Posted by Deliverator on June 4th, 2006
Valve recently released the latest installment in the Half Life series, Half Life 2: Episode One. Valve has done something quite different this time around. Instead of making you wait six years between installments (the period between Half Life 1 and Half Life 2’s release), they are switching to an mini episodic release cycle of a year or two. Source Engine, argueably the best gaming engine around will receive technology bumps with each episode’s release, but the focus is going to be on generating the high quality content that has made the Half Life series argueably the most successful in FPS history. Each episode will cost about as much as your average game expansion pack, and can be purchased and installed through Steam, or purchased on cd. The cost on Steam was $20. Frys had it on cd for $12, but I decided to go the Steam route, as I dislike cd checks, greatly.
HL2: Episode One starts where HL2 left off. The combine portal in city 17 has been destroyed, knocking out the whole combine portal system on earth, rendering the combine unable to call for reinforcements. The explosion also destabalized the
citadel’s reactor core, leaving it headed inevitably towards overload. The Vortigaunts step in to rescue Alyx from the time-frozen explosion and Gordon from the clutches of the G-Man. You start the game none the worse for wear at the bottom of the combine tower. You want to escape City 17, but discover that the destabilized reactor will blow far too soon to give you a chance to escape. Your only hope is to re-enter the crumbling citadel and stabilize the reactor enough to allow time for you and the remaining inhabitants to escape. While inside, you learn that the citadel’s occupants intend to use the imminent explosion of the core to send a message to the combine. Although able to temporarily stabilize the core, Gordon and Alyx have to flee the citadel and the city ASAP. You then spend the rest of the game fighting your way out of the city, thwarted at every turn by head-crabs, combine soldiers and other nastys. One of the things that I like about Episode One is the pacing. While most of the puzzles in the previous half life games could be dealt with at ones own pace, the impending destruction of the city requires you to keep moving. Most of the puzzles segments in the game have to be dealt with on the fly, usually with Alyx attempting to keep a torrent of headcrabs and suicide bomber zombie off you while you attempt to block a pit with a car, shut off a valve, etc. For the most part, Episode One plays the pacing game very well. I played Episode One through to finish in a little over five hours, taking a brief break to change underoos (jk!) and load up on caffeine :)
I consider Episode One to be well worth the price of admission. I still can’t help feeling like something of the “blow your mind” wow factor of HL2’s release will be lost by moving the series forward through briefer episodes. Still, I anxiously await the release of Episode Two later this year.