times might not be enough…

    1. Eric says:

      Well, you can’t blame individual artists or level designers. Project managers and directors, publishers who can’t help but play designer, art directors etc. are to blame for that sort of thing. But then, I think those guys have more to answer for than just bad art design… think human rights violations.

      1. Jabrwock says:

        It’s also because they all subscribe to the “everything bleak must look like The Road Warrior”, where everything was in shades of beige. Because in dystopian futures, nobody can figure out how to dye things.

        Missing the fact that as soon as you figure out HOW to dye something, people will do it. Look at sub-Saharan Africa. They have practically nothing, they live on dirt. Yet the colours of the clothes…

        1. mixmastermind says:

          What’s funny is that Road Warrior only looked that way because IT WAS THE OUTBACK.

          1. Jabrwock says:

            I can understand some of where they are coming from. Dystopian future involves the death of forests (either due to nuclear winter, or something else), which results in Outback-sized deserts in the continental US or Europe. Which WOULD result in a lot of dust.

            But still… even then most game designers get it wrong. Even the Road Warrior still had bright yellows and reds… and white!

  3. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Make them write it 100 times in brown crayon on a brown paper.

    1. M the cheddar Monk says:

      Then have another person, wh owrote a slightly different sentence 100 times, read it. 100 more times if they read it wrong.

  4. Matt says:

    I agree that Alyx is probably one of the best NPC companions to ever be in a game, but I still resented her the first time I played Episodes 1 and 2 (you have her with you for most of those). I was a huge fan of Half-Life 1, and even in Half-Life 2 I thought that the strongest parts were when you were alone, moving from area to area as the story unfolds and you catch glimpses of the larger situation. I don’t hate Alyx, but I didn’t want a companion at all, and I felt that the story was weaker for it. I might be a hypocrite, though, because I loved having that vortigaunt along in episode 2.

  5. Eric says:

    As to games treating you like an idiot: it does happen… but there’s also metrics and playtesting to support the fact that it may be necessary for many players. Gotta hit that desirable lowest common denominator market! It’s also worth pointing out that it does tend to vary by genre… I’ve seen very few RTS games or true RPGs which bother with excessive hand-holding, for instance. I think that says something about the people likely to play certain genres.

    1. guy says:

      Well, while handholding gets annoying, I’d really like it if every game had a button you could press to tell you what the destination was and let you figure out how to get there from here.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Yeah. I like exploration and figuring-things-out-for-myself as much as the next guy. But sometimes games go overboard with this and the players who don’t happen to just guess what the developers intended, or don’t have the patience to pixel hunt for that one hidden button end up being annoyed.

        I’d love for a game to have a mechanic where it could detect frustration in a player and pop up with a sign saying “Over here!”, or start giving hints.

        Eric said: I think that says something about the people likely to play certain genres.

        Be carefull with statements like that.

        Example: a sidequest in Divinity 2 has you looking for a treasure in a tower. The quest just says “look for it in this tower over here”. Okay, fine. After hours and hours of looking I gave up and hit gamefaqs so hard it’s servers shook and was shocked to see that the developers expected me to guess that the treasure would spawn in after I pressed a certain button. Said button was completely hidden behind a fire.
        You have no reason to expect there to be a hutton there. If anything because fire hurts you in this game so it’s hardly the player’s first instinct to jump into the fire and look behind it.

        There was nothing highbrow about that. Any “consoletard” looking at that saying that was just downright stupid is right.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Oh,you mean like in that electrified chamber in fallout 3 where you have to go through one part of electricity that doesnt hurt?Yeah,I have fond memories of Josh going berserk in there.

          1. Raygereio says:

            You mean the teslacoil quest in Broken Steel?

            Then that’s a good example of a player needing direction. But it’s also a good example of a potential cause of frustration that could easily have been avoided with more careful leveldesign.
            Those switches you have to activate are just on the wall plain to see for everyone. They aren’t hidden behind a bonfire.
            They do however can easily be overlooked as the switches themselves are unlit objects, sitting between two very bright (and non-hurting) electrical arches.

            I did finally notice them after some looking around, but I don’t blame Josh for having completely overlooked them. Especially since the man had bloom effects and the other graphical whatsits turned on which make those electrical arches even more attention grabby.

          2. That sequence was painful to watch, because I actually did find the switches and get the coil with minimal effort. It seemed obvious that the electric thing in the middle of the pit in the room was the goal, and it seemed logical to turn the power off so I just looked for a switch around the central area.

  6. X2-Eliah says:

    Does the bit about colourless gameworlds still apply if the entire world is only in black & gold?

    Just wondering…

    1. Piflik says:

      That is not bland, that is Art direction (with a capital A).

      And in any case it is not dirty brown.

    2. Important: Black and gold CONTRASTS.
      That’s at least a billion times better than grey and brown.

  7. Groboclown says:

    Alyx? The best NPC companion?

    I thought Minsc from Baulder’s Gate 2 was the best. “My hamster does not like your tone. Away with ye.”

