Despite lots of difficulties, including a great need to conquer my earlier fears, I finally beat Half-Life 2. It took me about a month, and honestly, it feels like I’ve been with this game for much longer because so much has happened in all that time. I braved all kinds of horrors, including a zombie-ridden nightmare of a town. I got to spend some quality time zooming around on a boat and enjoying nature. Ah, contaminated water. I also shot down a good number of helicopters. I also got to shoot the lock off of a few doors, which I found way more thrilling than I should have. And I smashed every watermelon I found in the many abandoned houses I explored. (Seriously, later on in the game, nearly every kitchen I came across contained a watermelon for some reason. Which I couldn’t help but split open with my crowbar every single time. Gordon was hungry.)
Yep, this game was filled with many varied experiences, most of which stressed me out, but to a lesser degree as I progressed further. I’m proud to say I got quite used to this game after a while. If you read my initial thoughts on Half-Life 2, you will remember how uneasy I was back then. Everyone said that the best way to survive a game like this is to stop letting my fear control me and get aggressive. And I did. And it helped a lot. The first half of the game or so was characterized by many hours of panicking and hiding in corners as I tried to gather the courage to fight back against my current threat, but eventually, I was as comfortable with this game as any other. Well, not entirely. There were many times I was nervous, but I no longer wanted to hide. I did what needed to be done regardless of the danger. End of story. That’s not to say there weren’t many intense moments, of course, such as the time I wandered into the flooded basement of an abandoned warehouse, only to find it was infested with zombies. Yikes. Those things always happen to show up in the worst of places.
Anyway, where did we leave off? Well, the last thing I discussed was a startling experience in an abandoned house by the sea. After this, I don’t entirely remember the order of events, but I traversed the underside of a bridge, from which I fell to my doom a couple of times. Shortly after, I got hit by a train. …Oh yeah, and I also had a heck of a time trying to cross over a large area where I couldn’t touch the sand without stirring up a bunch of antlions. That took a lot of tries, and every attempt inevitably ended in me throwing caution to the wind and just running for it, regardless of how this was the exact thing I wasn’t supposed to do. Of course, this method obviously worked on my final attempt.
After this, I got the strange ability to make the antlions do my bidding, which was a nice change. I had quite a bit of fun having them defeat the Combine for me, including inside a former prison called Nova Prospekt. Here, I was introduced to a new threat, turrets, which were not too tough to deal with. Based on the noises they made, I had a hunch that they might function in the same manner as the turrets from Portal, and I was right. All you need to do is run up and knock them over, and you are safe. One of my favorite parts of this area was when I got to use the turrets myself. Once you figure out the correct spots to place them, they’re nearly unstoppable, though if not, it’s really frustrating watching the Combine run up and knock them over. Grr, how dare you try to avoid physical harm to yourself! I also remember seeing a couple of very creepy beings on the cameras that looked human, but something was very off about them. These unsettled me quite a bit, but I was not enlightened as to their identity while I was there and, therefore, had no choice but to continue onwards and dwell on their disturbing appearance later.
The next significant event worth mentioning was when I needed to destroy a whole bunch of Striders, tall, thin tripod-like…things which I find oddly similar to the tripods in War of the Worlds. This was pretty tough, but pretty fun once I stopped dying over and over again. It was just really fortunate that I had finally mastered the rocket launcher at this point in the game. I originally didn’t understand the whole concept of guiding the rocket with the laser (I know it sounds pretty obvious, but at the time, it just made no sense to me). As I watched my rockets spin around aimlessly countless times before hitting the ground, I thought it was the most ridiculous weapon in the game. Now that I’m using the thing properly, however, it’s actually pretty awesome indeed.
Last off, we had to visit the Citadel, where I caught more glimpses of those inhuman creatures, and I was quite surprised when, by the end of the game, these things were not explained further. (Not to my knowledge anyway. I have a habit of zoning out during dialogue, so if anything was said about them, I missed it.) Of course, the identity of these creatures did not remain unknown to me forever, but that is a topic for a future post (cough, Episode One, cough). At the end of this location, Alyx and I chased down Dr. Breen and prevented him from teleporting. What happened to him afterward, however, I have no idea, but I finished the game and watched the credits, and that’s kind of all that mattered to me at that point in time.
So, I can now say I’ve beaten the game, and I have a better understanding of why it won so many awards, though I have a more difficult time explaining it. I guess one thing I like is that this game has a similar feel to Portal. The game has no cut scenes, so when people are talking, you can move around freely, and you have the choice to listen or not. I’m so used to cut scenes in video games that I didn’t realize before how greatly they interrupt the flow of a game and take you out of the experience. (I understand why they are necessary in many circumstances, and in certain games, I really enjoy the cut scenes, but sometimes it’s nice not having them for once.) Having no real cut scenes makes me feel much more like I’m a part of a game. And though the game is quite linear, you do feel like you have a lot of room to explore, and while your main rewards for exploration is health and ammo, that’s more than enough motivation for me to wander around a bit because I typically need those things quite badly, making them a very welcome find indeed.
Of course, the lack of cut scenes and the limited exploration is certainly not what makes this game good. I guess what I really like is how the game puts you in a lot of crazy situations, some of which initially seem impossible, and expect you to figure it out, least of which was that battle against all those Striders towards the end. That took me so many tries, but it was super awesome once I got through it. Or Ravenholm, where I eventually ran out of ammo and had no choice but to beat off the attacking hoard of zombies with my crowbar. The game has a lot of exciting moments and a lot of frightening ones (rhyme not intended). It also has a lot of quiet moments, where you simply explore silent tunnels or abandoned buildings or solve a little puzzle, like placing floating barrels underneath one end of a ramp to lift it up so you can cross over on your boat. I really liked the puzzles, as simple as they may be.
Half-Life was a pretty epic game that contained many experiences I won’t soon forget. It will never leave you bored, and honestly, there are many times you’ll be grateful when nothing is currently happening. It also had a pretty interesting story, which I am quite pleased is not yet over. The Orange Box, in fact, contains two short sequels, Episode One and Two, the former of which I have already begun and plan to write about in a future post. Let’s just say it’s been pretty awesome so far. Give me your worst, Episode One, because I am so ready this time. Just please don’t make me face hoards of zombies in dark places again…oh, crap…
A Far Braver Duck Than When I Began