Half Life 2 – (spirit of Half Life 1 recaptured)

Publisher:- Vivendi Universal
 
Developer:- Valve Software (!)
 
Genre:- First Person Shooter (FPS)
 
Release date:- November 2004
 
Windows Compatibility:- WinXP,Win ME, Win 2000, Win98
 
Minimum Specs:- P3 and above (or equivalent) , 256MB RAM (WinXP requirement), 32MB video RAM, 2GB hard disk space
 
Recommended Specs:- P4 2.4 Ghz above (or equivalent), 512 MB RAM and above (you won’t wanna be staring at the loading screen or make some hot joe and come back to see that it’s still halfway loading; the more you have, the faster the loading screen but not much else), 128MB VRAM or Direct-X 9 compliant gfx card (to fully enjoy the immersive eye candy that Half Life 2 has to offer, you’ll need a 128MB above card; lesser cards may not even display certain details accurately but it may work), 2.5 to 3 GB hard disk space. (you never know when you might need it).
 
Current availability: Very common. Acquire it via Steam services. Half Life 2 requires a valid Steam account to activate and is tricky to bypass. The flip side offers many possibilities but you may not rely on software support or other patches that comes with the game. Steam requires internet connection. My 2 cents- buy original, play original and give the developers at Valve what they truly deserve.
 


 
Half Life 2. The infamy of the source code leak via hackers, the many glitches and issues regarding the installation of the game when released, and the overzealous IP protection measures incorporated by Valve which teetered on the edge of paranoia stands out as among the more challenging problems accorded to the game in the record of its genesis.
 
Not that it mattered much. Such was the devotion to the line of games that rolled off the Valve production line that all of those issues does not seem that bad after all. To put it mildly- just give me the game and let me have a go at it, dammit!
 
Basically, there are 2 ways to install the game. First is via the usual DVD/CD installation and then the usual registration process via internet. This would not be such a big problem. The second is the crazy method of registering with the Steam services, pay for Half Life 2 online by credit card or any other form of payment as you see fit and then proceed to download an entire 2 GB worth of game files online. Either way, all things aside the game’s prospective fun has the ultimate pulling power.
 

 
Half Life 2 transports the protagonist, Gordon Freeman away from the massive Black Mesa research facility and the game’s primary focus is on an Eastern European-inspired city (with allusions to the Soviet-era cities) called City 17. So, there are no strange alien settlements to explore and everything happens first hand, so Gordon Freeman has a clear view of the plot that unfolds. No cutscenes are available and all narration is done with Gordon in first person view.
 
City 17- Why most gamers speculate the origin of City 17 is juvenile behavior. To me, City 17 is a pure amalgamation of Eastern European Soviet culture with a touch of the West. Some go as far as to equate it with cities they’ve seen before and made comparisons. City 17 is, and will be City 17 as the developers see it. It does not matter what City 17 is based upon, as the City looks and feels great.
 
Gameplay:- Plays like Half Life 1. If you’re familiar with Counterstrike, you’re at home with Half Life 2.
 
Weapons:-
 
1. Zero Point Gravity Gun- Wow. In a word. HL 2’s totally revolutionary Havok-inspired physics engine has enabled near-total interaction like never before. With this gun, the secondary attack button grabs non-organic objects near you and with the primary attack button, you can shoot it out and kill enemies with it. Its use in the game is primarily to clear obstacles, grab fuel barrels to fling at en masse enemies, and grab other weapon cache and health packs which are otherwise unreachable. You may not be able to use it in every situation,but there’s sure a lot of fun.
 
When dealing with lavitated enemies (Manhacks and camera bots), this gun can suck them whole. Smash them into a nearby hard surface to kill them outright.
 
Also,when enemy Combine troops hurl grenades at you, this gun can pick up the tossed grenade and throw them back at them. But make up your mind as the grenade has only a 2 second fuse before it explodes.
 
2. Crowbar – I can’t imagine how the pathetic crowbar can fire up nostalgia related to HL 1 or hark back memories of the ‘crowbar-wielding Gordon Freeman’ cult status with regards to HL 1’s multiplayer module. In Half Life 2, its use is more rudimentary than is helpful (as in HL 1) and there are not many engagements with the enemy that this nifty weapon can solve. More of a nostalgic quality than apparent usefulness.
 
