The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Spoilin’ Episode Two

So Half-life 2: Episode Two has been well and truly out long enough for anybody who cares to have played it. As such, I’m now going to take the opportunity to talk more in-depth about it. Those who haven’t played the game yet would do well to assume that this entire post is one giant spoiler and avoid it if you care about that.

I thought Episode Two was pretty weak, but I was at pains to figure out exactly why. Now, having reflected on this since I wrote the last post, I think I have a better understanding. I’ll wager one of the main problems with Episode Two is that Gordon takes an almost completely passive role. In Half-life, Gordon has the only Space Marine power armour HEV suit and has to fight his way to the surface to get help. And then he’s the only one who can get to the Lambda labs and save the day from monsters. In Half-life 2, Gordon’s reappearance sparks a rebellion that leads to the fall of the Citadel and the brekaing of Combine control. In Episode One, he destroys the Citadel and leads a whole bunch of refugees to safety before it explodes. In Episode Two, though, Gordon mainly walks around looking for cutscenes wherein the other characters advance the action.

Let’s go scene-by-scene. First off, Gordon and Alyx wander around a building not accomplishing anything until a hunter collapses it on top of Gordon. Gordon then watches as the hunter attacks Alyx. He is not even responsible for running it off before it can kill her; I guess it just gets bored and leaves. Gordon doesn’t get himself out from under the building — a vortigaunt comes along to safe the day. The vortigaunt also is the one who takes care of Alyx while Gordon blunders through tunnels. Vortigaunts save the day when Gordon gets trapped by a swarm of antlions, and then a vortigaunt helps Gordon find his way through the mines so he can stand around and watch the vortigaunt collect the Larval Acid he needs so he can get his +heal up high enough to save Alyx. Then the vortigaunts do all the Alyx-saving, while Gordon decides to have a cutscene with G-man.

Once Gordon and Alyx are on the way, there’s a keen bit of travelling through some Combine traps that seems pretty forced because there’s no way to avoid any of them. Gordon and Alyx encounter a Combine Advisor, and they hang in the air doing absolutely nothing while it blows itself up and runs away. They get attacked by a gunship, but Dog saves them from it. Technically Gordon is in charge of the defense of the White Forest base, but the whole event is so unfun that it sort of negates that. Then suddenly we’re at the ending, where Gordon stands around and watches mobs launch the missile, stands around and watches Eli and Alyx discuss the plot, and then hangs motionless in the air while Combine Advisors kill Eli and then Dog beats them up.

There’s not really a single thing that Gordon actually does all the way through the game. He just shoots the zombies while the mobs do the heavy lifting. Combine that with frequent, long cutscenes, hours of slogging through boring caves, and a large-scale gimmicky vehicle battle to close and you have a game that’s just not that compelling.

March 25th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

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