Half Life 2 Episode 1 EP1: Episode 1

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Feb 4, 2015

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 87 comments

Link (YouTube)

We’re still debating about what game we should cover next. So we’re returning to our old standby, Half-Life 2.

Since I didn’t talk about it in the episode, let’s talk about it now: This is probably the clearest example of what Valve was shooting for with their “Episode” idea. It’s probably around four hours long. It has minimal graphical enhancements. The end boss is just a single instance of a monster we’ve defeated a dozen times before. It basically takes the existing gameplay and adds a few variations on the existing ideas. A dark level. The zombine. A few new ambushes. Some three-way Gordon/Combine/Zombie fights.

If this episodic idea had worked out I think I would have enjoyed it. Sure, nothing much happens in the story. But if we got something like this every couple of years, then the story doesn’t need to go through giant leaps.


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87 thoughts on “Half Life 2 Episode 1 EP1: Episode 1

  1. Theminimanx says:

    Nooooooo! You didn’t name the post ‘Spoiler Warning: Half-Life 2: Episode 1: Part 1: VortiGONE!’.
    It’s been 4 years since you made that joke, but still! :)

  2. Joseph P. Tallylicker says:

    Was that flying car sequence Valve trolling the trainride from HL1?

    1. Decius says:

      It’s part of the overall recurring theme, which is that Gordan Freeman develops a phobia of all vehicles.

  3. Isaac says:

    Episode 1 was okay, I guess. Its inferior to Episode 2 but I still like it!

    1. Chris says:

      We haven’t even put episode 2 up yet! How could you possib- oh. Ohhhh…

  4. Nicholas Hayes says:

    No outro this week then. Kinda weird having Chris fade off into blackness

    1. Chris says:

      It happens more often than you’d think

      1. Need to get off that sauce son…

        1. Ivan says:

          It’s not easy being a vampire.

  5. Tizzy says:

    Boy, that episode takes forever to get underway, doesn’t it? I remember getting incredibly frustrated at the time, starting a brand new game and waiting around for dog to do stuff so I could actually play a bit.

    It’s funny, because I *loved* the slow beginning in HL2 itself.

    1. Ranneko says:

      I guess it is the difference between getting to grips with a setting and already knowing it.

      One feels like an atmospheric introduction, the other feels like a delay.

      I also wonder how much of it stems from you starting with the gravity gun in EP1, as opposed to starting with nothing in HL2.

      The gravity gun is a signal that there is something to do, something you can manipulate an interact with in a way that a screen void of even a hud is a signal that the action hasn’t started yet.

  6. Tizzy says:

    RE: beige computer boxes. Aren’t they supposed to be somewhere in Eastern Europe?

    That should be enough, no?

    1. ET says:

      Yeah, being in former-USSR-land would set the computer technology back at least ten years. My cousins in Ukraine don’t even have iPhones yet! ^^;

      1. Alex says:

        “‘I Phone’? Of course I phone! I walk down to phone booth and phone from there!”

  7. Quent says:

    Chris, when you say “nonsensical” do you mean that with a negative connotation? I ask because you seem to have a habit of using a word that would normally have a negative connotation and yet seem to mean it in a purely descriptive sense with no good/bad value associated with it.

    The Citadel always struck me as a place designed without knowledge of how to design within our particular universe, leading it to not have railings, which goes with the whole Combine aesthetic. Hell, I think that someone mentioned something along these lines when you first entered the Citadel in Half-Life 2. (and here Rutskarn mentioned that you were denied access to the normal routes that people would use)

    If you meant that it had a layout that seemed to be there purely for gameplay, then I would point out the odd building layouts in city 17 that no one really notices. Maybe You noticing the layout more here because it’s meant to feel alien?

    I don’t know. I sometimes can’t tell what you intend by your phrasing.

    (On a side note: if anyone would like to see some interesting uses of the aesthetic may I recommend Minerva: Metastasis . The guy actually got hired by valve for the mod! (and if you wanted to stretch the aesthetic a bit you could point to Dishonoured))

    1. guy says:

      The outer sections of the Citadel are pretty incomprehensible. I didn’t really mind, though. It felt like being inside a giant machine that was apparently doing something but with no clear indication as to what.

