Spoiler Warning Half Life 2 Special EP6: Father Danny

By Shamus
on Sep 7, 2011
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I know Dead Space is a popular game, so before people jump on us about how we “hate” Dead Space, I should clarify:

I enjoyed Dead Space 2. The gameplay was fun, but the atmosphere was often undercut by heavy-handedness and a complete lack of pacing. In the opening cutscene, before you’re even given control of your character, the game gives you a close-up, full-on view of a monster roaring in your face. It feels like too much, too soon, with too little reason to care. By blending the exposition and tutorials with a slow-building threat they could have made something far, far more powerful.

Also, I simply refuse to believe that Josh grabbed a flaming barrel with the gravity gun and survived the subsequent detonation. I’ve made that same mistake a few times, with a 100% fatality rate.

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  1. Paul Spooner says:

    Is he playing on easy mode? The damage amount may be affected by the difficulty level, and I’m guessing you always played on a middling difficulty.

    I only played through Ravenholm once. Once was enough forever. (shudder)

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      Yes he is. It’s for easier showing around stuff and less caring about playing optimaly.

      I think they said so in Episode 1.

      Not HL2: Episode 1, but HL2 Spoiler Warning: Episode 1.

      I make sense, don’t I?

    • swenson says:

      I’ve been able to (mostly) get over my fear of Ravenholm, but the underground portions of Episode One? That’s something I’ll never play through ever again, at least not without godmode on. That elevator… *shudder*

    • Michael says:

      I still don’t understand why everyone is so scared of Ravenholme.

      Yes, I can see, objectively, why it WOULD be scary, were I ACTUALLY Gordon Freeman – I just don’t see why it physically scares so many of the readers here.

      However, I’m easily startled, so a leaping headcrab will shake me a bit, but I was never actually scared of Ravenholme.

      In fact, I get startled so easily that I’ll sometimes jump if I turn around into Alyx’s giant beaming face. I’m over here, shooting dudes, right? I turn around to get ammo and suddenly 100% of my monitor is filled with Alyx face.

      • Raygereio says:

        Alyx does seem to have this tendency to creep on you and immediatly backpaddle once you turn around. It can be a bit unsettling so I don’t blame you for that one.

        But yeah, I also don’t get the why Ravenholme is apparently so scary. It doesn’t really do anything create a scary/creepy atmosphere. Even Doom 3 managed to do more (if very sporadically) in that regard then HL2.
        The only real emotion I felt when playing it was annoyance as I felt Valve was trying to force me to use that crappy gravity gun and the spidercrabs score around an 8 on the enemies-either-through-incompetence-or-malice-designed-to-be-annoying-scale.

      • Primogenitor says:

        In my experience, the fear is how you play.

        The first time, I didn’t die much and didnt quicksave/load much and I didnt know the plot. It was scary, because it was much more immersive.

        Subsequently, Ive raced through, been looking for secrets, been playing on a harder difficulty (so died more) and knew what was coming. It was not scary.

        • Michael says:

          Right.

          What I’m saying is that it wasn’t scary the first time for me. And never let it be said that I am a brave man; I turn on the lights in my house one by one to traverse it in the dark.

          Perhaps I find bisecting zombies and setting them alight so incredibly funny that if offsets what little “scare-factor” Ravenholme had going for it?

    • Destrustor says:

      Don’t you just hate when your action shooter becomes a survival horror game?
      I want a single-genre game, dammit!

  2. James Pony says:

    It IS a magazine. There are basically two kinds of magazines, internal (a part of the weapon itself) and detachable magazines (the things you scoop up cartridges with from your magic pouch in most modern shooters). You can load detachable magazines by hand, pushing each cartridge individually in, fresh from the box, or you can also push the cartridges into the magazine in bundles from stripper clips (what the Yanks in the Middle East seem to be doing based on pictures in Michael Yon’s website). In the World War(s) era bolt-action rifles, you push cartridges into the magazine from the stripper clip and throw away the clip itself. In a M1 Garand you push the clip itself into the magazine and the weapon helpfully throws the clip away for you when all the cartridges are spent. In shotguns and lever action rifles you insert shells or cartridges one by one into the tube magazine. In single-shot weapons you either prime, pour, spit, ram (muzzle loader) or push a cartridge directly into the breech (Martini-Henry and other breech-loading rifle).
    In tanks and naval gun turrets, the magazine stores the ammo and then you haul the prepared rounds to a rack next to the gun itself with a fancy lift (naval guns) or whatever system a given tank has (some tanks have autoloaders, modern tanks tend to have the magazine as a separate compartment because non-separated magazines had the bad habit of killing everyone in the tank on a critical hit in old WW2 tanks, which is why the separated compartments came to be).

