I haven’t really addressed the issue of what happens when I re-experience something. I watched the Star Wars movies over Christmas weekend, for example, with nary a review in sight. I’m not sure if this is good or bad, and probably I’ll deal with it on a case by case basis. My gut instinct says that while movies are too easy to review at any moment, games and books require an investment of time and energy that makes it worth revisiting them. This doesn’t mean I’ll follow that rule, of course. But I might.
The thing is, I got so thoroughly sucked in to playing Half-Life 2 that I was more interested in re-playing the original Half-Life than Doom 3. (All the random red sparkle pixels in Doom 3 aren’t helping any, but I’ll get back to it, never fear. It was just starting to get good and terrifying.)
For a game that came out seven or so years ago, Half-Life retains incredible replayability. I went all the way through the game without cheating or skipping anything, up until the very last fight. I only cheated there because I was ready to move on and had beaten it once before for real. The graphics are very descriptive for being so clunky by today’s standards, and the storyline is enthralling. Gordon Freeman, our everyman hero with a PhD in physics who works at a top secret government research facility, is caught in the results of an experiment gone awry. In his struggle to reach the surface with his hide intact, he comes to symbolize to the workers in the complex their own shining hope to survive the disaster themselves (and unlike in most games, you genuinely feel bad when most of them do not), and he comes to symbolize a threat equal to the one he wants to escape, to those forces which oppose him.
Well, I don’t want to spoil it or anything, but the fact is that nearly everyone in the world has played this game already, and I’ll spoil it when I review the next game in the sequence anyway, as it would be unavoidable there. So, yeah, it’s the military clean-up crew and the dimension-shifting alien forces. Sure, they hate each other more than they hate Gordon, but he runs a close second. What is a physicist to do? Well, clearly, he is to kill anyone that tries to kill him first, and eventually stop the alien invasion once and for all, coming to symbolize the dreams for freedom of an entire generation of humans and Xen alien slaves who… but I’m getting ahead of myself. For that, you need the sequel.
And I’m serious there. You *need* the sequel. This is shaping up to be one of the best video-game storylines available, if they can even maintain the same meager slide in story quality for the forthcoming Half-Life 3 that occurred between 1 and 2. If they improve again, well, watch out!