Half Life 2 Special EP18:Grenade vs. Sniper

By Shamus
on Jul 19, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Another episode, another new glitch that I’ve never seen in my dozen or so times through this game. Actually, two glitches, if we’re going to include the one in the last seconds of the video.

If you’re wondering who Erik Wolpaw and Chet are, they ran the gaming site Old Man Murray around the turn of the century. The site did “edgy, crazy game reviews” almost a full decade before Zero Punctuation came on the scene. I think Yahtzee even cites them as an influence. They were often very personal in their criticism, naming developers and mocking them individually in the process of lampooning the game as a whole. The site was updates weekly or monthly, but I checked it daily. Loved that site.

They were hired by Valve software and became important creative figures at the company. There was once a YouTube video during the Left 2 Dead 2 backlash where someone *cited Chet for LYING!!!OMG! about upcoming Left 4 Dead content. On one hand, I felt kind of bad for him being accused of orchestrating a massive, obvious deception. On the other hand, that’s exactly the sort of thing they did on Old Man Murray. Of course, on OMM they would have done it with some level of self-awareness, perhaps painting the whole thing as an Illuminati plot, alien conspiracy, the work of commies, or pinning the blame on an implausible third-world despot. It would have been funny to read for people on both sides of the debate. But the point is, they dished out a lot of bile in their day, and I wonder if Chet ever saw the backlash as a certain degree of comeuppance.

If you want to know more about Erik, I highly recommend Portal 2: The Final Hours, which is available on Steam for a single dollar right now. It’s a flash-powered multimedia E-book… thing. Lots of neat bits about how the company works.

* For the record, I’m sure this wasn’t an insidious pre-meditated plan to deceive people into buying the game. In fact, this is exactly the problem you’ll face if you let your creative people talk freely in public. They will talk about the plans you’ve made around the water cooler, which are then taken as incontrovertible commitments on behalf of their employer. To a certain extent, that’s fair. When statements come out of the mouth of someone at a company, you can’t expect the audience to understand the position of the speaker in the company and the average consumer can’t possibly detect the difference between deliberate hype-building and some artist just talking about stuff she hopes she gets to work on someday. This is why companies are so guarded with their announcements. Once you say something in public, you can’t change your mind or someone, somewhere is going to say you lied to them.

This is not to say I’m happy about how Left 4 Dead 2 turned out. I’d say more, but I think we’re pushing the limits of what you can do with a qualifying asterisk.

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From the Archives:

  1. IFS says:

    Does anyone know the Source of Josh’s glitches?

  2. JPH says:

    I’m happy with how Left 4 Dead 2 turned out.

  3. Piflik says:

    Just make the asterisk big enough, and you can put all kinds of stuff in there :D

  4. CTrees! says:

    For some reason, every time I read, “No comments… YET!” at the bottom of one of these posts, I first see it as, “No comments… YETI!” Reads like someone just starting a random musing about the lack of comments, then suddenly being interrupted by the abominable snowman. I can’t say the mental image doesn’t amuse me (maybe I played too much SkiFree as a kid?).

    Not that this relates to the post, the video, or the asterisk. Um… whoops?

    • Pattom says:

      Ok, now you just gave me this weird image of the Abominable Snowman sitting down at his desk with some hot cocoa and booting up his computer. He checks out Twentysided, only to see “No comments… YETI!” beneath the latest post. And then his face breaks out into this huge goofy grin; he clicks on the post and types, “LOL FIRST! HL2 RULEZ CAMPSTER!”

      That silly, silly yeti. He’s so proud of himself.

  5. Sozac says:

    Now, I can’t and probably won’t be playing the Half Lives anytime soon and I’m not saying it’s bad because it’s obviously good, obviously. And it might just be watching the game as opposed to playing the game. But from someone who has played it, what makes it fun to play? It looks like a bit of a slog, some of the enemies (headcrabs, snipers, and the flying saw things) just seem annoying to fight and the only weapon that seems fun to use is the crossbow and gravity gun. It might be that it’s just a bit too survival horror-ish for me because I don’t really like those games much. But Valve has always had interesting gameplay with it’s other games, but I don’t see how this game would be enjoyable to play. The Spoiler Warning guys might have covered it in the older episodes, but I’m to lazy to go back and look, but I feel like is I did play this game, I would still favor the Portals.

    Note: Also, I haven’t had the same feeling for their other playthroughs. Deus Ex looked so fun from Spoiler Warning that I went and got it and was really happy with it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You are looking how Josh is rushing trough these,and that really is not that fun to watch.Playing it is a completely different thing.Even if you know the story completely,the atmosphere of the games is still pretty cool to experience.Though this end game in half life 2 can get pretty grating if you up the difficulty.