      I would also point out that the Citadel reconfigures itself during Route Kanal, so some of the stuff might make sense in an alternate configuration.

    2. swenson says:

      Minerva! Those gorgeous huge-feeling levels. That reminds me, I gotta play it again sometime. It gets a little consumed with its own cleverness in terms of philosophy, but it was boatloads of fun and the level design is great.

      1. Okay, I just played this thing through to where the gunship comes, and that’s enough. This albeit well-crafted expansion makes incomprehensibility from point-n-click adventures come to the FPS genre. After my 10th or so trip to a walkthrough, I’ve had enough. Whoever designed it might be clever, but they really, really need a course from Valve about directing the player where to go and what to do next.

        Destroy the buffers? What are those?
        * consults walkthrough *
        Oh, you mean what up until this point were energy ball locks? Okay, um… how?
        * consults walkthrough *
        Grenades? That would’ve been nice to know. Okay. Uh… nope, still not working…
        * consults walkthrough *
        Grenades TWICE? And they have to be direct hits, not splash damage. Okay. Oh, and that releases enemies every time, does it? Great reward.

        And don’t even get me started on the whole steam valve “puzzles” later on. Not to mention every Combine and headcrab is a bullet-sponge as compared to others in the actual game, and this is a recipe for massive frustration. It’s do-it-again-stupid but with the FPS version of pixel-hunting to go along with it.

        Again, it’s well-crafted, and the level sizes are impressive, but it’s obviously not from designers as clever as the Valve team’s were.

    3. Chris says:

      I didn’t really mean nonsensical derogatorily, I meant it descriptively. I mean, outside of its introductory sequences Half-life has never had a particular affinity or proficiency in designing levels that feel really real – as you point out, even the city layout doesn’t make much sense most of the time. But despite that at least some attempt is made to have it be “a place” in some sense – a bridge, an office building, a sewer, whatever.

      But the Citadel is just… abstract rooms full of empty space. Not even big complex alien rooms that defy human expectations. Just… big blocky spaces for play. Again, they feel like Portal puzzles – rooms designed for you to figure out “the answer” with minimal other stuff to distract you. And if you think about the space for too long it stops making sense – elevators that exist just so Gordon can reach a health pack or push a button, hard-light bridges in areas that are supposed to be “in the walls”, control rooms the size of high school gyms that have two terminals on opposite ends and a generator in the corner that is only powered by balls you can get with a gravity gun… none of these rooms feel anything close to real or logical. Sure, running across a seesaw puzzle in the sewers is a little weird, but at least a concrete tube, cinder blocks, and pieces of plywood are something you’d expect to find in a gutter. Here everything just feels… contrived for the player. And not in a bad way! Just in a way that makes it feel less like a place and more like a series of puzzles.

  8. Sunf1re96 says:

    Not enough, need more!

  9. Nyctef says:

    One interesting fan theory I’ve heard is that the GMan/Vortigaunt’s basic skill is mastering chaos theory, or “point insertion”: being able to place a protagonist at the exact point in space and time where all the coincidences work out and they end up doing the most damage. So the reason you’re dumped in rubble at the start of the episode in that particular place is so that Dog finds the right car and you get thrown into the citadel at the right time and somehow manage to not die a horrible fiery death on the way in and (eventually) manage to get to the reactor in time.

    > The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So, wake up, Mister Freeman. Wake up and… smell the ashes

    1. So…they’re basically playing a videogame where they shove you in a spot, let you go to town and see how far you get before everything blows up and then they restart and try again until they’ve found the best spot and move on to the next level.

      1. swenson says:

        Wouldn’t be the first time Half-Life gets meta… the All-Knowing Vortigaunt makes some pretty meta remarks.

  10. Man, how is it that these HL games that are over fuck’n ten years old feature more complex, emotive and expressive animation than pretty much every FP game I’ve played since?

