View Full Version : Half Life 2: a fresh perspective

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05-13-05, 01:17 PM
Now that the hype of Half-Life 2 has worn off, I'll be taking a look at the core of HL2: gameplay, graphics, sound, and interest. How does Half-Life 2 set itself apart from the saturated milieu of first person shooters? Does Half-Life 2 offer anything new?

First off, I'd like to tell you that I played through a small amount of the original Half-Life, specifically up to the point of that weird octopus boss. I did not play HL immediately after its launch, but rather some time after the release of Deus Ex. I found it somewhat interesting, but there was very little semblance of a compelling story. It felt like much the same at the time. But this isn't a review of the original, so...

Does Half-Life 2 redeem my experiences with the first? So far, I've played through Ravenholm, and here is my review:

Not much new is offered here. The engine is fairly comparable to other engines available, but the strength is not in pure engine power, it's how Valve uses it. They tried to use interesting, high resolution textures, colored lighting (reminds me of Quake II). The models are surprisingly low polygon. I take a look at the walls, or ground, and it just looks dull and unintesting. The hovercraft missions were terribly dull moving around the canals with plain, orange textured walls around you. The colors were interesting, but overall the textures left me feeling like there was a lacking in that area. The sky looked pretty good, I'll give it that. Moving onto Ravenholm, there are some interesting motifs they were going for, such as the contrasts of lights and darks, fire and shadow. I found the graphics in this area very strong, but it was a bit too dark. The use of pixel shaders for the water was interesting, but the ripples seemed much too rapid and rough. I would have appreciated a much more subdued water appearance, you know, something closer to reality.

All things considered, graphics: 6/10

Very creepy. Nothing like moving through Ravenholm and hearing the moans and groans of those weird guys. Voice acting is superb, very well projected. For some reason, the main character, Gordon Freeman, doesn't say anything. There must be some kind of corruption in his sound file. Sounds of weapons? The weapons sound like pea shooters. Why is there no bass for firearms? Why is there no audible "feel" to the weapons? Wholy inaccurate reproduction of any gun sounds. The clanging of machine gun rounds against metal gets old. Very fast. I had to press the mute button during the trip through the river because of how annoying those damn sounds are. And how about the machine gun they attached to the hovercraft? It would have sounded nice except for the absence of the sounds from the gun actually firing. The sound of killing a combine troop is surprisingly repetitive: long beep followed by radio chatter. It's actually quite comical, when you kill multiple combine in 1 second intervals, you hear the same exact sound played multiple times in the same interval. It sounds like a rap song.

All things considered, sound: 4/10

The feeling of being persecuted by the police is very much evident early on in the game. However, the feeling is quickly lost when noticing the ridiculousness of the combine closets. You move into a new room, or down the train tracks, or around the bend, or in a new sector of ravenholm, and there are combine or those weird monsters popping out of everywhere. I counted 8 weird monsters when in noclip, who were waiting for the player to move around the corner. The absurdity of it really detracts from the experience. Does the use of contraptions redeem the combine closets? To a certain degree. Slicing up those weird monsters with those randomly placed saws or saw machines was pretty cool, but only for the first dozen or so. It quickly got old, a tired pony pulling tricks. The gravity gun was pretty interesting, but it was not much different than the physics manipulation tools in other games, such as the "hand" in Deus Ex (2000) and Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003). Shooting objects is pretty cool, but it was very frustrating. There were many physics anomalies that quickly got me out of the game flow. Some things just didn't make any sense.

One instance was when that dog opened the door to ravenholm, and you go to that abandoned elevator. You see that there is plenty of junk lying around, so I'm thinking that I'm supposed to stack the objects to climb over the fenced portion of the ladder and to start climbing. Well, I do just that with the gravity gun, stacking everything nicely. I get on top of the fenced portion and I'm facing the ladder, jumping up, trying to climb, but nothing happens. The ladder is staring at me, and I can't climb. I had to tear through a walkthrough to find out what to do. Shoot a massive padlock with a 9mm bullet. Uhhhh, ok... Not very realistic.