    In literature, magazines tend to be made of shiny paper and full of shit, while paperclips are metal and can be used to (poorly) McGyver all sorts of (stupid) things.

    • Rutskarn says:

      Interesting. I was vaguely aware of this–and less vaguely aware, as I was talking, that I was almost certainly about to get proven wrong on the internet again–but nobody’d ever explained it this thoroughly before.

      See, that’s the thing about this stuff–there’s so much terminology thrown around so often that people assume, very naturally, that they know what things mean from context and repeated use, while it’s actually just a near-memetic perpetuation of mutating terminology mistakes perpetrated over an entire culture.

      • James Pony says:

        The biggest problem with the generally nonexistent knowledge of firearms-related terminology is that it’s often a) used in making retarded laws that have no actual effect on the things said laws are pretending to affect and b) it’s thrown around like hamburgers at Yanks when it’s not necessary.

        The second biggest problem is that basic firearms terminology is quite simple and straightforward. It doesn’t require any higher knowledge of a theoretical subject, as opposed to things like rocket surgery and hat wearing. There’s really no excuse to throwing it around incorrectly.

        The third biggest problem is that it’s one of the things I have any minor knowledge about, so all the incorrectness in popular media just sticks out like a cactus up the butt (to wit, a butt-cactus).

        The fourth biggest problem with firearms and the biggest damn problem with EVERYTHING is IDIOTS. They ruin everything for everyone.

      • Chris says:

        I totally get what you mean about being unable to unlearn things though. It really annoys me for no good reason everytime someone refers to “an M16 clip” or something similar.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “In literature, magazines tend to be made of shiny paper and full of shit, while paperclips are metal and can be used to (poorly) McGyver all sorts of (stupid) things.”

      You are a mean man,you know that?Making all the obvious jokes before anyone can jump in and do them and feel all smug about it afterwards.

      • James Pony says:

        Dear sir and/or madam, it would appear you are suggesting an act which would fall within the definition of BOLSHEVIK AGGRESSION. The gentlemen of my nation did not beat the Reds in 1918 just to teach me selflessness! Find your own damned joke mine!

  3. X2-Eliah says:

    Myeah, the fast-headcrab-zombies are really a creepy enemy, perfectly suited for the ravenholm level itself… And they are perfectly introduced, from the sounds to the view of them jumping across rooftops well before you get to face them.

    On specular maps – yep, that’s it. I’ve been wondering for years why game models are looking more and more like plastic toys, and frankly that’s the answer, they are plagued with overused spec-maps.

    Also – ravenholm is one of half-life 2’s better levels, and a good instruction on how to do atmospheric scary designs.. And fun to play through the first time (due to HL2’s linearity, it fails short on subsequent plays) – but the following brief headcrab-tunnel-mine, man, screw that bit. That’s really a bad bit – really brief, but I’d almost always get there with low/medium health and seriously low ammo, and you’re facing dozens of headcrabs there.. Really not-fun level. But, it sure is a relief to get back into daylight & the city.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well,dead space 2 is a sequel,so you already saw all the enemies before.Thats not to say that dead space 1 is any scarier(oh look,another jump scare,whoop-de-du).But at least it has exploding babies in it,thats some scary shit,right,RIGHT?!Its funny how the commercial for the game ended up being more disturbing than the game itself.

    • Alex the Elder says:

      And the commercials were disturbing more in a “good lord, THIS is how they’re representing themselves and gaming in general to the public?” sense, rather than in a “GRODY BLOODY GROSS AND BLOOD!!” sense.

  5. Alex the Elder says:

    So we had 3(?) episodes of Hitman, and then Ravenholm started with Episode 5? Maybe I’m just thick, but where was episode 4?