    1. batti says:

      The New Order is pretty good at making you empathize with a meat block

  11. IFS says:

    “You’re not actually going any reasonable or logical path, you’re just sorta bullshitting this way by manipulating the geometry or the physics”

    So Rutskarn what you’re saying is that Gordon is speedrunning the Citadel?

  12. Isaac says:

    Here’s this theory that I’ve had in mind for a while: are all Vortigaunts the same being? Think about it: they talk about this thing called the Vortessence which seems like one communal state of mind that they all share, they constantly refer to Gordon and Alyx as “The Freeman” and “The Alyx Vance” and they all look exactly the same. They all also seem to explicitly remember Gordon killing loads of vortigaunts back in Black Mesa even though a significant amount of them were on Zen during the entire incident and Black Mesa got blown up by a thermonuclear bomb.

    Basically what I’m suggesting is that vortigaunts are all the exact same and share the same knowledge. They also don’t seem to be able to comprehend individuality like we can. We know (on a planet comprised of billions of people) that there is no such thing as “The Alyx Vance”. There’s probably hundreds upon hundreds of Alyx Vances in the world, not just one.

    EDIT: Okay I may be a bit wrong about the “vortigaunts don’t understand individuality” part of my theory since there’s a part in HL2:EP2 where a vortigaunt refers to itself as “I”. However the Half Life Wikia does offer this interesting tidbit about vortigaunts: “It has been hinted that death is not permanent for a Vortigaunt, and that they might have the ability to “reincarnate” into a new body after death (“What seems to you a sacrifice is merely, to us, an oscillation. We do not fear the interval of darkness.” as said by the All-Knowing Vortigaunt).”


    1. Chris says:

      Black Mesa got blown up by a thermonuclear bomb.

      Is… is that canon? Does that get talked about in Half-Life 2? I don’t remember that happening in Half-Life – you disappear into Xen and then just sort of stay there for the remainder of the game.

      1. Neko says:

        Hm. I do remember the military setting off some sort of large explosion that destroyed some of the compound. In the final cutscenes with the gman maybe? Or perhaps there’s something in the expansions, like Blue Shift.

        1. Isaac says:

          HL1 was a 90s action game so nukes HAD to be involved somehow!

          1. ehlijen says:

            I don’t actually recall any nukes in the game proper. Reactors, nuclear batteries for some of the guns etc, sure, but I don’t think Gordon ever interacts with a nuke in any way.

        2. ehlijen says:

          It happens during the end of Opposing Forces. The player disarms a nuke during the game, can spot the G-man fiddling with it on a security camera later and during the obligatory mysterious end speech while flying away in a helicopter, the facility blows up.

          Of course, that wasn’t a valve expansion, so no clue how canon that is.

          1. Isaac says:

            “Although subsequent games tend to disregard the Gearbox expansions’ storyline, series’ writer Marc Laidlaw has confirmed that the destruction of the Black Mesa Research Facility at the end of Opposing Force is canon.”


      2. Isaac says:

        Yes its canon: “The ensuing conflict between United States military forces and the alien creatures resulted in the complete destruction of the facility and the death of almost all of its employees.”


    2. While the hive mind thing is a nice idea, it’s more likely that they hired only one voice actor (Louis Gossett Jr.) and just re-used the model since all aliens naturally look alike. :)

  13. Jeff R says:

    Ah, you should have turned on the Developer Commentary. Just so you couple play the bit about how the episodic model will allow them to finish the story with a quick turnaround time…

    1. No, because we would want the cast to eventually stop laughing…

  14. Gruhunchously says:

    You guys didn’t mention it, but I really like the way Alyx reacts to the Stalkers. Not just her dialogue, but also the way she immediately stops joking around and becomes quiet and somber, even desperate, the moment any of them appear. It’s all very underplayed, and I think it manages to make the Stalkers far more tragic and repulsive than they otherwise would have been.

    1. The upcoming train sequence makes the stalkers one of the scariest HL2 monsters in the game. I’m almost sorry we never see them anywhere else.

