If you've been following along, I'm going through my backlog to see what games hold up in brief play sessions. This week I tried Half-life 2.
I chose it based on a suggestion in a comment and a coin flip. It was a good choice.
I have played Half-life through to the end of Nova Prospekt a couple of times, but haven't touched it in years. What a mistake.
Back in the Swing
After updating the file format in Steam (which took forever on my old mac), I started it again and found that some of my old saves were missing. My most recent save was in 2010 in the middle of the underside of that giant bridge on Highway 17. I had no idea where to go and I had to fall to a sandy and occasionally watery death a number of times to remember how Gordon Freeman slides a bit. With that under my belt, I got shot in the head.
The game is harder than I remember. I didn't recall the Combine being so smart. I certainly didn't recall all the headcrab scares and how fast the fast zombies were. With a couple bad battles under my belt, I was back in the buggy and blasting along, until I got hit by a train... a couple of times. But from there on, it was good.
The game is still special. The graphics are a bit rougher than what I play now (partly because of the old Mac) and the weather is sort of dull, but the game has a real sense of space. The continuous nature of play makes it organic and immersive. The lack of arenas of shoulder-high crates also helps. It makes sense that there is a garage there, a lighthouse here, and an isolated prison over there. It flows and doesn't seem like I'm going level to level.
The gameplay also flows. It is paced very well and makes a wide use of different mechanics. Driving, platforming, strategic sniping, rushing into battle, there's so much more variation than most games I've played recently. The variety kept me engaged.
Thirty Minute Bite
In thirty minutes, I managed to start the game, get used to the controls, fight several battles and get my buggy way down the highway. Without the use of levelling mechanics, I felt like I had progressed. More importantly for my tastes, it was an escapist experience. Despite the sci-fi setting, the lack of realism in how many weapons you carry, or the premise, the game manages to create a compelling world in a brief amount of time. That goes back to the sense of place and pace. It feels like somewhere and the game drew me in.
VERDICT: High quality lumber. Play it again, Sam. Delicious game-snack.
As a matter of fact, it drew me in enough that I'm going to go back. I'm still planning to do different 30 minute reviews over the next few weeks, but I will also be playing Half-life 2 to finally finish it.
Here's the list for next week:
b) A.I. Wars
d) Driver: San Francisco, and
e) Valkyria Chronicles
Let me know what you think I should play next, if you have any suggestions on these reviews, and I'll see what I can do!