      Also,the enemies are way more interesting and smarter than enemies in some modern shooters.Last time Ive replayed half life 2 was immediately before one of the modern warfares(2 or 3,forgot which one).And the differences in ai are astounding.Whereas dying in hl led to having a different combat where enemies did different things,and popped up in different places,dying in mw led only to me learning how to beat the encounter without looking.

      • Thomas says:

        I have the same thing as Sozac, somehow no matter what I watch, Half Life doesn’t _look_ fun to play, even though from all the people who’ve played it, it clearly is.

        I don’t really know why, maybe this is that thing Chris was saying, about Half Life not really having a strong identity because of the variety. Visually it always looks a bit flat to me (even compared to other games from similar times, there never seems to be much in the ‘hey look at this’ kinda thing) but I don’t really think it’s all down to that

    • Raygereio says:

      But from someone who has played it, what makes it fun to play?
      Here’s the non-Valve fanboy answer:
      Half-Life 2 isn’t a bad game by any stretch, but it really isn’t the WORLDS AWESOMEST GAME EVAR!!! that most of the HL2 fans will want you to believe.
      Nor was it genre changing of defining for that matter. If you pick it up now 8 years after its release, chances are you’re going to be disapointed if you have the hype in the back of your head. The poor game just can’t live up to the hype that’s surrounds it.

      If you can look past said hype, you have in my opinion a game with:
      -an okay AI. It’s nothing really special, but as long you play the game and don’t go out of your way to mess around, the AI will work well. It’s sad to say that “okay” is a compliment, but that’s just where we’re currently at.
      -excellent art design.
      -Some pacing issues. The game can indeed dive into slog at times. Mostly because of the next point.
      -subpar shooting gameplay. The only weapon I found to be even remotely satisfying to use was the shotgun (but then it’s genuinly hard to screw up a shotgun) and the crossbow. There’s a crippling lack of a good assault rifle.
      -storytelling in which they tried to use the mantra of “show, don’t tell” and kinda, sort of made work.

      So all in all, HL2 does have some thing going for it. Just don’t boot the game expecting the second coming.

      • Pattom says:

        The Combine AI is actually surprisingly well-programmed, according to some videos I’ve seen. The catch is that enemies have such low health and move so slowly compared to the player that they never have a chance to show it off; pit Combine NPCs against other enemies in Garry’s Mod and you’ll be surprised by their reactions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWYlMC8z0G8

        • Fang says:

          That is actually true, the mod Minerva for HL2 just slightly bumped up the Combine’s HP and people started questioning how he changed the AI to make them so much smarter when all he did was bump up the HP.

          You just don’t see the smart AI in the normal game cause of how quickly you can mow them down.

          • Pattom says:

            Oh wow, even I thought their AI had been tweaked in Minerva. I’ve got unpleasant memories of sprinting around corners to dodge grenades and then being swiss-cheesed by multiple AR2s.

      • Sozac says:

        What’s funny is I still am sort of a Valve fanboy, but not from the Half-lives because my computer can’t play it and anytime I see it played by someone (which I know isn’t the same as playing it) I’m like “meh”. In fact I’d rather have Portal 3 or Left for dead 3 than Half life 2 ep 3. I get that the spoiler warning crew likes it for its smart construction and how it doesn’t have to take the game out of the players hands and still can have cool setpieces, and while that’s respectable, Gordon Freeman just doesn’t look fun to play as.

        Also, on the subject of AI, I don’t know if it really compares to having tough enemies which gives the illusion of good AI (at least now when most AI ranges from shit to OK). Like I’m finally playing the fallout: new vegas expansions. And I’m playing it on the hardest difficulty in light armor with no higher than 20 stimpaks on me at a time because honestly, that game is too easy once you get power armor. But I remember even though Old World Blues was half dialogue, the combat was actually very fun and difficult. While the lobotomites weren’t on Point Lookout hick difficulty, they had pretty high health for light/no armor fools and were decent with their weapons if they hit you. So when they travel in packs it doesn’t do yourself any good to just charge into a group of them. But what I’m trying to say is, just give an enemy more health and attack and it might not be rewarding as having good AI, but it sort of hides the bad AI.

      • Lalaland says:

        +1 from me!

        The subpar shooting element really cheesed me off at release, none of the guns bar the shotgun had any ‘oomph’. The total lack of hit registration (flinching animations, higher damage for headshots, etc) made me feel like I was shooting a potato gun. It’s weird because HL1 had a range of quite satisfying weaponry with the MP5-a-like standing out at the time for it’s wonderful sound and feel.

        I think HL2 suffered as a shooter from comparison to equivalent titles such as the Soldier of Fortune series (solid shooting experience) which I’d played right prior to release. Also the driving sections can go die in a fire, never enjoyed them as the car felt awful to drive. The AI in SoF impressed me more too but as others have pointed out they never really got a chance to shine as their HP pool was so low.

        Still though few games do as much ‘in-world’ story telling but again compared to HL1 I didn’t feel they’d moved enough along from there bar eliminating the annoying Xen and their platform world.

