Half-Life 2: Episode 1 PC Review
It’s amazing how fast time travels. Just over 18 months ago I was playing one of the most technically advanced games at that time, in terms of physics, graphics and facial expression technology. Half-Life 2 was an amazing game that won so many people over that it managed to pick up 35 Game of the Year awards. It’s no easy feat to do that. So when Valve announced they were planning on continuing the story that they left at such a cliff-hanger, I was extremely pleased.
Half-Life 2: Episode 1 picks up straight after the events of Half-Life 2. The adventure is continued still in the boots of Gordon Freeman, but this time you have Alyx by your side for most of the game. This makes Episode 1 (as it will be known through the review) have a change of feeling to how it plays, it still has the same Half-Life 2 gameplay that we all know, but having Alyx around the player takes away that lone wolf feeling you always felt. The A.I for Alyx is superb. I never once throughout the game had a single problem with Alyx getting stuck behind things, acting wrongly etc. that you usually encounter with A.I partners in games. Another great thing about having Alyx around is the amusing comical dialogue she will sprout out. She’ll comment on a vast amount of things, make jokes, it really builds up the friendship between the player and Alyx as a character. The dialogue is well written and even other Half-Life characters join in on the fun.
The story for Episode 1 is all about escaping City 17 and that is all you will get to see. Valve has decided to make Episode 1 the first in three “Episodic Content” for Half-Life 2, Valve have even gone on to say that it’s more than just a add on for the game, but with the first episode you don’t really get that sense. Maybe this is because you don’t see any new settings, you see new buildings and such but the settings are all the same, you’ve experienced them throughout Half-Life 2. There also aren’t any new weapons and only one new enemy, the Zombine (Watch out for Alyx’s joke about them when you first see them.) which is a Combine covered with Head Crabs that do suicide runs at you with a grenade in its hand.
Valve’s source engine is still used for Episode 1. It does come with some new fancy enhancements. The inclusion of High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting effect, which first appeared in the Lost Coast tech demo, makes it look better than the original Half-Life 2. Some of the edges in the source engine are starting to show up but for most part the game has aged pretty well. The physics and the amazing facial software are still there and nothing has yet to come close to it them in other games.
The nature of episodic content has somewhat hurt Episode 1. The game will be over in around four hours and it will seem to fly by as well. On the plus side of things Valve has managed to make those four hours some of the best Half-Life gaming to date. It may not have any vehicle sections (some promised in Episode 2 however), but you never really seem to miss them. It’s all about the combat with you and Alyx and that job is done brilliantly. You may want to play through it again with the audio commentary track that is included, something which was also taken from Lost Coast.
If you enjoyed Half-Life 2 then you should instantly get a hold of Episode 1. If you didn’t then you still might want to check it out, just because of how the difference Alyx makes to the gameplay. It’s Half-Life at its best, but it’s just a shame that it’s over so soon. At least we don’t have to wait 18 months again; Episode 2 is promised to be out before Christmas. I know what Santa is bringing me then on Christmas Day.
8.6 out of 10