    1. Jabrwock says:

      Minsc is definitely better than Alyx. Or Morte from Plainscape Torment…

      1. Tikin says:

        Ah, but you can control the other party members in BG and (I assume)Planescape to keep them from doing anything too terribly stupid. Alyx on the other hand manages to not be horrible while being outside the player’s control.(It says something about gaming that that’s an accomplishment.)

    2. MrPyro says:

      “Buttkicking – for goodness!”

      I can’t watch the video as I am at work, but I’m wondering if the context is more about the AI of the NPC; not getting stuck on walls or charging madly into fights and dying, which doesn’t apply as much to BG2 since you had complete control of all characters.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        “Jump on my sword while you can, Evil. I won’t be as gentle!”

        Sorry, just had to throw my favorite Minc quote in. Carry on…

        1. John R. says:

          Ooh, is this a thing? Because if it’s a thing,

          “Go for the eyes, Boo! GO FOR THE EYES!”

    3. Awetugiw says:

      The main difference is that you can control Minsc (and Morte) during the non-dialogue parts of the game. As such, they don’t get in your way, get stuck, charge off to attack enemies in the distance while you are low on health, et cetera.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Not only this, but I always played those games with the party AI turned off, pausing and micromanaging being the lesser of the two evil as far as I’m concerned.

        1. RejjeN says:

          I recently bought the platinum edition of Neverwinter Nights 2 (and I’m at the horrible plot door that Shamus did an article about waaaay back. Already played past this part back when I pirated the game (shame on me) but never finished it), and dear GOD the AI of the companions is just HORRIBLE, half the time they don’t do anything, the other half the time they ignore direct commands and continue with what they were doing…

          The worst part had to be when I got Elanee (the druid) who uses a AoE spell called Ensnare (just what it sounds like), due to me having “hardcore” D&D rules on it hit my other party members as well, now guess what they started doing? THEY STARTED ATTACKING ELANEE! So in short I’m now playing on normal because I can’t be arsed with controlling their every single action.

    4. WILL says:

      Alyx is just a woman with non-terrible dialogue. Her only personality trait is she’s excessively nice, and every allied NPC in HL2 has that same (and only that one) trait. Please get over her, everyone.

      1. Shamus says:

        “Please get over her, everyone.”

        I know, right?

        It’s SO OBNOXIOUS when people enjoy a character in a game!

        1. WILL says:

          Not necessarily, I just think she gets enormous amounts of praise for very little reason.

          More modern games have created abominable characters in droves, obviously, but saying Alyx was one of the deeper/more interesting NPCs in recent years? I think we need better standards than “not an idiot”.

          She’s likeable, nothing more, IMO. :/

          1. Rick C says:

            Well, what do you do if “not an idiot” is both a low (but apparently mostly insurmountable) hurdle AND the high point?

            Praising Alyx would, in a better world, cause other game makers to make better NPC companions!

            Of course, constant playtesting throughout the development cycle probably would, too, but see “in a better world.”

            1. WILL says:

              I’m guessing here, but I think where a lot of writers fail is when they try to make a character likeable by making him/her relatable. It’s not the same thing, and relating to an NPC is much harder than *liking* him/her, so the character in the end is neither.

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Alyx is praised(like the guys have already said in the show)not just because of her character,but because of her ai as well.Sure,she maybe just an average character personality wise,but coupled with her actually being a competent and not show stealing companion,she is a great character.Yes,there were deeper characters,yes there were more competent ones,and yes there were(plenty)of those not stealing the show.But alyx has all of those three,and that is a great achievement worthy of every praise.

            1. TechDan says:

              It also helps that she is not overly sexualized, like so many female characters from so many games.

            2. Alyx is what I call a Assistive AI and although Shamus did not use that term that’s what he meant I think?

              google the term and the first hits on Google should show some interesting articles on this. (sadly I did not coin the term Assistive AI)

          3. Noble Bear says:

            I’m confused when you say Alyx isn’t deep. What, in your opinion is missing? what would you add to her that isn’t there already?

      2. decius says:

        Really? Alyx doesn’t have a complicated relationship with Dog? She doesn’t have slightly mixed feelings about her overprotective father?

        1. Noble Bear says:

          I’d add that shes kept her warmth and sense of humor in a harsh, trying time. She feels like a real person, she’s relateable and genuinely attractive, rather than merely being jerk off material.

          In the Kill/Fuck/Marry game, she is soundly in the “Marry” column *every time*, few other women in video games would.

  8. JupiterCobalt says:

    You know, I actually have not played this game, and never really looked up the plotline or peoples’ (universally positive) opinions of it- assumingly I never saw them by chance somewhere because the rest of the human race has already played this game into the ground, and doesn’t talk about it in public anymore. I’m watching this and am seriously amazed. I’d pay an excess of money to play game series with this style of storytelling today- there still is good storytelling, of course, but this made me rethink things. And of course, it goes without saying I plan to actually buy this game itself now.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      Hey, other people who haven’t played this game do exist…

      We should start a support group or something.

      1. Entropy says:

        I’m Entropy and it’s been 3 weeks since I last didn’t play Half-life 2.