    Note: NOT meant as a nitpick. I fully expect that there WAS an episode 4 and I just used my powers of thickness to fail to see it.

  6. Grampy_Bone says:

    There have been studies done on scariness in games. One study hooked players up to a bunch of monitoring equipment and had them play three games: Alan Wake, Condemned, and Dead Space 2. What they found was that the game which kept the players in a state of nervousness, tension, and anxiety the most, by a very wide margin, was Dead Space 2.

    Condemned wasn’t too scary because there were too many lulls in between battles, and Alan Wake wasn’t scary because the enemies just weren’t dangerous enough. Dead Space wins because of how “cheap” it is; there’s pretty much never a moment when you’re safe; you’re *always* in danger of being attacked, and any enemy in the game can kill you. So the player never gets a break, you’re always on edge, worrying about the next threat.

    This is why I don’t think Ravenholm is particularly scary. The monsters are ultimately easy to defeat, the player is given ample devices with which to battle them, and their appearance is forewarned at every opportunity. “Watch out, Ravenholm is full of monsters! You need to be super careful!” Yeah thanks I got it Grigori, shut up now.

    The necromorphs themselves are an homage to classic body-horror sci-fi from the likes of Cronenberg. Maybe I’m just a casual-noob or something, but seeing a human body painfully sprout multiple limbs with jagged bone blades and then let out an inhuman scream while lunging at you is pretty damn freaky. Sometimes in Dead Space 2 its hard to keep calm enough just to fire straight and not waste ammo.

    So maybe the Spoiler Warning peeps are all enlightened and evolved and have such refined gaming tastes they found the necromorphs to be merely quaint and not at all frightening, but there is empirical evidence which suggests that is not the normal experience.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      I wonder what the results would have been if they had included Amnesia as well..

      Incidentally, it’s monsters are also morphed humanoids – far less morphed than xenomorphs, truth be told, but it’s mainly the presentation and exposition that makes them scary, not actual model-design..

    • Simon says:

      “Alan Wake, Condemned, and Dead Space 2”.
      There’s your problem. That DS2 would be he scariest of those three doesn’t surprise me.

      • Rockbird says:

        Oh man, i played Alan Wake with a friend who’d beaten it already. He loved it, I… didn’t. And i played it basically like Reginald Cuftbert, too. Walking around in circles while people talk at you andimitating roosters killed what little mood there was.
        My friend was not amused.

        Good times.

    • James Pony says:

      Mood and perceived danger are more important to horror than actual danger. Personally, I’m more horrified of enemies I can only imagine at but do not face than a horde of enemies which I can see and kill. Basically, the second I get a chance to actually interact with the bastard, I go from “oh god I am going to die please do not eat my soul” to “die communi- I mean monster you do not belong into this world I’ve fought mudcrabs more fierce than you”.
      The jump-in-your-face kind of “horror” isn’t actually horror at all. For example, in Ravenholm there are many pauses where you have nothing to fight. That, with all the other clever elements Valve crafted, keeps the tension up. Even poisonheadcrabzombies are nothing once you learn to fight them. I’m infinitely more afraid of monsters that actually don’t do much than of monsters that I constantly have to swat down as if they were gnats flying around in my room when I’m trying to sleep. Fear versus annoyance. The scariest part of fighting fast zombies in Ravenholm isn’t the part where you shoot at them, but the part where you wait for them on the rooftop while they clatter up the pipes.

      I trust such studies as you mentioned as far as I can throw a bus. Increased heartbeat rate doesn’t exclusively indicate fear, it could just as well indicate excitement, arousal or white-hot rage from constant annoyance. And do the studies mention the gender of any of the gamers or testers? What if they didn’t have any female personnel involved in the testing of the other games?

      Also, speaking of scary games: GET OUT OF HERE STALKER. I’m a veteran STALKER and I still jump and whip around at the howls and such which I KNOW to be nothing but the ambient soundtrack. I move carefully through areas I know thoroughly and feel a distinct sense of relief when crossing past the guards into a friendly settlement.

      Successful horror is a work of subtlety, not one of throwing all the shit you can find in one’s face.

