I’ve been digesting this in my head before I wanted to delve into offering my thoughts:
First, the same elements exist as they did in the first Half-Life, though the key difference being they’ve been rearranged (most notably, the horror 'stage' is set further back at Ravenholm, rather than upfront with the first game). The game also rids itself of the arbitrary bosses it had, which I discussed with a Twitter friend, and which I appreciated (he didn’t). Instead, the game manages to steadily progress and advance not just the plot, but the mechanics and your knowledge of them. That Antlion Guardian? Yeah, you’ll fight more, but be better equipped to do so next time.
Not having a final, final boss also made narrative sense. Dr. Breen is a villain, sure, but to have him suddenly capable of fighting would have smacked of stretching things (yes, it’s a sci-fi world, but Breen is more of a behind the scenes type of man—particularly as your in-person interactions with him are limited as compared to how often you hear his voice and see his face).
The game has flaws, though, and they stuck out painfully. Squad-based games are unbearable at the best of times, and this game did itself no favors having such a mechanic. As the game isn’t one huge open field, I found myself often running down hallways and having them in the way. Or going off to a little side room and having to push them out of the way constantly to get back out.
Also, a trend I’ve noticed in games in general is when NPCs who follow me repeat the same phrases over and over. I love Alyx Vance, but was ready to slaughter her in Episode Two, when she kept cajoling me to move on when I was exploring.
Episodes One and Two are intriguing affairs in their own right, both having wholly separate feels. One is shorter, sure, but it aids in that claustrophobic feeling many of its environs give off. To go from something as expansive and mechanical as the Citadel to constant dark places and tunnels was a nice touch. Episode Two was much more emotionally-charged, however, in large part because of the actors involved. Color me a fan of Merle Dandridge, whose own racial background reflects that of Alyx Vance’s (also a nice touch, I believe).
In fact, while the first game certainly had POCs, their presence was much more notable in the sequel. Between Eli and Alyx Vance, and the numerous faces of black men and women in your resistance movement (though the latter aren’t named), I felt it was a strong push for more inclusion.
However, while I suppose Freeman was supposed to be an everyman type whose personality-less identity is supposed to be informed by my own, he has too many defining characteristics that made this impossible for me. He’s exactly my age, and has a doctorate in theoretical physics, which leads me more to think about his life experiences thus far, rather than trying to project my world view onto his.
What did you think of this review?