How did the vehicle movement work out? There was never a more torturous experience in my gaming career. After five minutes in that hoverboat, I was tihnking, "damn, when the hell can I ditch this sh*t?" It was the most boring, cliched gameplay device I have ever experienced. There are only so many tunnels you can ride through, only so many jumps you can make, only so many combine choppers you can outrun until you want to vomit. Sadly, the gameplay device used successfully in No One Lives Forever 2 saw no improvement in a game that copied it, but came out years later. It was frustrating having to endure that torture.

Did the gravity gun redeem the other weakpoints in gameplay? At first, it would seem like that would be the case. However, there was a bizarre lack of interactivity with the small monsters. Why am I not allowed to use the gravity gun to pick up those little face monsters? I can pick up metal as well as organic wood material, but not live critters? It really took away from the immersiveness. Besides that, it was pretty fun to play catch with the dog, and I wish there was a lot more of that, but it was quickly ended in favor of yet another chasing scene. * yawn * I realize that this is only Valve's second attempt at making a computer video game, but they haven't learned how quickly chase scenes can get? Is that their only way of moving the story or motivating storyline tension? It was fun the first time when the combine were moving through the apartments, but the 1000th time I get chased by combine closets is not more intersting than the first time.

Other peculiarities were disturbing. Take the revolver for example. Fire one bullet and reload the gun, so he knocks out all of the good rounds from the gun and replaces it with 6 "new" rounds, but the ammo count is x-1. Seems a bit strange. I didn't think that game developers have to skimp on reloading models, especially considering how little it would take in disk space.

All things considered, gameplay: 6.5/10

Now is the sticky part. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't play through the original Half-Life, so I don't have the ability to give Half-Life 2 the benefit of the doubt. I don't have the supposed story of the original to keep things in perspective. I went into the game, fresh in the world of Half-Life 2, but Valve gave absolutely no help for new players. I was thinking "combine, ok, the standard evil enemy." Things got more convoluted but with no description by other characters. So I go through the transporter, and I have to run away from combine and go wherever the map leads me. Uhhh, ok. I go somewhere else. Uhhh, ok. I finally arrive at that place, and then I have to go somewhere else like Ravenholm. Uhhh, ok. Lame. Very, very lame.

And this is where I am now. I'm asking for advice. Is there any reason why I should continue playing? The game does not stimulate my interest. I wanted to play the game because of how interesting it sounded, but the game simply does not deliver on its promises at this point. Should there be any motivation for me? I'm going from point A to point B, with very little excitement in between. The shards of a story that are there are filled with cliches. I thought that the gravity gun would make things more interesting. Sure, I killed a few weird monsters with those saw blades, but how many damn times do I have to do that? I have no desire to continue, so I'm wondering, is there any reason why I should?

All things considered, interest: 3/10

The gameplay, sound, graphics, and "story" were very much hyped since September 2003, and when Half-Life 2 was finally released in November 2004, the much hyped features seemed less than stellar, yet were still sufficient to "wow" people. 6 months later, how does HL2 stack up? Surprisingly, not very well when considering the hype surrounding its release. Granted, I don't have the benefit of playing through the first Half-Life, and so I don't have the mentality that all things Half-Life are incredible and should be worshipped, but I would have expected a lot more out of a supposed triple-A title than what I got through to this point. Unless some people can give me reasons to continue, I wasted my money and time and hassles due to Steam on this piece of sh*t of a game. This game did not redeem the original's gameplay and story, and make me even less willing to go play through the original.

All things considered, Half-Life 2: 4/10 (not an average)

05-13-05, 01:24 PM
I agree about pretty much everything you said. It's funny cause Valve said they took the extra year to develop hl2 to make it the best gaming experience possible, I'd hate to see what it would have been like had it shipped 9/30/03. Pure and simple, this game is nothing without the gravity gun. Had that not been implemented, this game would have really, really, been crap.

The wall and floor textures look like something out of the original Quake, the sounds are quite generic, the lighting is some of the worst i've seen in a while and the story is ridiculously vague.

There are some moments where the graphics are outstanding, where the gameplay is fun, and where things are on the up and up, but overall, I too feel this game was hyped too much. The only thing I play now is HL2 DM for the gravity gun...i'm bothered knowing hl3 will use this same engine.

Titan's Revenge
05-13-05, 03:27 PM
I still love it to this day. I can just jump into levels to play through like I did with the original Doom and still have it as fun as the first time through.