  9. Nyctef says:

    I love me some HL2, but these long character sequences get a bit boring the third or fourth time through. Still great, though.

    1. WILL says:

      I like most of these, but TBH the one in Black Mesa East was boring the first time.

      And again, they got much better at this in episode 2 – that scene where G-man screws with Alyx’s mind? And the conversation with Eli afterwards? Sent chills down my spine.

  10. Groboclown says:

    And since it was requested, I did have a situation where Alyx got stuck.

    It was the prison cell section, where Alyx was supposed to be in the control center. However, I back tracked a bit, and found Alyx beside me. When I went back to the prison, there were two Alyxes (Alyxi?), and the game broke.

  11. guy says:

    Personally, I had some problems in Half-Life 2 and Portal 2 with figuring out where I was supposed to go. Especially the airboat sequence, which occasionally came to a screeching halt as I tried to figure out how exactly I was supposed to get through a shipping container until I gave up and consulted a walk-through.

    I hate Real Is Brown so incredibly much. Even if the background is brown, the clothing and vehicles shouldn’t be. Also, weapons should never be brown. That means they’re not being properly maintained and is a good way to corrode them or jam parts.

    1. Tizzy says:

      If you don’t metagame it, the airboat sequence and its “where now?” character can be frantic and exciting, as in: “OMG, I’ve got this big fascist empire on my tail and I don’t even know where to go next”.

      Whereas it’s actually not bad at all: there’s only few places you can go, so you work it out eventually, there are lots of breathing spaces, the game is mostly forgiving (unless you walk into irradiated goo or put yourself in a bad posture with the chopper), and no armies of soldiers ever catch up with you.

      Unfortunately, noticing this breaks immersion pretty hard…

      1. guy says:

        Well, see, that bit of immersion fell apart when I spent ten minutes in one area trying to figure out what to do. It’s not like I immediately consult a walkthrough when I’m the slightest bit confused.

        1. WILL says:

          I don’t know how the airboat section gets any praise. The area is ugly, there’s no good chase atmosphere (one chopper? for half the leve I guess) and the pacing is completely broken.

          This is NOT good game design, no matter what Valve likes to say in their commentary.

          1. guy says:

            I actually love the airboat section whenever I’m moving instead of standing around looking stupid. The controls are nice, it handles well, there’s some nice scenes where you have to rush past combine forces, and then you get the gun and start shredding things.

            Now, the dune buggy section, on the other hand…

          2. The visuals are sparse because of the way Valve conserves detail for the places they expect players to be looking at any given time, and how fast they need to recognize where they’re going. So the sides tend to be bland so you don’t pay attention to them and don’t get distracted when in the middle of what’s supposed to be a fast paced action scene.

  12. Hitch says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t compare turning that corner to see the Citadel to the first time you walked into the lab with Liberty Prime in Fallout 3.

    1. guy says:

      I love how the Citadel is omnipresent in the background. It simultaneously shows you what your final target is all the time and also why you aren’t going there yet.

  13. Airsoftslayer93 says:

    You missed a succesful teleportation thats possible.
    i was playing this on Synergy with a group of friends, got the the mini teleporter that you can break, we attempted to break it, i jumped up on t, and suddenly i was on the beach that you briefly glimpse in the sequence, i was returned as son as the next trigger occured, but it was pretty cool that the teleported actually works.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The best thing about half life 2 is that I was able to run it with ease on the machine I had back then,which is not something I could say about the other games of the time,even the worse looking ones.

    Also,damn you guys,I have this sudden urge to replay it now.

  15. TheMerricat says:

    So what I think they are saying at the end is that the Citadel is not Liberty Prime?

    1. Jakale says:

      Speaking of interpreting Freeman’s character, has anyone read Fallout 3 from Freeman’s perspective.

    2. Jakale says:

      Weird, I replied here, but my comment didn’t show up, although if I retype it I get the “This comment is the same as another, you must have already made it” screen. I’m perplexed, it’s been 10 minutes now.

      In any case, just wanted to link to this , Fallout 3 from the perspective of Gordon Freeman, since the topic of people’s interpretations of his character came up. http://lparchive.org/Fallout-3/

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Weird, I replied here, but my comment didn't show up, although if I retype it I get the “This comment is the same as another, you must have already made it” screen. I'm perplexed, it's been 10 minutes now.”

        Your link contains the forbidden words,”fallout 3″.

      2. McLokast says:

        Interesting, because every character I make in Fallout 3 looks almost exactly like Gordon Freeman.

  16. Fat Tony says:

    Oh BTW RUTSKARN IS NOW MY HERO for the epic blues brothers reference.

  17. “You can’t it on the stream, but there are specks flying out that building…”

    Yeah, maybe if Josh used the ZOOM KEY like VALVE PROMPTED HIM TO we could! Also, I’m fairly certain those weren’t cambots since they’d be far to small to make out even from that distance zoomed or otherwise. My guess is they were helibots or those crab transports.

