Half Life 2 EP15:I’ve Fought Headcrabs More Fearsome Than You!

  By Shamus   Dec 16, 2011   54 comments


Link (YouTube)


20201454 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. Newbie says:

    Just watched the last 2 to catch up… ANOTHER ONE? Don’t mind if I do. You guys are spoiling me… Just a warning…

  2. Eärlindor says:

    You guys made some very good points in this episode.

    And HOLY CRAP I didn’t realize the crossbow bolts could bounce! I think I love the crossbow even more now.

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      You only need a mod to hold it sideway for your journey toward difficult awesomeness be finished.

      You can do it.

      • RejjeN says:

        there is (or was, not sure if it’s been fixed) a bug where if you stand on a tripmine/lasermine (friendly) and shoot straight down on it (from a crouched position) the bolt would bounce off and go off in a vertical arc REEEEALLY SLOOOOWLY. :D

  3. Infinitron says:

    Wow, I wonder what MODERN shooter you guys were talking about!

    • X2Eliah says:

      Now now, let’s not start a warfare over game titles.

      • Scott (Duneyrr) says:

        You should call it out. It’s your duty as a gamer.

        • Rasha says:

          Come on guys THREE comments about this?

          • Shamus says:

            C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!

            Disclosure: I haven’t played any of the big military shooters in recent years. I did play Homefront, and that’s the game I was alluding to in the episode. It was a terrible offender in the “player agency” regard, to the point where it felt like I was playing a rail shooter.

            For some reason I’m really pained by the failure of Homefront. So much love went into those environments, and I thought the concept was a gold mine. It frustrated me to see the thing mangled by such obvious, easily-avoided problems.

            • Teldurn says:

              Not knowing a thing about Homefront, do you think the obstacles in the game that you’re talking about could be overcome with some sort of “overhaul mod” like they do in many other games?

              • Ringwraith says:

                From what I’ve heard, it’s just fundamental gameplay and plot problems in there, as they made a hash of the initial smart concept, not to mention it’s not a mod-friendly game like say the Elder Scrolls games are.

            • I’m just gonna leave this right here:

              http://www.halolz.com/2010/11/12/fps-map-design/

              And yeah, I enjoy the hell out of the CoD series SP by understanding it for the rail shooter it is.

            • Alex says:

              For some reason I’m really pained by the failure of Halo Reach, Final Fantasy XII, Twilight Princess, Left 4 Dead, Deus Ex: HR. So much love went into those environments, and I thought the concept was a gold mine. It frustrated me to see the thing mangled by such obvious, easily-avoided problems.

              ^-Edited to reflect my view on modern video games. I totally get that sentiment, Shamus. I’m seeing a lot more games these days that tried, that weren’t obviously terrible clunkers, and yet they’re riddled with moments of useless, catastrophic game design. Weird or contradictory things that work against a solid concept, and stand out more BECAUSE it could have been great. I’m more dissatisfied with those games than the hopeless Big Rigs and Duke Nukem Forevers.

              It’s like, “Why did you think that was a good idea? You guys know better than this! If this is the cost of those fancy graphics, maybe we should go back to sprites?

              • Abnaxis says:

                I’m conflicted. I enjoy a lot of games on your list there, but I know of a few slight changes I would make to a fee of them. I actually am curious of your opinion but I know going into more depth would probably start s flame going…

          • X2Eliah says:

            Does it grind your gears?

  4. Another_Scott says:

    “I’ve fought headcrabs more fearsome than you” made my day!

  5. swenson says:

    The illusion of player choice is what I like so much about HL2. Yes, it’s a very on-the-rails game–there is exactly one path to take, you can’t even talk to people, and so on. But you’re given so much freedom within that path, and they’re very good at disguising when you genuinely don’t have any choice. Like you say with the turret, that’s the easiest and “right” way to do that part, but it’s not the only way. You could just as legitimately pass it by running around using a manhack in the gravity gun to chop people up. And, most thankfully of all, in many sequences you can just run right past enemies if you don’t want to fight them, there’s no need to kill everyone to progress!

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Indeed. There is only one “spatial path” to victory, but they allow a great deal of agency in that space as to how you overcome the (mostly combat oriented) obstacles.

      • Dude says:

        You can say that about Crysis 2. In fact, if there were a mod that removed those horrible radio barking orders IN YOUR FACE every five seconds in that game, you could take any game play (not story) praise you apply to HL2 and apply it to Crysis 2.

        • Dys says:

          Except that the HL2 weapons are varied and interesting, and the HL2 enemies are varied and interesting, and the HL2 environments are varied, and interesting.

          Crysis 2 wasn’t a bad game, but…

  6. Johan says:

    I absolutely HATED the apartment complex because my “allies” kept getting in my way, even if they did move back eventually, the grenade I was trying to escape from had already blown and taken with it me, them, or both of us.

