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Half-Life 2: Episode One
(hx) 11:19 AM EDT - Jun,05 2006

Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a new trilogy of episodes that are scheduled to be released over the course of the next year. The first episode fills in a lot of the story gaps that you may have found with Half-Life 2 and at the same time opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You quickly learn exactly what is going on and why events of Half-Life 2 were taking place although all the questions posed are still not answered and the G-Man will still be just as much a mystery for many Episodes to come. Let's hope that Episode 2 actually starts to answer questions about what the hell is going on!

Episode One starts off exactly where Half-Life 2 ended - as Gordon and ally Alyx Vance were caught in a massive explosion. Now, you (as Gordon) are uncovered from a pile of rubble and debris by Dog /Yes, that loveable mechanical beast is back :-D/ and Alyx. Your main goal is to get out of City 17, but events that take place during your escape sidetrack you and Alyx a bit. With the Citadel reactor on overload, it's a battle to escape the ruins of the gutted Citadel and the city itself. Of course, that's easier said than done!

Episode One plays quite differently from Half-Life 2 in the sense that it's a single player cooperative game with Alyx - throughout most of the episode, you and Alyx will team together to solve puzzles, cover each other, and take on waves of enemies. Alyx is capable assistant and she's often the difference between victory and defeat in many encounters, as she'll cover your back while you're busy trying to sort out the puzzles. She'll even prompt you to danger allowing you to escape just in time which really adds to the feel and suspense of the moment. I must admit that Alyx's AI is superb, I never found myself frustrated because her. Her reactions to events in the story, like the train crash, really made her seem much more human. She added to the game immensely. She also provides good narration that progresses the storyline, and some laughs as well. My only problem with Alyx is her smile. It just looks so fake to me.

Just like the original Half-Life 2, the Episode One keeps you entertained almost the entire time through perfect pacing and a rich atmosphere. The levels are well done and the environments are great too (although the environments of the Citadel and City 17 were already explored in Half-Life 2). Episode One also brings some interesting puzzle elements, and may actually require you to get your brain kick started occasionally. The puzzles are fun and not too hard to have to repeat if you do mess up. For example, there are bridges you need to activate by throwing energy balls at certain devices, etc. The puzzle took me about six or seven deaths to really figure out, but it was even fun to die.

If there's one thing Episode One does even better than Half-Life 2, it's the scare factor. The dehumanized workers that lurked in the Citadel play a larger role this time around, and are almost guaranteed to freak you out completely in one scene. The claustrophobic dark level, Lowlife, has you desperately avoiding running out of battery for your flashlight and sweeping the area constantly to try and see those zombies creeping up on your flanks. Also, a new enemy is added to the mix, a "Zombine" which is a combine soldier that has been turned into a zombie by a headcrab. This headcrab on a Combine body is a little like a cross between the bomb-headed kamikazes from Serious Sam and a walking tank. They really spice up the action too due to their kamikaze strategy of randomly pulling out a grenade and running at you. Fortunately, it's nothing the gravity gun can't solve.

The action in the game is a lot more intense than the original. While Half-Life 2 would toss several Combine at you, then some headcrabs, then some more Combine, Episode One will have you entering into the middle of already massive brawls between Combine and Headcrabs, then have both turn and start attacking you, making the fights feel a bit like a free-for-all. It's very interesting to see Zombines tearing through their former squadmates, overpowering Combine troops with their fierce melee attacks.

The Half-Life 2 arsenal is available in Episode One entirely unchanged. The only notable addition is Alyx's side-arm that she uses through most of the game, and unfortunately can't be used by the player. What this says about the Half-Life 2 weaponry is that it was and still is exceptionally well-rounded, and the addition of another gun might have seemed unnecessary. However, those of you hoping to be tossing people around with the gravity gun as you did near the end of Half-Life 2, will be disappointed. The developers do tease you with the ability, though, but the fun is over quickly :)

One of the most unique features in Episode One is the addition of developer commentary, which, once enabled, can be accessed via chat bubbles sprinkled throughout the game. The commentary has the developers mainly offering insights about design decisions that influenced sections of the game. Besides the single-player content, Episode One comes with a Source port of Half-Life deathmatch. Yep, all the original fun ported over from the Quake engine to Source. Don't expect any huge visual upgrades though, but the water and some of the textures were touched up a bit. You will also get the Half-Life 2 Deathmatch.

Overall, Half-Life 2 Episode One is a solid game, but it was a little too short for me. I played it on regular difficulty and it took me less then 4 hours at normal difficulty. Sure, it costs only about 20 bucks, but I still feel like I should have gotten at least a few more hours of gameplay. There is also little replay value, so it hurts this even more. So, if you want to play some more of Half-Life 2 gameplay I would recommend this but only if you are willing to buy it for that price. In my opinion, 10 bucks would be a more appropriate price for this game, that's why I gave it a bit "lower" score.

Note: Episode Two is currently scheduled for the end of 2006.

System requrements: (You don't need to own Half-Life 2 to play Episode One, as it's a stand-alone product).