    1. nawyria says:

      I was screaming this same thing to my computer screen for several minutes XD

  18. Yar Kramer says:

    Re: Gordon’s personality, I always liked to imagine him, through Half-Life 1, as being a bit like Rincewind from the Discworld books. I mean, he is just the Area 51 equivalent of the IT guy. And when he’s suddenly thrust into an alien invasion, he’s actually a gigantic coward on the inside, only fighting enemies off because he’s panicking, and (unlike Rincewind) putting on a brave face for other people because it’s the “proper thing to do.” And then during Half-Life 2 and the Episodes, he starts developing actual bravery and competence …

    1. Slothful says:

      Gordon Freeman is just a professional button pusher and switch flipper. That’s all the science he ever does.

      1. WILL says:

        His job is to press one button and push a cart. And he winds up opening portals to other dimensions and causing total devastation.

        There is no greater level of failure, really.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          I’d cal it success. I mean, how many portals to other dimensions have you opened recently? And you definitely tried even more, but all he has to do is do menial tasks & bam! – Science! happens.

        2. NonEuclideanCat says:

          You have a weird definition of “failure”.

          1. WILL says:

            It’s like if you hired a janitor at a nuclear power plant and he managed to blow it up.

            Face it, with a track record like that, Gordon’s never getting a scientific job again!

    2. Bret says:

      Sounds more like CIAPHAS CAIN, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, then.

      I’d say Handsome Harry Flashman, but he’s also a first rate rotter, which only applies to Freeman’s Mind Gordon.

      1. Freeman’s Mind Gordon is my personal canon, even if that’s not how I play him.

  19. zob says:

    I didn’t like HL2 back then and didn’t get the hype around it. And it all started with one simple thing, I noticed the railroad on my first playthrough. I traveled through the map and noticed that there is only one path to go. That disillusioned me a bit from the start but my thoughts were “ok this still looks good, interesting characters. let’s see what happens next”. Then “accidental teleportation to Breen’s office twice to make him know that I am in town” killed my suspension of disbelief. I took it as lazy writing and began to look carefully.

    I know first HL also had teleporter jinx but those were used to show us snippets from an alien world. Here its used to warn Breen about us. It’s not brilliant it’s hack job of a writing. “Suddenly a bird shat on your armor enemy notices you, roll initiative.”

    1. bit says:

      But the scene isn’t really there to let the player know that the entire world knows you’re out and about; That’s more effectively conveyed by the cameras stalking you everywhere anyways. It’s more so there as a foreshadowing element; You get a glance at Breen in person, a plot-important location, and a future enemy on the screen in his lab. Plus, although it’s been established that YOU know HIM, having him say your name, establishing specifically that HE knows YOU, builds up a relationship between the player and the antagonist.

      1. NonEuclideanCat says:

        Exactly this. Having Breen recognize you on sight, coupled with Alyx referring to his as the former administrator of Black Mesa, created a personal link between Gordon and Breen that made him more of a tangible enemy, rather than just the face on the TVs around town.

        The other thing I thought was pretty neat about the encounter is that Breen felt the need to identify you by name to the Combine Advisor. It establishes that both Breen and the Combine are aware that Gordon has a history of murdering his way through hundreds of trained military soldiers, black ops agents, and extremely dangerous aliens, including the Nihilanth. It gives good explanation as to why they’re sending so many troops after just one guy.

  20. Slothful says:

    I always die a bunch on that rooftop section. I either try to go too far on the roof or I can’t figure out where to make my next jump.

    1. Well your problem might be that the rooftop sequence doesn’t actually require jumping, so I don’t know what you’re doing.

      1. Slothful says:

        You expect me to walk across those gaps?

  21. Sekundaari says:

    You talked a bit about how great it is you can make up your own motivation for doing things as Freeman in this game… It brings to my mind the time when you three were asking why, exactly, were you seeking your Dad. (Er, in Fallout 3, not in the other one.) That thing felt the same to me. Actually perhaps even more so, as you can do other things instead.

    1. Shamus says:

      Like I said in the episode: Railroading isn’t making the player do things, railroading is making the player do STUPID things.

      (Or things they otherwise wouldn’t want to do if not required by the plot.)

      I think HL2 gives you solid motivation for wanting to fight the Combine. Looking for Dad in FO3? Not so much.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Actually; looking for dad isn’t the bad part there. I thought that in and of itself was a fairly good hook for the player to go out and follow FO3’s main quest.
        Having everyone – dad included – call you a dumbass for having left the vault however and giving the player not the ability to say “I left because the overseer went apeshit after you left, dad” is railroady.

        And I’d argue against HL2 giving the player much in the way of direct motivation. There’s a lot of (and good) indirect motivation however as you look around and see the crapsack world that the Combine created.
        But at no point did the story itself give me a good reason to do the things you do at the start of the game.

        1. What? get off the train, escape the station without raising suspicion then explore the area to get your bearings? Do you really need more motivation to do that?

        2. Klay F. says:

          You know you could do this for every game that ever existed right?

          1. Raygereio says:

            In a game that’s prides itself on it’s story, then I do would like some motivation for my character to get himself into situtions that will get himself shot. At the very least something beyond some NPC telling me to just go and do that, or the fact my path is so linear that have no other option.