    • SolkaTruesilver says:

      And this is why you need more Republic Commando-like Ally AI. Scorch, Sev or Fixer never had me killed because they were in a bad position.

      In fact, they were agressive when I needed to back down. And they were conservative when I was Leroy Jerkin my way to victory. Damn I loved these clones.

      • Ringwraith says:

        Shame the hinted sequel never materialised, as that was an excellent game.
        They made you fight alongside the same guys throughout the game, and you really cared about them, as they really did support you. Looking back, it’s funny how well their AI was done and how no-one can do any better currently, several years later.

        • Johan says:

          Indeed, Republic Commando has some of the most enjoyable AI in any game. Were they tactically the best? I don’t know, but they had so much no other game has provided me with
          1. Orders, be it “go here, do that, shoot that guy so I don’t have to, get out of there,” these are things I want to yell at the Half-Life 2 allies, but can’t (they won’t even keep to a position you send them to). So much I have always wanted to say in every modern shooter that I can’t.
          2. Integration, this couldn’t really be done in Half-Life, but the clones were integral to the entire game. You met them in the very first mission, you got to here their banter throughout the game, they were there with you and just as surpised by any abush as you were.
          Damn, now I’m all nostalgic. Does anyone know of another game like that?

  7. guy says:

    Sidenote: There’s some points in Half-Life 2 where there’s a turret and using it spawns waves of enemies to mow down. If you just ignore it, no enemies and you keep walking.

    Skyrim does have some player agency problems, where you’re doing a quest and the NPC you’re with keeps spamming a reminder of what you’re supposed to be doing and you just want to say, “Yes, I know I need to find a lever. Breaking into ancient catacombs is my day job. If you see the lever, tell me, otherwise shut up

    But then you’ve got the Dark Brotherhood quests, where you can be a phantom slayer or kill people in ways that could only be less subtle if you were also on fire. Or you could do that while on fire.

    Ironically, the Least Subtle Assassin In Tamriel has 92 sneak from all the non-DB stuff I do.

  8. Naota says:

    Spoiler Warning! Why must you make everything I write about game mechanics and player choice redundant?

    It is interesting to see how games like Mass Effect that are so focused on offering the player as many choices as possible still wind up railroading the player so much when it comes to actual gameplay. I’m not sure whether to put this up to the developers simply not having a good grasp of what makes for good level/game design or a natural result of preposterous production values (the more linear a game is, the cheaper it is to make uber-pretty).

    Compare Human Revolution to Mass Effect 2 and the difference in player agency is pretty jarring, especially when both have become pretty much the exact same genre of game. If there was ever a title in dire need of Valve-style linear storytelling, the Mass Effect series would be it.

  9. Sozac says:

    Speaking of allies, and I remember Shamus saying this yesterday, while I know the team that does Fallout and the team that does Elder Scrolls are different there have been times where they do use ideas from one game in another. But Skyrim Allies aren’t very good at all not just combat wise, but storywise none of them seem important at all. This is one of those moments where they really should have taken a clue from Fallout and make 7 or 8 really fleshed out characters with uniqueness and background. I just wonder why they didn’t do that?

    • Naota says:

      I’ve noticed this as well. Western RPG’s seem inclined to think up supporting characters as members of your “group” first and foremost, with only incidental relation to the main plot of the game or anything else beyond one or two missions specifically hand-crafted to revolve around them. Even games like Fallout New Vegas have this problem, where for all intents and purposes your allies may as well not exist to the rest of the game world (at least as far as the story is concerned – obviously they still fight hostile targets and such).

      If you look back at older RPG’s on the other hand, far more often you end up picking up party members as central pieces of the main plot, and everyone involved has a unique reason for doing what they do beyond just serving as a loyal but plot-irrelevant hireling for the main character. Time was they might actually betray you when loyalties and politics shifted or they saw an opportunity to grab for power and were dumb enough to take it.

      • Sozac says:

        I know New Vegas did that a little bit for some obvious things, but yeah they gave them more character and I think all there stories were pretty intriguing, while they may not be Bioware type allies which are more like what you were talking about being plotrelated, feelings, motivations, and can even betray you. I hope Mass Effect 3 or the next dragon age can bring that really well, but I know what you mean with the fact most of them have no real reason to follow you and they have no reason to leave where they are, and Skyrim did this very lazily with very boring characters with little interaction and THAY ALWAYS TAKE OUT THERE GODDAMN BOWS!

      • Nick says:

        Actually, that was one thing I thought DA2 did right – the characters were interesting, had reasons for being involved in the main plot (Isabella, anyone?) and their side missions helped flesh out their characters if you liked them enough to do them. Or in my case am an obsessive completionist.

