Friday, November 19, 2004

Review: Half Life 2 - Part I

Yes you read the title right, I am going to be reviewing the recently released PC video game Half Life 2 in a couple of parts. Why the parts? I haven't finished the game yet and I want to get people out there who may be considering dropping roughly $70 of their hard earned money on this title the facts about this game before they waste their money. Hmmm you say, "sounds like you are a little biased?", well like all humans yes I am biased. I spent $70 on what has to be the worst case of corporate greed that I have ever witnessed. Not to mention with the release of this title, fair use isn't simply set back a few notches, it is bitch slapped, knocked to the floor, its teeth kicked repeatedly, so much so that they come flying out its ass, then its head is chopped off and Valve (the company) shits a very satisfying shit down its throat. But I digress, I will discuss the Steam part of the equation later on. I want to point out that I never once liked the original Half Life, contrary to what you might have read it is not the best game for the PC nor is it the best game ever as some ass kissing gaming rags may have you believe. Whenever I sat down to play Half Life (the original) I was always bored and bored silly, mainly because there was a story element that kind of peaked my interest then a huge long gap of running around trying to figure out silly jumping games and trivial puzzles. So much time passed between story elements that you really couldn't care less about the story and wanted to beat the shit of the developers of this game. "If I have to jump on one more box to jump on a ladder I'm going to book a plane ticket...". It was a pointless rehash of many games that came before it with a little and I mean a little story added in (Remember wolfenstein 3d, running around to find a switch to open a door to run through?) . But this isn't a review about the original half life, I just wanted to mention my experience with it to let you know, I wasn't expecting a great deal from the sequel. And I have to admit I have always felt there was something wrong with me for not liking the original, many of my friends always raved about how good it was, every gaming web site or magazine always gave it postive reviews and remarks, yet for some reason things they would say were great about it made the game boring to me.

Where to start, well lets start with the positive, ummmm, the graphics look, well, they look like graphics, a little better them some other games, but nothing I have seen in this game has made me want to play with my nipples in grand satisfaction.

Well now that the positive is out of the way, lets discuss the rest.

Gameplay - Now like I said I'm not finished playing through this game, and quite frankly I can't tell if I'm 10% or 90% complete, there is no indication of overall progress. However this game is billed as a story driven first person shooter, great, I love first person shooters, and if they have a story even better! Ok so, you start out with no weapons and no real idea of what you are suppose to do. You're introduced to characters and objects very slowly and the game progresses very slow as well. So the game basically plays out, get an object, get to next the objective, etc. So not so bad so far right? Well, the devils in the details, one of the great selling points of this game is the "physics" engine, things have weight, things, float, things break, etc. Whippee, many games have had this for a really long time, one from my childhood comes to mind, lunar lander. So in the game the physics are suppose to enhance the play and using your creative grade 4 mechanics skills to figure out the trivial puzzles that have been left for you. The bad part here is that everything they want you to interact with you can and everything they don't want you to interact with you can't, so it makes it pretty easy to figure out what you need to do. Instead of having a system where there are multiple solutions to any given problem, with each solution having its own pros and cons, you are stuck trying to find the one solution and path the designers wanted you to follow. that's fine I guess but nothing new or ground breaking here, for example in one scene you need to open a dam so you can drive a boat through, but when you get there, wouldn't you know it the controls to the dam are broken, darn, so what to do?? well turns out there just happens to be a crane right there with a load of wood tied up conveniently like a pendulum, and oh my, there's some exploding barrels that just happening to be sitting right where the pendulum is tied off! What fucking city, real or otherwise has so many fucking exploding barrels just lying around? Those aren't puzzles they are insults to your intellegence. If perhaps the controls to the dam were not broken and the crane was there and i could choose to break the dam or open it, then it would be fun to bust it down instead of just opening it. But that is how all of the puzzles so far in the game play out, if you need to weigh something down on a lever there is always cinder blocks or washing machines conviently left around for you to pick up and use for weights, so the game is always stacked in your favour. Even when fighting the dumb ass AI, there is always health near, wherever the enemy appear, you will always win against them, they couldn't outsmart a garden hoe. So far I have yet to go back and retry anything, I have been able to run through everything and the lowest my health has gotten to is 43%, and this is on the hardest setting. And I know for a fact that I'm a shitty gamer.

Pacing in the game is horrible, remember how I said it was suppose to be a first person shooter? Well I'm nearly 3.5 hours into the game and there has been little to no gun play. Most of the game so far has been riding on some floating air bike that looks like a piece of shit thrown together by a losing team on the junk yard wars. Yet it is completely indestructable, it takes small arms fire, hits land mines, gets shot with rockets and just keeps on fucking going at a pace that anyone who owns a ford tempo would understand. If the part where you rode on this thing was maybe two minutes long or maybe even 5 minutes long, but it went fast or say did something rather memorable like fire ninjas at the attack helicopter that dogs you most of the time, it would add something to the game. However you are riding on this thing for nearly an hour straight with small stops to throw some lever or "figure" out to put some barrels under a ramp so you can jump over some obstacle. After every corner you keep thinking it should be ending soon, nope you just keep going and going and going, kind of like the racing scene in Star Wars movie episode 1, or like the war scene in the final Matrix. But alas you reach your destination, humans and perhaps another nugget of the story await you, but guess what? They strap a piece of shit machine gun on your piece of shit air bike thingy and send you back out immediately to drive it for another fucking hour!!!!.

Anyways that's it for today, I will sum up my points in part two and in part three I'll try to understand why the magazines are rating this thing so high when there so many other better games out there getting little to no attention at all.

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