Review – Half-Life 2: Episode One

I finished playing Half-Life 2: Episode One (PC) last night. So here’s my review of the game with some major spoilers.

I didn’t enjoy re-entering the Citadel to stop the reactor from exploding because the choice of weapons was the gravity gun and the super gravity gun. While there are lots of interesting puzzles that need the gravity gun to solve, I took no joy in flinging soldiers to their deaths when something else would have done a better—and far bloodier—job than that. Besides, how many times do you need to see the ragdoll physics in action?

The game picks up speed during the escape from City 17 as the other weapons become available along the way. There’s nothing like being trapped in a basement full of zombies with no lights while waiting for a slow-moving elevator, or being pinned down by sniper fire in a bombed out building as roller mines are everywhere. I really enjoyed the rock-style soundtrack kicking in while clearing out the hospital of zombies. (I could have used a few rusty saw blades for some serious slicing-and-dicing action with the gravity gun.) Just after collecting all the weapons available in the game, Barney shows with the crowbar (the very first weapon in Half-Life).

Another part that I didn’t enjoy is escorting several squads of civilians from a warehouse to the train station under enemy fire since the A.I. were unusually stupid enough to get themselves killed without my help.

The last part is taking out a Strider with the RPG on a high platform with a wall of sheet metal for protection. Just remember that the rockets from the RPG will go wherever the red laser dot is. So if you fire off a rocket, duck behind the sheet metal, and the red laser dot is on the sheet metal, the rocket will do a U-turn to blast into the other side of the sheet metal. I spent 30 minutes dying that way until I figured out why the rockets kept looping around the Strider (impressive physics) to hit me (not so impressive).

I haven’t played the game with the audio commentary on yet but I hear that it’s just as good.

Becoming A Normal Video Gamer

This past weekend I was busy playing video games. After being a professional video game tester for six years and two years after I left Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owner, multiple identity crisis), I’m finally getting back to being a “normal” gamer at home and playing for fun.

I finished playing SiN Episodes: Emergence (PC), a first person shooter that reminded me of Quake II when it first came out. The game was solid for the first half. I really needed a flashlight in some parts of the game that were too dark and re-adjusting the gamma on the monitor didn’t help. The second half of the game just fell apart because the A.I. was being stupid. At the bottom of one set of stairs, I tossed a grenade to the top landing to take out an A.I. that I suspected was hiding there and went up the stairs to find another A.I. waiting to ambush me even though I just turned his partner into hamburger. A point-blank headshot from the M90 took care of him. I’m looking forward to the next installment of this game.

Two other games I just started playing was Half-Life 2: Episode One (PC) and Resident Evil 4 (GameCube).  I suspect HL2E1 will be better than the SiN Episodes. The big challenge I have with RE4 is getting used to the third-person camera view and setting aside the 30- to 45-minutes of playing time needed to get to the next save point. I normally play in 15-minute spurts since my days—and patience—of playing a game for hours at a time are long gone. That might change when Caesar IV (PC) comes out later this year.