            True. But those games don’t have a story to begin with, or don’t raise their own story up as something awesome. Thus I have no problem with it.

      2. M the cheddar Monk says:

        It tells you that they are bad guys, and that the game is a shooter. Solid reasoning, but only for gamers.

      3. Sekundaari says:

        Sure, the motivation in this game might be stronger. (I’m afraid I haven’t really got it from these episodes, the game seems to do a lot of the showing, not telling by showing NPCs telling stuff and with three eager hosts and no subtitles, well…) But I think looking for Dad is as good (in a different way) in an open-world game where you have the option of not doing that and opting for exploring instead.

        Fallout 3 also doesn’t have that much time to hook you to begin the main quest because the railed tutorial would get longer, though it mostly worked for me anyway. Making the new-character-from-save-before-exiting-tutorial thing more official with an option to just skip to that would help.

        Anyway, it’d feel awkward for me if the game presented this urgent goal of wide importance, when I just wanted to Go East or something.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I think its worse in fallout 3 precisely because it gives you so many choices.Suddenly,the overseer wants you dead,and theres nothing you can do about it.Suddenly,dad wants to die,and theres nothing you can do about it.Suddenly,you have to die,and theres nothing you can do about it.

          The reason you have to do this in half life 2 is because this uber powerful entity has put you in the middle of a war zone,and your life is in danger.Its more restrictive,yes,but also feels more natural(disregarding the aliens,and the uber powerful entity,that is).

          1. Sekundaari says:

            àœber-powerful entity…? Right, the game designer.

            Well kidding aside, I prefer some choice to no choice in a game, but I see how somebody else could be annoyed by the contrast. Though the overseer part seems more like a part of the setup to me.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Uber powerful entity is the g-man.If you play the first game you see it,but you also spot it during the second game,especially in the end.

  22. Sander says:

    The thing that always irritated me in the half life games was that doors and or barriers stopping you, the great hero are not an obstacle for anybody else. They all have a magic wand they could use to open them, but noone ever gives one to you, while Gordon Freeman is the great hero. It is just a way to force you to listen to the story told by the npc.

    In the episodes the vortigaunt is doing it too by running the engines that lift the barriers.

    I always found it rather cheap and it breaks the immersion because you are sitting there going, this is silly, give me one of those things.

    1. Phase says:

      Yes, indeed! Give me that years of training in hacking Combine technology! Also, perhaps a generous helping of innate capability to spit electricity from my hands!

      There are very few, if any, doors that cannot be opened by Gordon that can be opened by someone with Gordon’s knowledge and physical capabilities.

      1. Entropy says:

        In fairness, it’s not really clear that Alyx is doing anything other than zapping Combine tech with her magic wand.

  23. Jeff R. says:

    My main complaint with this game is it’s truly punishing autosave. Unlike some games, it errs by autosaving too much rather than too little, so whenever I happened to be lost, low on ammo, and near death and happened to backtrack over an area boundary, I suddenly found myself in a completely hopeless situation…

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats what quick and manual saves are for.

      1. Jeff R. says:

        Sure, but during the parts of the game where I was making steady forward progress the autosave lulled me into thinking that it was my friend rather than the deadly foe that it was…

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I never trust it myself.And I always have the habit of having both a quick and manual save when I exit the game.I also make regular manual saves at least once an hour.It saves you lots of pain if one of them gets corrupted.

          1. Grag says:

            I have honestly quite liked this about the games. Granted I’m partway through ep1 on my first playthrough (late to the party, I know).

            I’ve avoided manual saves as much as possible (the third time I miss a jump and have to backtrack a bunch is usually my pretext for savescumming)

            I really love sometimes going into a situation with not enough ammo, not enough health, and having to increase my level of play to get through. I’m not a real shooter expert and playing on the default difficulty, FWIW.

    2. Groboclown says:

      You lazy kids and your autosave. Why, back in my day, our games didn’t have an autosave. You had to remember to save. It was even better when we had quicksave, where the button to save and load were right next to each other, and you’d accidentally save the game just as you were dying (Star Wars Dark Forces, anyone?). Now get off my lawn.

      1. WILL says:

        I remember my game of Deus Ex saying it was autosaving but not actually making any saves.

        I played 5 hours straight without saving at the start of the game. Died and had to reroll a character. >.<

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Bah,saves?You youngsters have no clue how real games are being played.Back in the day if you died you had to start the game over.Unless you had more quarters,that is.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          quarters? Bah, you are so modernist. Back in the day you had to find a good bendy tree and carve out the stick and the hoop with your own teeth, most of which had been sold to the little teeth store on the corner for getting two pennies for the rent. Then you had to give the first three sets away to bullies before you were allowed to even think of pushing your own hoop with the stick. Man, those were the times..

          Pennies.. Pah.

          1. WILL says:

            Sticks? Back in my day you didn’t have any fun – you just sat around being a single cell organism all day.

            You kids don’t know what you’re getting.

      3. Simon Buchan says:

        Quicksave? In MY Dark Forces?

    3. Jabrwock says:

      What they need are 3-4 autosaves in rotation. So you can jump back a few saves if it just autosaved in a bad spot.

