Half-Life 2: Episode Pack PC Review

This is really just for collectors since this this package is outdated because the Orange Box has Half Life 2, Episode 1, Episode 2, Team Fortress 2 and Portal. While this only has Episode 1 and Episode 2… oh and Half Life 2 Death Match. The Death Match is your standard set of games, capture the flag, death match, team death match and so on. The weapons and everything are great, but I’m just not into the online play. I gave it a try, but there were too many people talking, yelling and screaming. Sure there is a mute button, but its also hard to find a game since this is a few years old.

As for the episodes here they are:

1

EPISODE 1

This is the PC episode for the fantastic first person shooter Half-Life 2. You do not need Half-Life 2 to play this episode. It has a lot more puzzles and action from the great original game. The expansion starts directly after Half-Life 2’s ending, so you might want to beat the full game before you play the expansion.

You start with a modified gravity gun and exclusively use it for the first hour of the game. The first hour feels like a good bit of puzzles with a side of shooting. Then once you get past the first hour the game opens up to more shooting and less puzzles. Its very nice. The shooting stays great, weapons are fun to shoot and have a great feel to them. All or almost all of the weapons return from the original game.

It feels like a clever extension to the already great Half-Life 2. Which if you were looking for something drastically new, this isn’t for you. While there are no major upgrades to enemies or weapons, the change in gameplay comes from Alyx Vance who will be with you through the expansion. While she’s not with you 100% of the time, you do go off on your own while she waits. As a partner, she is extremely competent and in fact if you want to make things easy you can let her do the shooting when she’s around. She rarely dies and never seems to run out of ammo.

There are elements of horror when you’re relying on flares and your flashlight fighting against zombies and headcrabs in a ruined building, using guns and explosive barrels. The expansion has you relying a lot more on your flashlight. Not 100% of the time, but maybe 10% of the time you will need to use your flashlight while being chased by zombies.

All or almost all of the enemies return. There are Combine soldiers, gunships, headcrabs, zombies, antlions and so on. There is even a new armored zombie that will occasionally pull off a grenade and shuffle toward you. There are a diverse array of tactics used by the enemies. Combine soldiers will throw shoot, fan out, throw grenades, strafe, hide and other tactics. They will even fight with zombies or your friendly AI characters. You will find new ways to tackle old enemies, like burying antlion holes with cars and shooting them onto their backs with the gravity gun. You can reprogram gravity mines to go after enemies.

The story isn’t extended at all. There are a dozen or so achievements and my first playthrough lasted a mere 3+ hours. Which makes it well worth $10, but not the original prize of $30.

In conclusion this is everything great about the original Half-Life 2 without the driving or open spaces. This is a great episode, but doesn’t add much.

EPISODE 2

This is a stand alone episode for the excellent first person shooter Half Life 2. You don’t need the original Half Life 2 to play this game. It starts with a recap of Half Life 2 Episode 1 and quickly gets to where Episode 1 ended.

Once again, you are still with Alyx Vance who is an NPC character that keeps up with your every move and helps you take down and shoot enemies. Most games would just have a voice through a headset, but not Half Life 2. There is also a new companion in the form of an alien who is around for a few hours of the game. To be honest he’s difficult to listen to and I didn’t hear much of what he had to say. Between Alyx and the alien they end up waiting for a lot of elevators while you do what it takes to get the elevator to them.

The story is actually vaguely expanded upon (unlike the first episode). Vague being the keyword, because I still get a sense that everyone in the game knows what’s going on while the player still has no idea.

The controls are as easy as other games made by Valve with keys for crouch, jump, run, use, weapons and clicking either the first or second mouse button will use a weapon or its alternate feature.

The bulk of the first 2 hours takes place underground either in mines or in some strange antlion caverns that were not in the original Half Life 2. There are even some organic tunnels that I can only describe as an alien hive. It’s truly gross and alien compared to other games.

After that it’s onto more open areas and more driving. There are grand forests to drive through with occasional stops to shoot things and open gates.

Episode 2 has some more thought provoking puzzles than Episode 1 had. Thankfully the flashlight now has its own power, because cave diving you will need to use the run and the light to survive. You will notice several diverse and interesting situations. Everything from setting up sentry guns to take out enemies to being pinned down in an area with dozens of zombies while Alyx snipers them dead. It makes it fun and different from Episode 1 where you only had soldiers and a few zombies here and there. There are some crazy moments where enemies like ant lions and a dozen zombies overrun the area and you need to escape by blasting your way through. Being chased by the antlion queen gives you a good sense of dread, especially if you are carrying a garden gnome for an achievement at the end of the game.

You will find a few new enemies in the episode along with most of the original enemies from Half Life 2. There are also new hunters which seem to be three legged robots that shoot some sort of time delay explosive darts, charge at you and take a lot of bullets to destroy. Health has mostly been replaced by fat glowing insects that when you step on them they release health jewels I’ll call them. It makes cavern spelunking more believable than finding health kits.

The only other notable new thing would be some sort of destruction engine that can have some pretty detailed destruction, especially seeing a bridge collapse or a roof break into a thousand pieces and whirl around an object.

The sound is spot on, atmospheric and unsettling. The sounds like a charging ant lion makes as its right behind you, elevators coming to you, the screeching chirp of insects around you and a light echo all really put you in the game.

In all, this is a better episode than the first and feels like it has everything that made Half Life 2 original and great. Good combat situations, great weapons, awesome enemy AI, new settings and driving.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s