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    wolfmanbsam's Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (PC)

    [February 9, 2008 01:11:12 AM]
    I made it out of the citadel eventually but, to my dismay, the escape route was through pitch black, underground, zombie infested, parking garages. This provided a complete shift in gameplay from the soldiers I was fighting in the high tech environment I was in previously. These underground areas were so dark, it was completely impossible to see anything without using the flashlight, and even that did not reveal much of my surroundings and would turn off every so often to recharge. I would often find myself turning off my flashlight and then finding a zombie right in front of me once I turned it on again. When I said earlier that the collapsing environment made me edgy, that was nothing compared to how I was in this area. It was even worse when my flashlight turned off while I had to fight off a whole army of zombies while I was waiting for an elevator.

    While I mentioned before how Gordon Freeman's experience also becomes the player's experience, The reverse also seems to happen. That is, the player gives their own specific experiences and reactions as well. This is done, in part, by Valve making Freeman completely mute. The mute main character with no personality is the perfect blank canvas for players to relay their own personality into the game. This was very apparent in the zombie part. Had someone with more nerve than I been playing, they probably would have kept their cool and taken out the zombies like they would any other enemy. I, on the other hand, was completely freaked out and I found myself running around like a scared little girl and nervously fumbling around with my weapons. Had Freeman actually stated in the game what he thinks of zombies, the player would probably take that as what they were supposed feel about zombies as well, and their reactions would no longer be their own.

    Despite having the same weapon and setting (and not to mention nearly the exact same game engine) as the end of Half-Life 2, the citadel part of Half-Life 2: Episode One manages to mix things up considerably by designing new scenarios in which the repeated elements are interacted with in very different ways. The citadel, which was spacious and sleek before, now has falling rubble and electrical fires everywhere and looks very run down in general. The gravity gun which was previously used to tear the citadel apart, is now used to solve puzzles and, ironically, to put bits of the citadel back together.

    Another very clever design element that made me feel like I was in Freeman's shoes was that there were no discernible levels. That's not to say there weren't different areas with different gameplay elements to them, but no matter where I was in the game, I could always trace a direct route to where I was from the very beginning of the game. There was a loading screen every now and again, but once it stopped loading, I'd be in the exact same spot as before with the exact same items and people in their exact same spots also. By doing this and using techniques I previously mentioned, Valve did an excellent job in making Freeman and the player feel like the same person.
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    [February 8, 2008 11:48:26 PM]
    Half-Life 2: Episode One is a continuation of Valve's extremely successful first person shooter Half-Life 2, and is the company's first stab at episodic games. The player takes control of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist who for some reason knows how to operate military grade weapons. After blowing up a good sized chunk of an evil Orwellian government's over sized monolithic death headquarters at the end of Half-Life 2, Freeman (and his "We're just friends" buddy Alyx Vance)now have to get as far away from the building as they can since it is due to go nuclear very soon.

    The game started me off at the citadel (the building whose top I just blew off at the end of HL2). Even before I was told that the building would explode very soon, I was given an immediate sense that something very bad was going on. The top of the building that I had blown up looked like a swirling vortex of fiery death, ashes were raining from the sky, and there were ruins everywhere. Not long into the game, I was told I had to enter the citadel and try to slow the reaction or else it would explode very soon. Although the game does not actually have a time limit and I could have hung out in the citadel for as long as I wanted, I felt a very clear sense of urgency. This was achieved since the environment I was in was essentially falling apart around me. Although this destruction was mostly harmless to me, it made me edgy watching the area where I just was fall into an abyss and watching enemies getting crushed by debris.

    A key thing that Valve does to manipulate the feelings of the player is the complete omission of cut-scenes. Instead of cut-scenes, the NPCs and environments act out the story around the player, without the player losing control of Freeman. The player essentially has complete control of Freeman from start to finish. Since this was coupled with a first person view, it really made me feel like I was Freeman. Like the story was happening to me, rather than me watching it happen to some lovable cuddly plumber who I clearly am not. So I was not just watching the environment fall apart around Freeman, I felt like I was in a collapsing building and that I had to make things better pronto!
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    wolfmanbsam's Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (PC)

    Current Status: Playing

    GameLog started on: Friday 8 February, 2008

    wolfmanbsam's opinion and rating for this game

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    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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