So I’ve been playing Half Life 2. Having never played the first one, but being well aware of its reputation, I expected a fun, slightly better than average first person shooter. I’m not a huge FPS fan, though I’ve been playing a lot of Halo on my xbox lately. Prior to this, my biggest FPS-style game was Jedi Knight II, which for the most part wasn’t really even an FPS. Anyway, Half-Life 2 is pretty amazing. I’m playing on my new Athlon64 with an ATI All-In-Wonder 9700, which is a pretty good, if somewhat old card.
Two things about this game really make it stand out to me:
a) Character design and voice acting. Some of the characters carry over from the original half-life, and some are new, but all of them are rendered beautifully. Even the NPCs that run around in city 17 are just fantastic. Their faces are incredibly expressive. Granted, they all express either terror or sadness, but you really feel for them, despite the games cliched dystopic setting.
b) Level design! I didn’t really play all the way through doom 3, but I can see why people like this so much better. In doom 3, you are running around incredibly close quarters, typical ID mecha-goth stuff. It all ends up looking the same. In half life 2, you wake up in the middle of a giant city and I swear I haven’t hit a reused pixel once. Even when they do dump you into the sewers, they justify it storywise- you’re running for your life and instead of having a consistent, repetitious look (Enter the Matrix anyone?), you really feel like you are sneaking around a city, but trying to stay out of sight. You follow paths set out for you by fellow freedom fighters, running over planks and hiding in the shadows. Sure it’s linear as hell, but it doesn’t seem like it, and that goes a long way.
Also, the physics and the gameplay designed around it is so awesome in its complete integration. Its just common sense and feels really natural, but just getting games to a point like this has been a long time coming and a hell of a lot of work.
My only real qualm with the game thus far is that I can’t hang with Gordon Freeman. The dude is a dork. I understand they are going for immersion and stuff- whatever. On second thought though, would you rather be silent gordon freeman or goddamned “Dark” Prince of Persia? Gordo please. Also, despite its being played out pretty nicely so far, the setting really is kind of tired. One sequence is lifted directly out of the movie Equalibrium– itself a mishmash of scifi cliches- for god’s sake!
Anyway, I was just given a dune buggy to get the hell out of city 17, so I better go hit that.