theuselessgod's Half-Life 2: Episode One (PC) review

Half-Life 2 Lite

The Short

Pros

- Takes the excellent Half-Life 2 experience and condenses it into 2-3 well-paced hours

- Has a high amount of story given the length, and all of it is good and interesting

- Lets you play with the super-charged Gravity Gun from the end of Half-Life 2. This is awesome.

- Alyx is an excellent companion and her script shines

- Lots of small, subtle changes polish the experience

Cons

- For all my whining about a shorter Half-Life 2, this one still feels a bit short

- At it's core, this is the exact same experience you got in Half-Life 2, just shorter

- Infinitely spawning enemies are never a good idea, ever, no matter what the game

- Ends on a rather large cliffhanger. Thank goodness Episode 2 is out

Tell me about it.

The Long

After Half-Life 2 took Valve like a billion years to make (relatively speaking), they decided it would be best to keep their fans happy if instead of just releasing a Half-Life 3 they instead broke it up into smaller chunks so they could release them on a more regular basis. This is ironic, now, considering fans have been clamoring for Episode 3 for nearly six years now and the game still isn't out. Way to stick to the plan. Valve.

Anyway, Half-Life 2 Episode 1 (heretoafter referred to as just Episode 1) was the first of these mini-stories, small chunks of Half-Life 2 condensed to give you the full Half-Life 2 experience in just a couple of hours. If you remember my review of Half-Life 2, one of my biggest issues with the game was that it felt extremely padded, so Episode 1 should be exactly what I'm looking for, right?

Well...yeah, actually. I really like it a lot.

This should all look pretty familiar by this point.

Episode 1 takes place literally seconds after Half-Life 2 ends. The Citadel is going haywire, you managed to repel the alien invaders (for now) and Alyx is...hanging out with you, I guess. Anyway, Gordon and Alyx get the heck outta Dodge only to find out that if they let the Citadel blow up ALL the way, it'll like...nuke everybody. But if they get it so it only blows up SOME of the way, then they'll be good. So it's back into the Citadel to prevent nuclear meltdown, and once you have that fixed it's time to get out of the City and meet with other resistance members...or something.

There is a lot more story here, and that is a good thing. Since you spend nearly 90% of the game with Alyx, she'll talk a-plenty and keep the story moving. Writing is solid, as would be expected from a Valve game, and having a companion with you keeps the long drags through samey corridors from getting dull.

It still irritates me, though, that Gordon doesn't talk. Because then the whole "bonding" experience with Alyx seems like she's talking to a brick wall. I get you are supposed to be emoting in Gordon Freeman's place, but seriously...he is a character in this story, has a history, and should be given a voice. It makes the otherwise excellent script come off as really weird, and it hurts the narrative for it.

Ceiling Cat? Is that yo- OH HELL NO.

The rest of the game feels like a "Best Of" mix tap from Half-Life 2. I get to do all my favorite parts from that game, without all the garbage. Right off the bat you are given the super-charged Gravity Gun from the end of Half-Life 2 (essentially "God Mode," but much more entertaining) and get to mess the crap up out of some Combine. After that you lose it (obviously) and its right back to shooting Antlions, Headcrab Zombies, new Headcrab Combine, and original flavor Combine. There are no vehicle segments minus one part where you get tossed while inside a...nah, I won't spoil it. But hey, no driving plus better Gravity Gun plus hanging out with Alyx and the rest of the Half-Life 2 peeps equals happy Nathan.

If only that thing that controlled antlions hadn't conveniently disappeared between games.

If there is any real fault I can level against Episode 1 it is this: it doesn't do anything new. There are a few minor tweaks to the engine and one or two new enemies, but at its core Episode 1 is really just more Half-Life 2. Coming out several years after made this ok, and condensing the experience down made it a quick, fresh reminder of how much I enjoyed certain parts of Half-Life 2, but playing it now, where you can play Half-Life and both its episodes back to back, it feels like filler between the real adventure in Episode 2. It certainly isn't bad, it's just uninspired. Pretty much exactly like a "Best Of" Album release: if you haven't heard the songs in a while its a great way to reminisce, but if you just listened to all their CDs in a row it really feels redundant.

It's the same engine as Half-Life 2 (and every other Valve game ever made since) and as such it looks fantastic. The lack of new enemies or locations is a bummer, but Half-Life 2 was still a fun looking game, and on high end PCs you can make it look especially magical. Voice acting is great for Alyx and co., and the sound effects are top notch as always.

It's like she knows me. Screw you, poison headcrab.

As it stands, if you liked Half-Life 2 you'll love Episode 1. If you though Half-Life 2 was dull and long, it might bet worth giving Episode 1 a try anyway. The streamlined approach helps it more than hurts it, and even though it feels a bit short on story it's still a solid 2-3 hour experience.Since you can get it for super cheap now (or just pick up The Orange Box which has all the Valve greats in one convenient location) you might as well if you plan on playing through all the games. It's a decent transition to the (superior) Episode 2, and feels a bit better than Half-Life 2 to boot.

Still, it doesn't do enough to differentiate itself, so it still get the same score as its predecessor.

Three out of Five Stars.

SMASH KICK!

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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Other reviews for Half-Life 2: Episode One (PC)

    The story continues 0

    Half-Life 2: Episode One sets of right away with an alternate ending to the events of Half-Life 2. Although if these events occur before or after the actual ending is not clear - but by now the player should be used to be left in the dark when it comes to the storyline. The first thing I noticed, sadly, was the frame rate. Now those of you on older systems who previously could run Half-Life 2 should be warned that you might notice choppiness and tears in dialog that really break immersion. The g...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

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