By Video_Game_King 49 Comments
Half-Life 2( Wait, didn't I just beat a first person shooter?) Why do I find myself typing about this game on the same exact day that I posted my last blog about Goldeneye? I should really space shit out a bit more. Anyway, I'd try to speak ironically about this game and pretend that I found something super obscure that nobody's heard of, but that's impossible for this game. Why? For some reason, people think it's a highly influential and awesome game. I just think it's pretty cool for the weapons and stuff.
Yes, the main appeal of this game is in the weapons. Why is that surprising? Well, the weird thing is that most of your inventory is really standard FPS stuff. You have a pistol, another pistol, a sub machine gun, another one of those (there's a lot of repetition, for some reason), a shotgun, and...wait, a crossbow? That's the next thing? That's why I love the weapons in this game: when it gets creative, it just lets all hell loose. First, we have a crowbar that summons techno music. Nice. Second, the crossbow, because what better way to fight the high tech Combine (what the hell are they, anyway? I don't remember hearing an explanation) than with medieval technology? Oddly enough, that sarcasm is pretty accurate, since the crossbow is a cool weapon. Anything that gets in its way will become your personal pin-up poster of victory, something modern guns sorely lack. You know what else they lack? The ability to snipe. The crossbow...OK, while it's a satisfactory method of picking off enemies from afar, it can't snipe, either. None of the weapons in this game let you kill things from another country. Why is this a problem? Because you end up fighting snipers several times throughout the game. Hell, there's an achievement for killing enough snipers. So the last FPS I blogged about had enemies throwing grenades you couldn't use, and this game has people sniping you and never gives you any method of sniping back. Will the next FPS I play be some weird Goldeneye mod where I have to karate chop all the enemies while they perforate my face?
Fortunately, the next weapon doesn't really have these flaws, mainly because it shoves them onto another gameplay mechanic. The weapon I speak of? Bugbait, AKA " Bremen's Mask Crossed with Starship Troopers." (Dear god, that joke has made me nostalgic for Majora's Mask.) As the name implies, it does two things: it summons a squad of antlions to march in step behind you, and it allows you to tag which enemy you wish death upon first. At that point, you just sit back and watch as the antlions rend the skin from Combine skeletons. What's that? They killed one of the antlions? How do you feel about infinite antlions? They never stop coming. Needless to say, the brief time you spend with them is also when the game becomes pretty damn easy, for reasons I've already described. Although I did notice something weird about the antlions: they made a better squad than the human squad you get later in the game. Yes, there are squad mechanics in this game, but they're not that good. You can only point to where you want them to go, and more often than not, they're going to die and expect you to do the heavy lifting. I'd blame myself, but given that part of the Sacred Rites of becoming a King require making me a good leader, I'm forced to say that the companion AI is stupid...even though the enemy AI has actually been mapped really well. The human enemies know how to organize and strategize, while the non-human things usually just rush at you like you have bacon stapled to your crotch, strategy be damned. Unfortunately, all your human allies seem to subscribe to the latter school of thought. Great.
You know what else is great in a sarcastic tone? This segue. But you know what's genuinely great? The gravity gun. It's the one thing that has made the game famous, and for good reason: it lets you turn anything into a weapon. If you see something in the environment, you can grab it and launch it into an enemy's stomach. Hell, later in the game, you can even launch enemies into each other. I haven't seen such great use of the Forced Orgy System since River City Ransom. Actually, now that I think about it, Half-Life 2's FOS is better than that of River City Ransom, since it lets you dick around with physics and everything. Do I honestly have to tell you why that's awesome? I think we've all wanted to tell Newton to go fuck himself for a long time, especially since the poor bastard never had sex in his miserable life. Of course, the gravity gun is the perfect way to tell Isaac Newton that he needs a good fucking. Wait, there's one flaw about it I forgot to mention: until the end of the game, the gravity gun can't do heavy lifting. Why is this a problem? Well, when you first get it, the mysteriously pan-racial Alyx Vance tells you that it's for heavy lifting. How could you ignore your own writing, Valve?