        The audio issues and Steam issues I experienced didn’t help my impressions of the game either (I had that evil Soundblaster stutter bug) but even today I can rarely get more than 40% through the game before I give up in boredom.

      • MelTorefas says:

        I enjoy shooting games much less than plot games, so I love HL2. The shooting is good enough for a non-connoisseur like me. It feels real enough not to break immersion and doesn’t generally get in the way of advancing the plot (which I really really like).

      • Eärlindor says:

        I’d have to disagree about your point on the weapons. I find most of them pretty satisfying to use. The AR2, for example is a really awesome assault rifle, but you can’t carry a whole lot of ammo for it, which is admittedly really annoying. The magnum is also fantastic, but again, ammo issue. I also love the shotgun and crossbow (how can you NOT love smacking and pinning people with hot rebar?)The rocket launcher lacks the fulfilling explosion of, say, the rocket launcher from Halo CE, but I love its versatility what with being albe to remotely control the rocket, and I do think there’s a satisfying “burst” to it.

      • Varre says:

        If they can make a third Portal game as good as the first two, then absolutely. The biggest thing that turned me off the HL universe was the protagonist. I understand that Freeman is a mute protagonist to better help the player immerse themselves, but that dies when I’m unable to actually do anything to interact with the people or environment beyond shooting people and solving the same comically over-sized plug puzzle a dozen times over the series. I enjoyed Halo 3 more than Half-life because, for example, the Master Chief has an actual personality and character you can care about (which is best seen when he interacts with Cortana). It’s not much of a character, but it’s there.

  6. Nathan says:

    Your L4D2 dissatisfaction seems like good post-fodder.

  7. Tobias says:

    01:00 I always used the rocket launcher here. I never even found out that it was possible with grenades.
    13:10 I was pretty sad that they didn’t revive Breen in the later games.

  8. Infinitron says:

    Great episode.

  9. Amarsir says:

    If you only talk about things that are written in stone, that inherently means no useful change can come from that discussion. This is not a bargain that rational customers should want. So I think a disclaimer works as long as you’ve contextualized your own message. It only becomes a problem when third parties start repeating what you’ve said, with the inherent degradation of information that happens along the way.

  10. silentlambda says:

    I think I’m starting to agree with the concept that Valve doesn’t know what direction to take the ongoing half life plot. I love the game design going into the series, but the plot hinges on things like the combine and the Gman being mysterious. They both work well at creating suspense and an effective antagonist, but a big reveal could ruin all of that. At the same time, a lack of a reveal in the final chapter could feel like a huge anticlimax.

    Anyone else think that Valve has been so tight lipped about the next installment because they don’t even know how to conclude what’s been built up for, what, 14 years now?

    • Klay F. says:

      I’m beginning to think they’ve given up. They must realize by now that even if they create the videogame equivalent of the second coming of Christ, it will still be a disappointment especially considering Valve fans’ propensity for complaining at nothing.

      I think they are at that stage where they are desperately trying to hold on to some hope of completing it, but are just short of admitting to themselves that its impossible.

      Or maybe I’ve been thinking about it too much.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Lets just hope that they wont listen to the fans when it comes to this,and they dont reveal too much.Sometimes things are best left unanswered.

    • Even says:

      On the other hand they’ve been busy with other titles in the meantime. With Portal 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Half-Life 2 all out the oven, I’m half-expecting some level of Valve-trolling involving the number 3 in the near Valve Time future.

      • Thomas says:

        I really do hope, when Half Life 3 comes around that Valve do troll with it. Just release it on the Steam store one day without telling anyone about it. No-one who sees that will really believe it’s happened :D

        On another note, it’s going to be interesting seeing what 3 is going to be like, the shooter scene has changed completely in it’s development cycle and whilst I can’t imagine Valve going completely along with it, I think they need to have some middle ground between HL2 and a modern shooter. I guess 5 years isn’t a phenomenally huge length of time, but apart from anything else, if they aren’t close by now, they’re going to have to start completely overhauling it graphically. It’s never been stylistic so that’s not going to cut it anymore

        • ps238principal says:

          You mean just have it appear like the Borealis?

          That’s really all they need to make me happy. A level on that ship with some hints of Cave and/or GLaDOS.

        • Klay F. says:

          I’m of the opinion that shooters have actually regressed in terms of game-play and mechanics over the past 5 years.

          To blithely misquote/paraphrase Yahtzee: “Isn’t sad how ‘progress‘ in today’s shooters actually means, ‘Catching up to Valve?'”

          The last thing Valve needs to do is devolve to the point where their shooters are in any way like what could laughably be called their competition. The genre needs to move forward, not back.

          • ps238principal says:

            I agree, especially as someone who had a large gap in his gaming experience between the Doom/Half-Life era and that of Modern Warfare.