  15. Re: Space magic failing in the opening scene.

    I dunno. You see from the cutscene that while the Vorts saved you, the Gman is apparently in opposition to their actions. If two space magics are at odds, it’s reasonable to assume that one canceled the other out to some degree. There’s also the trope of non-interference by godlike beings to an extent. I mean, if they were capable of fixing everything, there’d be no game. They could also be doing this for other reasons (the old “the hero has to work for their victory or humanity will never learn, for they are a child race” or somesuch).

    I don’t think it’s that big a problem, really. I do agree the startup is slower. It was two years after HL2, so maybe they thought there was a need for more scene-setting to bring everyone up to speed?

    1. The Specktre says:

      Yeah, I like the mysterious and narrativistic power of the Vortigaunts and the G-Man. I’m also not sure if I’d go so far as to say that it was completely unplanned. Being unplanned would be if they waited to introduce G-Man or the Vorts until after the explosion of the Citadel. Valve put their story in a position where they could pull of ridiculous cliff-hangers to pull their characters out of as they needed. I’m also not sure if the Vorts saving you is exactly a Deus Ex Machina because of their set-up before, and that these entities fighting over you seems to be a re-occurring theme. If it is a DXM, I’d say it’s a good DXM.

      1. guy says:

        I feel like the original plan was for the G-man to stasis Gordon again and pull him back out much later, instead of the Vortigant intervention.

        1. The Specktre says:

          That’s way too far into the realm of speculation for me to be meaningful. But it’s safe to say they were in a position to do whatever they wanted.

  16. And you think the beige box computers are retro? My vote for “most jarring retro-tech to see in a game” still goes to Vampire: Bloodlines. Everyone has Apple IIe computers, which are really odd to see for me outside of an 80’s public school computer lab.

    Then there are the answering machines…

    1. Neko says:

      I loved using the computers in VtM:B, I just wish there was more stuff you could do with them. And the radio. I’ve actually got the Deb of Night episodes as audio files which I like to listen to now and then…

      1. Henson says:

        Deb! You’ve got to listen to this, this is the big one! I really shouldn’t be saying this where they can hear, but the people have to know, Deb! This goes all the way to the top, to the secret government agencies in charge, but most people don’t even know they exist. The government doesn’t want you to think it exists, but the truth has got to be told! Half-Life 3, Deb! That’s right, Half-Life 3, it exists, but the government doesn’t want you to know about it! They’ve been keeping it a secret all these years, the conspiracy behind it! They don’t want it to get out, but they can’t hide the truth, Deb! All the information is out there, you just have to know where to look! How do I know? Just look at the number of ‘1’s in the title of this episode, Deb. Three of them! Three, Deb! It’s the information that they don’t want you to know, the evidence is out there, Half-Life 3, it exists, Deb! It exists!

  17. psivamp says:

    My work bought a desktop computer for our business admin-type person. I don’t know why. We could have given her one of the linux-installed Chromebooks we have lying around for all the computational muscle she needs.

    Most of the time, I like the move back to the thin-client model (cheaper, smaller, dumber machines at the user accessing something bigger centralized). That hasn’t successfully made it over to gaming yet, though. I can stream games from my desktop to my x86 laptop, but not to my ARM laptop. And when I did that last it wasn’t very good.

    1. For me, I like the flexibility a desktop gives me. I can use my legacy hardware, I can “drop something in” if I need to, I can swap out components easily without removing a bajillion screws, and I can do nearly all PC maintenance myself or with friends.

      I have a laptop I take with me “on the road,” and if my needs are particularly light, and Android tablet can work as well.

      That said, it stinks (for me) that desktops that fit my need for as many ports/bays as possible are getting more expensive. I was looking at a stop-gap PC replacement while my primary machine was under the weather, and the low-end desktops are not only coming with more things welded to the motherboard, they have fewer and fewer slots for peripherals. The ones I was looking at might as well have been laptops for all the expandability and component choices they had available.

      1. spleentioteuthis says:

        Hit the nail on the head about the flexibility.
        “Do modern gamers buy desktop computers anymore?” struck me as a really bizarro universe question given that right at this very moment I’m planning on buying an all new case for a shinier, newer setup, where half the drives and components will still be cannibalized from older desktop PCs.
        For a fraction of the price of a roughly equivalent new… eugh, gaming laptop.
        Maybe I’m missing the joke.

