Is it just me, or does Half-Life 2 completely suck now?

From a story-telling perspective I was also dissapointed with Half-life 2. It is spread over so much territory that it feels like you are playing on a stage. The advantage of Black Mesa was that because it was one location it felt more open, even if it was just as linear.

Deus Ex is the model for me, create the environment and allow the player to interact with it as he will. There isn’t nearly enough of this in HL2. Running through yet another abandoned building hallway or trash strewn alley all feels the same.

Also there are no options. The fact that Gordon doesn’t speak just reinforces the feeling that you have no ability to effect the story.

The amazing thing about HL2 is the dynamic environments, but I think they missed out in not allowing the player to control that outside of the physics gun. Giving me story options to do things like visit a location to save a character (who then joins me as a teammate on another mission) or cutting/adding power to an area so that electronics work or dont work, or tracking down the materials needed to build an EMP which I can use later would also be very cool optional side quests. Choices in game to kill or let an enemy go which effects later events are even easier and gives the player the ability to make his own story.

I had a Magnum. Longest abortion I’ve ever performed.

I thought it was pretty clear even in Half-Life 1 that the Vortigaunts were slaves. Though I didn’t think they ever revealed if it was the combine or something else that was using them as slaves.

Is it established that the Combine is actually related in some way to Nihilanth and the aliens from Xen? I always figured that they were just some other alien force from some other world, unleashed via Black Mesa portal technology, and that the Vortigaunts and Headcrabs got caught up in the whole nasty business same as the humans did.

This is kinda what I thought. The overly forced linearity (with gratuitous invisible walls included) felt like a walk through a feature list:

  • outdoor environments: we got it!
  • vehicles: we got’em! (car, boat)
  • physics: we got’em! (ravenholm mostly)
  • AI companions/squadding: we got it! (antlions and friendly troops, admittedly not very bright ones)

and all of it separated into neat, disparate showcases.

I don’t know, the linearity just plain worked in Black Mesa, since the place got invaded, bombed out, breached with teleportals and whatnot - but once we got outside … well, I expected something more Stalkerish than Corridor Crawl Part II - but now with Outdoors.

Probably just rosy glasses of the Past talking, but the original HL rarely felt forced. In #2, the walls feel much more obvious.

HL2 still some damn fine FPS gameplay which I will probably finish sometime this year, but I really got the Box for TF2 and p0rtal.

The difference was that in HL1, it was linear, but A) At that point linearity was not yet a bad thing, as tech limitations tended to enforce it, and B) It had believable environments and level design, which as far as I know, made it the first FPS to do so. I mean, look at the jedi knight games (and just about anything raven did). They still had nonsensical abstract level design with red key / red door design for years after the fact.

Half Life made realistic environments desirable in the same way that Deus Ex made non-linear self-contained levels desirable.

You’re not posting SPOILERS are you?

Only if you consider stuff that happens in the first 30 minutes of play SPOILERS.

I forgot where in-game, but Valve personnel have commented that the Combine conquered Nihilanth’s homeworld, and Nihilanth fled to Xen to hide from the Combine.

Yep. It’s about as cliche as the action/adventure/rpg game throwing you into a dungeon and taking all your leet gear away.

Really? The impression I got was that the Combine took over Nihilanth’s realm, subdued him and enlisted him, and then opened portals from there that Nihilanth’s minions used to reach Earth.

I love all of the Half-Life games (haven’t played Episode 2 yet, so bear that in mind) but I do have sympathy for some of the opinions that are being expressed here.

I think that what’s happening to some degree is that Half-Life is being afflicted by the same malaise that The X Files - which was, I think, a big influence on Half-Life - suffered from for the last few seasons of its run. Namely, the longer you leave things before you explain some, or all, of the central mystery, the more frustrated people become and the less inclined they are to continue watching your TV show or playing your video game.

I haven’t reached that point yet but I suspect that I will sooner or later. Valve can’t expect to milk the Half-Life franchise forever so sooner or later they have to start resolving things. The problem for me is that I don’t actually believe that Valve have much more than a vague idea where the story is going or what the central mystery actually is, let alone what the denouement could or should be. In fact, I sometimes suspect that this guy has put more thought into the Half-Life storyline than Valve themselves have.

The Nihilanth is the controlling intelligence behind the invasion of Earth shown in the game. Hovering silently in an enclosed cavern dozens of stories tall, it has been commanding the forces of Xen and holding open a dimensional rift connecting Xen to Earth, enabling its creatures to attack.

You’re correct though that he fled to Xen, but it seems he was still a slave to the Combine there. From an HL1 sound file referenced in that Wiki article:

“Their slaves…we are their slaves…we are…”

The obvious solution is to play while drunk. Also, I found it amusing to conduct “crowbar science” during plot exposition bits. Let’s just say that those idiotic NPCs should be glad that they’re invulnerable because, well, I certainly wasn’t just going to stand around idly listening to them yammer when there was perfectly good stuff to “test” for durability.

  • Alan

You mean Halo 3, right?

I think this was the first time I’ve ever played a Half-Life game and having literally no fun at all. Sad, really.

I’ll push a little farther and see if I can get into it, but the entire first hour was a painful slog, pushing myself to continue.

And as Alan pointed out, those bits of exposition where you’re trapped and can’t advance are PAINFUL. I whiled away the time by picking up room items with the gravity gun and shooting them at Alyx. Also, muttering “c’mon, you nasty octaroon” under my breath.

Half-Life doesn’t suck now, it just feels… uninspired… more of the same. I haven’t played Ep2, but that’s how I felt about HL2 and Ep1.

In Half-Life 1, on the way back up from the test chamber, there was a bit where you walked along a corridor towards the lift you’d come down in, only to see the elevator car come whizzing past full of screaming scientists on its way to the basement level.

If you were quick, you could sprint up to the lower right-hand window, crouch and crowbar it, and get through the frame just in time for the AI scientists to spot you.

Scientist: Aaaaaaa- Hello, Gordon! -aaaaargh!

Heh, yeah… it all just feels so contrived anymore, I couldn’t get into HL2 whatsoever… it felt like what you might end up with if you got a Dystopian Sci-Fi focus group together, a completely generic and uninspired tapestry woven of threads from everything that has come before it. It might look interesting from far away, but the texture and pattern is all too familiar to the touch. The set pieces in the game were so asinine, the turret fight, the ant lion “boss” battle… Dr. Breen… the “faceless” combine… what a shitty and utterly forgettable cast of villains…

The original Half Life to me was comparable to how I think Halo 1 was perceived in the console community, a great new mix of existing elements and inspirations… now I have those reversed in my mind, where Halo 3 is very goofy amicable fun and HL2 is just trying way too hard.

Just because they haven’t deemed it necessary to tell you doesn’t mean they don’t know.

Likewise, just because it’s “mysterious” doesn’t mean they know what the big reveal actually is. Look no further than Lost (or the X-Files, for that matter) for an example of a group of people making it all up as they go along and fooling fan boys into thinking it all was figured out from the very first.

To my mind, it’s pretty clear that Valve did not have Half-Life 2’s plot in mind when making Half-Life 1. Sometimes, in fact, I wonder if Half-Life 2 wasn’t (for a while) a completely different game set in an Orwellian sci-fi dystopia that Valve, half-way through development, ultimately decided to convert into a Half-Life sequel. It actually explains a lot.