05-13-05, 04:47 PM
I agree with your view, to be honest with you, I think the original one is much better since it was not base on hype and have better atmosphere. I go through the whole half life 2 because I don't want to waste my money spent on it, after I finished it, I've never touched the game again. I think the game really lack atmosphere which cannot draw me into it. The worst thing is, it pissed me off when I finished the game and found out how crap the ending is, this also applied to the original, but at least the original gave me better interest.

05-13-05, 08:48 PM
Alot of what you say is true. Yet, the experiance is far better than any fps to date. Which in itself shows the sad state at which development houses are in with funding on 'new innovative' titles.

although I don't agree with your graphics section of your review, because you failed to mention eye/skin shading previously undone, as well as the dof in which eyes focus on a character as well as the seamless lip syncing and blending of facial animations. All those were far beyond what any current game has done. While surely the graphics werent flashy, I myself just don't agree with iD's philosophy the rust is supposed to shine. :rolleyes:

05-13-05, 08:54 PM
Alot of what you say is true. Yet, the experiance is far better than any fps to date. Which in itself shows the sad state at which development houses are in with funding on 'new innovative' titles.
Guess you never played System Shock 2 or Deus Ex. THOSE were the best FPS experiences to date. :D

05-13-05, 09:39 PM
I agree with your criticisms of the game, but I still enjoyed the game. I call it an interactive movie. It may not have been amazing tech, but the textures were effective, physics was fun and weapons satisfying. The game was pretty much one long chase scene. I've played the game through twice and do look forward to playing again sometime.

The worst thing about the game was not the game at all, but Valve's behavior and the false hype about the game. Remember Valve said that the game world reacts to everything the player does, I suppose they meant that if you shoot a water melon, it splits in half, because nothing you do in the game changes the story or the world environment beyond the destructable item stages. The best defense in the game is to pick up a pepsi can and point it an enemy. The enemy thinks that if you can't see his face, he must not be able to see you, so he stops shooting at you.

Like any game, the way to enjoy it, is not to criticise its weak points, but play it the way it was intended, and enjoy it. Luckily Half Life 2 has enough scope to enjoy it if you try.

Acid Rain
05-14-05, 12:06 AM
When I first cracked open HL2, I was dumbfounded. As I first ran out on the rooftop in the first level, the sheer scope of the game sank in. Man, this was Heaven.

That first level kicked so much ass I thought I truly was playing the best game I'd ever played.

Then, slight tedium followed by nauseating boredom began to settle in. People rave moan about Ravenholme and it's delectable scare factor. I think my first and last words describing it would have to be "ho" and "hum". I just wanted it to end.

Honestly, I don't know why HL2 seemed to go downhill for me, why it began to feel like an act of pure tedium. I love FPSes, & definitely replay the crap out of everyone else's products (Far Cry, Doom 3, CoD, etc.), yet, I just can't seem to replay HL2. Maybe the HDR patch will trick me into liking it more. :D

05-14-05, 12:15 AM
I can't believe you just gave HL2 4 out of 10, I can't think of a game in the last few years I've played that would go that low, which makes me think you are just trolling for attention, but whatever.

I love HL2, certainly not as fresh as the original, but a polished package all the way.

05-14-05, 01:42 AM
I think many people are reacting to the buzz around it and making it sound worse than their opinion of it really is.

Honestly, there has been no other game, IMO that has been that good of an experience.

05-14-05, 06:34 AM
It usually takes me a week or more to beat a game because I get side tracked or just put them on hold... I beat HL2 in a day and a half... thats how well the game grabbed me. I have yet to play another FPS game that hooked me that strong since SS2.

05-14-05, 07:50 AM
I thought the game was good. There are some legitimate critisizms to be had here and there but anything less than a 7/10 is nonsense IMO.

The repetition was noowhere near as bad as Doom 3.

05-14-05, 08:39 AM
Game is not that bad, but i think they left out too many cool stuff that was in HL1, it got preety boring fighting thoose Combines most of the time and all cool stuff like the blue Tentacle and other enemies didnt make it in the game. Also some levels were just stupid like Highway 17 way too long steering that damn homebuild car, at least steering the boat in Water hazzard was fun but riding along the coast and hitting some combines here and there just didnt fit the game.. it should have been more focused in the actual city where you start and such who the **** ventures outside the city roaming around and **** ?

