Half Life 2: Episode One ReviewMikey 3 comments
It would seem Valve can do no wrong. Their 1998 undisputed world wide masterpiece Half Life, set the benchmark for what a first person shooter should be. Fifty 'game of the year awards' were enough to silence critics - if you could find them.
In November of 2004 Half Life 2 was released after an unheard of 6 year development period, the majority of the time spent coding their new Source engine. Once again the benchmark was raised earning over thirty five 'game of the year' awards for 2005.
And this month Valve released the greatly anticipated follow up to HL2 plainly titled 'Episode One' - formally known as 'Aftermath' and the first of a series of 3 new titles, technically making this Episode 3. Sounds a bit confusing I know. Even Valve head honcho Gabe Newell admitted "We should have just called it Half Life 3".
The end of Half Life 2 left us with a cliff hanger, and just like the original Half Life asked more questions than it answered. At the end of the game your character, protagonist Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance are caught in a massive explosion when time is stopped with the sudden appearance of the G-Man. After his cryptic speech, he walks through a door that appears to be some sort of time rift. The fates of Gordon, Alyx and the G-man are unknown, leaving us begging for more. Until now at least.
Episode One begins where Half Life 2 left us. We see what became of Alyx during that explosion and what happened to the G-Man when he walks through the door. Once again you play the role of Gordon Freeman, armed (eventually) with the same arsenal from the previous game.
With Alyx by your side for almost the entire journey, combat is fierce and satisfying. Good enemy AI makes the challenge worthy, with Combine soldiers and Head Crabs appearing unexpectedly. Friendly AI however still tend to get in the way at the most inopportune times. Except for Alyx, who seems to hold her own quite well.
Valve have paced the game extremely well, keeping the player on the edge of the seat until the very end. In all five chapters are packed with action and puzzle solving. Valve have deliberately not dwelled on any single element for too long (as HL2 did on more than one occasion) to keep things moving at a good pace. The puzzles do not take long to solve and there are no vehicles. Exploration has been limited as to not waste any time.
There were a few moments when I felt like I was playing Doom 3, and by that I mean near darkness and a flashlight style Doom 3 (see the 2nd screenshot at the bottom of this review). Luckily the Doom-esque game style did not last long.
By the end of the game (an approximate 5 hour journey on medium difficulty) we are once again left begging for more, and just like it's predecessor more questions have been asked that will hopefully be answered in the following 2 sequels when they arrive.
Do not mistake this for some mere 'cash-in' expansion pack that a lot of other game developers are guilty of releasing. This is a true quality sequel all the way. Valve have produced a highly polished sequel worthy of any gamer. For a mere $25 (and only downloadable via the Steam platform) you can not go wrong. Top marks.
Note: The following screenshots were taken with the FakeFactory cinematic mod installed. For a more cinematic experience and insanely high resolution textures, I strongly recommend grabbing this mod if your video card is up to the job.
- Well paced, non stop action
- Some new areas to explore
- Stand alone aproduct (do not need Half Life 2 installed)
- Fairly priced at around $25
- Excellent optional in-game developers commentary
- It's more Half Life 2!
- Feels a little 'samey' in areas
- Too much time early on spent with the gravity gun
- Only around 5 hours of game play
Verdict: 8 headcrabs out of 10.