            Players need to deal with actually dying again without regenerating health behind chest-high walls. It took the fun out of having to alter your play and strategy because you’d just had most of your armor and health degraded by a grenade to the face (sometimes your own). Enemies need to be more than just mook-spawners that don’t shut off until the player gets within a specific range.

            Now that I think about it, I wonder if that’s why FPS RPGs like Fallout and Skyrim are so much more fun than other “pure” FPS games; you can actually die, and once you clear an area, it stays pretty cleared unless you leave for a prolonged period of time.

            • Thomas says:

              I’m not really in either camp, I think cover-based shooting and shooting are two completely different playstyles so it’s not right to compare them from the start. Cover-based shooting in my mind is like the RPG of shooters, slower, focused on longer term tactics and maneouvering (ish :D)

              As far as actual shooters go, regen health solves a big problem, in that, any fight you’re in that is sufficiently intense, is probably too intense for you to be looking at the health bar. The least fun thing about old health systems, was you’re meant to conserve health, but I’d be too busy playing to realise how much health I was wasting at the time. With regen there’s a nice big ‘oh crud you’re going to die’ on screen and it’s that point in which your brain tells you to go into full out defensive mode. In old shooters you’d have to deliberately stop yourself getting so engaged in a battle to make sure you were being health conservative (unless we go back to old old shooters, where you could dodge bullets).

              And secondly, it’s not quite kinaethsthetic or ludic, but picking up health packs never felt fun. Completely awkward and ridiculous in battle and chore like or just dull out of battle. At least regenning health feels satisfying. There’s a gloop, colour change, a feeling of acceleration and satisfaction that you’ve lasted it out and are safe again, ready to get into the fray.

              Finally, having enemies outwit you to the extent that they’re laying down enough firepower to obliterate you by per second is more exciting and opens up a different kind of gameplay involving crowd management than elsewise. It more naturally forces flanking and crossfire from the opponent AI because that’s the only way it could beat you. Some developers don’t do it and just cheat with the ‘make their bullets more powerful’ and makes a huge concentration on angles and corners.

              Plus in modern shooters there’s been huge leaps and bounds in making weapons feel good to use, making enemies die in interesting ways and a big focus on setting. Mowing down 5 in a row on CoD is still pretty much as fun as it gets.

              And there are lots of advantages to the old systems too, but I’m not going to go over those, because everyone knows them and they always get brought up in these discussions, whereas there’s never much (non-derogatory :D) analysis of why regening health pretty much factually pleased crud loads of more people than the old systems did. The reason we have the new ones is because in the time where both co-existed loads and loads of people (who may not be well represented on 20sided) loved the new mechanics more than the old

              Edit: Them’s too many words :(

              • Klay F. says:

                See many of the things you like about regenerating health, I hate.

                You are talking about a health bar as if it required complex maths to sort out, when all you need to suss out health is the absolute briefest of glances, it no more takes you out of the action than your ammo count, or objective markers, or those directional hit detectors, or any other HUD item.

                But my biggest problem with it in particular is the kind of mindset it enforces: “Oh I can’t be arsed to think.”

                As for health kits, I fully contest that regenerating health feels satisfying. It the complete opposite for me. It feels cheap. Regenerating health is no less ridiculous than health kits. In fact its more so. Why is Wolverine suddenly the main protagonist of every shooter of the past 5 years?

                I’ve never found anything fun about mowing down mooks in COD. Why? There is no gratification because there is no challenge, gratification with out challenge is easy, which explains why people like it so much: All gratification, no challenge.

                • Dave B says:

                  I always liked the way Halo: CE combined health packs with regenerating shields. It feels like it gives you the flexibility to take some damage while still forcing you to guard your health bar. I just think it solves a lot of the shortcomings of both systems. It’s a shame they abandoned that in the sequels.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Those things you say about health bar not being seen well enough,that has nothing to do with health regen.You can stil have those cues with a health bar.For example,half life has the suit telling you when you are low.And,when stung by a poison headcrab,you get that yellowish sludge across the screen to immediately get what happened.You can still have your screen degrade with health being depleted.

                What health regen removes is the tactics of going through battles and reducing attrition.You just jump from encounter to encounter with full health,and they all become mini levels,instead of a single cohesive one.And the weirdest thing about health regen being so prevalent these days is that its being followed by small ammo carrying capacity.So the games have replaced one resource management with another resource management.But instead of picking up health packs,you now go around picking up weapons after every fight.

                • Cineris says:

                  This is exactly true.

                  When I played Halo, I didn’t go around scavenging health items – I went around scavenging guns that I had laid down previously because I didn’t want to use my last couple Pistol/Sniper/Rocket/etc rounds on a meaningless encounter.

                  When playing through the game on Legendary there were points where I pretty much had to reload the game if I used up too much ammo (grenades in particular) because otherwise it would just be impractical to progress.