      • Destrustor says:

        Yeah modern games are way too reliant on the “disgusting is scary” and “sudden boo!” principles. They don’t create fear or tension, just surprise and confusion.
        Although I’m such a wuss that those things terrify me so much that I don’t even try to play games in which there might be something scary. Who am I to talk, really?

    • Shamus says:

      That’s a very odd selection of games for a “scaryness” study. I would love to see that sample group in front of:

      1) Shalebridge Cradle
      2) Amnesia
      3) Silent Hill 2

      What I’m seeing here is a discrepancy between in-character and out-of-character fear. I wrote about it here:

      http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1828

      • Drew says:

        I think Orson Scott Card’s intro to his short fiction collection Maps in a Mirror touches on a lot of what you’ve talked about when it comes to fear. Here’s a link:

        http://books.google.com/books?id=FLNCovxKl7IC&lpg=PA3&ots=a2kfxmMsGw&dq=orson%20scott%20card%20dread%20vs%20horror&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q&f=false

        And an excerpt:

        “Which brings us to the most potent tool of storytellers. Fear. And not just fear, but dread. Dread is the first and the strongest of the three kinds of fear. It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home an hour ago; when you hear a strange sound the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.

        Terror only comes when you see the thing you’re afraid of. The intruder is coming at you with a knife. The headlights coming toward you are clearly in your lane. The klansmen have emerged from the bushes and one of them is holding a rope. This is when all the muscles of your body, except perhaps the sphincters, tauten and you stand rigid; or you scream; or you run. There is a frenzy to this moment, a climactic power–but it is the power of release, not the power of tension. And bad as it is, it is better than dread in this respect: Now, at least, you know the face of the thing you fear. You know its borders, its dimensions. You know what to expect.

        Horror is the weakest of all. After the fearful thing has happened, you see its remainder, its relics. The grisly, hacked-up corpse. Your emotions range from nausea to pity for the victim. And even your pity is tinged with revulsion and disgust; ultimately you reject the scene and deny its humanity; with repitition, horror loses its ability to move you and, to some degree, dehumanizes the victim and therefore dehumanizes you. As the sonderkommandos in the death camps learned, after you move enough naked, murdered corpses, it stops making you want to weep or puke. You just do itl. They’ve stopped being people to you.

        This is why I am depressed by the fact that contemporary storytellers of fear have moved almost exclusively toward horror and away from dread. The slasher movies almost don’t bother anymore with creating the sympathy for character that is required to fill an audience with dread. The moments of terror are no longer terrifying because we empathize with the victim, but are rather fascinating because we want to see what creative new method of mayhem the writer and art director have come up with.”

        • guy says:

          I think this pretty much nails why Ravenholm is scary. If it were just continuous combat, all the time, it’d be more like Left4Dead. While I love Left4Dead, it’s an action game with zombies instead of a horror game. Being completely surrounded by zombies at worst causes a (sometimes literally) short-lived panic reaction where I forget my fire discipline and open up on full auto. The only parts that cause creeping fear are the ones where I know there’s a special zombie or a witch in the area but I can’t shoot it yet. My heart rate is probably higher during the finales, but I’m more rocking out than terrified.

          Ravenholm, however, makes heavy use of anticipation. Note the fast zombies leaping around well outside effective engagement range; if they appeared out of nowhere and charged they’d be far less intimidating. In games, getting killed is, at best, a natural point to calm down and good-naturedly gripe about how you almost made it. Knowing you’re about to be killed can actually be intimidating at times.

      • The Hokey Pokey says:

        Silent Hill 2 never really crossed from unease to actual fear for me. Maybe it is because there isn’t a single threatening monster in the game. They could all be easily dealt with using the following system:

        Is it PH?
        Yes: Walk away from it until it leaves.
        No: Go to next question.
        Is it a boss monster?
        Yes: Use your massive stockpile of bullets.
        No: Go to next question.
        Is it in a hallway or other confined space that you wish to traverse?
        Yes: Stun lock with 2×4.
        No: Go around it.