Actually, now that I think about it, the story is the least enjoyable part of Half-Life 2. I can hear your ears whistling with rage, so come back after having watched this video. Trust me, it'll calm you down. You done? OK, back to Half-Life 2's story. On that note, why's it called Half-Life 2? If it wanted to be accurate, it'd be called "Half Related to Half Life." Sure, the characters toss around a few references to Black Mesa and Combine and funny speaking aliens and stuff, and the G-Man (why does that sound like a pornographic superhero?) returns for some cryptic irrelevance, but as far as I can tell, this game's story is pretty far removed from the events of Half-Life 1. That game was about...something (look, I haven't played the original Half-Life), but this game is about freeing the citizens of City 17 from the evil grasp of Ed Bighead. Wait, why's he so evil? That part never seemed to make an impact. I heard him speaking about human progress and creation and science and blah blah blah, but he didn't exactly do it in a memorable way. Actually, now that I think about it, the villains in this game aren't very good. I've already talked about the mysterious G-Man and the bland Bighead, but who else is there? Judith, a scientist I didn't see a lot before her reveal as a traitor. In that time, her only characterization was "accomplished scientist whom Alyx hates for some reason", so given that Alyx is cast as your action girl sidekick, it comes off as extremely petty to shove Judith into the villain category. When I finally saw the two women meet each other after the big reveal, I felt like Dick Whiskey: Drunk Cop.
Wait, I just noticed something that I apparently completely ignored while playing the game proper: a lot of that shit I mentioned happens close to the end of the game. For most of the game, you're just running through large expanses of nothingness, shooting enemies and trying to catch up to the plot. Sure, they have some awesome moments, like the airboat or the buggy or the games you played when you were 12 (the floor is lava, crossing said lava with a limited number of carpet squares, etc.), but none of that contributes to the story. Instead, it's just semi-linear (not a fan of the semi part, at times) levels with loading hallways, because apparently Valve has never heard of Metroid Prime. And that's the main problem with the game. No, not that it's not Metroid Prime (although that certainly doesn't help), but the persistent world thing. In theory, it should work and make for an immersive atmosphere and a great experience. The reality is that the game isn't very immersive, making the whole "don't interrupt the game with cutscenes" aspect of the design a failed endeavor. The world gives off this very impersonal attitude, never reacting to anything you do to anybody. Fine, there's that "pick up the can" bit near the beginning, but that just means the game design lacks focus, since I spent the first thirty minutes or so re-enacting this, only without the part where I got the shit beaten out of me.
It doesn't get much better as the game moves on, either. Remember the gravity gun from, like, nine paragraphs ago? As soon as I could, I'd grab boxes and just launch them at people. The results? The boxes blasted through them, but the NPCs never reacted. This means one of three things: either everybody's bones are made of adamantium, everybody's Fortune (but with boxes), or Valve didn't think things through. It's not like there's no system in place, either; should Barney or Alyx die in the game, the screen will go black and scold you for causing the plot to grind to a halt. I'd be perfectly fine if that happened outside the shoot-outs, but I've never seen it happen. You know what I got instead? Five minutes of nothingness. There's one part near the end of the game where you just sit on your ass (I was too bored to experiment) for five minutes. What does this contribute to the game? I can't think of much, and trust me when I say that I had all the time in the world to think about anything that nothingness brings to the game. After all, a little bit after that, seven more minutes of nothingness. Granted, there's some story stuff in that second one, but couldn't Valve just abridge the non-story parts? It's not like when I got in the teleporter at Nova Prospekt, the game zapped me into a cardboard box and showed Gordon and Alyx being mailed to Kleiner's lab.
I can sense the rage burning within you, so let's end this on a positive note. No, I'm not going to post another video of a 90s cartoon. Instead, I'm going to talk about the achievements. This may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but these are the best achievements I've seen in any game ever. You have some OK story moment ones, but I'm not talking about those. What I really love are the ones that have nothing to do with the story. They'll have you doing things like get through an entire level with just the gravity gun (did it), launch toilets at enemies (did it), and snipe enemies at one point in the game (d...huh?). It's the perfect mix of creativity and challenge that will probably attract me to the game again in the far off future when I'm extremely bored and decide to S Rank a game. The only one that sucks is Lambda Locator. It requires you to seek out the game's logos hidden in each level, but with a huge twist: the achievement is broken as hell. You can look dead-on at a lambda and it won't register, only to pop up when you've walked about two miles away from the damn thing. Is there a patch to f-Hold on, I figured the whole thing out! The lack of hands interacting with objects being picked up; characters generally ignoring your actions; the ability to reload a gun while turning a wheel; it all makes sense now! Gordon Freeman is a ghost. You see, ghosts don't always know that they're dead, and nobody has the courage to tell Dr. Freeman that he's dead. They simply feed the illusion because they need the citizens to believe that Gordon Freeman is still alive. We should all be very scared.....What's that music? Oh god...is Gordon Freeman behind me!? *runs off screaming*
- So many cool weapons and achievements. What's not to like?
- Right: how the game tells its story. Not the best way to do that, Valve.
- Also, some minor crap about squad tactics and physics and sniping and blah blah blah.
As much as SpongeBob sucks ass, this moment is pretty cool, for some reason.
