The Dartmouth Observer

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Half-Life 2: Adjectives fail me

Blogging has been scarce for the past week because of Half-Life 2, which is quite possibly the best-looking game ever made. See for yourself. I played Doom 3 when it came out and the visual contrast between the two games could not be more significant. The latter features miles of claustrophobic corridors, fantastically rendered, but all identical: I recall very few scenes that stood out, save for maybe the Hell level and some of the final levels. HL2, by contrast, has both spectacular outdoor vistas and realistic indoor scenes. The water effects and texture work are amazing.

HL2 also plays fantastically. The story, while not developed as fully as it should be (even by the end), is detailed and engrossing (and scary). The characters are nearly life-like thanks to detailed facial modelling - they roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, and express anger and sadness. The levels are varied and feature all manner of interesting puzzles and challenges. Speakking of which, I have to mention the game's physics engine and the gravity gun that relies on it. There's nothing quite like picking up a sawblade and slicing through a couple of zombies, without having to expend any precious shotgun ammunition. Or, at one moment on Highway 17, picking up a giant metal container with a crane and using it to bludgeon hapless Combine soldiers.

Again, the contrast to Doom 3 could not be greater. In Doom, all you did was move from room to room, shoot whatever was in there, open a locked door or two, and so on. There was no variety in the gameplay, and the monsters you faced became predictable after a while. HL2 confronts the gamer with all sorts of interesting scripted scenarios. Early in the game, without a weapon, you have to run away from the pursuing Combine. Later on, while cruising Highway 17, you face off against a Combine dropship that has to be taken down with a rocket launcher. In the prison, you have to defend your position from waves of Combine soldiers with stationary turrets. There aren't any boss fights in the game (unlike in Doom 3), but this is only slightly disappointing. The last few levels are pretty cool nonetheless.

As I've run out of adjectives, I'll stop here, and get back to regular blogging shortly.