jp's Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (PC)
| [January 29, 2008 03:17:41 PM]
| I just finished this episode last night and I am very pleased. Without spoiling anything I must say that this episode really beats the socks off Episode 1 and in some ways it's better than Half-Life 2.
Apart from all the really neat encounters, places, and gameplay, I think that one of the reasons I feel most satisfied with Episode 2 is that it I feel that it achieves a certain sense of closure. Yes, Episode 3 is clearly set up, but I feel that the ending of Episode 2 was positive and fulfilling. Something important was achieved and you don't feel cheated out of that victory like I had in prior episodes.
On another note, this episode goes against convention in many ways, which was refreshing. For example, there's a bit where you have to take out a dropship. Immediately I began looking around for the rocket launcher (and ammo). Big enemy = biggest weapon is the standard rule. However, in this area there was no rocket launcher ammo! So, something else had to be done. Nice way to mix it up and go against the grain (even if it is the grain that you have established yourself in prior episodes!). Also, no more annoying physics puzzles!
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| [January 25, 2008 01:49:41 PM]
| It took me a while to "cool down" after all of the problems and issues I had last time I played. So, a few days ago I booted the game up again in a context most unlike any I have ever played a PC game in before: waiting to board a plane in the airport! The hardest part of all of this was using the mouse (since I had no real flat surface, I used the underside of my laptop bag). Fortunately, I didn't notice any real drop in my reaction times and in all, it worked quite well. :-)
One of the things I've enjoyed most about the game so far is something which I think might have been implemented in Episode 1, but if so I only noticed it now in Episode 2. Designer commentary! I'm playing this game with designer commentary "turned on". Essentially this means that there are little icons (sort of like orange speech bubbles) littered around the place that, when you walk up to them and activate them, trigger a short audio clip from someone who worked on the game who then talks about something related to wherever it is you are. While some snippets are more interesting than others, I've really enjoyed listening to all of them, in particular when they describe the multiple iterations they made to certain encounters, the design intention they had for certain areas or set-pieces, and how players reacted. Listening to these as you are actually in an area adds a whole layer of depth to the experience as you gain a greater appreciation for the intentional design of the areas. Also, I've often been surprised by moments when they discuss how certain "it must obviously be done this way" moments backfired on them.
If you want to be a game designer, you should absolutely play this game and listen to ALL of the commentary.
As a first-time player of the episode however, I've had to carefully navigate the issue of WHEN to listen to certain snippets. Sometimes, they reveal certain things about an encounter you're about to have...so you can certainly spoil the fun if you listen to them as soon as you see them. On the other hand, sometimes you have to listen to them in order to avoid getting stuck in a situation where you can no longer go back.
Oh well. Great fun anyways!
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| [January 11, 2008 09:34:32 AM]
| Another day and another disappointment with this episode of Half-Life. :-(
Yesterday I started chapter 3, called Freeman Pontifex. The chapter starts as soon as you leave (finally!) the mines with Alyx and a vortigaunt. There's a really neat expository scene where you see a Combine army marching across a bridge with striders and all. Anyways, pretty much as soon as you leave the mine you have a nice little fight with some Antlion guardians. It's a nice climax to a lot of the events you've just been through in the tunnels (you finally get to attack) and it's nicely laid out with a center area where you can hole up as the guardians waltz around chucking cars at you (literally!).
So I kill the guardians and listen to Alyx and the Vortigaunt congratulate me. The vortigaunt then says something like "We must now follow the Freeman" and I head off in the direction of a generator that should (when turned on) open up a door so that I can get to an external mine-shaft elevator (that runs up to a town on top of a cliff where I should be able to get a vehicle). Except that the Vortigaunt doesn't follow me.
I walk back to him and he says something like "Lead the way", so I walk back to the generator.
I try every single trick I can think off and nothing.
Then I notice that there is a ladder behind this enclosed area on the other side of the door I can't open and that I might just be able to get on top of this and climb down the ladder.
Well, that's a plan! I spend about 20 minutes shuffling stuff around with the gravity gun in order to build a way to climb up to the top of the enclosed area. I need something like 2 cars (one flipped on its side with the other propping it up) and 3-4 crates.
Finally, I make it up so that I am at the same height of the top of this enclosure...wobbling precariously on a tower of crates and cars. All I have to do is step forward and move on!
...and then I hit an invisible wall.
Now I know for sure that I'm in scripting-bug land. The vortigaunt was supposed to follow me, jump-start the generator, and so on. But he didn't.
Played the fight again. Same problem.
Reload again. Still the same problem.
..and now I decided to hit the web and see if this is a "known issue"... it is.
Apparently the only solution is to go back to a saved game that is further back or cheat (ie, no_clip my way through).
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| [January 7, 2008 10:41:53 PM]
| It's been an interesting experience to play Episode 2 right after Episode 1. It makes the little changes between them stand out a lot more. I could help but notice three things almost as soon as I began playing. First, the interface seemed a lot less intrusive and smaller. Second, the game begins with a semi-tutorial by explaining what keys map to the actions you're supposed to do (ie. crouch, sprint, etc.) and third, the flashlight now recharges MUCH faster than before. I wish I had the turbo-charging flashlight in episode 1! :-)
I've enjoyed Episode 2 much more than the first one, though that one was great fun as well. I guess this episode, with all of the tunnels and stuff, provides an experience that is "more different" than the previous episode. Mixes it up a little if you will.
Having thought about both episodes as expansions, I am a bit disappointed that Valve didn't do what they did with the expansions to Half-Life. (Opposing Force and Blue Shift). What knocked my socks off back then was how the expansions gave you (the player) a way to engage in the same story, but from a different perspective. It also made me relish those fleeting glimpses you had of Gordon Freeman, or when you turned up in locations that previously were inaccessible. In other words, you got the chance to peek behind the curtain to a certain extent. This time I feel like Valve is providing me with a longer story, but not really helping all that much in terms of getting deeper into the story. The G-man was a huge tease in the first game with his appearances every now and then and I don't feel that this game has had anything like that yet. (I don't think it will either). It's a bit unfair for me to expect the Episodes to "work" like expansions (Gabe Newell has gone on the record saying that episodes 1-3 are essentially Half-Life 3) and I really do like the game, it's just that it doesn't push the envelope like the first one. Well, it does in one way...but more on that later.
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jp's Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (PC)
Current Status: Finished playing
GameLog started on: Friday 28 December, 2007
GameLog closed on: Tuesday 29 January, 2008