Daily Archives: August 23, 2016

A Look Back at Half-Life 2

Every time I go read a bit of the web comic Concerned, I get the urge to go play Half-Life 2.

Actually, I really get the urge to go buy Garry’s Mod and try making my own web comic, but I usually suppress that urge pretty quickly, subverting it with the much more viable plan of simply playing Half-Life 2.  Down the web comic path lays madness.

I actually own the game, having purchased it at some Steam sale a few years back that included Half-Life 2, the two additional episodes, the original Half-Life, and a couple other items.

More unplayed Steam games

More unplayed Steam games

The thing is, I never quite get around to playing it.  I installed it at one point, so it has been sitting on my hard drive ready to go for a while.  But it has taken me a while to click “play” on the title.  In part, that is probably because of a bit of lingering resentment about the early days of the title.

That's me being beaten by the metro cop

That’s me being beaten by the metro cop

My resistance to accepting Steam for a long time was in large part based on personal experience, and Half-Life 2 is bound up in that.

But mostly I think it has been a matter of facing a game from 2004.  Not that I don’t play games from 2004 or earlier pretty regularly, but MMOs tend to get updated somewhat over time.  Stand alone, single player games tend to stay fixed in time.  And while I know Half-Life 2 has gotten some upgrades over time, I was still a bit dubious.

And then, last week, I hit a point where Blizz was still tinkering with invasion XP, no fleets were going out in EVE Online, and I had no project going on in Minecraft, so I started poking around in Steam for something to play.  And there was Half-Life 2 and I figured, “What the hell!”

In summary, it is still pretty damn good nearly a dozen years after being released.

While the game is extremely linear… there is no wandering off the path very far… it is still a game that encourages and rewards poking around in every nook and cranny available.  There is often a supply chest or some little note or marker there for the player to discover.

More watermelon for Lamarr

More watermelon for Lamarr

As my intent was more along the lines of a sightseeing mission, I started up a game in easy mode.  I didn’t feel the need to prove how bad I have gotten at shooters over the years, I just wanted to travel, solve the puzzles, drive the airboat, and… okay, shoot things.

Ready to roll out

Ready to roll out

The character models feel their age a bit, though if they are in a metro cop outfit you don’t spend a lot of time checking them out as you’re usually busy shooting them.

Easier to follow on CCTV

Easier to follow them on CCTV

The terrain and objects and occasional spectacle still seem pretty good.

The smoke stack drop

The smoke stack drop

The physics puzzles… well… they all seemed really cool back in the day.  Now they feel a little less thrilling as they tend to involve ramps or balances, which are at the simple end of the simple machines continuum.  Cinder blocks tend to be one of the bigger clues about what you need to do, though I still do like that one where you have to shove a washing machine off a ledge to get your ramp set.  The cinder blocks weren’t enough that time around.

I made it pretty far in a few hours.  Even set at “easy” the game doesn’t let you walk through unchallenged.  I left off at the gate in the wide open area with a chopper defending it that I do not seem to be able to shoot down with the now-armed airboat.

Choppers are a hazard

Choppers are a hazard

So I end up getting strafed or bombed to death… or I hit one of the exploding barrels floating in the water.  I don’t recall how I got past this one back in the day.

Anyway, I’ll have to see how much more of the game I feel like playing.  I am not even out of the canals yet, but I have gotten a good taste of the game.  It still seems to hold up pretty well after all these years… except the loading transitions… those still take longer than I think they should.