Half Life 2: Episode Pack Review for PC

Half Life 2: Episode Pack Review for PC

Good Things come in Three Packages!

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.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

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.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

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.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

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.

The linear style of gameplay is well-hidden within the context of the game. You have a predetermined path with which to make your hasty retreat. While you have the freedom to go explore different areas, you’ll quickly be deterred by impassable areas and insurmountable odds. I should also mention that the graphics are fantastic, with plenty of detail, nuances, and depth. Half Life, as a franchise, is very good at putting you front and center in the action. The challenges are always within reach, never impossible. Events occur in a natural progress commensurate with the situation. For instance, if you set off an alarm, you can expect a horde of goons to descend upon you. They won’t give up until you’ve dealt with them all.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

Alyx is a great companion. She carries her own weight and most importantly, she stays out of your way. Her reactions are very realistic. However she is vulnerable to attack and can wind up dead very quickly. There is no health indicator for her. You’ll have to be mindful of her, but at least you don’t have to babysit her. Teamwork feels natural, not forced. In one level you’ll have to use a flashlight to illuminate the creatures in the dark, while Alyx picks them off. It’s a well-designed form of interaction that makes you feel as though you’re playing in a co-op mode.

Half Life is an amazing-looking franchise, and Episode One carries on that tradition, although it really doesn’t add anything new. The environments and enemies are the same, but at least the high standards of graphics have been maintained. Characters animate smoothly. The monsters are especially creepy on all levels including design, animation, and sound. The Citadel is huge. The developers were able to make you feel how cold, massive, and oppressive this monolithic structure is. Voiceovers are excellent, and there is a commentary from the developers that will give you some insight into how things progressed from the last game to this one.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

Half Life 2: Episode Two

Talk about cliffhangers. At the end of the last game, Freeman is involved in a seemingly tragic accident when his rail car is thrown over a deadly precipice. As you might well imagine, he made it out alive. Now, I don’t want to spoil any surprises for you, but it’s relatively safe to say that a game without Freeman is not a Half Life game – so he must live. What happens next is pure action and adventure. The story kicks things into gear, and the action is taken to the next level. We still have the same arsenal, and most of the same enemies, but the challenge is more intense this time around. Not necessarily more difficult, just more refined. Much of this can be attributed to the different locations and the more intelligent and aggressive enemies. The puzzle-solving elements are also more prominent than they were in Episode One. They are nicely ingrained in each situation to appear as natural occurrences. The storyline permeates the game from beginning to end like the yellow brick road.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

Stranded in the wilderness, a long way from City 17, Freeman encounters a new world, one that is far different from the decaying concrete ruins. Not left unscathed by the Combine, much of what was once pristine forest and wilderness has become a partially mutated wasteland. This is a great environment for us. It’s a refreshing change from sewers, dirty city streets, and office complexes. What we get in exchange are caves, mountains, rivers, forests, and abandoned ghosts towns. Of course they are rife with obstacles to overcome and creatures to destroy. This new setting goes a long way in sustaining interest in the series, which I must admit was waning in the last game. It’s apparent that the developers pulled out all the stops for this one.

Not only is the story stronger than ever, but the character development, primarily that of the minor ones, is fully realized in this game. Through conversation, actions, and especially expressions, the gang is more fleshed out than ever. We’ve already seen how Alyx has developed in Episode One, as a person and a partner. She shows human range in her emotions, and most importantly for gaming purposes, she proves to be an integral partner. She’s even better in this game, and that includes better looking. The other A.I. , such as the audacious Magnusson, Eli, and the doc, are all back and they follow in Alyx’s footsteps, careful not to get in your way, get lost or get stuck. They even pull their own weight, and you can’t ask for more than than.

New creatures include a streamlined version of the spider-like Stiders, which are faster and more difficult to hit. Different versions of ant-lions spring up, including one that can spit poison from a distance. You’re bound to cower at the Combine Hunters. They are ruthless and incredibly efficient. They can’t be easily killed, so running and gunning is not an option. You’ll get your hands on the gravity gun again as well as a different version of it near the end of the game. You will also get to use a few vehicles in this game, something that was sorely lacking in Episode One.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

Complaints? Yes there are a few. Although the game is longer than Episode One, it’s only longer by a couple of hours. It’s too much fun to be so short. I do like that it’s linear, and there isn’t a lot of backtracking, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. There are also some load times that are annoying, but fortunately they aren’t too distracting.