                  Regenerating health doesn’t really solve any of the issues it’s intended to address (e.g. “hunting for resources,” etc.), it just makes games easier.

  11. Littlefinger says:

    10:00 Josh’s ‘Huh’ just made my day.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Yes,that suppression device isnt all that spectacular,but it is a hell of a pain on harder difficulties.Watching Josh just breeze through this on easy almost makes me want to weep because of the trouble I had last time I was here.

  13. Shrikesnest says:

    God, Old Man Murray was great. I generally don’t understand tabloid-reading level celebrity worship, but when it comes to Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek I make an exception. I wrote the TV Tropes page for OMM more or less singlehandedly.

  14. Dave B says:

    I must admit that I’ve sometimes entertained the thought of going to a convention dressed as a City 17 resistance fighter, and following around anyone cosplaying as Freeman, while saying “Don’t forget to reload.”

    • Raygereio says:

      Get three others to join your crazy idea, shout “Follow Freeman” at random people with beards and glasses and follow them until you’ve found your new Freeman to follow.

  15. evileeyore says:

    Oh Josh, putting the bucket (mine) on the the top of the door, you merry prankster you!

  16. Raygereio says:

    In fact, this is exactly the problem you’ll face if you let your creative people talk freely in public. They will talk about the plans you’ve made around the water cooler, which are then taken as incontrovertible commitments on behalf of their employer.
    I don’t know what went on with Left 4 Dead 2 , but you really can’t blame people for being upset when you’ve been building up a giant hype around your game, only for people to discover that your game is nothing like what’s described by the hype.
    After all, when you buy something that you’ve been led to think is gold, only to come how and discover it’s poo after unwrapping it. I’d say it’s understandable that you’d be upset.

    And in a lot of cases this hype building crosses the line into outright lies.
    An obvious example of this would be the Fable series. Peter Molyneux promised the sun, moon and stars for Fable I and delivered only a fraction of it. Sure, he released a public apology for that. But then he cheerfully did it again with Fables 2 and 3. I do love the guy’s enthousiasm when he talks, but I’m convinced the entirety of Lionhead Studios has a collective fit whenever Molyneux opens his mouth.
    Or how about BioWare? Take a look at various interviews before DA2 and ME3 were released and compare the games described in there to the actual games.

    As for creative people talking freely. I don’t buy it in most cases. It’s not like throwing a disclaiming in that says you’re talking about concepts that aren’t fully developet yet is hard.
    And in most cases the excuse of “people talking freely” doesn’t work at all when the interview in question is held late in the development, or even after the game has gone gold, when what is and isn’t in has been set in stone.

    I do wish the gaming press weren’t the spineless dickheads that they are, actually did some journalism and called gamestudios out on what’s essentially false advertisement.

  17. Tse says:

    I hate City 17, lived there for 6 years and still occasionally have to visit it. Currently, I live in one of the top 3 oldest continually inhabited cities in Europe (Greece claims the first 2 places, but their evidence is being contested), only 150km away from City 17.

  18. Jeff says:

    Nonsense, you haven’t pushed qualifying asterisks far enough! PTerry does nested ones sufficient for an entire page. :)

  19. noahpocalypse says:

    I actually thought fighting on the rooftop was pretty dang awesome. It was frustrating waiting for the Combine to open their dang door, but I think it’s a fairly solid concept.

    @Mumbles: I concur with Shamus- they play the mellow, haunting tunes to set a mood (usually fear or loneliness) whenever nothing’s happening and the environment is suitable for it, and the faster-paced pieces play whenever there’s a prolonged firefight, just to keep the mood up.
    Brace yourself, but hear me out- if you want another example of an FPS that plays around with audio during gameplay, I would recommend Halo 3 or (better yet) ODST. Bungie has its own resident composer. Put bluntly, he makes good music. In Halo, there is always music (unless you’re online). Each level has its own piece- it’s cool because there is always something playing, and most of the time, it’s not even action shoot-em-up stuff.

    • Mumbles says:

      I’ve actually been directed towards Halo for video game music before (a music blog will do this to a person) and I was surprised to see it didn’t suck. I think there’s so much that can be done with soundtracks these days and having interesting timing is def part of it.

    • Sumanai says:

      I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Blood does something interesting with its music. Back then music was usually in midi, but Blood had a soundtrack on the disc. But instead of just playing a track throughout a map it played bits in certain places and situations and then usually went back to the midi file.

      They work pretty well if listened as-is, and the CD should work in any CD playing device.

  20. TheLurkerAbove says:

    When the topic of newish shooters that could be adapted for HL3, my mind immediately jumped to Vanquish. It was pure FPS, had new ideas and stayed fresh the whole way through.