Star Wars ( Some of you may be wondering why I went with such a provocative title when I ended up liking Half-Life 2.) You have JJWeatherman to thank for that. Turns out that people are more likely to post when they're seething with rage, even if they logically have no reason to be so angry. That's what this segment is for: to give people said rage. Unfortunately, I think it's only to give me said rage, because I'm the only person who's heard of this piece of shit with a crappy fan translation layer. The fact that nobody else has played this game angers me.
You know what else angers me, at least on a very personal level? The fan translation. Yes, this game was only released in Japan, and it's pretty easy to tell. No, it wasn't fan translated into Japanese again, but into English... mostly. Oh, but it doesn't end with a complete lack of proofreading; we also get shit like text overflow and romanization so incredibly lazy that I'm pretty sure the translation team got lucky with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Wait, this all sounds very familiar...Devil Survivor. It's the ancient ancestor to Devil Survivor. You know what that means, right? A completely insane, nonsensical story! Don't be fooled by the title, or the fact that it's actually based on Star Wars; after the title scroll and the dogfight-esque thing at the beginning and Luke discovering the message on R2, everything goes completely insane. The original movie was what happened when George Lucas decided to add more lasers to Roman history; the game is about Luke dying his hair black every level, traveling to planets that never appeared anywhere in anything, and beating up oddly named (again, fuck the translators) animals dressed as Darth Vader. I am not making any of that up. Actually, now that I think about it, I discovered a way for this to make perfect sense: just call it an Alex Kidd rip-off.
After all, it has all the same ingredients. You have a weird swimming level, a vehicle power-up, and some dungeon levels where you have to rescue your friends from the many Vaders. I know that this sounds like a tenuous claim, but just play the two and you'll fully expect Luke and Darth Vader to settle their differences with a game of rock/paper/scissors. However, there is one difference: everything that Alex Kidd did was much better. Remember how in that game, attacking was actually pretty easy? Not here. For most of the game, you're stuck using a light saber so small that poking your enemies to death would drastically improve your range. Sure, you can get a gun at some point, but that's a temporary power up that you can't carry into boss battles. This means that you have to walk directly up to an enemy, ask if it would be OK if you could remove a bit of their health, and then haul ass before you die. Did I mention that you die with one hit? So understandably, this game will kick your ass pretty hard, but not for the right reasons. I remember a perfect example in the rebel base level near the end of the game: I needed to make a pretty big jump, but I plunged into the gray stuff of death immediately in front of poor Luke. What does the game do? If it was like any other overly hard NES game, it would drop you at the beginning of the level. Instead, Star Wars drops you right back where you were. This may sound convenient, but keep in mind that I died because I couldn't make the jump. It's not like I can go back in the level (at all) and grab an incredibly fragile motorc-uh, landspeeder; I'm stuck with no options. Thanks, game.
Wait, there is one option: the Force. I'd say something like "Luke can't use the Force until he meets Yoda in the next movie", but I think accuracy died a lonely death when the Death Star became home to a million Boba Fetts. So like any good Star Wars game, you get a bunch of Force powers. You can stop time (useless), warp back one screen (useless), shoot things from your light saber...how many of these are actually useful? I'd say that the "run faster" Force power is, but it's so unwieldy that changing it to an instant death power would make it work faster. The only Force power I used with any consistency was the floating one. I probably shouldn't have, though, because it felt a helluva lot like I activated some type of moonjump code with a Game Genie. I'd tell you to play it and be the judge yourself, but I won't, for several reasons. First, everything I just said. Second, the things I have yet to say: there's a flight sim mode in this game, but it feels less like Wing Commander on the NES and more like a complete waste of time. So the platforming is unforgiving, and the flight sim parts shouldn't be. Is there anything good about this game? Eh, I guess the final level is decent. No, it's not a flight sim: it's a top down shooter at super fast speeds. Also, there are apparently many finish lines on the Death Star, but that's not the point. The point is that it recreates the final moments of the film beautifully: an intense, fast paced run on the Death Star, narrowly avoiding death...maybe. Sure, you'll crash and burn in this level, but unlike the rest of the game, you won't care. It's not like your X-Wing controls like shit, or things pop up rather quickly; it's a fair challenge that makes you feel really awesome for finishing it. And then you remember what game this is, and you suddenly feel far less awesome.
- Did George Lucas ever write a part in the movie where...I can't finish this joke, because it's hard picking one insane moment in particular.
- There's a simple formula to the whole game: go through level, fight Vader thing, rescue friend, go through some more level, go through a somewhat easy flight sim thing, repeat until you're confused.
- Oh, and there are Force powers. Apparently, Jedi can use Force Lightning, too.