Let’s Play Half Life – Part 9: Something Died Down Here

Holy crap did that take a while, but I finally did it. After days of wrestling with YouTube, part 9 is finally up!

Thoughts on the game so far: There are times when I can almost hear the creators/programmers laughing at me as I stumble right into one of their cleverly designed traps. Madly running from that auto turret and right into a nest of headcrabs would be one of those moments. The great thing about this game though is that even when the creators do something sneaky like that, it’s a) always obviously done with a sense of humor, and b) is never, ever unfair.

That’s honestly the key to how much fun this game is, I think: it may be hard (at least I assume it will be–I’m still in the beginning stages and haven’t seen much heavy combat yet) but at least up to now it has been scrupulously fair. In this episode, for example, the creators could easily have let the player discover that auto-turret the hard way, by stumbling blindly into it. But they don’t roll that way. Instead, they first give you plenty of hints in the form of dead scientists in the room. Then, for the less-observant, they have a scientist walk up and get gunned down right in front of you. Third, they have a headcrab walk into it,  just to let you know that the system is automated and can be triggered by (and used against) your enemies as well. (If I had been smart, I could have done something devious like lure all the headcrabs into the turret room, then either jump back up to my original safe spot or stand under the turret where it couldn’t see me. Oh well. Whack-a-crab was quite fun too.) On top of that, they give the turret very clear audio cues, so you know exactly what its doing, and when you’re safe to cross. That’s quite generous of them–no player can say they weren’t given a sporting chance. (I am playing on easy mode, of course, but I assume that things like the turret sounds and scientist scene remain the same no matter what difficulty you choose.)

I think I’ve mentioned the storytelling before, both in the video and written, but I just have to hit on it again: the way this story is told is both brilliant, quite risky, and unbelievably freeing. There are no cut scenes. Instead, the story is told by little bits of dialogue spoken by characters you may ignore, may encounter, or may frag on site if you’re jumpy on the trigger (or just mean.) The story is there for those (like me) who are interested and care to listen. Those who just want to blow aliens apart can run past the characters full-bore, without being weighed down or stopped by cut scenes and exposition. Brilliant and ballsy to put all that work into something that might very well be ignored. It really makes the game fun and accessible for both types of players though, which is not something most games–let alone most FPSes–can say.

Combat. I had my first real taste of combat in this episode, in terms of fighting a large group of fairly dangerous enemies (the Vortigaunts). I liked it. The controls work well enough, the weapons operate the way I would expect them too (shotgun great at close range, shit at a distance; pistol pretty much shit at both ranges but better than the shotgun at a distance) and the Vorts were capable enemies. That lightning strike if theirs is damn near impossible to dodge unless you have a doorway to duck away from, but it does small enough amounts of damage that that doesn’t bother me much, and hopefully I’ll become more adept at combat as the game goes on.

 

 

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