Minimum: 1.2 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, internet connection, DirectX 7 graphics card
Recommended: 2.4 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9 level graphics card


snd: 4/5 - great - especially with 5.1, voice acting is top-notch, good music, some glitches (at least with my Audigy 2)
gfx: 5/5 - almost the same as in Half-Life 2 + HDR lighting, impressive facial animation, very well detailed environments.
playability: 4/5 - pretty good - cooperative game with Alyx, much higher emphasis on puzzle solving, commentary mode, optimized performance (it's definitely faster than Lost Coast), Half-Life 2 deathmatch+Half Life DM source port included, no new weapons or gadgets, no vehicles, too short for my taste (4-5hours), no new multiplayer content, minor bugs
genre: sci-fi first-person shooter
release: June 2006
developer: Valve Software
publisher: Valve Software
Very_good
Overall: 83%


last 10 comments:

xxxx(12:00 PM EDT - Jun,05 2006 )
Based on a group of people I know that bought this expansion and the fact they all said "It sucked" I'm not interested. No thanks. Funny you mention gfx and stuff are 5/5 yet everyone that I know that played it said, gfx were no better except the addition of fake HDR which is way overused. You mention the mouthes moving and stuff and how good they were, well how was it any different that how it was in the original HL2? Seems more you were stretching on this review to give it a +80 mark.. Again, another expansion sold off as 5-6 hours of play when in reality it's just a little more than 2.5 hours... like Sin.

Here's my guess, HX is an avid HL2 gamer and as such that's why he was so gracious with his scores. Right or wrong? This isn't a flame, this is a 'realists' view of a mediocre and uninspiring and lackluster storylined Expansion.

Check all over the web, the views from people are 'this expansion is BS and doesn't answer anything and instead is an excuse for Valve to throw more questions in to sucker more kids to buy the followup expansions'.

Oh can you feel the hate in here? It's not hate, it's common sense and rationale behind a crock of an excuse to put out an expansion. Does this expansion add to HL2 in any way? No..just another cheap excuse to sucker fans into buying it..

Again, I'm waiting for Sin MP patch and that's ALL I care about in terms of Source... oh wait, and that Might and Magic..I don't think Sin is 'all', but in terms of a playable, not cheat infested, bunny hop loser DM world that is HL2DM(which has a more and more vanishing community daily).

Valve can soak the HL2 BS as much as they want, but as far as creativity and imagination, you have to look elsewhere. Valve is so imaginative and creative they bought up the 2 mods that honestly made valve what they are today. If it weren't for CS and DOD, HL2 would have never seen the day of light.

Craftos(04:47 PM EDT - Jun,05 2006 )
I agrre it's mediocre and not worth this price. I've rushed to buy it not waiting for any reviews and now I regret that.
No new graphics, except HDR (adding not much, really) nothing new more than 18 months old HL2, sound is ok.
Gameplay - well, with Alyx as sidekick it could be furn but because sh is practically indestructible (I an throw an exploding barrell at her, surrounded with zombies and only she stnds still after that) - it isn't so fun.
No new weapons, just one or 2 new enemies. No any vehicles. You get practically nothing new info about the story. Well - it doesnt' push the story a single bit.
Overall - quite short. Levels seems more like rejects from main game. The only fun part were: dark areas with zombies and escort mission.
I don't get why it took 18 months (!!!) to make this. Talented amateur modders would do it better and larger.
And this completely cheapest trick with "solving" Alyx and Gordon surviving explosion at the end of HL2. Sorry this "solution" is absolute mediocreness :(.

yessum(07:11 PM EDT - Jun,05 2006 )
xxxx> Valve is so imaginative and creative they bought up the 2 mods that honestly made valve what they are today. If it weren't for CS and DOD, HL2 would have never seen the day of light.

Haha. There are characters in this game that remind me of Abe and his crew. Y'know the chanting monks. I can't recall their names (or their race), but the opening sequence in episode one has the chanting, the lil lights around them... and such. All it needed was a gate-tunnel type thing, the exact thing that G-man walked through :lol: :lol:

KingArthur(01:11 AM EDT - Jun,06 2006 )
I'm a Half-Life fanboy I just can't bring my self to hate any of those games

to tell you the truth it seems EXACTLY like HL2 it seems exactly like an expansion pack with nothing new to offer, however I liked HL2 and there for I liked the expansion, I didn't go into it with high expectations or expecting anything new and boy did they deliver ;)

Anonymous(11:23 AM EDT - Jun,06 2006 )
DELETED

xxxx(12:20 PM EDT - Jun,06 2006 )
Bill Gates> For all your complaining and moaning, this is fun. Short? Yes, but fun. And that's the key factor missing in a lot of games -- it's FUN.

And it's wonderful to be back alongside Alyx... *dreamy sigh* ...she's soooo realistic. ;) Her AI, facial expressions, her figure, fighting ability, wit... she's all so perfect. Sigh. Have I creeped anyone out yet? :P


Too bad Alyx is a Lesbian though: :(
http://image34.webshots.com/35/8/0/83/252480083qZpHhQ_ph.jpg
http://image34.webshots.com/34/8/4/50/252480450HDxRRt_ph.jpg
...but then that's good news for xxxx? :P :wink:


Ur taste in women is far from mine. Thankfully. Hahahah funny about the Lesbian stuff though.. hell, wouldn't surprise me.

Anonymous(10:11 PM EDT - Jun,06 2006 )
DELETED

Ozieo(02:48 PM EDT - Jun,08 2006 )
The more I enjoyed HL2, the less I enjoyed this crap addon.

KingArthur(03:11 AM EDT - Jun,09 2006 )





Ainstain Junior(06:47 PM EDT - Oct,17 2007 )
Stop the episodes right now and go for a new full half life game.Before its to late..LOL

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