      Sid Meiers Pirates! had two auto saves. One for the last battle you entered, and one for the last town you entered. Not really applicable here, but it was a nice feature.

    4. GiantRaven says:

      – Grenade lands at foot
      – Die
      – Reload autosave
      – Grenade lands at foot
      – Die
      – Reload autosave
      – Grenade lands at foot…

  24. Vect says:

    I wonder if this is the wrong place to say this, but Old World Blues just got released. Erm, well, they did say it’s a pretty lulzy DLC.

    1. Ramsus says:

      I don’t know either but thank you for doing so. I am terrible at keeping track of this kind of thing.

    2. Zukhramm says:

      From the trailers, it seems a bit too lulzy for me actually.

  25. SolkaTruesilver says:


    I really like this Let’s Play. Are you telling us that you will stop this one quickly?


  26. Sumanai says:

    When I played Half-life 2 for the first time, I think it was 2008, I wasn’t buying the “oh, the teleporter is going to work”. I was humoring the thought, which was pretty impressive since I was pretty much at my pit of cynicism in regards to games back then. I remember thinking “I wonder if this works, just this time. Oh, hi Hedy, I guess it won’t”. Well, the last part was more like “oh great the headcrab jumps in and I’ll end up in some hellhole”.

    So I was surprised when I ended up behind the window, but not that the teleporting failed.

  27. Oleyo says:

    You could certainly say that I am a HL fanboy:

    I replay HL2 over and over…love the level design…love the characters…Alyx is my favorite NPC of any game, etc, ad nauseum. And when Shamus and I have spoken about it, we usually talk over each other in our excited agreement of its virtues.

    That being said, I found it rather interesting to hear contrary views to all of my notions of why I like the game so much. I was truly surprised that its appeal is not nearly as universal as I had thought.

    Now, my views on the game haven’t changed, but it makes me wonder if developers don’t miss the point by seeming to cast the absolute widest net possible when making a game.

    Maybe we would all get games we enjoy even more if they were more sharply focused with respect to audience. I get the feeling that this was more the case during what I consider the “Golden Age” of PC gaming around the late nineties.

    1. Raygereio says:

      Maybe we would all get games we enjoy even more if they were more sharply focused with respect to audience.

      For starters I don’t think this has anything to do with why some people don’t think HL2 is the awesomest thing ever.

      That said, it’s a balancing act between these two points:
      On the one hand a developer should make their game appealing to a as large as possible group of gamers. If only because that means they’ll sell a lot of it.
      On the other hand it’s true you simply can’t please everyone. Try to do so and you’ll end up not pleasing anyone.

      1. Naota says:

        This assumes that their goal is always to sell a lot of their product for pure revenue and not to actually make a quality product.

        We’re at a point now where most games that aren’t low-price casual or indie fare cost so much to produce that they have to sell outside their genre’s demographic just to break even. Just by making a game of a certain genre, theme, or content in this market could mean that it will not survive to keep you in business at these production costs, so companies are afraid to do so.

        Do you want to make an in-depth RPG with a focus on character/party building and tactical gameplay? Not a chance. At AAA-level production costs there aren’t enough people who play those kinds of games to even break even.

        Do you want a female main character? Too bad – it’s proven that 25% (I’m just making this up, but you get the idea) of the male gamer demographic won’t buy games which don’t feature large, muscled military men as their player character. You won’t make a profit if you don’t have a generic (space) marine!

        Do you want to make your game environment surreal, colourful, and completely bizarre? Well that won’t sell at all! 40% of the target demographic is proven to not buy games that aren’t starkly realistic. And brown.

        What about a tactical turn-based strategy title? Pfah! What is this, 1995? Regular strategy games are just barely scraping by!

        It’s not about trying to please everyone and failing – it’s about being forced to forsake everything from original writing and mechanics to entire genres of games because there’s a chance that somebody, anybody out there won’t buy your game.

        1. Raygereio says:

          This assumes that their goal is always to sell a lot of their product for pure revenue and not to actually make a quality product.

          You say that as if the two are mutally exclusive. That’s actually quite depressing.

          1. Naota says:

            It all depends where you draw the line. When you have a game that costs so much that it needs to sell a copy to every fan of the genre currently in existence to support itself, then yes, they are mutually exclusive. You end up needing to cut features with any kind of selective appeal because every aspect of the game must appeal to as many people as possible. For maximum sales, you naturally have to aim for the lowest common denominator.

            What about the players who like games with selective appeal and are sick to death of the profit-safe, innovation-starved mainstream titles? The sorts of games these people like are in very short supply these days. Some genres have all but ceased to exist simply because they aren’t able to sell a million copies.

            You can’t make games like X-Com, Thief, or even Baldur’s Gate and expect tens of millions of people to buy them. The people that love them really love them, and the people that don’t… really don’t. Companies need to sit down and decide which audience they’re aiming for and stop labouring under the delusion that every game has to reach as many people as possible to be worth making.

            Like Shamus loves to point out, mid-priced games that are neither enormous “blockbusters” nor tiny indie games are a good way to make niche titles that still turn a good profit. Hell, it seems to work for theatres too.