3. H&K USP (pistol) – Your first firearm. Accurate at moderate range to point blank,but aim for the head of enemies for better effect. Otherwise,it’s a weapon that you may just whip out now and then for some isolated instances.
 
4. .357 Magnum revolver – The better pistol. Allied with your suit’s built-in zoom, this can double up as an effective sniper weapon. The catch is; you cannot fire when fully zoomed in, so home in on the target’s head at safe distance, unzoom pronto and release the trigger. From HL 1, the difference is not that great, but its usefulness is the same.
 
5. SMG – memories of HL 1 flood the mind. The first fully automatic weapon in HL 1 holds the same for HL 2. But that’s where the similarity is dispelled. The new weapon spits out bullets at a rate of fire higher than its predecessor, and you can expend the whole clip in a firefight without realising it. It has 45 bullets per clip and you may carry only 5 reserve clips. I use it in firefights where long-range engagements is not one of the factors. Its accuracy is roughly the same no matter whether the trigger is held at long bursts or fired in short bursts. One of the weapons invaluable to your dazzling array.
 
Its alternate fire option ejects a RPG which detonates upon contact. Use it to flush out enemies but exercise restraint in this respect. You only carry 3 RPGs at any given time.
 
6. Overwatch Pulse Rifle – You’d either love it or hate it. I do both. Stronger in penetrative power than the SMG but its accuracy is like the AK-47 in Counterstrike; the longer you depress the trigger, the more the accuracy gets from bad to plain horrible. Married that to the fact that the auto-rifle only holds 30 bullets/clip and you can see why this weapon is for the intellectually endowed. Go full-burst and gung ho will make this rifle a hated one.
 
The alternate fire button shoots out an energy sphere which hits straight at the intended target and instantly disintegrate the target. But, and that is a big but, if you can hit the target accurately. Since it’s not a splash damage weapon, the contact must be direct to see the effects. I don’t use it that much for that matter and also, ammmunition is scarce for this weapon. Further, when fighting Combine soldiers and wanting to pick up their weapons for your own use (ammo for the Overwatch rifle is also scarce) , do not use this alt fire as the entire target will evaporate along with their rifles and such.
 
7. Shotgun – In HL 1, the shotgun together with the SMG was my favorite combo weapon. Nothing escapes this deadly combination. For some reason, the shotgun did make a re-entry to HL 2 with a new modifier; it has only 6 shells and a far less reserve than its predecessor. At first, I thought that the less ammo issue is not that big, but combat experiences prove otherwise and more so during fights with headcrab zombies in large packs. The low ammo reserve is not such a big thing either, but you may realise how quickly 30 shells can be wasted on enemies. Ammo for it is common, though.
 
8. Crossbow – Your only sniper weapon, other than the .357Magnum. Similar in respects to the HL 1 model, but the crossbow’s rebars now fire in an arc, not dissimilar to artillery fire. This means that when aiming at the intended target, you’d have to aim at the head a little higher (but not overly so) to score a clean hit. Enemies concealed behind walls are almost impossible to hit, but it can be done with practice. Ammo for it is considerably rare.
 
9. RPG launcher – Where HL 1 provides ammo in generous portions, HL2 stinged on the weapons’ ammo reserves that this can quite be a thinker’s game. The RPG now only have 3 shots but the guiding laser feature is still there. Paint the target with it and enjoy the fireworks.
 
10. M-8 grenade – 5 in your inventory. They don’t explode on contact but have a somewhat curious 3-4 second fuse (I can’t be sure on this). The grenade lights up in red when activated and there’s a fuse countdown. The worst weapon to use when confronted with rushing enemies. And don’t expect the grenade to fall where you want it to be; its canister-like physical appearance meant that it will roll around and stray slightly.
 
