Half-Life 2

Review

posted 11/22/2004 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
The high quality animation spreads to the enemy as well. Seeing the hoverships move in an almost animalistic style with the bending and weaving of the tail rotor is an impressive sight. The Combine Soldiers move in groups with their guns held in sight and also throws up hand signals to their squadmates. Watch the Striders’ legs bend and move with an insect-like movement. I’d get into how Dog is but I’m trying to keep this review spoiler free but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the way it moves as well. The ragdoll physics that are prominent in a lot of games today show up here as you knock soldiers over obstacles and see their body flail and fall with a sickening thud. Half-Life had great animation but the second game takes it a few steps further.

AI in Half-Life 2 is pretty good for the most part. Combine soldiers will work in teams and they will try to flush you out with grenades. When they feel threatened some will try to fall back to a better position while firing at you. During the level where you can control up to four squadmates on where they go, they do a good job of shooting down the enemy and trying to stay out of your way. Their path finding can be a little sketchy at time but for the most part they will follow you everywhere you go.

Most of the original weapons make their appearance in the new game. The submachine gun returns as one of the favorites with the alt-fire of firing a grenade. No zoom is available on the magnum though. The two weapons that really make the game are the grav gun and the ant lion bugbait. Valve’s design makes full use of the grav gun as you’ll be using in all sorts of situations. You can use it to sling saw blades at oncoming zombies. You’ll use it to solve puzzles. You can even use it as a defensive purpose by picking up and chucking grenades back at the enemy. It’s not a stretch to say the grav gun is the star of the game and with that the physics engine and the deeper you get into the game, the more the grav gun shines. The bugbait is a ton of fun and sending ant lions to the enemy is a very satisfying site to behold.

Ahh yes, the physics engine. You’ve seen it in Max Payne 2 and others but Half-Life 2 really takes it a step further. Everything has physics and reacts to anything in the environment. You can shoot a barrel with the grav gun to take out a plank which falls down and hits a box which topples over a few ledgers and so on. Near the beginning, there’s a good demonstration of physics engine at work. There’s a playground with working swings and merry-go-round. You can push the swing, jump on, and act like a grade schooler swinging back and forth. Hop on the merry-go-round and take it for a spin. It’s all possible with the Havok physics engine in place. Throughout the game you’ll encounter many puzzles that involve some sort of physics based solution. It does give you some good variety instead of always running and gunning enemies.

Interacting with the environment is a big feature for Half-Life 2 You can pick up almost anything in the game whether by hand or by the grav gun provided it’s not too heavy. You see a milk carton on the ground? Go ahead and pick it up. Throw it at someone if you wish. Push the coke machine and grab a drink. If there are a few planks of wood on the ground in your way, you can pick them up and place them somewhere else. Once you do have something in hand, your weapon is holstered and you can’t run. You can even pull a working TV out of the socket and watch it go black. All this and more make for a very immersive experience and really makes you feel like you are in a living, breathing world.
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