|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Valve||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Steam||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (multi online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Half Life 2: Episode Pack comes with three stand-alone Half Life games. Before I reviewed the entire pack, I reviewed only Half Life 2: Episode 1, and while it was fun, it was too short and instead of answering questions about past situations, it just raised more. I felt as though the developers were making it up as they went along. And maybe they were, but along comes Episode 2 and saves the day.
Like a spin doctor, it comes in with a professional authority and gets right down to the business of focusing the proper attention on the matter at hand - making sense of this mess. As for Half Life 2: Deathmatch? Need I say anything more than gravity gun?
Half Life 2: Episode One
As far as sequels go, Half-Life 2: Episode One is kind of half-baked. It's a streamlined version of the original game in that it relies on covering old ground with more emphasis on shooting than puzzle solving. Since most players are familiar with City 17 and the Citadel, the puzzles wouldn't have as much impact, unless of course every location had a multitude of secret rooms and new freaks to kill. But such is not the case. Episode One feels like a backtracking mode in which you replay the original game with a slightly different objective.
After the apparent fall of the Citadel, we learn that "apparent" is something that you'll have to get used to. There's nothing like a good cliffhanger, but it seems as though the ending of the original Half Life was pretty much a grand finale. Who would have ever thought that Gordon and Alyx would get out of that devastation alive? Well, not only did they manage to survive, but the Citadel still remains largely intact. I would suspect, from this game, that the developers are making things up as they go along, and they are just buying time with Episode One. Nothing is sufficiently explained. Despite plenty of dialogue, little is revealed or resolved. We are submerged into murkier depths of confusion. More questions are raised, like a smokescreen to keep us from dwelling on the past. It feels forced. As though we will have to wait for the next few episodes to complete the story.
Okay, let's face facts. You're not going to learn much about what happened in the last game. Episode One is basically a coupling device used to link a few seemingly disparate elements. But it does lead to something greater and grander. Keep in mind that this game is really, really short. It will probably take me the same amount of time to construct this review as it did to play the game - but that's because I type with one finger. You figure out which one.
Reunited, Gordon and his trusty, beautiful sidekick Alyx must make their escape from City 17. But before they can do that, they have to try to stop the Citadel from its deadly, scheduled destruction. To this end, the duo, along with their robotic dog, must once again explore the inner sanctums of the Citadel in an effort to keep the reactor from blowing up prematurely while they plan their escape through the city. Along the way they encounter the requisite enemies and puzzles. The puzzles increase in difficulty, but there is nothing too taxing. The focus is on shooting and there's no shortage of that. You'll encounter familiar foes such as the Combine guards and soldiers within the Citadel, and deal with zombies, headcrabs, and ant lions in the underground.
It's hard to imagine a more perfect setting, and that's probably why the developers chose to stay in City 17. Environments include hallways, offices, and subterranean passageways, abandoned apartments, warehouses, and a variety of outdoor locations. I would have preferred some different scenery, but as long as you're engrossed in the action the environment takes a backseat.