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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Half Life 2: Episode 2 (PC)

Just over a year in the making, Half-Life 2: Eps. 2 is now available for general consumption via the online game distribution system STEAM, or from your friendly neighborhood software store. With the added time it took to produce this latest chapter, has the much celebrated 'Half-Life' spark finally fizzled out? Check out the review from PC gamer Jim McHugh to find out for sure.
At the end of Half-Life 2, Episode 1 we saw our favorite crow-bar wielding ex-scientist Professor Gordon Freeman finally escape the claws of the evil and mysterious intergalactic/pan-dimensional forces of The Combine. Well, almost. After surviving numerous attacks from the giant spider-like Striders, hideously mutated zombies, and super angry enemy infantry units hell bent on revenge, our hero seemingly succumbed to the most innocuous of all of his various life-threatening scenarios: poorly designed railroad tracks. Apparently (and thankfully) that was not the case. In fact, at the start of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, we find out rather quickly that our hero has indeed survived the plunge off of the shear cliff-face inside of the railroad passenger car, and must now find his way through the great outdoors (and other nasty scenarios) back to the Rebel Encampment in the deep forested areas North of the ruins of City 17 and the Combine Citadel. And this is only just the beginning of Gordon's fun.

For those familiar with both the original full length game Half-Life 2 and its subsequent expansion pack, Episode 1, you'll find similar themes running through this release: First-Person perspective combat, minor puzzle solving and intuitive thinking scenarios, as well as some of the best story-telling arcs that have ever been produced for a PC game. No changes or additions to the the weapons cache either, save for a nasty Strider killing gravity-gun launched mine that makes it's appearance later in the game. And the same goes for the character/creatures found Episode 2: most of the original 'nasties' make a return, with just one or two additional foes (including a 'mini' version of the Strider, not to mention a few variant forms of the ant-lion).

While gamers won't see really anything new in the game-play components and mechanics of HL2:Ep2, what they will experience is a rich, underlying plot that unfolds right before their eyes in a very different atmosphere than was seen in the last two Half-Life games. And in reality, that is the real driving force behind the hoopla of the Half-Life franchise. For example, while most of the locales for the previous releases centered around large city areas and the like, HL2:EP2 changes things up a bit. Instead of adventuring within and around the urban based landscapes and areas, players get more of an opportunity to see and experience the surroundings between the mega-cities. This includes the previously mentioned forests, some massive underground caves, and small abandoned ghost towns and mountain resorts that dot the countryside of this futuristic earth. This in-game location revamp not only provides an active change in the way the Episode looks and feels as compared to earlier iterations within the gaming series, but also gives fans of the Half-Life mythos a different viewpoint of the desolation and destruction that the Combine has dealt to Earth.

All in all, I have to say that Half-Life 2: Episode 2 was just as much fun to play as any of the other Half-Life releases: and that's saying a lot. Being able to keep the game-play fresh with the new locales and new enemies was a feat that Valve pulled off incredibly without a hitch. OK, maybe there isn't alot of change up with the overall feel of the game, but then again that isn't the real point of the Half-Life 2 series. Keeping the player enthralled with a solid story and believable characters is really what keeps fans of the series coming back for more. But, that in itself can also be the Achilles' Heel with the Half-Life franchise. Simply put, the only real problem that I had with the game was the amount of time it took Valve to release this latest Episode in the franchise. Clocking in at just over a year since the release of Episode 2, it falls 6 months shy from the mark of the initial selling point of the episodic games 'Bi-Yearly' premise. And with such an intricate story-line that has come to be the real backbone of the Half-Life experience, making the fans wait for such a long time when there are so many new and exciting PC games waiting in the wings, it might be hard for even the most dedicated fan to keep his or her patience from waning.   

- Jim McHugh

Related Reviews

Half Life 2 (Xbox)
Half Life 2: Episode 1 (PC)