    Though I suppose giving Gordon Freeman rocket skates probably breaks canon…

  21. RCN says:

    Half-Life 3 is apparently the new Duke Nukem Forever. I think Valve just wants to put so much in it, and every time they discover their engine is outdated and they have to start all over again, and as they’re finishing they come up with more stuff to implement.

    On the one hand, thanks to Steam in particular Valve has very little chance of going belly up like 3D Realms. On the other, it’ll create the same problem that a game in development for so long will create impossible-to-meet hype.

    • X2Eliah says:

      Imo that impossible-to-meet hype about a half-life 3 is already a thing. Heck, HL2 is often cited as the best game of X or whatever and a paragon of fps games.. And it has already been.. Hm, how much – 8 years now?

      All in all, imo the whole HL2 episode thing was the decision that really broke any hope for HL3.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      People focus on duke so much that they forget other games that were in the development stage for quite a while but are still very good.Like starcraft 2.Of course,its not as good as 1,but it still is an excellent game.Heck,even half life 2 came out 6 years after 1,and people were wondering if it will manage to meet the high expectations set up by its predecessor.

      The bane of dnf was that it changed hands so often,and that is not happening with hl3.So it can still be in the top,or even the best when(if) it comes out.

      • Guy says:

        TF2 was in development for about as long as DNF, for that matter.

        I actually prefer SC2 over the original, admittedly mostly because I primarily play campaign mode and SC2 simply has a much more sophisticated campaign.

      • RCN says:

        Meh, both me and my brother hated Starcraft 2. Mostly on the fact that it is still the same fucking game. Blizzard surely didn’t even try to do something new in the RTS genre there.

        And may the Gods have mercy upon your soul if you come with the “it was already the perfect RTS, there was nothing to improve”. I’ve heard that one many, many times and I actually get angrier every time I hear that. Even if it was true, that just means there’s absolutely no reason to even do a sequel.

        Both Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 reek too much of Activision.

        • Aldowyn says:

          *shrug* They improved the pathfinding in SC2, and that makes a huge difference in competitive play :P

          SC2 LOOKS really clean and pretty, and is just more fun to watch because of it. Just for that and its resultant impact on the eSports community I think it was worth it. Diablo III, on the other hand… *shrug* I don’t have enough experience with D2 to comment on the matter. Although I stopped 2/3 of the way through nightmare if that makes a difference.

          • X2Eliah says:

            “– improved AI pathfinding”

            That sounds exactly like a minor sub-list note that you’d see in a free regular patch/update, though. It’s hardly a core change to sell a new game around.

        • guy says:

          Yes, because the tactical roles of hellions and marauders are precisely the same as those of vultures and firebats, respectively. And Overlords could always deploy creep to permit a nydus connection. And Queens and MULES and Chronoboost have precisely no effect on the gameplay.

          Except none of those things are true.

          • RCN says:

            Its still the same exact game. Just because every faction got some special ability to hurry up the early game does not a new game make. You’re talking about the kind of changes that you’re more likely to have found in an expansion than a true sequel. The Call of Duty series see more significant changes from one episode to the next than Starcraft did. Only EA Sports titles feel more stagnant.

            Plus the decision to make each campaign a new game. This reeks so much of Activision. I know Blizzard fans are a bit protective, but you must be able to recognize Actvision’s shadow on pretty much everything Blizzard does nowdays.

            • guy says:

              All right, time to list gameplay changes:

              The following terran units were replaced: Medic, Firebat, Vulture, Goliath, Wraith, Science Vessel, Dropship, Valkyrie

              The following terran units are pretty much completely new in terms of behavior: Thor, Marauder, Reaper, Raven, Banshee (has the wraith cloak but is dedicated ground attack instead of primarily anti-air)

              Hellions, Vikings, and Medivacs fill similar tactical roles to Vultures, Goliaths, and Dropships/Medics but are still significantly different in behavior. Specifically, Hellions have columns of flame that serve as a line AoE instead of a grenade launcher and lack spidermines, Vikings now transform between air and ground attack modes instead of being ground-bound and capable of engaging both types of target, and Medivacs are dropships but also medics.

              The following Zerg units were replaced: Guardians, Devourers, Defilers, Queens, Lurkers, Scourge

              The following Zerg units are essentially new: Revised Queens, Roaches, infestors

              The following zerg units are similar but significantly distinct from their predecessors: Brood Lords, Corruptors, Both defense structure crawlers, the Nydus worm setup. Specifically, Brood Lords spawn broodlings, Corruptors are fast single-target attackers instead of lumbering sources of AoE, the defense structures move, and to be honest I’m not clear on nydus network/nydus worm mechanics but it’s not the same as nydus canals.

              Additionally, overlords have been signficantly altered and gained a caster mutations, and Creep is now considerably more complex.

              The following protoss units have been replaced: Dark Archons, Corsairs, Scouts, Arbiters, Reavers, Dragoons, Shuttles.