        While the atmosphere and story were both excellent, the fact that you had to be actively trying to die kind of took the edge off. Silent Hill 3, however, did manage to be actually frightening. In normal difficulty, monsters did present a real and present danger. In hard, sometimes the environment itself could kill you. Combine that with a genuinely disturbing atmosphere and monsters you could hear before you see them and you get a truly scary game. I just wish Silent Hill 3’s gameplay had Silent Hill 2’s story.

        • Shamus says:

          This goes right back to the point I made in the article I linked: My fear does not come from how likely I am to get a game over from a particular monster.

          If you’re stunlocking enemies and running by them, then the game has already failed for you, regardless of gameplay. If you consider something to be scary / disturbing, you aren’t going to stroll by it and leave it. That’s something I might do on a 3rd play-through, once the game is worn out for me, but the first time through the game? I swing until it stops twitching.

          • The Hokey Pokey says:

            It’s not that the monsters in SH3 killed me often, there was always just enough health drinks to get by. But the knowledge that it was possible was what put me on edge. Whether or not something actually kills you is not the issue, but you need to believe it is possible.

            I disagree with the idea that if I find something scary I will want to confront it. If I find something truly scary, I will want to escape it. I couldn’t stay in rooms with the fast crawling monsters because I would worry that it would get me. Not that I would take damage, but that it would get me. I don’t want to try and kill it to make the room safe, I want to not be in the room. Same thing as the monster that makes the metallic scraping noise. When I hear it, I look around to find it so I can go the other direction.

            SH2 didn’t have monsters that made me want to escape. Up until the first monster, it built some great tension. That tension is gone when you know that the “threat” your waiting for will be ineffectual. Yes, it does fail to be truly scary. Which is extremely disappointing, considering the things SH2 does right.

          • Entropy says:

            If anything, actually dying very often kills the tension completely. Almost dying 10 times is incredibly tense. Dying 10 times is just frustrating.

            • That was the problem with Penumbra the second time I played through – I realised I could play it Oblivion style by hiding in the shadows then sneak attacking the dogs over and over until they stopped moving. I ended up doing a 100% kill run of that game and all tension left it. I think Black Plague solved that really well by preventing me from using weapons, except it still failed to be scary because of the demon sounding like Black & White’s Evil conscience, and named Clarence or something.

              I know the whole “innocent sounding demon” is supposed to be scary, but that only works if you find out it’s name BEFORE you meet it.

          • Crystalgate says:

            Getting game overs will snap me out of immersion, but so will knowing that the monster isn’t a threat. If you want the monsters to scare me, you can’t make them so easy I’m guaranteed to live unless I make an effort towards it. I do not think that they have to be difficult to be scary, but they must represent an actual threat.

            I will note though that the threat doesn’t have to be on the playable character. If a game has a likable and well-written NPC, then the prospect of him/her dying can come of as an actual threat.

            Ultimately though, no game has ever immersed me 100%. No matter how good job you make to present a monster as scary via atmosphere and such, if the monster isn’t an actual threat, I will notice it. I have a tendency to spot conflicts between the story and the gameplay.

            • Shamus says:

              As I mentioned in the linked article. At length.

              • Crystalgate says:

                Ah, I’ve read the article now.

                A suspect I may have misunderstood the point you were making. The first line made it look to me like you were refuting the points of the poster you responded to.

                That said, it takes a repeated game over to break the atmosphere for me. I don’t think getting game over, say half a dozen of times trough a playtrough, is that bad for the atmosphere. The article says “to make the perceived threat as high as possible and the real threat as low as possible”, but I don’t think you have to go that far. As long as the real threat is not to high, it will work just fine as far as I’m concerned.

      • Alex the Elder says:

        Man, I haven’t played the other two, but I couldn’t get more than a minute or two into Amnesia because it had been built up so much in my mind, and it was so…. freaking…. quiet. (Good thing I got it cheap as part of the Potato Sack.) Scarier than any other game experience and one or two real-life experiences.

        Slasher-style jump-out-at-you scares do always get a physical reaction out of me, but my subsequent emotional reaction is more anger and a “fight” reflex rather than fear – “you asshole game/movie! I’m going to punch you in the imaginary face if you don’t knock it off!” During my own troubled middle-school years, my classmates quickly learned that playing pranks on me was simply not a good idea.

