Half Life 2 & Episode 1 & Episode 2 Review

Half Life 2 (PC 2004):

How could I have missed this game? Can you believe this game was released in 2004? Could have fooled me, I would have guessed at least 2007. Beyond that, I am also amazed that a game that was released ~5-6 years ago has so few peers that I can count them with a single hand.

More after the jump.

I replayed the original Half Life just before I played this game, and the difference is night and day. However, I can also make that comparison with almost every other game I've played in the past 4 or 5 years. In terms of both story and graphics, this game is far superior to many modern day hits on any platform. In fact, it makes me reflect on all the games I've played in the last 3 years, and has forced me to wonder if everything has gone downhill since. Games like Resistance (2006) Halo 3 (2007), Modern Warfare 1,2 (2007,2009) are shockingly BAD compared to it.

To be fair, First Person Shooters are not my preference in general. I find that many are boring and repetitive and probably give the genre a bad name. Even the aforementioned triple A shooters like Halo and Modern Warfare bore me. It takes a rare shooter to pique my interest, let alone rate it this high.

What makes this game so good? Graphically, it stands out even vs. today's shooters. It helps to have a computer that can run this at maximum everything, but any mid range computer these days can do the same for this 2004 title. Story and level design are so damn coherent, I didn't even believe this was a "thing" that an FPS could achieve until I played this game. In almost every FPS, I feel like I'm given an objective, and I traverse 10 levels of boringness, accumulating body count; not here, I feel like every destination has a purpose.

It's so immersive it's hard to describe. For example, during the ski-boat mission there's an overpass with no enemies marking a lull on the stage; you can easily zoom pass it (I bet many people do), getting to the next area asap, but if you manage to see the "lambda symbol" on a pillar, you'll likely recognize it as a place of interest (it's a symbol borrowed by the rebellion in this game). So you stop the boat, look around, do a simple physics puzzle, and supplies by the rebels drop down from an overhead pulley in a supermarket basket. IN A BASKET. You are actively participating in the rebellion! Epic pseudo realism. There are also various cameo's by the G-Man throughout the stages. Blink, and you will miss him; further awesomeness.

Episodes 1 & 2 (PC 2006, 2007):

With ~12 hours of gameplay, I tore through the main game pretty quickly. Half Life 2: Episode 1 is a direct continuation of it, but clocked in at a paltry 3 hours. Other than the introduction of the AI buddy model, there's not much new here. Half Life 2: Episode 2 lasted a more respectable 6 hours, but it ingeniously slowed me down with Steam Achievements! Episode 2 definitely contained some of the best Half Life moments so far. I also liked the Portal tie-in, which kind of makes me respect Portal a little bit more; *just a tiny bit*. Finally, I played the Lost Coast level in between the two episodes with the commentary on, it's quite an interesting listen and lets you peek into some of the design decisions that Valve made through the series.

Pros: Everything. Episode One rates a little lower, Episode Two rates a little higher.
Cons: Nothing? But Episode 3 is sure taking it's sweet time.

Kenholic.com rating: 9 out of 10. I finally understand why this game is on everyone's top games of all time list - it's found it's place on mine.

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