        And clearly black is the new beige. White cases seem to exist too, but you get weird looks for having one of those. “What is that thing? Is that one of those Macs for rich fashionable people? Are you secretly a millionaire?”

        1. psivamp says:

          To be fair, I think the actual question was “do non-gamers even buy desktops anymore?”

          And, seriously, of course there are situations where you need massive servers or arrays of SoC’s to handle simulations. But, by and large, the computing needs of the average person are met by tablets and Chromebooks. Most people just want to surf the internet, watch YouTube and write a resume to print out. None of that takes much.

          My company, before I got there, failed to invest in a really good server to centralize some of the big time sink neural net processing we were doing. And as a result, we have 3 gaming laptops lying around as people came and went who needed to have access to a system that could handle that stuff. We called them Gigantor, and because we weren’t creative, Gigantor 2. The third laptop ( second chronologically, but whatever ) doesn’t have a nickname because it actually fits into a regular laptop chassis rather than some obnoxiously large, vented 12 pound behemoth.

          The amusing thing about using a gaming laptop is that manufacturers recently introduced a second low-power graphics card into the mix and so my system actually performs terribly for regular things, I experience screen tearing constantly because the weak Intel chip lacks the power to run two monitors — or refuses to play nice with my window manager’s compositor.

          1. spleentioteuthis says:

            Well, my ears are clearly full of gunk the identity of which is safest to leave in the realm of speculation.

            And “most people” are weird.

          2. I use my computer for gaming and work, and if you eliminated gaming, then yes, I’d want a desktop PC.

            I fear this might be my last desktop that gives me an old-fashioned PCI slot for my ancient SCSI card for my equally ancient 11″ by 17″ scanner. Even the drivers are a kludge, requiring notepad-modified drivers for a different model card written for 32-bit Vista.

            The only other way I’ve seen to use the thing is to buy this breakout box from (I think) a Polish company that lets you put legacy cards in and hook them up via USB, which still doesn’t help if the drivers haven’t been updated since the Bush administration…

  18. Pseudonymus says:

    I think Episode 1 would be *significantly* improved if it used Episode 2’s split running/flashlight mechanic. What with all that running away from zombies in the dark.

    1. MrGuy says:

      I don’t know. I mean, the first time you climb up on the back of a god and stab him in the neck, it’s amazing. But after you start mowing down whole pantheons in a single fight, it kind of loses it’s appeal. I really think they needed to scale it back more and make these fights special.

  19. Let’s play Spoiler Warning Nitpick Bingo!

    Everyone takes a drink for any of the TVTropes.org Half-Life “Headscratchers” that get brought up in this series!

    If you reach up to scratch your head and discover Lamar, please contact Dr. Kleiner immediately.

  20. Hey, Josh? Will you be going for the achievement regarding a certain lawn gnome? If so, be sure to practice wedging that thing in the back seat of the car.

  21. Tychoxi says:

    While I don’t disagree with Chris’ point of the level design being somewhat nonsensical, the Citadel and Combine structures are supposed to be these sort-of growing organism, so they are regularly expanding and shit, which would lead to that feel as different sections grow, get sealed-off, reopened, etc.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Chris,you had an opportunity to say “the last of us”,and youve squandered it.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    People would stand for never having it explained what happens in between.Thats basically the transition between hl1 and hl2.You go to xen,and you never find out what happens on earth once you get stasised away.Heck,even the blue shift and opposing force dont explain much of what happens afterwards.

    Also,its a shame we dont get to see hephard again.I guess after he got stasised he was put in the way distant future to fight the reapers.

    1. Isaac says:

      You do find out what happens between HL1 and HL2. Its called The Seven Day War! Gordon has it explained to him by Eli when he reaches Black Mesa East in HL2.

      1. Seven Hour War. He doesn’t so much explain it as bemoan that if the Combine open up a new portal, it’ll be like the Seven Hour War but we won’t last seven minutes. Apparently, Breen negotiated whatever outcome the original war had, which is why he’s the Earth’s administrator.