              The following units are essentially new: Void Rays, Sentries, Colossi, Immortals

              Phoenixes have gravaton beams instead of whatever the disabling energy web thing was called, Stalkers have blink, the mothership carries over the Arbiter powers, and the warp prism can project energy to warp in structures or provide emergency replacements for pylons.

              There’s also a bunch of new map features and Technology Marches On improvements to the UI, but I think I’ve made my point. EDIT: Oh, and many of the units that stuck around got some form of revision, too.

              Would you like me to do this for other games? I have the Command and Conquer The First Decade manual around somewhere, so I can compare consecutive games.

              There is only one campaign, but it is three times as long and both the overall campaign and each individual mission are more interesting.

              • RCN says:

                Congratulations for making my point to me that Blizzard fans have a desperate need to justify Activision’s executive meddling.

                The campaign is larger, but the story is dumbed down. They added bells upon bells upon whistles, but while in the original Starcraft every campaign mission advanced the plot now most of them are unapologetic filler. Nova has a cameo for the sole purpose of them having Nova doing a cameo. The campaign is larger, has less happening than in the first act of the first Starcraft alone.

                And you made a wall-of-text to list new units. New, units. Really? Is that proof of what, exactly? That a community modder could have made a sequel just as poignant?

                • Shamus says:

                  You led off with the phrase “Its still the same exact game.” And then guy listed some fairly dramatic changes to the gameplay, pacing, base building, etc. If those aren’t meaningful changes, then what were you looking for?

                  Sure, modders maybe could have added that stuff to the game. But:

                  1) New story.
                  2) Updated graphics.
                  3) New units and gameplay mechanics.
                  4) Extravagantly produced cutscenes.

                  Now, if you want to argue that these elements don’t WORK, that’s one thing. Maybe you don’t care about cutscenes or you think the new units break the game somehow. That’s fine. But I’m having trouble seeing how you can argue that they didn’t change enough. What else is there to change?

                  This is not a rhetorical question: What is this game lacking to be more than an expansion pack?

                  • Sumanai says:

                    I think he is talking about fundamental changes to mechanics that change the gameplay a lot. Like, say, between Dawn of War 1 & 2 with the removal of the base building.

                  • RCN says:

                    Oh, Gods, I don’t know why I hate myself so much to the point of actually answering this (it is always intimidating to talk back to the owner of a website at their website), but here’s my best shot:

                    From the moment of the first video I came across of a preview for Starcraft 2, the only feeling I had about this game is “That looks exactly the same”. In fact, my brother walked in as I watched the video and at first he thought it was a video with the original Starcraft.

                    Now, I’m not gonna argue that they added more to the game than, say, Call of Duty (I was kinda teasing when I proposed otherwise), but Call of Duty churns a new game every year or so, this one took 12 years to come about, give or take?

                    My point isn’t even that this game doesn’t deserve to be a sequel by any normal standards. But our normal standards for sequels are just a little bit off the bat right now. So… why not take Blizzard itself as a meter for this shall we?

                    Diablo 1 to Diablo 2 had: A complete rework of how the classes with more classes added, a complete rework of the leveling system and how you progress throughout the game, they upped the ante by introducing Diablo’s brothers as bosses (who were only mentioned in passing in the original), they completely reworked the spell system into the skill system, they introduced a lot of new setpieces to give more flavor to the original’s “Dungeons, dungeons, dungeons, dungeons, hellfire, hellfire, hellfire, hellfire…”, reworked the loot system, introduced new customizing mechanics like the gems and runes, and so on.

                    Warcraft through Warcraft 3: Admitedly, I remember very little of the original Warcraft: Humans and Orcs, but I do remember they reworking much more than graphics. From Warcraft 2 to 3, though, is a really large difference. There are new factions, the introduction of Hero units as fundamental units of each factions, whose the gameplay associated with them alone was so addictive and fun it gave birth to the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, a thorough mixing of RTS and RPG gameplay elements including loot and XP for your heroes, taking a cue from Starcraft and making all the factions asymetrical instead of the mirror-images they pretty much were in Warcraft 2 (though I kinda remember the orcs being more powerful in general but more expensive… though that might be in Warcraft 1), it looks lie a few changes, but they are very significant ones truly deserving of being a sequel.

                    Then Blizzard worked on World of Warcraft for a bout 8 years non-stop putting a hold on everything else.

                    Can you truly tell me that the changes to the core gameplay of Starcraft to Starcraft 2 (which I played the whole campaign and even a bit of battle.net, all the while feeling I had played that game before) are even comparable to what Blizzard did for Diablo 2 or Warcraft 3? Mechanically, the game plays exactly the same. New units that do new things… didn’t keep a series like Warlord Battlecry from being called lazy with each installment (and dare I say they made a lot more changes in each than Starcraft had). But this is Blizzard, and their game cost 200 million dollars (and shows it was all spent in its cutscenes), and Blizzard can do no wrong, and Starcraft didn’t need to change anyway, so… no-one cares.

