September 05, 2005

Half-Life 2

     So, as previously stated, I upgraded my computer (okay, so I made it decent) and have been playing Half-Life 2. Actually, I just finished. All I can say is that I wish I had upgraded my computer more so that I could have seen the "real" glory behind this game. Here's what I thought:
     Well to say that this game is beautiful would be a pretty big understatement. It is, of course, limited depending on your system, and I can honestly say that as good as the graphics were for me, I was only really capable of playing at a medium level of complexity (due to the incredible cheapness of myself). Either way, the zombies looked evil, the people looked like they were angry when their voices were angry, and the combine looked just like eacho other. I appreciated it when you shot a combine soldier in the face that it would look like you'd blown a good chunk out of their heads (but this might have just been black marks on their faces from four or five bits of bullet being blasted into their face at point-blank range). They did really put a lot of effort into silly eye-candy like the hula-girl on Dr. Kliener's desk, and the occational teddy-bear strewn in a building infested with zombies. There were a million bottles of beer and gallons of milk and newspaper with cardboard boxes laid on the ground for some poor person to sleep on. All the frivolous details that I enjoy noticing were there. Downsides? Unless your computer is truly top of the line, you don't get to enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed. A lot of the detail seems to have been lost in the transfer from the developer computers to our computers. I imagine a lot of the realism and detail was lost just simply in the name of saving space (the game was 5 discs even with the pains they took to chop the game down to a manageable size), and so the quality suffered from what we were told so much about in the years of waiting.

     The sound was good. The voices were well cast, but it was kind of annoying how if you turned around when someone was talking to you, you couldn't really hear what they were saying. This was especially annoying if you were trying to fight when they told you where to go. It didn't happen often, so it wasn't much of a problem at all. The guns all sounded good, and the effects for when people were far away or on a monitor were very nice. The ant-lion, strider, and gunship sound effects are all very distinct so you know when they're comming. As were the "voices" of each type of zombie. I guess there's no real complaints here. By far my favorite effect was getting hit by explosives, where you were defend or you ears started ringing depending on how close it was.

     Great. Things that annoyed me: quite often I would get snagged between a moving object and a wall and would be forced to slowly drift forward until I blew off one of the edges, normally losing a little less than ten health. For something which made such a big fuss over how amazing the interaction between surfaces would be, it was surprising how many times a pole went right through my buggy, or a hand right through a wall. Once I actually missed one of the invisible "checkpoints" and ran into the "end of the world" (note: I never cheated in this copy of the game, wanting to enjoy one good play through before I went wild messing with the physics engine):

And another time I died in the water and flew infinitely into the air:

So while I can't expect the game to be perfect, I thought giant glaring errors like this wouldn't really be there. And while I don't have any screenshots of it, I also experienced several points in the game where I would reach weird ends to levels, and then suddenly the whole level would map out in front of me. While this isn't too surprising considering my computer's capabilities, I more than exceed the reccommended settings, so why did it happen? I guess it may have just been a lack of ram as compared to processing power. And I must say that the game play was often *loading...* imapared by lon *loading*g loading *loading...* times.

I won't give anything away except to say that it was good. I loved Dr. Breen's speeches, but I certainly felt through the first half of the game that the plot was just sort of: "Gordon! Thank god you made it, beating ridiculous odds which no one has ever seen beaten before. Oh right, we're being attacked, save us then get out because you're nowhere near where you need to get." It certainly does pick up towards the end, but I always wonder what end it was that Dr. Breen was moving towards, because he keeps saying "think of what you're giving up!" But never elaborates on that, besides that it is mankind's salvation.

     If you can stand the long loading times (which you can expect even if you meet the recommended settings), then this game is certainly worth the buy. It is not the be-all end-all of gaming which we were looking for (not that we expected it), but it certainly met expectations for length of gameplay and a good old Half-life feel. Definitely scores in graphics and sound, and just to watch the warriors go at their thing with resistance members is pretty much worth the buy. I feel they could have worked a lot harder on making a more enticing storyline rather than just chucking you from base to base. I'd recommend it for all computer gamers.

Posted by Kickmyassman at September 5, 2005 11:36 PM

I must say, the HL2 graphics really impressed me. Not sure if there is any difference between the CD and the Steam version (I got the Steam), but I never noticed any of this gliches. The voice thing you said wasn't really an issue to me either.
Anyway, HL2 is yet another game worth playing. :-D

Posted by: Cavalkaf at September 7, 2005 08:21 AM

Gotta say, I really didn't find loading times that big of a problem. For me, they were 20-30 seconds. Maybe 40 seconds tops on the bigger levels. I, oddly enough, didn't get any of your errors the first time through. I did feel that the AI was hyped to be better than it was. But I still think this blows away any other PC gaming experience I have ever had (except possibly Riven, but thats for different reasons, and I doubt most other people think that).

Posted by: Andrew at September 12, 2005 02:18 AM
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