        1. guy says:

          As far as I could gather, the Combine dropped Citadels, presumably one per city they kept so at least 17, and for the initial invasion they were filled to the brim with troops. It is understandable that would go poorly.

          1. Ivan says:

            That actually explains all the open space within them, if that were filled with troop transports. Well that and if the citadels were “dropped” there, they might have “unfolded” after landing as well.

            1. guy says:

              You can actually see an army sortieing from it during the coffin module ride. For timing reasons I assumed at least the heavy equipment was actually arriving by an internal portal, since the street fighting had been going on for a while and it seemed like if the Combine actually had enough troops on hand to have a continuous stream of them heading out by several days in the uprising would be going even more poorly than it had been.

              There’s also a couple of synth types you only see during that sequence; I figure they’re used for invasions and had returned to the homeworlds, then got brought back as the fighting escalated.

          2. Zekiel says:

            That’s an interesting explanation. I’d always found it highly improbable that the Combine could win a war in only 7 hours, given that their tech on display in HL2 isn’t *that* far from what we currently have. But I guess if they somehow had intel to portal troops directly to major military installations then maybe they could win just through the element of surprise.

            Would require a heck of a lot of troops though!

            1. I dunno. Imagine how many tripods, airships, and headcrab-missiles they could’ve deployed from the get-go. There’s also whatever the crawler-things were we caught a glimpse of in HL2, and who knows what role the Overseers played?

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              The troops on display in half life games are not the main combine force.In 1,its just a scouting party,in 2 its just a locally made garrison militia.And seeing how powerful a single advisor is,its not hard to imagine how powerful the actual invading force would be.

              1. Zekiel says:

                Those are both good points – thanks!

    2. Tobias says:

      Gee, thanks. Now I want Mass Effect x Half-Life crossover fan fiction. With Thommy Westphall as the Star Child.

  24. Re: Getting the super-gravity gun.

    They don’t want you to have it 100% of the time because it is a godlike weapon that would destroy the rest of the game.

    I recently replayed this, and I think the gravity gun mechanic was a bit more justified than contriving you finding a bunch of Combine weapons and ammo, which would be limited resources in an area where you could get stuck somewhere under fire with nothing to hurl at the bad guys. Not to mention that all of the puzzles in the Citadel (falling stuff in the elevator, energy ball locks, etc.) use the gravity gun anyway, so it’s likely a mechanic to get you comfortable with it being your only weapon for now.

    1. Viktor says:

      Sure, but why not just start you with it blue? It’s blue when HL2 ends, orange when e1 starts, and then they make it blue again 2 minutes in. Just leave it blue, it’s not like it’d break anything in the intro anyways.

      1. guy says:

        The implication to me seemed to be that messing directly with the core reactor was what un-blued the gun, hence why it happens both times you do that.

      2. What guy said, but also because for new players (hey, it could be someone’s first HL2 game), you’d have to establish why this awesome power was only temporary.

        1. Ivan says:

          I agree, I think it’s mostly to show that this overcharged state is not normal and anyone who has played HL2 will see that it wore off once so it’ll likely do so again.

          1. Benjamin Hilton says:

            Yeah this was my opinion too. Shamus said getting it back made it feel like you could have it whenever you wanted, but I feel that if you starte with it , many people would have assumed that is was permanent and been confused when they lost it.

    2. Zekiel says:

      Personally I think they would have done far better not to re-introduce the super-GG. It was wonderful at the end of HL2, an awesome power trip for the end of the game. But having it here just adds to the feeling that Valve didn’t know what they were doing with Episode 1 – it just feels like a re-tread of the end of the main game. (To be clear, I don’t hate Ep1 – I think there are some good bits later on – I’m saying it doesn’t create a good first impression.)

      1. As I kind of alluded to above, I think the only other options were:

        1. Have little to no threat in the Citadel, which makes a doom-fortress look pretty weak. This would be due to having to re-set your weapons and ammo, making you fight Combine forces with pistol and SMG rounds, or dumping a crapload of guns/ammo on you so you didn’t run out in the middle of a fight.