11. Pheropod (Bugbait) – You get this weapon late and use it for only a small part of the game. What this weapon does is phenomenal. You use it to draw native Antlions (creatures with a fierce and aggressive attack) and a group of it is summoned at your command (be forewarned that you’d fight the Antlions before you have control over this weapon). The pheropod is like a beacon for the Antlions. With you in control, the Antlions assume you to be their leader and obey your command. In levels where use of the Pheropod is beyond regular use, the bugbait can unsettle enemy soldiers when thrown right smack in their faces but won’t harm them.
 

 
Vehicles:- 
 
1. Airboat – Your first driveable vehicle. Driving the airboat is a breeze and don’t need a crash course in it. The ride in the airboat is not an easy one, though. You can expect to fly over wooden ramps, execute slick moves in the face of enemy fire and take down a Combine gunship in the process.
 
2. Scout buggy – Drives like a normal vehicle would. Can be accelerated with a turbo to leap over extended gaps in the road. Handling of the car is rather poor but can be countered by driving a lot more slower. After all, the highway is not meant for speed-driving as there are too many obstacles,both man-made in the way.
 
Enemies:-
 
1. Combine Forces. To make any bare sense of the Combine,it’s best to look at the many fan sites dedicated to explaining their origins.
 
There are 3 types of Combine soldiers:-
 
a. Civil Protection (CP) – ordinary guards first encountered, they police the City 17 streets and are involved with the day-to-day enforcement of iron-fisted brutal rule of the population. Before you’re equipped in the HEV Suit,they only have stun batons. They also wield pistols at first but can also be armed with SMGs when you’re finally able to wield a weapon. Throw bottles or other objects at them, and they’ll come running to smack the shit outta you.
 
b. Overwatch regulars – The paramilitary force of the Combine. Usually armed with the standard-issue Overwatch rifle but can also be armed with shotguns and SMGs and have more armor than the CPs. They attack in packs and are usually dangerous, combining grenade attacks with regular firefights.
 
c. Overwatch Elite – reminds me of Star Wars Empire troops with their all-white garb. They only fight with the Overwatch Pulse Rifle and also use its secondary weapon. Strangely, the secondary weapon does not instantly kill Gordon but inflict a certain amount of damage. As befits their elite status, they attack well and are also better armored against your weapons.
 
2. Barnacles-  The creatures that are resident to the ceilings make a comeback! They hang out a long tongue to earnestly entrap and cling any object (including you) and draws up to its mouth for ingestion. They can now be fooled by drawing barrels and stuff to their mouth so that you can evade them.
 
3. Headcrabs (and headcrab zombies)-  The single most annoying creature from HL1 makes a return as well. Now, they come in 3 different species. And the zombies are also dependant on the characteristics of the headcrab host as well. Scary.
 
a. Regular headcrabs. Found in vent shafts and dark corners. They prey on you but inflict far less damage than the variety found in HL 1. Zombie hosts with this headcrab as master are the same as the scientist headcrab in HL 1 but I thought them a lot more character than before. Another new thing- dead zombies need not mean that the headcrab controller is dead. They can detach from their hosts and attack you independently.
 
b.Speed headcrabs. You won’t wanna mess with this creature. They can straddle towards you at lightning speed and attack you before you know what hit you. The zombies with this host is a whole lot more difficult to kill. They prance on all fours and attack you even when you’re on high ground as they can scale steel pipes and stuff. Shotgun shells are just what’s needed to subdue their potent energy.
 
c. Toxin headcrabs. They get uglier and uglier. This black and noticeable larger headcrab can spew toxins at you, reducing your health to 1 and dissolve your armor totally. The biggest difference is- the toxin won’t kill you outright and the crabs do not have a primary and coup de grace attack. The reduced health would slowly regenerate but any further attacks from other creatures are a real danger. They aren’t that agile but still a formidable foe.
 
But that’s not it. The toxin zombie has got about 3 of these toxin headcrabs attached to it and is one big badass. First, they’re tougher than nails and can’t be taken down in a hail of bullets. Next, after the host zombie is killed, these toxin creatures also make jump on you and inflict further punishment.
 
4. Antlions – Aggressive and volatile. They make a cameo at the beach sector but are later, your allies when you have the pheropod that is. They fly to their targets and attack with claws. Movements on sand will likely draw them out of it and attack you in great numbers.
 