  28. Rayen` says:

    i would like to ask right now, how much more are you going to act like everyone in the world has played this game? because i haven’t. until quite recently i had a low-end computer that couldn’t even run morrowind. in 2004 i was poorer than i am now, and right now i’m living with my wife’s parents. I didn’t and still don’t have money for games. so i’ll just ask even though i know it can’t be help it on this play through, even if it’s (supposedly) the best game ever please don’t take it for granted that everyone has played it.

  29. Irridium says:

    I love Half Life 2’s opening. So damn much. I can’t count how many times I played through it and all the way up to Ravenholm.

    It’s just so damn great. Every step of the way.

    Rest of the game is great too, but Start to Ravenholm is my favorite section.

  30. GiantRaven says:

    The entire point of the checkpoint system in Alpha Protocol was so that it wasn’t possible for the player to go back and change their dialogue choices, what with the idea of choice having impact being of the utmost importance to the developers.

    1. Swimon says:

      But since you cant really tell what thornton is going to say after he said it it didn’t turn out great. I liked Alpha protocol but there is no defending their checkpoint system.

      1. GiantRaven says:

        To be honest, I never really had any problem with the vague dialogue choices. I had more fun finding out what insanity Thorton would say when I selected the ‘agressive’ option than I ever would’ve done if his lines were explicitly written out.

        I can see where people would hate that though.

        1. Swimon says:

          It worked most of the time for me but then in Russia you can have a conversation and one of your options is “pda”, what it actually means is skip. I found this infuriating since I wanted to talk and the game auto saves afterwards so I couldn’t replay that scene (I had manual saves but too far back). That kinda burned me on the whole autosave checkpoint system, well that and I had to replay some sections a few too many times. Oh well at least it isn’t as bad as assassins creed brotherhood.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            In soviet russia,pda exits you.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Except that you can go back and tweak the dialogue as you please,it just takes more time.I did it at few crucial points.It was just annoying,thats all.

      Also,why force people to play just the one way?Everyone has fun in different ways.Thats why some people cheat,some mod,some save scum,…Its just aggravating when you impose restrictions like this.

    3. Raygereio says:

      I doubt that was the reason. It was more likely consolitis, like so many other games that have no save system.

      1. Veloxyll says:

        Except even “Oh, consoles can’t have dynamic saves” doesn’t make sense any more. Consoles have hard drives, just like PCs. They have ample resources to allow manual saving, and it doesn’t make a game any more fun if you have to replay the same section over and over again because there’s no save function.
        If gamers ARE more fickle, and with shorter attention span, you’ll likely lose customers because people will complain “I got stuck at this dumb bit and had to keep replaying the last 10 minutes so I got bored and un-installed it.”

  31. Swimon says:

    I never really liked hl2, I did like the episodes but for a lot of different reasons I never quite liked hl2. I get that other peopel do though but I never quite understood how so many people like Gordon Freeman.

    To me he’s one of the worst characters in gaming. The silent protagonist is something I never really liked but I get the idea, if you want to focus the game on action it’s good to set as little distance between the player and tha game as possible so they give you a character that is essentially you and neither does nor is something you imagine yourself being/doing in similar situations. This sort of works when you’re talked to rather than with because you’re not meant to/ given chance to answer no attention is drawn to your silence. But hl2 is filled with good characters who try to talk with you not at you. At this point Gordon Freeman’s silence becomes a character trait he is no longer me but his own character, and as a character Gordon Freeman is a complete nutjob.

    The man never speaks. Now maybe he’s a mute? Although all the characters seem to think that he’s able to speak and even if he is mute there are other ways to communicate. Really after a while Gordon looks like a sociopath, like he’s trying to make them self conscious by not noticing them, or maybe he’s an emotionless robot that can’t quite understan speech. I think the worst part of this is when in one of the episodes alyx makes a terrible joke (zombie combines = zombines) and Gordon doesn’t laugh neither genuinly nor in a “good try but bad joke” kinda way he didn’t even groan. Worst of all you hear Alyx doing a little nervous laugh like she’s getting self-consvious about it. I killed Gordon on purpose after that.

    1. NonEuclideanCat says:

      I think there’s a level of immersion that you might be missing that’s ruining it for you. Or, hmm… maybe immersion isn’t the right word. Let me spell it out, only looking at HL2.

      In first person games that handle the PC like HL2 does, I always wind up regarding the character as two separate, yet simultaneous entities: the character as the character, and the character as an extension of myself. I start the game with only “the character as the character” (TCATC). So for the first little while I’m working with the little bits of Gordon we know from HL1. I saw Alyx’s little dig at Gordon’s quietness as a tiny bit of meta-humor at being a silent protagonist, but it also makes a kind of sense. Gordon’s just been deposited in a place he doesn’t know, by an entity he knows nothing about, an unknown (for him) amount of time after killing an alien super-being, he just finished fleeing a police raid, dodging gunfire, and being smacked upside the head multiple times with what is essentially a taser-on-a-stick, and now he’s in an elevator with someone who, last time he saw her, was a little kid. It’s not much of a stretch to think he’d be a bit speechless at the moment.

