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Platform

PC

 

Genre

First-Person Shooter

 

Publisher

Valve / Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Valve

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

June 1, 2006

 

- Continues the Half-Life epic

- A compelling and exciting five hours of play time

- Commentary mode is great

- Interaction with Alyx is much more natural this time around

 

 

- "Episode One"?  C'mon Valve give us a good subtitle!

 

 

Review: Half-Life 2 (PC)

Review: Half-Life (PC)

Review: Doom 3 Resurrection of Evil (PC)

 

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Half-Life 2: Episode One

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

Ever since the conclusion of Half-Life 2 – almost two years ago – I’ve been pining for the inevitable expansion pack.  I wrote “not only is it a masterpiece you’ll also be playing it for a long, long time.”  And I was right – I must have played through the game a couple dozen times.  Even during the 4th Quarter Crunch, I would manage to squeeze in an hour or two traveling Ravenholm or ascending the Citadel.  And though the replays allowed me to fully appreciate much of the fine detail I was starved for something new.  Valve released what most termed a “tech demo” of HDR called Lost Coast and I played through it a dozen times.  I needed to feed on something.

 

half-life 2 episode one          half-life 2 episode one

 

So when Half-Life 2: Episode One, the opening salvo of “episodic” content, was released, I devoured it in one sitting.  It makes the conclusion all the more maddening because just as the action is ramping up and you’re thinking, “What’s going to happen next?” the credits start rolling.  Five and a half hours later and the waiting begins for Episode Two.

 

Episode One opens seconds after the climatic conclusion of the Half-Life 2.  From there it’s a titanic struggle to escape City 17 before the Citadel explodes.  As Gordon Freeman, you’ll visit places explored in Half-Life 2, and encounter familiar foes and friends, including the energetic Dog.  At your side, is Alyx, who plays an integral part throughout the game. And just so I don’t give anything away that’s all I’ll say about the general plot.

 

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As far as the traditional requirements of an expansion pack – new weapons, new enemies, new areas – Episode One fails miserably.  Since the game picks up immediately after the events of Half-Life 2 there are no new weapons to utilize, save for Alyx’s ability to reprogram roller mines.  (Dr. Kliener makes an allusion to “new technology” but Valve must be saving that for Episode Two.)  Gordon and Alyx traverse City 17, which features locations that may be 

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new in the sense that we’ve never seen them before, but City 17 is still City 17, even if it does have more ant lions.  For all its lack of new locations, the situations you find yourself in are no less intense.  In the dense five (or so) hours of action, Gordon is still pitted against some of the biggest and toughest enemies found in Half-Life 2. As for new enemies… swing and a miss on that one too.

 

half-life 2 episode one          half-life 2 episode one

 

The best parts of Half-Life 2 – those integrated plot points – are even better in Episode One.  The character of Alyx is really developed here and the apparent growth of the relationship with Gordon (which is kind of weird because Gordon never actually says anything).  She’s a good shot, brave (she squishes head crabs with her feet!), and playful.  At one point, you’re underground with only Gordon’s flashlight to illuminate the place and because he doesn’t have a gun Alyx plays protector.  I turned off  the flashlight to recharge the battery and there was the sound of a zombie headed our way.  I flicked on the flashlight and Alyx said, “Gotcha!”  It’s moments like that when I wonder why all games aren’t as entertaining.

 

half-life 2 episode one          half-life 2 episode one

 

At a price of $20US downloaded off Valve’s Steam delivery system, the value of the expansion has been put in question.  How about a little monetary comparison?  To catch a flick in a theater you’re looking at $10 (not including snacks), and at most you’ll get a couple hours of entertainment.  On a per hour comparison that’s about $3.60 for Epsiode One and $5.00 for a movie.  Also take into account that Episode One features a commentary “track” much like Starbreeze’s Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay, which offers all kinds of insight and nuggets of information for Half-Life fans and generally anyone that’s ever asked, “Why did they do it that way?”  You get your money’s worth.

 

There are two future episodes planned – Episode Two is apparently well underway – you can count me among those eagerly awaiting those installments.

 

- Omni

(June 14, 2006)

 

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