Saturday, September 10, 2011

Half Life 2 (a review and a comparison to the original)

Half Life 2 is the 2004 sequel to the critically acclaimed original Half Life (my review) and set fifteen years into the future. Since Gordon Freeman's victory, things have taken a turn for the worse and the earth is now under the totalitarian and dystopian rule of the Combine. These Combine, in addition to running a quite normal totalitarian police force, also employ a few alien monsters/creatures you will recognize as well as a few new ones, which they unleash onto the resistance.

In Half Life 2 you run, you jump, you shoot, you platform, you drive, and you solve physics based puzzles. The puzzles are actually quite good, if far too infrequent and being physics based make the game seem really down to earth and immersive. The platforming, and in particular the driving, is also quite well done and entertaining, but I think more of it could of been done without the constant pressure of enemy fire; Which is really my biggest gripe with the game, the near constant action.

For the most part you are in firefights, and while I think that Half Life 2 handles this action better then the original I sure enjoyed the greater amount of peaceful and non-action sequences in the original. Additionally, while the plot of the of the original had a few mysterious unexplained sections you had a basic idea of what was going on and what you did not know; This is not at all present in this sequel; You are working for the still completely mysterious G-Man; Fighting against an enemy that you have never seen before and other then the obvious observation that they are some sort of totalitarian police force you only know their name, you know absolutely nothing about where they come from, what they want, or even what they have been doing; And the rebels, you suddenly appear after fifteen years and everyone takes it in stride, does not even bother to get you caught up in recent events, and apparently have recruited the vortigaunts, a common enemy from Half Life who apparently have become a race of Yodas (incredibly wise and powerful) in your absence.

For the graphics I am somewhat divided, Half Life 2 still looks great and has even better graphics then the original is a few ways but I also think that a few things look significantly better in the original. Overall, I would say that Half Life 2 is superior but it is not quite as cut and dry as you might expect, but no matter where you think it stands with regard to the original it still holds up even to today's standards in attention to details and high resolution realism (while it is obvious that the original looks dated).

Overall, played basically back to back with Half Life original, it is simply not as good a game as the original. It is still a great game, and different enough that I hesitate to say it is objectively worse; I sure enjoyed the original  more, but I am sure that some people will enjoy Half Life 2 just as much or even more. But Half Life 2 does not really need to be compared to it predecessor and standing with the other games of its era it looks quite good, and it is undoubtedly one of the top FPSes of its decade.

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