5. Manhacks – These steel cutter robots are an inverted mini helicopter with its rotors aimed at maiming you. They rely on their strength in numbers but can also be difficult to take down singularly, especially with all their bobbing around and their unpredictable movements. They are best sucked in by the zero point gravity gun and shot out at walls and such to destroy them. Pistols can also take them down but their speed can deter this method.
 
6. Gun Turrets – These are quite the same as the sentry guns of HL 1 but with the exception that they are indestructible. They can be taken down by grenades, but cannot be destroyed outright. In the prison level of the game,turrets can be manually set up to attack Combine soldiers.
 
7. Combine Gunships – The first time you encountered this, you’d think ‘God, what was that’. But fret not. Where there are gunships,there is a RPG cache nearby and this provides infinite ammo. The biggest difficulty is to actually maneuver the rocket to hit the gunship. Its primary attack is a rain of bullets on you and for that matter, any rockets which you fired up can be deflected away if caught within the hail of bullets. So, you waste ammo and precious time.
 
Gunships can be destroyed in 6 shots usually but it’s also likely that some of them require more hits.
 
8. Strider – Another weapon of terror. Taking the guise of a large arachnoid, these striders march all over the streets and harass you with its autocannons, inflicting obscene damage to you. As in the case of Gunships, Striders can be take out by RPGs and they require somewhere in the region of 8 direct hits.

 
Minor Issues
 
Graphics:- HL2 incorporates higher intensive graphics than before, so it’s understandbly crucial that a decent video card is needed. While a lower-end card may do the job, certain anomalies may be expected, like the absence of the iris of the eye and certain glitches where faraway objects are not drawn accurately.
 
Puzzle-solving- No,HL2 doesn’t make pretensions as to its tag as a truly action game and not even a hint of the puzzle solving quests in HL1.
 
Physical Memory- I can’t stress this enough. A region of 256 MB RAM can do the job pretty well, but loading times can take the fun out of the action especially when the loading times can take more than 4 mins max. The loading times improved dramatically when used with a 512 MB machine.
 
Keyboard and other peripherals – Use a proper keyboard to play!
 
Sound Issue:- HL 2 did not come without its set of problems. Top of the list of glitches is a sound problem which many gamers describe as a static recurring loop of the audio played,e.g a sound speech repeating itself again and again. TBH, on both machines with HL2 which I’ve played on, there are no such problems. Whether these are immediately noticed is not within my understanding but I do know that the latest drivers for your sound card oughtta do the trick. Speaking of which, there are mild hangups in the game,but I attribute it to my own poor RAM than the software deficiency.
 

New Characters:- Alongside some old characters like Barney Calhoun, the G-man, Eli Vance, Dr Kleiner and some old school creatures, some new ones make a grand entry which have an impact to the overall balance of the story.
 
Alyx Vance – Eli Vance’s daughter. Apparently, she kicks Combine ass big time and can take an awful lot of damage from enemy weaponry. You’ll fight alongside her late in the game and some impromptu moments when things are not going your way.
 
Dr Breen – City 17’s administrator. HL 1 gamers may not recognise him, but he’s Black Mesa’s old administrator and is responsible for human negotiation with the Combine alien race.
 
Judith Mossman – The lady in white you can see in the pics I’ve uploaded. She works with Eli Vance but in an uncertain capacity. Alyx dislikes her on sight.
 
Freedom fighters- City 17 populace. Squad battles will add a new gaming dimension. They can take some damage but in firefights, they do little more than divert the attention from you while you go along with your mission. It’s likely that they will collect better weapons for themselves off the enemy Combine’s bodies, so be sure that it’s not you who needs the extra ammo.
 

 
Half Life 2 in the Skinny
 
A great game. Weapons featured are revolutionary in feature and fun. A low-end machine can handle the heavy graphics and action well. Some aspects of the story are vague but not repetitive. Impressive level design, as expected from Valve. Vehicles in-game are exceptionally well-handed and not clunky. Game of the lifetime, alongside Half Life 1.

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