      Around that time the immersion gets high enough that I gain “the character as an extension of myself” (TCAEM). From here the silent protagonist bit would in theory fall apart because you’d want to respond to the other characters. But the writing handles this pretty neatly, at least for me. It’s actually pretty rare in HL2 that I find myself wanting to join in a conversation. I just find myself having nothing to add. When a character is talking at me, it’s extremely rare that anything they say would really warrant a response. When they’re talking to each other, there’s not much of anything for you to add. When they’re trying to talk with you, you either get interrupted or a non-verbal response would work just fine. For instance, when Barney makes jab at the usefulness of Gordon’s MIT education, I find that a raised eyebrow and a smirk, or perhaps an eyeroll, work just fine as a response.

      See, the point of a silent, first-person protagonist is that it lets you fill in your own thoughts and reactions for the character. They don’t voice Gordon because YOU are his voice. You complain that they didn’t make him have a verbal reaction to the Zombine joke. For me, when I heard it, I rolled my eyes and made a “my God that was bad” groan, which, to me, was the same as GORDON rolling HIS eyes and groaning. Gordon is a sociopath to you because you can’t get into the roll. For me, Gordon is quiet because I’M quiet and very patient about getting interrupted.

      I could prolly make this wall of text twice as big giving a super-detailed explanation, but do you at least see what I’m getting at?

      1. Swimon says:

        I get what you’re saying I think but to me Gordon stops being an extension of me when he doesn’t answer. To me that stupid joke needed a verbal answer, anything else just seem extremely rude to me.

        I guess there’s something to what you’re saying about facial expressions a lot of the things they say to you could be answered with just a look. To me that never worked because I never felt like Gordon. His name was said to often and too many people reminded me of my MIT education or how I saved the world that I couldn’t help but see me and Gordon as seperate entities. And when you stop being Gordon you stop interpreting your out of game reaction as Gordon’s and the character breaks down. See this is what I meant about Gordon not working for me, he’s too much of a character in himself to work as a player substitute and too little a character to work as anything but a player substitute.

        1. SolkaTruesilver says:

          The single thing that broke immersion for me was the Resistance Fighters in Anticitizien One.

          Yes, thanks for telling me to reload, dumbasses. Try not to die instead.

    2. Simon Buchan says:

      I always thought that laugh was cause she was completely freaked out at that point (what with barely escaping from being ‘processed’, only by a trainwreck that nearly killed them, shortly before nearly being killed *again* by yet another new enemy), not that Gordon was being a dick :P. Though I can totally see Gordon just blankfacing that joke, since I imagine him to just be continually pissed off at the (in universe, not meta) railroading he’s been subjected to since that damn experiment. He doesn’t talk, because he’s just waiting for all this crap to end.

  32. SimeSublime says:

    After reading this site for a few years now, and hearing Shamus harp on about how great HL2 was it’s nice to finally understand some of his reasoning. My thoughts from when I played the game:

    This starts pretty cool, getting into this. Ok, getting sick of being shot at now. Dammit people leave me alone. Awesome, boat thing! Ok, that boat thing got old an hour ago – why is this still going? Ooh, plot! Plot! Wait…that plot lasted like five minutes, what the hell? You’re sending me back into tedious wandering already? Ok, creepy town, kind of cool. Dammit, I’m lost. This town is really getting on my nerves. Finally, a graveyard, I’m out of this dump.
    I fell down a hole…I have no ammo, I’m surrounded by headcrabs and can’t find any exit. Fuck this game.

    I still think it’s a bad game, but now I can at least understand the praise people give it. So what I’m saying, I guess, is thanks for clearing that up.

    1. Veloxyll says:

      The Airboat level made me quit the game. I nearly quit it AGAIN there on my second playthrough. (I have never completed the final battle in Ep2). There were several other areas where I went UUUUGGGGHHH MORE OF THIS. (most notably the entire final zone). But then, I didn’t have to cheat to beat it like certain other games *cough*Halo*cough* and there wasn’t mindless backtracking. Sure you were railroaded, but nothing you did was a particularly “GORDON WHYYY! WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME.” Unlike so many times in say COD:MW2 where everything could’ve been solved with a quickly thrown grenade.

      As much as the game has faults, they pale in comparison to the faults OTHER games have. (Also continuing to harp on about Uncharted 2 – it has a Next Gen graphics mode, which turns everything brown!)

  33. TraderRager says:

    I find it funny how everyone makes fun of the gang for dissing games they like, but when they actually LIKE a game, it turns into a hate-fest in the comments section..

    1. Raygereio says:

      o_O As opposed to the hatefests in the comments for the other games SW has done?

  34. Veloxyll says:

    I feel that now, in order to counter SW’s enthusiasm, I must play through the entire of HL2 as if Gordon Freeman is Duke Nukem :P
    Or generic space marine #25182

    well, I would if it didn’t give me FPS motion sickness like crazy.

    1. WILL says:

      I’d love to see that. Duke would just consistently ruin the super serious atmosphere with his one liners.

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