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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Video Game Connoisseur

Half-Life 2 Episode 2/ PC/ Valve/ 29.99/ Rated M(Mature)

“Half-Life 2: Episode 2: ‘Bout Damn Time!” Should be the full title of the game. Seriously, Valve kept us waiting for over a year and the only previews anyone could get just showed a new enemy type and a Vortiguant carrying what appeared to be the corpse of series-supporting heroine Alyx Vance. Valve kept me in suspense for over a year with just that teaser and the knowledge that a major character was going to be killed off. Of course, I couldn’t resist the allure and bought this game as soon as it hit Steam. And, of course, I beat it in two sittings over two days.

Before I go any further I’ve got to say something: Half-Life 2 Episode, the precursor to this game, kind of disappointed me. I mean it was nice to have Alyx accompany me and fight along side me the entire way, and the messages delivered to City 17 over the P.A. were hilarious (Dr. Kliener announcing to the newly liberated citizens that once they reached someplace safe they should attempt to procreate). But my problem with Episode One was that it felt like the last third of the Original Half-Life 2 in reverse.

Thankfully, Episode Two was not the second third of the first game in reverse. You start the game off in a train wreck out in the wilderness outside the newly destroyed City 17. At the beginning of the game, City 17 has just blown up and the energy released by the explosion is being used to form some sort of “super portal” thru which the combine are attempting to summon reinforcements. At the end of the original Half-Life 2, Alyx intercepted a message sent thru the forming portal, and now it’s up to both of you to deliver the message to the resistance base “White Forrest.” Along the way you discover that the remaining Combine forces are also on their way to White Forrest. And the new enemy in the game is introduced in a sequence where it stabs Alyx through the abdomen in two places. So right away things are off to a rough start.

The new enemy introduced in Episode Two is called a Hunter. Basically it’s a smaller, faster, more aggressive version of the giant three-legged Striders, and it’s almost as hard to kill. The new weapon introduced in the game isn’t even really a weapon. Called the “Magnusson Device,” it’s a sort of sticky bomb that you pick up and throw with the gravity gun. You throw the device at a Strider, the only enemy it’s effective or usable against, then once it attaches itself you shoot it with a conventional weapon causing it, and the Strider, to blow up. Also introduced is a new two-seater vehicle that you use for transport for about 70 percent of the game. The car, which resembles a Camaro from Mad Max, is exposed I the front and has no doors or windshield. The car’s biggest moment in the game is also the biggest scale battle in the Half-Life series. You must use the car to intercept and destroy a large number of Striders approaching the White Forrest base before they reach firing range. I tried to forsake the car and chase them on foot, but it was impossible. Imagine any boss battle you’ve ever played through, don’t put it in the middle of the countryside and throw in a car from GTA; it’s kind of like that.

Also returning is the enigmatic G-Man, who is apparently known to another major character, who takes you out of the game for a moment to tell you that big things are coming and to hint at his unknown “employers.” I assume that this is foreshadowing for the upcoming Episode 3, which will probably take another year to arrive. But I have a gut feeling that the wait will be well worth it.

If you’re a fan of the Half-Life series then you’ve most likely already played the game, or you aren’t aware it has been released yet. If you haven’t played any of the Half-Life games then I suggest going out and picking up a copy of the original and get playing.