An Old Friend Returns, But With Sparkles

I just finished Half Life 2: Episode 2.

Basically despite doing them all in order again, I have forgotten what the hell is going on in the story. I think I can mostly follow it but certain bits I’ve forgotten.

Anyway, despite that, I think the games are better in reverse order. By that I mean game-play wise.

I thought HL2 was a steaming pile of crap. It was riddled with technical problems, the game seemed dull and repetitive, the boss scenes (if you can call them that) were pretty crappy and the ending was stupid. Note though that I played this the first time round on “hard” whereas the second time round (so I could remember the story before doing HL2: ep 1) I played on normal and it was a damned site easier on normal. I gave this one about a 6/10. Above average but a bit of a let-down compared to the genius of Half Life. This episode carries on from Half Life but it doesn’t matter if you haven’t played or don’t remember it, although you will be left wondering “what happened in Half Life then?” after a few hours of play.

HL2: ep 1 was really good but quite short, only a few hours, maybe 5. It went away from the silly, almost pointless, sprawling areas of HL2 and relied more on enclosed spaces and atmosphere to generate some great game-play. It had a a puzzle element but the majority of them are fairly simply. I did this episode on normal difficulty. The story takes a few twists and turns and from what I remember of it is quite involving. I preferred this episode to HL2 and would recommend this game to anyone. I’d give it a “very rare for Leeram” 8/10. This episode carries on from the moment you finish HL2 and will probably leave you confused, story wise, if you played this before Half Life 2. The ending is good although I wonder if with this game I am being a little more forgiving because I know there is an episode 2. When I finished HL2 I had no idea there would be another game that directly followed it, I just felt ripped off. My faith in Half Life is restored with this game.

HL2: ep 2 was brilliant. I loved every minute of playing this episode. It again continues from the very moment that HL2:ep 1 finishes. It had a great mix of the sprawling areas like HL2 and the tight environments of HL2: ep 1. The sprawling scenes are no-where near as sprawling as HL2 though, I think in this game they have got the size of them, and the number of them perfect. The story again twists and turns and there are some great cut scenes. I think the issue with the story is remembering what has gone on across 3 games, rather than it being particularly complex. There are some puzzles but not really even worth bothering with they are that easy to solve. It has a really good, exciting, boss battle towards the end and a good ending to this particular part of the story (although you’ll guess the ending the second you start playing HL2 Episode 1 to be fair, well I did anyway). A definite ultra rare 9/10 for this game.

So despite me not liking HL2 I think if you play these games you should definitely play them in order. It’s the first game I have played where the story is presented so well and it had me trying to keep track of it. They follow nicely from HL itself as well. The better game-play in the later episodes is nothing monumentally different, it’s just little tweaks to the way the game pans out that make the difference.

I think maybe the issue with HL2 was that it got so much hype and I was expecting it to be the best game ever, and it just wasn’t. I much preferred Half Life, but there again, Half Life was the first of its kind. The first to have story and live environments with factions all fighting each other in real time. HL2 was never going to have as much impact I suppose. With Ep1 and Ep2 I was expecting them to be poor from the offset, but they aren’t. So maybe it’s my starting point that’s to blame and actually all the games are good.

The only reason I bothered to play them at all was because I got the orange box for Team Fortress 2 and actually it was a present from a mate. So I felt it only right to play the two episodes being as my mate had paid for them. I started with HL2 mainly to remember the story but also because I have better technology and was hoping that the technical issues wouldn’t manifest themselves (when I first got HL2 it was cutting edge and to be honest my PC was only just up to the task. This PC should eat it for breakfast), I was wrong though, the issues are still there, but the game did run a lot smoother on my new machine, as you’d expect. If you’re playing 360 version though you don’t need to worry about that!

Well the story is open for HL2: ep 3 which I assume they are making. Can’t wait to play it.

So now what do I play? A quick scan around the shelf and voila! Maximo, a game I started and never finished. I got about two thirds of the way through.

On the Wii front I borrowed RE 4 off a mate 3 weeks ago and still haven’t managed to find any time when the chidren are in bed and my wife isn’t watching telly to play it. Surely that’s good enough justification to buy my own Wii?

The latest game I bought was actually an old one, R-Type 2 for the PC Engine. It’s not really R-Type 2, it’s really the second part of R-Type because they had to split it across two cartridges. I don’t particularly like it but it was cheap and makes the game complete on my shelf!

This month we are supposed to be getting Dragon’s Lair for the DS and in June Ketsui is coming out for the X-Box 360. Could life get any better?




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