The facial animations are also improved in Episode 1. You won’t have to look much further than seeing Alyx’s reactions throughout the game. From being scared to overly happy, the faction animations in the game are top notch and really convey how the character feels. Valve really hit the nail on the head in this area as it gives the computer generated characters lifelike appearance.
The sound is top notch and those with surround sound setups will benefit from the great use of it. I always liked the selection of sound effects that Valve used for the game and Episode 1 is no exception. The voice acting is also done well with Alyx providing most of the dialogue. The guns sound as powerful as before given some great feedback when you fire a weapon. From the powerful steps of the strider to the gurgling sounds of the zombies, the Half-Life 2 Episode 1 audible experience continues to be impressive.
Only two new monsters make their appearance in the first episode and one’s just a combination of a Combine soldier and a zombie. The new zombie does pack a punch with the grenades it carries. You’ll be doing a lot of back peddling as you see one charge at you with a live grenade in hand. The other monster can be seen in the Citadel level of Half-Life 2. The stalkers are skinner creatures that have a red LED light that shines from its eyes. These guys aren’t too tough and only do minimal damage with their melee attack but they are featured in one really cool scene involving a crashing train. Overall, nothing too new in the monster department so I’m hoping Episodes 2 and 3 offer up some new enemies to fight against.
No new hand weapons make their way into the series yet which is a little unfortunate. With that, you’ll be familiar with each weapon since you’ll have dealt with them before. The gravity gun is featured pretty heavily in the first half of the episode though. A twist on the rollermine does give you something new to play with as Alyx is able to turn any one of these annoying weapons into an ally. I was hoping that the cool sentry guns would make their way into the episode but they don’t show up in this part.
After finishing the episode, I was eager for more. That’s the problem with Valve’s long time frame between new content. While you’ll enjoy some great moments in Episode 1, you’ll have to wait a long time to experience more. It’s unfortunate that Episode 2 is slated for Spring of 2007 as Episode 1 was a great deal of fun. A nice little bit is that you’ll see a preview for the second Episode on completion of this one. There’s not too much new in terms of gameplay as much as things have been tweaked a bit. Because of this, there could be some fans that are disappointed with the lack of new weapons or monsters. What it does achieve though is successfully continue the great adventures of Gordon Freeman. The game gives fans of Half-Life 2 more of what made it such a big hit.
Episode 1 gives you more of what made Half-Life 2 fun. It's too bad it's going to be a while before Episode 2 comes out.
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