      • Rasha says:

        Also eternal darkness sanity’s requiem gets scary points pretty well. Most fights are easy and hold very little risk if you stay calm and focus on the task at hand. It’s the sanity meter ah la cthulu style and the fact that it’s not just messing with your character. It’s messing with YOU. As I believe you’ve cited owning a wii you might want to pick it up in a gamecube bargain bin if you can find it. It’s an example of horror done right.

      • evileeyore says:

        Shalebridge Cradle…

        Every one talks up The Cradle as being scary, to me it was … disturbing, but not at all scary. Everything could be easily snuck past.

        But scary? We’re talking stuff like towards the end in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the Cathedral in Thief 1, and the Ravenholm level of HL2. Things I could not continue playing because they inspired so much dread I came to the point I couldn’t even load up the game.

    • Sumanai says:

      So they start out testing which is scariest and conclude that one is the most stressful?

    • rrgg says:

      I think the question here would be “what makes scary games fun?” rather than just “what scares people?” Simply stressing players out certainly does not equal fun and in fact can be quite bad for them. So I imagine that most people are looking for some other source of enjoyment, say and adrenaline rush.

      Although I personally don’t really care much for the horror genre so I’d have to pose the question to some actual fans. To Shamus and all you other weird aliens: What is it that makes horror so enjoyable?

    • guy says:

      Actually, pretty much everyone finds twisted mockeries of humanity scary, but I think the Spoiler Warning crew feel the Necromorphs are a bit too inhuman while the headcrab zombies nail it. Or maybe the Necromorphs simply blew their efforts at appealing to primal fears because they stand upright and aren’t incredibly fast or seemingly unstoppable.

      Or maybe it’s because Josh’s first experience of Dead Space involved inadvertently revealing the man behind the curtain by slowly waltzing through the first encounter with a Slasher before obtaining a gun during a livestream. It was completely unintimidating. I mean, I watched a previous LP of Dead Space and found the whole game only mildly unsettling, but the opening bit seemed well done because the player moved fast enough that the illusion that he was only one step ahead of a nightmarish, many-limbed form with flashing blades. But Josh’s run revealed that it was structured so you were always one step ahead of the monster regardless of how fast you moved. If you dally in the equivalent portion of Half Life 1, you DIE.

    • silver Harloe says:

      Weird. The scariest moments I’ve ever had in a game came from rounding a corner and YIPE, unexpected guard! in… Thief. Not even a horror game at all.

  7. retas14 says:

    Father gregory can really die, a couple of times he did die before i finished ravenholm. The reason being that i was looking everywhere because everything was cool to look at and i was taking my sweet f****** time and letting him go ahead… alone. When he dies you get the message ” criticaly important plot dude has just died”, and you have to start again. It also happened to Alyx in Nova, and i was again taking my time.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Really?I let him go on ahead and deal with the zombies,because I didnt want to waste my ammo,and he killed them all.Sure,it took much longer than if I joined in,but he didnt die on me.And it was on hard.Maybe its not just the damage,but the hit point of npcs that scales with difficulty.Or maybe it was just a fluke.

      • retas14 says:

        Idk the time with Alyx she just died because a combine shotgunned her in the face once, And he was like 20 feet away. I was on normal that time.

        • Destrustor says:

          Maybe it has something to do with how close you are to them? Or maybe they have some sort of super-regeneration that might fail if you are unlucky and they get hit too often too fast, or they take massive damage.
          Or the game flips a coin or something.

        • Maroon says:

          The only time Alyx died on me was at the elevator in Episode 1. I found that playing on normal difficulty, a zombine grenade to the face kills you instantly, but it takes jumping into the elevator, over an impassable hill of burning corpses, and a horde of zombine, to make Alyx rag-doll into your face.

  8. Lalaland says:

    I preferred Dead Space 1 over Dead Space 2 because of the poor tension and cheap ‘evil babies’. Evil babies are an example straight from Lazy Clichés 101 that can work in film but in games it just doesn’t work as my character rarely reacts appropriately, or at all, to killing children. In good films character s fight with their natural instinct to protect children but in games it’s just more pixels and when they’re a ‘swarm’ type enemy it barely registers that they’re kids.