        2. Give you a single, limitless-ammo weapon so you could fight a Citadel-level threat without getting every goodie the game would have you get later on. The super-charge made it lethal so you weren’t hunting around for radiators and energy balls everywhere, which could make parts of the level impassable because you’d hucked everything useful over a balcony for fun.

        1. Zekiel says:

          Or change the plot so you didn’t have to repeat the end of the end of HL2 at the beginning of Episode 1?

  25. Artur CalDazar says:

    I love how there is no ending to this, it just fades as Chris talks as if “yeah you get the idea”.

  26. Ofermod says:

    At the scene where Dog throws them over the ravine, the crew mention how much they like the little touches during the dialogue… I believe (but could be mistaken) that Dog shaking his head when asked if he’d done the math was originally just a random idle animation that just so happened to occur at that moment, but the playtesters thought it was deliberate and a great touch, and so they kept it.

    1. guy says:

      Yeah, Valve has a habit of throwing stuff in. Like with the zombie dumpster in episode 2; a playtester figured out that the rattling meant a zombie would jump out and tossed a grenade in, which bounced out. Valve messed with the triggers to make it happen every time.

  27. MrGuy says:

    But if we got something like this every couple of years, then the story doesn't need to go through giant leaps.

    Every COUPLE of years? Sorry, but that’s the Stockholm Syndrome talking.

    For smaller episodic games, I could see every 6 months as a reasonable timeframe. MAYBE, MAYBE a year if it has some real flash to it. But no one can get by with calling something “episodic” gameplay and think a “longer than annual” as a timeframe is acceptable. Not even Valve.

    I love their games, but I absolutely HATE the way Valve seems to trade on their considerable existing customer goodwill to do things we’d savage any other game company and call it “reasonable”

    1. Counterpoint: Ubisoft keeps pumping out Assassin’s Creed games regularly and look how that’s turned out.

  28. Tobias says:

    RE: Josh’s comment on how the visuals have aged

    It breaks my heart to say I agree. I used to be in the “videogames don’t need to look better than HL2” camp for a long, long while, and while it still doesn’t look… horrible, some of the immersion this game once provided for me is fading away, simply by way of some environments looking REALLY blocky with REALLY low-res textures. It’s especially jarring in the airboat sequences in the main game: In 2005, I just stared at in awe. These days, I’m more like: Yeah, there’s a brown texture carpet. And I’m no graphics whore at all. I swear!

    Then again: Half-Life 2 turned ten last year, and I didn’t notice until a few days ago. That’s no small feat.

    1. It’s not just their textures and polygon count, though. They have more depth of field (and I don’t mean that in the graphics mod sense where things look blurry) than most games do today. Nearly all of their outdoor setpieces have stuff WAY in the background, stuff that’s nearer but you can’t reach it, then the foreground where you play the game. I can’t think of many places where I could say, “oh, there’s the edge of the world and there’s the decal that’s supposed to be the sky.”

      They also do triggered enemies (i.e you get that health pack and it opens a clown car of dudes to kill you) a lot better than most, hiding their spawn locations fairly effectively so you can see where they come from without feeling like they just magicked into existence.

      There’s also the animations, both facial and skeletal that are STILL light years beyond Bioware and Bethesda, which is becoming less of a complement to Valve and more of an indictment to Bio & Beth because it’s been years and those two companies still haven’t gotten it right.

  29. Thomas says:

    I’m not always the biggest Half Life fan, particularly with the way it does it’s cutscenes, but I did really appreciate the way you could just run past the weird electrifying fan thing if you’ve already seen it happen.

    That’s a really nice life convenience thing, and skipping a cutscene would have felt much more jarring and irritating.

  30. Zak McKracken says:

    What does it mean that I am watching this on a flat-screen connected to a beige box?

    … I got the case in 2000, since then I’ve only ever been replacing its innards to upgrade. I also got it some noise insulation, better quiet fans, so you barely hear it. It stands below the desk, so nobody ever sees it these days, and it’s got plenty of space for a large RAID array, so I never saw the need to switch.

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