Half-Life 2 Episode 2: Under the Radar

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 10, 2007

Filed under: Game Reviews 22 comments

Lots of people pointed out that I neglected to comment on the advisor attack in the previous chapter. I dunno how I overlooked that. It was one of the most important moments in the game. You’d think after all my whining on the lack of revelations in the series that I’d spend some time on the moments when they do reveal something.

It was well executed, although I was a little unclear on how the advisor got there. Why wasn’t he with the other advisors? It looks like he crashed here, but then we see all of this life support equipment in the barn, which suggests that this place had been prepared for him before he arrived.

Let’s see, he can paralyze targets, fling stuff around with telekenisis, and suck a person’s brains out without them being able to defend themselves. Yes, I really do wonder how we’re going to fight them in subsequent encounters. They seem a little on the invulnerable side. Anyway, onto the next chapter…

Not much to say about this chapter. (He said, just before writing another 500 words on the chapter.) The radar thing was kind of interesting and a nice way to play “find the goodies”, although it seemed a bit contrived. This section of the game was comprised mostly of running over zombies and puzzle solving. Not a bad way to spend an hour.

At the start of the chapter you have to take out a fierce autogun that can lock on and blast something in a split second. It has three independent guns, it does fantastic damage, and in the right location would be an almost insurmountable defense. Why didn’t the Combine employ these closer to their central base instead of using it to gun down zombies in a worthless junkyard here in the boonies? (Yes, I know why: It’s more fun this way.)

We eventually reach the White Forest Inn, and are ambushed by the Combine. Of all the major set-piece battles in the game, this one is by far my favorite. Unlike other combine “ambushes”, where we usually start in a good defensive position and the Combine “ambush” us by crowding through a couple of doorways single-file, this one plays out like a real ambush. It feels like they planned ahead this time, and they’ve stopped screwing around with these nickel-and-dime squads of Combine target dummies. They spring their trap and then they roll in with a large force of soldiers, elite Combine, and hunters. This is a frantic firefight to be sure.

I love watching Alyx during these fights. She doesn’t just stand and shoot, but does a lot of ducking, peeking around corners, finding cover, firing around corners, and generally looking awesome and authentic. It doesn’t make any difference where in the inn you decide to make your stand, she has something interesting to do no matter where you take her.

There are so many ways this battle can play out. After going through it a few times I do see some strategies are better than others. Either of the two staircases seem to be a bad place to stay. I thought the high vantage point would be advantageous, but there are so many routes into the room and so many open windows that I seemed to always end up caught in some crossfire. The basement seems like a good idea but I feel trapped down there. It would be easy for them to hold the top of the steps and roll grenades down on us. (They don’t actually do this, but the place still feels like a deathtrap.) I usually end up in one of the rooms overlooking the open area. I take a lot of fire through the windows, but I have enough mobility that I won’t get sandwiched by hunters.

In any case, your only real choices in this fight are in how you would like to be pummeled. They really do execute a tremendous assault and there is no one “good” strategy that I’ve found. This fight is fun and offers such variety that you can play it ten times and get a unique experience each time.


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22 thoughts on “Half-Life 2 Episode 2: Under the Radar

  1. Dr-Online says:

    My internal justification for the advisors life support equipment was that the Combine simply retrofitted a metric crapton of houses all over the world to have it, and then simply left them alone. That way, should they have to flee, then they’re good with life support and such.

  2. Schmidt says:

    Near Foist!

    We’ve come a long way from Doom haven’t we?

  3. Schmidt says:

    And this is my Icon… a Blue n white bit. A question, does it use a stored pile or icons, or does it make it up as it goes along? And will my blue squiggle follow me from page to page?

  4. Phlux says:

    I always thought the advisor lifesupport system looked like it had been pretty hastily thrown up. Stuff was hanging off of rafters and whatnot. Most of that equipment looked fairly modular, so it could have been designed to install rapidly.

    We may or may not get to fight an advisor in episode 3. If we do, my gues is that it will be separated from a lot of its fancy equipment and life support, so it will already be half dead and unable to manhandle the player with telekenesis

    As for the fight at the Inn, I liked to keep moving. The hunters ambush you in the basement if you stay down there too long. The Fireplace was a reasonable position for fighting hunters in the open.

  5. MintSkittle says:

    If we do end up fighting the advisers, I would guess you would get some kind of anti-psychic device attached to the HEV suit that prevents the advisers from directly attacking you, and forcing them to just pick up and throw stuff at you, gravity gun style.

  6. Schmidt says:

    Hmm, test test. Is this thing on?

  7. MadTinkerer says:

    As I’ve mentioned in my weblog, I’m hoping to not merely fight advisors but that someone is able to invent a perticularly sadistic way of dealing with them. I called it an “Advisor Exsanguinator” but then realized there are all kinds of different ways that I would want to “deal” with advisors. So I really just need to make a mod that’s essentially a huge room full of helpless advisors and various ways to deal them embarrassment and pain and death.

    And I’m sure there are others reading this that feel the same way after they played through the end of Episode 2, right?

    But that’s a discussion for when Shamus posts about the end to Ep2.

  8. Phlux says:

    Oh, and the best “strategy” I can offer for the hunters is to pick up something wooden, like a heavy board or a log, with the gravity gun. Let the hunters shoot their flechette rounds at you, and use this object as a shield. They will stick into the wood, at which point you can fling it back at the hunter. If the timing is right, the explosion will kill them in exactly the same way as an alt-fire round from the combine rifle.