        Of course the reduced number of places to go and extremely repetitive fights got in the way a bit, but I thought the story side of DA 2 was good

        • Naota says:

          Oh absolutely- DA2’s party members all felt like more natural parts of the setting because they hung around their own locales instead of some personal camp/NPC repository, were introduced naturally as the plot progressed with motivations that worked, and generally felt like they lived their own lives not entirely dominated by the circumstances of Main Character Hawke. There’s also no way you could say that Anders, Isabella, or Varric didn’t play huge pivotal roles in the main plot, unlike the cast of Mass Effect or DA: Origins (barring Alistair… sort of).

          The companion banter was also leagues better compared to any other voiced Bioware game and I honestly enjoyed DA2’s driven and understandable antagonists far more than incompetent evil douchebag Loghain or a giant three-eyed terminator baby.

          On the other hand though, player freedom hit rock bottom for DA2 – many quests’ split outcomes converged in ways that made no sense or were totally incongruous with what you decided, which is new for Bioware. Normally their games provide a terse set of debriefing conversations or close off budding plot branches with a letter that changes based on what you chose. Here however there were choices with absolutely no influence on the game at all.

          You fought both final bosses at the end no matter which side you were on, and the justification for it was incredibly shaky. Likewise, people who owed you their lives could wind up hating you and plotting your demise for no good reason, running off scripts that were clearly spliced in to cut corners, originally intended for the other branch of the quest where you left them to die.

  10. Alex says:

    “I need something to throw at this guy.”

    “Bullets! You have a machine that can throw bullets at him!”

    I think this is my favourite episode of Spoiler Warning.

  11. Ross Smith says:

    You do realize there’s a much easier way past the zombie gumbo scene than the one Josh took all the way around the far side of the pit? Josh tends to do that a lot (as some of the other commentators seem to have noticed). I bet I’m far from the only viewer who spends most of each Spoiler Warning yelling “No, you idiot, go the other way!” at the screen.

  12. Robyrt says:

    I am that guy who thinks, “If enemies are appearing in front of this turret, it must still be turret time.” I would much rather one of your allies say, “Freeman, you idiot! The door is open!” in a linear shooter like HL2. Similarly, I love waypoints, because I get lost often in real life and I don’t want the stress of finding out which way to go in this identical-looking hallway when I’m playing a game.

    Or, more whimsically: I don’t simulate Gordon Freeman sleeping or going to the bathroom. I shouldn’t have to simulate Gordon Freeman remembering the directions to the turret somebody shouted in my ear.

    • guy says:

      The solution to this is to have Dungeon Seige 3’s button that makes golden dots appear along the path you need to take when pressed. Instead of having always-on waypoints that aren’t even that helpful because moving towards them causes you to run into a wall.

      • Chuck says:

        Agreed, waypoints you can turn on or off are nice. but I prefer a map on my HUD when it comes to shooters.

        Wearing power armor should come with certain advantages.

    • Dys says:

      I think the point here is that a game should not HAVE a turret that you MUST use, or indeed anything. Letting the player know that the way forward is barred and will be opened after a certain time is one thing, forcing the player to perform specific, unrelated actions in order to trigger the door opening is quite another.

      If you are doing a rail shooter with forced gameplay, then yes waypoint it, because it’s only going to be even more frustrating if the thing you require me to do to progress is not apparent. Preferably, don’t force gameplay on me in the first place.

      I’m actually reminded of Crysis 2’s tactical display. You can use it or not at your choice and it will display various optional object interactions in the current environment. Optional being the key word.

  13. KremlinLaptop says:

    I really like these Half Life 2 special episodes and this one was brilliant.. although I was distracted for more than an hour from watching it by the charity thing Rutskarn was doing. WHICH WAS AWESOME.

    One thing though, guys? Playlists on the youtube channel. Hell, I’d even volunteer to do housekeeping and organize all the stuff into playlists…

  14. RCN says:

    I hate how youtube links its videos. I tried watching this episode not twice, not four, but FIVE times before I actually got around to it.

    Every time I’d leave the video loading in a high resolution, go check some other sites, then I’d get back here and think: “Hey, it is loaded! Lets click on that big ‘play’ button now”

    WRONG! Silly user, clicking on the big play button does two things, none of them is playing the video. The first is it will send you to the youtube page of the video, where it’ll begin loading from the start. The second is that it will RESET THIS ONE just because we at youtube utterly LOATHE you from the depths of our bowels.

    Have a good day.

  15. Dys says:

    “It’s nice to see Skyrim, with its complete lack of rules, is doing so well…”? To make a hollow laughing. If that’s the standard we’re judging things by now I guess it’s time to truly despair.

    I know I’m at risk of sounding like a broken record, but the endemic plot armour of Skyrim totally obliterates any argument for freedom in that game. Despite all its good qualities, Skyrim is as much a theme park as anything I can think of. It is certainly not lacking in rules. Skyrim can be applauded for many things, but player agency is certainly not one of them.

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