Home > FPS, Rant > We don’t go to Ravenholm

We don’t go to Ravenholm

VALVe released Half life 2 to a salavating world back in 2004. Gamers jumped on the game and its new engine called Source, a fork from GoldSrc which powered the original Half Life and was itself based on the original Quake. Unusually, I am going to get to the point very early in a post – I thought Half Life 2 was great. It was slick, beautifully polished and combined action, horror and character development with VALVe’s unique humour.

I do not wish to say much more about the original game, instead I want to talk about the episodic spin offs that were ment to continue the story line. Half Life 2 left us on a bit of a cliff hanger which was both exciting and disappointing. Luckily, VALVe made good their promises of a continuation which would be “worth the wait.” This was the rather obviously named Half Life 2: Episode 1 which I reviewed on my old site. Again, cutting to the point – I loved the first episode with the usual spectacular visuals and wonderfully choreographed character development we have come to expect. Apart from a little bit of “backwards and forwards”-ing and the fact the game was brutally short (I completed it in a 4 hour sitting on hard) it was an orgy of explosive action mixed with a deep undercurrent of forboding.

What the hell happened next?! Episode two has been out since late 2007 and despite promising a lot of new and exciting features such as massively destructable structures and ‘non-linear’ gameplay, I am yet to play it. Today again I watched the preview videos and felt excited by what was on offer, so why is it I have yet to play or am undecided on whether I want to play episode two? It is 2008 now, four years since the original game was released. Whilst technologically the engine (and therefore the games) have improved in many aspects, it still borrows from the tired wardrobe of the original games. We have the same MP7 and combine rifles, still we have the same equipment and still we have almost the same textures. VALVe seem to have missed the point of episodic gaming:

1) More installments with a greater, developing story line

2) Reduced cost of each installment

3) Reduced time between releases (6 to 9 months at most)

4) Something new and exciting in each new installment.

Whilst they have succeeded in point one and two, they are by no means successful at points 3 and 4. Episode two (and likely the final installment when it is released) feel a bit like a poor theatre company who are stuck with the same actors and same (now) limp faded props and dresses from show to show – trying to recreate a medieval scene one week and a futuristic dystopia the next – all from the same props!

I don’t like ranting like this about a company who has given me so many hours of enjoyment, but by the same token I (and everyone else) had the right to expect more. How hard would it have been to replace the MP7 with a G36 carried by shock Combine forces just outside the city to add little bit of spice? Adding new aliens and expanding story lines are welcome additions, but if the player has the same old tool set, it detracts from the larger changes. Had this game been released a year earlier it would have been a different story, but now I have little enthusiasm for it.

I will try and play it at some point, if I am wrong I will happily put it in writing :)

Categories: FPS, Rant Tags: , , , , ,
  1. July 27, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Episode Two features some amazing action sequences, which I find even better than those in the oringinal HL2. It also expands upon a new form of action that Valve isn’t really known for: free, open battlefields with multiple objectives. Once again the episodic nature of the content prevents Ep2 from sharing the epic quality of HL1 (still my favourite of the series), or HL2, but the action is so wonderfully executed that it can’t disappoint. Ep1 I found a bit more focused on storytelling and a bit lacking in terms of action (although that could’ve been due to how short it was). In Ep2 they’ve struck a finer balance and the final chapters are just great.

    Valve kind of screwed up with episodic content. The episodes themselves are fine, but they end up being too small and releases take forever. I’m not saying waiting five or more years for HL3 would’ve been better. But what’s certain is the developers themselves have figured out that an episode isn’t enough to stand on its own. Which is why Ep2 came with Team Fortress 2 and Portal, both excellent games.

  2. July 30, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Interesting, I hadn’t look on Valve developing bundle games in that way, but the more I think about it, what you say makes sense. I should go on record to say, after writing this minirant, I did buy episode 2 and play it through….

    (drum roll please) …. and I was very impressed, particularly towards the second half. I hope to find the time to write a proper post to go in further about some of the points I raised here. Overall it was highly enjoyable and worth playing, it’s just a damned shame it took so long to come out. I get the impression I will have switched off the story line altogether by the time episode 3 comes out. :(

  1. July 3, 2008 at 2:17 pm

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