                    The modding tools are robust though, so… props to that, I guess.

                    And I’m sorry if I sound defiant, petulant, or even rude… I’m truly just trying to defend my opinion and I’m not alone in it.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Ok,you want mechanical differences?The introduction of units that are colossal,meaning they are walkers that can be targeted from air.The introduction of non-fliers that can scale cliffs.The introduction of new elements on the map that affect the pathing,the shroud,and even the terrain itself(lava planet in the campaign,for example).Those are all comparative to the changes in units in warcraft 3.

                      The changes in the campaign are huge,and the research you can do is comparative to the classes in diablo 2.

                      Then there is the huge update in ai(which is a big deal,especially for an rts)and,like you said,the modding tools.

                      So yes,it is comparatively different enough to be a proper sequel.Is it as good as the original?No.Is it as groundbreaking as the original?Heck no!But it still is a good game,and a good sequel.

                      You dont have to revolutionize the genre with every sequel to have a good game.Evolution is still a viable path for sequels.Heck,half life 2 is exactly that:An evolution of its predecessor,with new enemies,new weapons,new npcs,new story,new graphics and improved ai.It doesnt change the core mechanic,it doesnt give you more classes,it doesnt add in 3rd person cinematics,nothing that wasnt in the first one.

    • Guy says:

      Don’t they have episode 3 to finish before even starting actual HL3?

      Work on a sequel doesn’t start the instant the game goes gold, you realize.

      • RCN says:

        Except that while Valve hasn’t gone so far as to give an official announcement of Half-Life 3, they kinda made that promise at the end of Half-Life 2 finishing with sequel-bait and, after following up with the episodes, they were kinda promising continuing with them. If it isn’t in production to this day this is just incompetent, which Valve isn’t (it has flaws, incompetency isn’t one of them).

        Other than that, the ghost of this yet-to-be-made game has haunted the gaming press for at least 5 years now.

  22. Gruhunchously says:

    I really do like it when the snipers in this game start sharpshooting crows/barrels/boxes/whatever whenever they don’t know you’re around. It’s pretty much what I would do if I was ordered to stay in one place for a long time and had an extreamly powerful and accurate weapon with (presumably) unlimited ammunition at my disposal, so I can relate.

  23. Anorak says:

    It could easily be said the Valve take a “jack-of-all-trades” approach to their gameplay mechanics, and infact that is nearly what Chris said, and then Shamus used a buffet metaphor. I submit that Half-Life is not a buffet, but a market. You buy your own ingredients and prepare your own meal.
    What I mean is that the huge variation of play mechanics offers choice in a way that most FPSs do not – if my choice is limited to: “Do I use #generic gun 1 or #generic gun 2”, I don’t feel like I made any choice.

    The gravity gun is the perfect example: Mumbles mentioned that she barely used it – whereas I used barely anything else. As soon as I got it I fell in love with it, and the level design was good enough that there was always junk to throw.

    Other developers would force you into it, by spawning some kind of heavy combine that was immune to bullets and could only be taken down by throwing radiators at them, but there are very few points in the game where you are forced into using the Gravity gun.

    On the level design, and there always being physics objects – this is something I think that Half-Life 2 and episodes _still_ does better than other shooters – I can’t think of many other games that have the amount of stuff littering the levels, and whats more, it’s believable stuff too. All the levels have these little heaps of debris that actually belong, and react to your presence whether you’re throwing grenades around, or kicking them.

    Half-Life’s story: it’s true that it’s a much lighter story than Mass Effect, but there is a lot there, usually in the background, and it’s something that has been pointed out on this blog too- Valve go in for environmental storytelling, they don’t just dump a load of exposition on you. There’s a scene described in Raising The Bar where Eli literally gives you a lecture, using slides and everything, explaining exactly who the Combine are, what they’re doing here, and how the seven hour war progressed. I am so glad that they dropped that scene, it would have been awful.

    Bioware may be masters of story, but Valve are masters of storytelling. I may have just nicked that quote, not sure.

    Not sure if I had a point, and if I did, not sure if I made it yet. *shrugs*

  24. Oh I don’t mind the very long qualifying asterisk.
    As long as you don’t just asterisk something then never explain it.
    You’ve seen that sometimes right?

    “Blah blah blah, and *blah blah blah, then blah”
    And then you loose minutes trying to find out where/what that asterisk is about, but it’s never explained. Arrrg…

  25. AJ_Wings says:

    My problem with Half-Life 2’s story is that Valve is building up sooo much plot points, character, villains..etc. I wonder how in the heck are they going to answer all these questions and not disappoint a few people along the way. I hate to say this but I bet Valve doesn’t know where to take this franchise anywhere at this point. Both from a story and gameplay perspective. Which is a damn shame…

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