GFX - this game is doing just fine it could have been worse but its not bad at all so maybe a 8/10 from me.

Sound - I agree that some weapons had silly sound (They should learn from Doom3) but overall the sound atmosphere and voice acting is good. 9/10 here.

Gameplay - Can be boring but what the heck did people expect ? Everything fun that already has been in a FPS game before so its no suprise that you got a little dissapointed but they did most of the levels fun and challenging except for the Highway 17 level which sucked ass. 8/10.

But i overall i feel this game is good today but of course when the hacker stole the source code things got worse and too many people had too high expecations on it including me.

05-14-05, 11:22 AM
Agreed zeero1978, although I don't think it ruined the game the stuttering problems were a PITA. It affected CS:S as well, though seemingly to a lesser extent.

05-14-05, 11:43 AM
I thought the game was good. There are some legitimate critisizms to be had here and there but anything less than a 7/10 is nonsense IMO.

The repetition was noowhere near as bad as Doom 3.


Tbh, I can still fire up either game, jump into a level and just frag away, I just like the scope of HL2 better.

05-14-05, 12:56 PM
I played both ss2 and dx, personally i did not like dx to much. I think it was the tease factor that turned me off dx. It was way to easy and teased me with the feeling i could play the game the way i wanted but i really couldn't. Was an evil feeling. SS2 was just a creeepy experiance. Both were extremly good titles, but i consider neither to be simple fps games, they are more complex fps/rpg hybrids.

05-15-05, 09:29 AM
Half-Life 2 was good, better than Half-Life 1, but not the "uber" game it's hyped up to be.

Doom 3 overall was a better game.

05-15-05, 10:57 AM
Doom 3 was to repetive and boring for me, monsters stopped scaring me because I would know to turn around at the right moment to great the newly spawned monster with a shotgun to the face.

I thought HL2 had a better pacing then Doom 3, Doom 3 felt slow for a mindless shooter while HL2 felt nice and steady even during its slow moments. It always kept ya on your toes...

05-15-05, 11:34 AM
My biggest gripe with HL2 was the lack of enemies. All other complaints from me pertaining to the game are generally shallow, but the lack of enemies really bothered me. I really hope they don't make the expansion just as lacking in the enemies dept. they had so many planned monster for this game after reading that book they released, it would be ashame to see such great idea's go unrealized.

Vagrant Zero
05-18-05, 12:08 PM
HL2 8/10
HL2 Fanboys 1/10

05-18-05, 06:04 PM
Half-Life has too many bugs. After completing the game, the second run through I had annoying bugs like 2 alex's popping up during loading screens and following me around when she's still talking on the mic in nova prospect. Overall, DOOM 3 has much more polish. The add-on for DOOM 3 is ok, the bosses are the only good part, the rest..eh, I could do without.

05-18-05, 06:23 PM
I have Doom 3 in a box on a shelf, I have Farcry in a box on a shelf, both games look amazing, both games bored the hell out of me. HL2 I still play constantly and I still cant think of a better game, admittedly a bunch of things could have been done better, but in hindsight thats always the case. The pacing and the scope, the look, everything was great and still is. 9/10 for me but only cuz the box didnt come with a girl in a bikini.

05-19-05, 07:51 AM
I have Doom 3 in a box on a shelf, I have Farcry in a box on a shelf, both games look amazing, both games bored the hell out of me. HL2 I still play constantly and I still cant think of a better game, admittedly a bunch of things could have been done better, but in hindsight thats always the case. The pacing and the scope, the look, everything was great and still is. 9/10 for me but only cuz the box didnt come with a girl in a bikini.

You say you keep playing HL2. I believe you and am not trying to mock you in any way. I am interested exactly what you do. Do you play the game from beginning, re-play favorite levels, or are you playing mods?

05-19-05, 08:39 AM
I've been playing it from the beginning again, but after the first time I beat it I went to my fave levels and replayed them, just to see if there were things I could have done differently or things I missed, also I just got a new display and Im seeing things I didnt know were there with my old crt. I havent been playing mods yet, but I'll start looking soon.

05-20-05, 05:45 AM
The models are surprisingly low polygon.

are U blind? every human model is made up of ~4k/5k polys