  9. MintSkittle says:

    For some strange reason, when I fight hunters, and I block the flechettes, I end up holding onto the object just long enough for them to blow up in my face.

  10. Eltanin says:

    I too never really had much luck with the flechettes and the hunters. I must say that I was pleased and aggravated by the hunter tactics and weaponry. Those flechettes really hurt! There was nothing so satisfying as pasting a hunter across the grill of your car and nothing so maddening as having them nimbly step out of the way of said car.

    I enjoyed the ambush very much but after it was over I wondered as to the efficacy of bringing the fight to them. True, the house affords you some cover, but it also restricts your fire. What about heading up the back stairs in the basement and having some more room to maneuver? In all likelihood you might just be mobbed. This is all just idle speculation on my part. It’s particularly nice to fight those hunters in the confining spaces inside the house after all.

  11. Gahaz says:

    take 2…

  12. Phlux says:

    @9 & 10: It helps if you use the audio cues. They make a sound when they’re about to explode. You need to be the right distance from the hunter too, otherwise it will either bounce off of him and explode on the ground, or explode before it reaches him. It certainly doesn’t work every time, but it’s fun, and Steam Community gives you an achievement for it.

  13. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    “We may or may not get to fight an advisor in episode 3. If we do, my gues is that it will be separated from a lot of its fancy equipment and life support, so it will already be half dead and unable to manhandle the player with telekenesis”

    You mean separated like in the end of episode 2?They flew in on their own,and did so much carnage,without their gizmos.My guess is that those things are only for young advisors.My guess is that we will have the vorts dealing with them.Or empower gordon with some fancy vortessence thing.

    Oh,and the life support near the crash site did look a bit hasty made.

  14. Dr-Online says:

    My money’s on a portal gun in 3.

  15. RudeMorgue says:

    My impression was that the advisor pod crashed near the farmhouse and its combine escort moved it to the barn and set it up there to await the arrival of combine reinforcements (who arrive just after Gordon and Alyx disturb the creature).

    The rebel in the barn, the last survivor of those who downed the pod and then killed the escorting combine soldiers, was killed by a psychic shockwave sent out by the advisor when he tried to tamper with the pod and kill the advisor without opening it up, maybe a few hours or so before Gordon and Alyx arrived.

  16. food4worms says:

    There’s actually a crash site just before the farm with the Advisor. It’s very easy to drive by.

  17. Luke Maciak says:

    How do we fight advisors? I have one word for you: sniper rifle… Ok, two words. You mentioned in your other post that it’s about time we get to play around with that weapons, and I agree. It would be perfect for taking down advisors from a very long distance. Move in to close and they will detect you and nail you with their psychic powers. Set up to far and you might be out of range. But then again, who knows.

    As for the ambush, I found that the stairs were a perfect place to fight hunters. If you are in just the right place the hunter will stop directly in the doorway above you blocking the passage. He will then attempt to fire the flechette gun at you. If you crouch, it will keep hitting the railing 90% of the time. Your shots on the other hand, should pass right through. If it decides to advance just slowly move down keeping the railing between you. You should have enough time to kill it before it gets a clear shot. If you don’t, you can always run down, then quickly run up, and hopefully catch it in the reverse position (ie you are upstairs, and hunter is downstairs hitting the railing from the opposite side).

    Yeah, yeah – I know, I’m exploiting a level design quirk and ruining my immersion, but screw that. I was really low on life and low on ammo by the end of that fight so I didn’t care anymore. ;)

  18. Dovienya says:

    What I assumed, actually, was that Gordon or one of the Resistance scientists would rig up some sort of distraction device for fighting Advisors. Maybe a flashbang function on the suit that goes off if the Advisor gets its telekinetic hands on you (you can still struggle enough to flip a single switch or push a button that’s on your person) that would overload its senses and cause it to lose its grip for a few seconds, or a grenade that you can spit when it brings you close and extrudes its appendage. Killing it would probably entail picking up anything heavy and sharp with the gravity gun and hurling it at the Advisor; it looks like it’s covered in layers of fat that would protect it from small-arms fire for a while, like Hutts from Star Wars, and the best way would be to try and pierce it in one blow.

    They might go the hard way, and simply make you have to sneak up on it to kill it, or else game over. Make Gordon even more ninja-y than he already is.

  19. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    Advisors can be massively hurt by massive objects; objects so massive they can’t throw them.

    Like, say, Dog. Dog showed up, and they coulden’t leave fast enough.

    I’m hoping to see Advisors, with their levitation screwed, getting their butts kicked by (pick any/all) trains, Dog, Antlion Guardians/Guards, APCs, cars, rocket launchers, and Striders.

    No, I’m not sure how you’d suborn a Strider to kill Advisors, but it would be awesome, especially when they fire their warp-***** at them.

  20. The Defenestrator says:

    ShadowDragon: The technical term for a Strider’s main weapon is “Mr. Friendly” ;)

  21. ShadowDragon8685 says:


    I like that technical term! ^_^

  22. Rawling says:

    I have to say, my favourite bit in this level was the puzzle you had to beat to get the oh-so-tantalising Rocket Launcher cache. I actually felt proud when I figured it out, which doesn’t happen that often :D

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