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Welcome to the third Really Pathetic News Network Game Review, circa 12/7/2004.

Toggled Review
Half Life 2 Review
By Eric Allen (Co-creator in Spoof)

Alright, ladies and germs, it’s the moment you've all been waiting for: the Eric Allen Exclusive Half Life 2 Review! That's right; I've completed the game and am now ready to pass my judgment. I'll break this into two parts: spoiler-free and spoiler friendly.
*warning: long*


First off, Valve is taking no chances with this game. They know it’s a big thing, and they really want to maintain their intellectual property. They also seem to want to screw over Vivendi as much as they can.
The game is available from two sources: you can go down to your local EB, Circuit City, or what not and buy a hardcopy, or you can download it from Valve's STEAM client. If you buy it from the store, you can either purchase it in its basic form (Half Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source which ships on 5 CD's for around $50) or the Collector's Edition (which includes the same plus Half Life: Source and Day of Defeat: Source as well as some other goodies like the strategy guide. I believe this one ships on DVD for about $90). The STEAM downloads come in three flavors: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Bronze is equal to the basic retail box, the gold is (I think) equal to the Collector's Edition, and Silver is the software without the paper goodies. I purchased the standard retail box from my local CompUSA.
Installation is surprisingly quick for a game of its size. Following installation, though, things get tricky. As part of their anti-piracy measures, Valve requires you to register your product before you can play the game. This requires setting up a (free) STEAM account. The STEAM client runs in your system try. You must set up your account and register your product in order for the game files to be unpacked and made playable. This can really be a hassle, especially if you plan on having the game on a computer that is not hooked up to the internet.

The game itself is simply awesome. Indoor environments are quite detailed and even the tile on the walls looks believable. Outdoor environments aren't as detailed, but certainly do not disappoint. The water in this game is some of the best, most realistic I've ever seen in a game. That said, they still haven't gotten splashes and water movement due to characters moving about in it right. Character models look and move very nicely. The human characters, though proportioned realistically, still look like CGI characters, especially up close. However, the more detailed characters, like Dr. Vance and Alyx are capable of expressing some emotion.
Character models are quite nice. The headcrabs now look a bit beefier and fleshier. They even have a cup-shaped orifice on their underside just the diameter of a human head. The barnacles are given a radical facelift, and now include a set of inner jaws.
The physics engine is everywhere and used by the game often. People have a tendency to rag doll a bit much (especially when dangling from a barnacle). The promise was for there to be lots of puzzles utilizing the physics engine. Unfortunately, this really isn't that true. There are some clever ones, true, but not as many as their could have been. There are a lot of puzzles that require extensive use of the gravity gun.
Game play is very much the same as in the original Half Life, and event the weapons are very much the same. Combat is fast and furious. The AI is improved over the original. Enemies will take cover, use cover fire and flanking maneuvers (though often the maps don't allow for much in the way of flanking), and will use stuff at hand to take you out, such as kicking a barrel of flammable materials down the stairs at you.
The storyline is engaging, and you often want to continue, just to see what happens next and what's around the next corner. The game is very linear, but like in the original Half Life, there are often parts where you aren't sure if you’re going the right way until you see the "loading" sign. On that note, the load time between sections can seem a bit long, but that's the price we pay for such high-end graphics. This is also the only point where my computer showed any difficulties. After loading a section, it would normally jump a tad about a second or two later, but after that was smooth.


I'm putting the disclaimer here because I really can't describe much more of the game without risking spoilers, so let's continue, shall we?
There are some elements that the designers should be commended for. Dr. Kleiner has a pet headcrab named Lamaar, who is the most animated, engaging headcrab in the entire game. Unlike the other headcrabs, she actually looks around her. Dog is another high point. With a personality somewhere between a dog and a gorilla, Alyx's "pet" robot is one helluva fighter. You really only get to see him in combat once, and that's probably a good thing, because otherwise the part of the game with him would be too easy. The level where you drive a buggy down the shoreline was really fun, especially at the points where you had to stop and get out clearing the way. On the other hand, the level where you drive the airboat around was just tediously long, reminiscent of Half Life's "On a Rail" level.

I am disappointed with a few things:
Enemies: You basically have 9 enemies in this game: 3 types of headcrab (basic, speedy, and venomous), 3 types of zombie (basic, speedy, and venomous), manhacks(annoying flying buzzsaws), striders(the coolest though you only get to fight them at the end), and grunts (true, there are 3 basic types of grunts of increasing power, but they're all still grunts and they all fight like grunts, except the elite white guys shoot those vaporizing grenades at you). There's also the Combine Gunship and Attack Helicopter, though these only appear infrequently and play minor roles, the Combine armored car which you really never have to fight except a couple times on the airboat, and Ant Lions, which play a minor role in the middle of the game.
There are no Bullsquid (which I was looking forward to seeing), no Houndeyes, no Alien soldiers, no Icthysaurs (except on brief glimpse in a cut scene), no other Xen critters besides the headcrabs, barnacles, and alien slaves (Vortigaunts, which are now able to talk and are your friends).

My biggest gripe has got to be the climax. The best and most challenging part of the game is not the end. After fighting your way to the citadel, you get inside only to have your weapons confiscated, except for your gravity gun, which the confiscation process has zapped and overcharged into the super 1-shot-half-a-dozen-kills-unlimited-ammo-uber-weapon-of-doom. Unfortunately, for the last stretch of the game, this is your only weapon. This end-run is quite disappointing. After a lengthy tram-ride sequence, in which you see some new critters (spindle-legged alien laborers and some sort of squat tank-like thing) the only baddies you face are grunts and one strider. Furthermore, the ONLY weapon you have is the super-grav-gun. Sure, it theoretically makes it more of a challenge, but it’s actually a bit annoying. The ending itself is quite anti-climatic. I was all set to jump into the portal to the alien dimension and fight some new alien scum ala Xen, but nope--you just blow it up and the G-man plucks you up and puts you back in cold-storage. I wanted the game to be longer! I wanted to kick some ass and chew bubblegum in the alien dimension. I wanted to fight in the Combine's living room and smash their coffee table with my crowbar. I wanted to raid their fridge and stick plastic forks in their lawn. But nope, the ending came all too soon.
Maybe in Half Life 3?

Very good game? Definitely.
Worth the $50? Sure thing.
Fun to play? You betchya.
Greatest game of all time? Probably not.

Reviewer’s machine: P4 3.2ht, 1 GB pc3200 RAM, ATI Raedon 9600XT, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS, Logitec 5.1 THX surround speakers.

Past Entertainment: Race for Secretary of Shiny Baubles Heats Up

1031 B.C. - 2010 A.D., Really Pathetic, LLC.