I know it looks like I’ve been neglecting my duties here. Instead, I just randomly finished three different things in the same 18 hour stretch. I’m not really clear on how that kind of thing happens, and yet here I am.
This time out, Half-Life 2, the story of Gordon Freeman, the rogue physicist who can’t seem to catch a break. After going through the rift accidentally opened by his fellow scientists at the Black Mesa research facility to put a stop to the creatures coming through, Gordon wakes up years later to find that his efforts didn’t result in as safe a world as he’d expected.
Then, crowbar at his side, he finds himself swept along by events once again, this time not just in an attempt to survive but due to the efforts of a resistance movement that has long viewed him as the savior of humanity. As many dark turns as were taken in the original Half-Life, this story nevertheless has a more somber feel to it. The stakes are higher, the betrayals are more deeply felt (if less surprising), and the character interactions are more fully realized. All this despite the main character never uttering a word of dialogue.
As for the gameplay: Lots of loading screens. It breaks up the game, which didn’t bother me. I can easily imagining it bothering other people, but I typically enjoyed the pause to relax and reflect. Spectacular gameplay. Well, fine, anyhow. I think that the FPS control and interaction scheme has been finalized for quite a while. No real improvements, but it’s worked very well, and continues to here.
The graphics are breathtaking. I’m on record as having said that they were a solid increment above the Final Fantasy movie, and here I mean the in-game play, not the cutscenes (of which there are none). I’ve since considered that I may have overstated that. The character movements in Final Fantasy were more realistically human, but still images and especially facial expressions don’t really hold a candle to the ones in this game. The rest of the world is essentially photorealistic. If FPSes weren’t quite to twitchy, it would be very easy to entirely forget you were playing a game.
I look forward to Half-Life 3, although not to the years-long wait for it. I expect I look forward to whatever expansions that get thrown out too. However, I do wish the game wasn’t so tightly copy-controlled that you have to be online to play the game. I didn’t pay money for it, as it came free with my video card. That smokescreen aside, I feel very uncomfortable not owning a physical copy of a game I’ve paid for. Not even the CD so much (although that too), but the idea that if I unplug my ethernet cable, I suddenly no longer have the game. For one thing, companies do go out of business from time to time. Mostly, I mistrust the precedent. Today, I can’t control my own purchases, tomorrow, eyeless crabs are latching onto people’s heads while an unelected military organization enforces the whims of our unseen alien overlords.