    Dead Space 1 understood pacing and would make use of frequent pauses in the action to build tension with quiet areas to explore and weird noises to hear. I’ve always enjoyed the ‘floating hulk in space’/’haunted house’ scenarios so I was disappointed by the emphasis on combat in DS2. It was still fun and I completed it but I didn’t feel the compulsion to do another run through as I did with DS1.

    • You know what would be an effective way to do a child-enemy? make the Witch from L4D into a child.

      It’d freak a LOT of people out and make them feel much worse about Cr0wning her without a second thought (not to mention she’d be harder to hit). It’d also lack the major weakness of creepy child horror movie villains, in that you CAN’T just take it in a fight with no trouble. You have to gun it down execution style or have a major chance of instant-incap. I reckon that’s bring it almost to the point where a player like Josh would be cautious around it. Maybe. OK, bad example.

    • guy says:

      Actually, Dead Space 1 had evil babies in the form of the Lurkers, although they were sufficiently twisted it isn’t strange you didn’t even realize it.

  9. Michael says:

    THANK YOU, guys, for that comment about how the textures in a lot of current-gen games look like plastic. I’ve never heard anyone else mention it, and I was starting to think it was just me.

    It was particularly noticeable in Arkham Asylum; I remember when the trailer came out loads of people I know were oohing and aahing over the graphics, and I just sat there with a puzzled expression going “How is that Batman action figure able to move and talk?”

  10. Adalore says:

    Heheh. I actually saw the deadspace opening like you said, I explained to my friend who showed it to me why it was a fail on the “Scary” scale.

    And in the end he agreed I am pretty sure.

    I love buildup, it is required for proper scary, like that opening did to me.

  11. Slothful says:

    I hated the hell out of Ravenholme. Zombies are boring enemies from a storyline perspective, and they felt plain annoying to fight, partially because I didn’t “get” that you were supposed to pick up and toss random objects at the zombies. Other than that, there’s one section where I always get lost while zombies keep spawning.

    As for Father Grigori, I prefer to believe that he either can’t die or he was dead all along.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Really?I never thought of half life zombies as boring from the story line perspective.They arent your run of the mill necromorphs you can find practically everywhere.They have deep backgrounds,fascinating features,and quite disturbing sounds.Plus,they paint quite a lot of the universe of half life,especially in the episodes.

      • guy says:

        I never found them boring to fight. Mostly because the three (four in the episodes) types are all distinct in terms of gameplay. If you’re fast and careful, you can take down a normal zombie with the crowbar without damage (I got lost and they kept spawning, okay?). Try it on a fast zombie and you will be short a face. Try it on a poison zombie and- “Neurotoxin detected. User death imminent” and then he smacks you.

  12. Sydney says:

    So they want to kill everyone in this area, and they have missiles. Why fill them with headcrabs instead of boom?

    • guy says:

      The headcrabs come out, zombify the people standing around the impact site, and then the zombies roam around killing people. Then they mostly stay in the general area and kill anyone else who tries to enter. It’s a pretty effective long-term area denial technique. Not only does it kill everyone in the area, it kills any of their friends who decide to go there.

      • Sydney says:

        But…what do they want the empty buildings for, then? If the idea is “clear out this space without nuking it all to pebbles”…why do they want these shacks?

        And if they don’t want the shacks, why not use whatever weapons they used to kick humanity’s collective butt in the first place?

        • guy says:

          They actually don’t want the buildings. If they did they’d have sent in Manhacks and Overwatch soldiers with some gunship support instead of flooding the place with headcrabs.

          Flattening the entire place would require a large expenditure of heavy weaponry. It’s a mining town; to be sure of killing everyone with explosives they’d have to bring down the buildings and then collapse the tunnel system. They’d either have to use an excessively large number of shells, transport a megaton-range bomb from the combine homeworld, or send a ton of Striders into the area. Much cheaper to use maybe 100 headcrab shells tops and post some troops at the exits.

          • krellen says:

            Headcrab shelling also sends a message, because not only is it a total destruction of an area, it’s a horrific destruction of an area. Death by instant incineration is a less effective deterrent than death by slow torture of having your brains eaten and mated with.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The same reason infected corpses were thrown instead of boulders in the old ages,the same reason gas bombs were thrown instead of regular ones in the more modern wars.