Episode Two is a great looking game. It’s got amazing detail that allows the scenery to be read like a book. The game speaks volumes visually, without a word being uttered. The animations are great, the monster models are realistic, and the facial expressions really bring the human characters to life. If Episode One had a purpose, it was to illustrate just how amazing Episode Two is.

Half Life 2: Deathmatch

In order to enjoy Half Life 2: Deathmatch to its fullest, you must find the right dedicated server. If you experience any trouble getting online or any latency during the game, get out and reconnect. This is a great frag fest and is so close to perfect that you simply have to take the extra effort to get the most out of it. We’re talking the gravity gun here, and there are few weapons around that are as unique and as much fun as this piece of equipment. In the Nova Prospekt prison, there are plenty of loose items to toss around including concrete slabs, sinks, toilet bowls, tables, chairs, radiators, and exploding barrels. Simply point the gravity gun at a particular object, activate it, lift the item, and then lob it at your opponent. You will also have more normal weapons at your disposal, such as pistols and a rifle.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

A fair bit of strategy is involved when determining to use the gravity gun or conventional weapons. No particular weapon has a decided advantage. You run the risk of getting shot when using the gravity gun as it leaves you vulnerable for a short period while lifting an object in front of you. You can use the gravity gun to stop other projectiles thrown at you by other combatants using the same gun. You can even intercept these items and throw them back. Hitting another player with a cement block would certainly devastate them, as would throwing an exploding barrel at them. But at the same time, a player using a gun could shoot the barrel while you’re lifting it, causing it to explode prematurely and kill you. So keep in mind it’s not the weapon you use, it’s the tactics that you employ.

The Overwatch map is an outdoor, urban environment. The decaying city has plenty of fodder for your gravity gun including abandon cars, dumpster, iron girders, and more slabs of concrete to throw around. Various guns and ammo are located in the surrounding buildings. There’s no shortage of firepower, and it’s always interesting to see what you’ll find next. Some of the weapons include a machinegun, rocket launcher, explosives, the Reisistance crossbow, a gunstick, and a Pulse Rifle. It’s an interesting mix that allows you to explore different killing methods, including melee and ranged combat,which will range from running and gunning to taking potshots like a sniper while hiding under cover.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack screenshot

As far as Deathmatch modes go, this game could easily have been attached to either of the Episodes. In fact, there are a lot more Deathmatch modes out there with more sub-modes and options. This game will accommodate up to 32 players. In Team Deathmatch you can play against the Combine. Respawning is instantaneous, so there’s no waiting for the unlucky victim. Although there should be more of a penalty for getting nixed by a toilet instead of just the embarrassing toilet icon that appears over your character.

Half Life 2: Episode Pack is definitely a well-balanced collection for the shooter fan. If I could only afford one component, it would have to be Episode Two. I can live without Episode One and Deathmatch, but if you haven’t played Episode Two, you can’t really call that living.

Astounding attention to detail. Great clarity, depth, detail, and nuances. 4.8 Control
Smooth and precise controls. Very accurate shooting mechanics. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great quality voiceover work. Fitting music and great sci-fi sound effects. 4.8 Play Value
It’s a classic shooter with good puzzle elements. Extend the replay value with the Deathmatch component. 4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Best bargain to purchase all games as one package.
  • The intense real-time gameplay delivered in Half-Life 2: Episode Pack is made possible only by Source, Valve’s proprietary engine technology, which has been enhanced with new rendering technology and enhanced artificial intelligence to deliver new levels of graphics and character interaction.
  • New episode for one of the best selling action games of all-time.
  • Reveals new secrets.
  • Incredibly advanced A.I.
  • Highly detailed environments provide amazing gameplay settings.
  • Digital Actors: The most sophisticated in-game characters ever witnessed.
  • Intense storyline will appeal to those seeking more than another shooting gallery experience.
  • Amazing online Deathmatch with up to 32-players.

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