Half-Life 2: Episode 1 Reviewed by: Peter Wilkins
Game Information • Developed by Valve Corporation • Game is a first-person shooter centered around a sci-fi story • Available in stores or through Steam for $19.99
Minimum 1.2 GHz Processor 256MB RAM DirectX 7 level graphics card Windows 2000/XP/ME/98 Mouse & Keyboard Internet Connection (Steam only) DVD-ROM (Retail only) Recommended 2.4 GHz Processor 512MB RAM DirectX 9 level graphics card Windows 2000/XP Mouse & Keyboard Internet Connection (Steam only) DVD-ROM (Retail Only) System Requirements
Installation • The game comes on one DVD if purchased retail, or downloads if purchased via Steam • Half-Life 2 is not required in order to install • A 25 character alphanumeric install key is included with the retail version
Quick Overview • Player has an arsenal of weapons • Player is given objectives • Player must fight many enemies in order to complete the objectives • Player must also solve puzzles in order to complete objectives • An NPC fights along side the player throughout the game • The story unfolds as the game progresses
Player’s role • The player plays as Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist from the Black Mesa research facility. • Freeman is forcefully employed by a mysterious man known only as G-Man. • Freeman is the hero of the game by helping humankind, but since G-Man is using him, the big picture is still unknown. • In Episode 1, G-Man’s control over you is disrupted by a group of friendly aliens. • The aliens prevent G-Man from putting you in stasis and keep you on Earth to continue helping humankind
Storyline (Background) • Following the accident and survival at Black Mesa, Gordon is forced to work for G-Man and is put in stasis. • After several years, G-Man wakes Gordon to City 17, a city under the control of Combine forces. • Earth was surrendered to the Combine by a man named Dr. Breen, who was given power in exchange. • Gordon joins the resistance against the Combine, where he meets Alyx Vance, the daughter of a former Black Mesa employee. • With the help of Alyx, Gorden eventually makes his way to the Citadel at the heart of City 17. • There he stops Dr. Breen from escaping, and destroys the main reactor of the Citadel. • The resulting explosion is about to consume Alyx and Gordon when G-Man appears to take Gordon back into stasis.
Storyline (Episode 1) • Episode 1 begins with Alyx being saved by a group of friendly aliens. • These same allies prevent G-Man from keeping you in stasis. • G-Man appears to not be in control of you, and is quite angered by it. • You awake buried in a pile of rubble at the base of the Citadel, where Dog, Alyx’s pet robot, digs you out. • You quickly learn that your prior actions have put the Citadel’s core in a critical state, and it will explode taking the entire city with it. • It is now up to you and Alyx to re-enter the Citadel to temporarily slow the core’s destabilization, and then evacuate and flee the city. • Upon stabilizing the core, you and Alyx stumble across a data packet containing a transmission that the Combine are trying to send out. • Stealing the data packet draws much Combine attention to you and Alyx as you make your way out of the city.
Game Play • Kill or be killed • Linear progression • Some situations involve multiple approaches (some better than others) • Sometimes a puzzle must be solved in order to progress
Scoring • There is no scoring in Half Life per se. • The only benefit to killing enemies and completing objectives is self satisfaction and unfolding the story.
Artwork • Immersive environments • Extreme attention to detail • Realistic looking characters • Intimidating enemies • Impressive weapon effects
Sound and Music • Environmental sounds intensify the situation. • Weapon sounds feel right. • Enemies are uniquely identifiable by their sounds even from a great distance. • Characters are made more personable by excellent voice acting • Music is used to introduce new areas or intense situations.
Special Features • A commentary mode is available which allows the player to listen to information about the design and development of certain key points of the game • The game plays as normal, but little dialog balloon icons can be seen in certain places • The user places the crosshair over top of the icon and clicks to start an audio track of commentary
Manual • The game comes with a quick reference card • The card shows the default mapping of the controls • It also explains what each menu option does • The Steam version has this card available in PDF form
Bugs • The first time playing through the game, there was one part where Alyx was stuck and could not follow me. • Upon completing that area by myself, she appeared by my side for the next. • This bug did not occur the second time playing through.
Pros Unraveling more of the story that is Half-Life Co-op action with an AI NPC Killing enemies Solving puzzles Developer commentary Cons Episode 1 is too short Pros and Cons
Comparison • Episode 1 may be a run and gun FPS just like any other, but it is far from the being the same. • Co-op play with an NPC throughout the entire game sets Episode 1 apart from most FPS • The “gravity gun” makes for highly interactive environments, creative means of killing, and great puzzle solving • The level of detail that goes into each and every scene surpasses any other FPS
Audience • The game is rated Mature due to Blood & Gore, Intense Violence, and Language. • This rating is probably a bit overboard since most of everything killed is an alien and not a human being. • The only reason it should be rated as M (17+) is that the storyline may be too complex for someone of a younger age
Design Mistakes • There were no design mistakes in my honest opinion. • The co-op play could have been a design mistake if implemented another way. • Since Alyx’s AI is good, she can take care of herself. • She does not lead, so there is no unnecessary nagging. • If the above were not the case, players would have become extremely frustrated trying to keep her alive and having her nag constantly.
Summary • Episode 1 is a must buy, although any new players are encouraged to play the preceding installments of the Half-Life series first. • The only weakness of this game is the total playing time, which clocks in at only about 4-6 hours. • This game could be improved by extending the total game play time, and maybe adding a new weapon.