28. December 2004 · Comments Off on First Impressions, Half-Life 2 · Categories: Technology, That's Entertainment!

Let me preface by saying this is the game I’ve been waiting for. Doom 3 was fun, but I was still waiting for this one.

I got The Collector’s Edition with Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life 2. It loaded just fine once I realized this version came on a DVD vs a CD ROM. Loading was easy and quick…until it came time for the decrypting. Yes friends, we’ve gotten that far. Not only does the game have to load, but it has to talk to it’s home server and then has to decrypt. If you don’t have an internet connection or you don’t let their server talk to your computer, you ain’t playin’. Sorry. Thanks for buying the game anyway. And the decrypting takes forever…go make yourself a bowl of Easy Mac, let it cool, eat it slowly, you have time. I’m sorry, but in the year 2004 anything that takes longer than 10 minutes is just too freaking long.

I’m running a P4/1.8Gig, 512Meg on the board and 256Meg on the VideoCard. When the game first loads it gives you a bit of a start…the screen is all blurry…but down in the lower right-hand corner…perfectly sharp and legible is a little oval with the word loading in it. And the picture sharpens…and sharpens…and then sharpens even more. Oh….my….God.

Remember how startled you were the first time you saw “Myst” back in the mid-90s? It’s that big of a leap.

For me the game runs smoothly in the default settings that the game chose for my computer, except for immediately after the next section loads…then it’s a bit choppy and you may want to do a circle or two and jump up and down a time or two to get the stickiness out before going further. As you progress, watch out for baddies at your points of entry.

And who are the baddies? Besides our old friends the crabheads and their flying asshole symbiants, we have a new group of humanoids to fight…The Combine. Deciding when to fight them and when not to fight them is up to you. Sometimes it’s better to duck and run…but you need to figure that out yourself. And ALL of the baddies are smarter than they ought to be. The AI on this game is almost too good. I’m playing in Easy mode the first time and they’re still displaying too much cooperation and too much evasive capability. I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to crank it up a notch.

Some of our favorite Non-Player-Characters are back…my favorite being Barney. Although this time he’s not quite so inept and seems to have beefed up a bit.

There’s more than just a new set of office spaces to work our way through…this is an environment. We’re in their world: Outside, inside, day, night, city, beach, country.

One word of advice that won’t ruin the story…stay with your vehicle for as long as you possibly can. There’s usually a way to do that if you look hard enough.

Which brings me to the puzzles. As with all games of this genre, the key is to look around. Get all the angles. You’ve got a zoom feature…use it…the answer may not be right HERE it may be over THERE. Oh…and brush up on your Newtonian Physics…particularly the first three laws of motion. You may have to run…you may have to crouch…you may have to jump. If you find yourself saying, “You’ve GOT to be shi—kidding me.” you’ve probably figured it out. The folks who put this together have nothing if not a twisted sense of humor. The puzzles aren’t so hard as to completely discourage, but you ARE going to have to think.

This isn’t Doom. They’re not out to startle us at every turn. It’s more…disturbing than startling or horrifying. You may have to acknowledge your inner-psycho if you’re going to survive because sometimes the only answer is for you to get just as twisted as the folks who put this together. But being a horror film fan won’t hurt you either…there are some nods to some classics buried in here and when you catch them you can’t help but grin.

So far I’m having a blast. Beautiful Wife looked at one scene and said…”Oh wow that’s really pretty…hey, I bet if you put that thing there it would make that thing fall and you could get over there.” Of course she was right…and yes…I love it when she looks over my shoulder when I’m doing crosswords…why do you ask?

Worth the money? Yes. Worth waiting an extra year for? Well, yeah, but the shock of how good it looks would have been even greater before Doom 3 came out. Lucky for them the folks at ID like playing Doom in the dark.

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