May 22, 2015

Half-Life 2: Episode One (Review of Game)

Golly, it sure was a long time since I posted an actual review, right folks? :D

Basic Plot: After the catastrophic events of Half-Life 2, Episode One picks up immediately where the main game left off, taking the player through the ruins of the Eastern European dystopia, City 17.

The player returns as the silent Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist turned resistance leader after a scientific experiment gone wrong. Along with his youthful companion, Alyx Vance, Gordon sets off on a journey to escape City 17 after a reactor meltdown threatens to destroy what's left of the city, and, quite alarmingly, the remains of the resistance.

Release Date: June 2006

Developer/Publisher: Valve Software

Platforms: Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, OS X, Linux (!!!)

Genre: First-Person Shooter

Review of Game:

Life Among The Ruins: Alyx Vance viewing the remains of City 17
After a long, tumultuous six-year development cycle, Half-Life 2 was unleashed upon the unsuspecting gaming community, to forever change the way we look at video games. Due to a fair bit of controversy (particularly over a rather nosy hacker leaking most of the source material) surrounding the release it was safe to assume that a sequel was a fair ways off.

Not so, decided the mighty lord Gaben, his finger-tips pressed together in a pyramid shape, a grin plastered across his beaming face. It was Half-Life's time to shine, and no hacker was going to stop them.

Largely unchanged from Half-Life 2, Episode One doesn't really innovate on the gameplay front, feeling more like the expansion it is. There are no new weapons in this game, no new characters, and no new environments.

Now, you won't be traversing through carbon copies of the environments from the main game, but the designs are largely the same. Players start out with the Gravity Gun this time, however, ensuring that you won't start from the beginning again.

A large part of the game assumes familiarity with Half-Life 2. Heck, Valve doesn't even bother explaining what happened in the core game before the start. As such, new gamers may find themselves a bit lost when it comes to the story, as well as the gameplay. 
Alyx is a particular standout in the game.

That doesn't mean the game isn't worth playing, regardless of your experience with the Half-Life series. The biggest draw of the game is Alyx Vance, and the support she provides during your (rather short) journey through City 17. 

This bond makes playing the game totally worth it. It's probably the game's biggest selling point, as evidenced by her entire involvement in the game. The character of Alyx Vance is one of the greatest video game characters of all time, feeling like a real person at times.

Alyx becomes your best friend during the game, providing invaluable help in times of need, such as taking up a post as a sniper, rewiring rolling mines for combat purposes, and firing at hordes of Zombies to keep them off you. 

Alyx also doesn't steal your "fun" in combat, providing more of a "helping" role as opposed to a "domineering" role, unlike games such as Call of Duty where the AI takes precedence over the player.

The story is okay. The imminent danger theme works well enough to get the player moving forward. The drive towards the end is strong, and will ensure that you're never bored until the credits finally roll.

A common complaint about Episode One is the short length. This is well-founded. In my own experience, it was a very short time from beginning until end. I fully expected to spend a whole lot more time playing the game, but alas, it was over before I knew it.

The final boss-fight might also be a bit underwhelming for some, as it only requires a bit of traversal and shooting. I found myself a bit lost during this section, but it wasn't a major problem. The last section is fairly well done, it just feels a bit obligatory.

All in all, a well-made continuation of the epic Half-Life saga. The intensity, gameplay, and Alyx make this one worth playing, even if the short length might leave you hanging.

Quality Verdict: Good (B)

Heart-pounding action and three-dimensional characters make this unfortunately short expansion worth playing. Watch out for Zombies!

Outro: Don't forget to tune in next Wednesday for my review of Episode Two. See you guys then!

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