      • Eärlindor says:

        Yes, this.

        And what Krellen said:

        Headcrab shelling also sends a message, because not only is it a total destruction of an area, it’s a horrific destruction of an area. Death by instant incineration is a less effective deterrent than death by slow torture of having your brains eaten and mated with.

        Ravenholm is likely nothing more than the Combine making an example solely for the purpose of sending a message to those with thoughts of rebellion. The effect is psychological.

  13. Gndwyn says:

    Yes, overuse of specular maps is the immediate explanation for why modern games look like plastic.

    But the real question is why do developers choose to do that? Do they really think that plastic sheen on everything in Bioshock looks good? (Bioshock had great artistic design, but I thought the actual graphics engine looked terrible compared with Half-Life 2.)

    Is it a console thing? Does it take a lot less memory than using decent textures like HL2? Are Valve’s artists just that much better?

    • I know Valve sometimes uses them in preference to Normal maps, so that might be why – I think it’s comparatively easier to light than a full normal map, especially on models you’ll be seeing a lot of, or in a few similar lighting conditions. The zombies in L4D2 for example have no normal maps, only specular. Oddly enough I thought they were the least plasticey things in L4D2 – the most being practically all of the static meshes. But then valve has graphics guys who REALLY know what they’re doing.

    • guy says:

      At a guess it makes it less CPU-intensive to calculate lighting and is becoming more popular as more elaborate lighting systems are created.

  14. guy says:

    The placement of that loading screen towards the middle of the episode is pretty bizarre. When you pass it, you can still see a large chunk of the room above, and due to the nature of the Source engine they have to precisely mirror that geometry on the newly loaded segment without leaving any holes. That’s why, in Portal 2, the loading screens tend to be in those tiny airlock areas. There’s much less shared geometry that way.

    I can only imagine they were edging towards their maximum memory usage with the previous segment and couldn’t find a re-design they liked, because there’s no other good reason, gameplay or technical, to do that.

    • krellen says:

      I always just thought of that loading screen as a “checkpoint”.

    • guy says:

      No, it’s not a very good place for a checkpoint either. It’s likely to result in a mid-combat save, so when the player loads it up they don’t have a moment to get their bearings before getting attacked.

      On the subject of NPCs you don’t get to fight next to, I’ve begun to wonder if most game engines actually support it very well. I personally find huge,preferably three or more sided, brawls to be incredible fun, and according to the developer commentary so do enough other people that it influenced them to add more NPC vs. NPC fights in the episodes. So, given the number of times people pass up golden opportunities to do them, I sort of suspect that adding people who fight alongside the player, or even adding mook-vs-mook combat, requires a tremendous investment of energy in a target priority system.

  15. Destrustor says:

    I always found it funny that the fast zombies can climb flat concrete walls and smooth drainage pipes while Grigori’s CHAIN LINK FENCES form an impenetrable defense.
    They just saw gordon mosey over the chasm in a rusty creaking bucket that can probably be heard several blocks away, over an extremely climb-facilitating obstacle, and their first instinct is to take a stride in the mountains to get to him instead of rushing straight ahead.

  16. Groboclown says:

    Shamus mentioned that this level loops around on itself, and that it’s frustrating because “you can’t just do a chin-up”? The part that irritates me the most is that wooden door that’s locked when you first enter the level, but after that irritating loading screen, becomes open. One stupid flimsy wooden door is locked, forcing you to run all over the town to get past it. Argh! Plot locks!

    • Sydney says:

      How are video games still using this technique? Come up with anything apart from a locked door or waist-high fence and I’ll like it better. ANYTHING.

      • Michael says:

        Illithid.

        “Oh, what? This hallway? Oh, it’s filled with Mind Flayers. You should probably go around the entire city instead. See, they eat brains. And they use psychic energy to placate enemies. Turns them into slaves. It’s like someone fused the worst parts of a zombie with the worst parts of a vampire. And gave them magic.”

        I’d venture to say I wouldn’t mind avoiding that door.

  17. decius says:

    I grab flaming barrels and enemy grenades all the time… Like Josh, I immediately punt them somewhere else. Towards enemies is preferred, but away from me is the important part.

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