Thoughts on the game so far: Not a lot to say about episode 13. Not much plot advancement, just a bunch of really stupid deaths. Although I will say, there are quite a few hints here and there as to what’s to come in the next installment. Tripmines and turrets that were clearly set up as a defensive perimeter against the aliens, not by them. And most of all, of course, the PA announcements–the facility is under military control, all scientists report to the surface for “questioning.” Of course, anyone who’s watched even five minutes of The X-files (and I am a proud lifelong X-philey) knows damn good and well that that “questioning” is going to consist of a swift rifle butt, bayonet and/or bullet to the back of the head. Never trust the guys in black, unmarked helicopters. Max was right! Just don’t do it!
Of course, in episode 14, we finally get confirmation, as we see the government special-ops guys gun down defenseless scientists who only want to be rescued. Pisses me off. And no, I refuse to believe that these cowardly so-called “soldiers” are actual US military. They might technically fall under that branch–they certainly consider themselves military in the PA announcements, so we know for a fact they aren’t some Blackwatereqsue private military corporation. (Unless the “military control” thing was just a ruse to lure the scientists out, but I kinda doubt that.) More likely they’re a super-secret subsidiary of the Army or Marine Corps. Can’t tell by their uniform since it looks like some slightly altered version of the DCU pattern worn by both the Army and the Marines at that time (which makes sense given Black Mesa’s desert setting–remember, this game was made back before each service decided it was more important to have unique camo patters, than one universal one that actually, you know, camouflages the wearer.) If I absolutely HAD to guess I’d say they must be some sort of Marines, since the black part of the pattern looks kind of like the urban camo pattern the Marines experimented with for a while. I dunno though, maybe they’re just made up entirely and I’m just reading far, far to much into this.
Speaking of aliens though, I wonder if these creatures ARE actually aliens. We really haven’t had confirmation yet about whether they’re actually from another planet in this reality, or if the machine somehow opened a rift to an entire other dimension. Yeah I know it doesn’t really seem like it makes much of a difference, but it WOULD give us a hint as to exactly what that machine we screwed up was intended to do. If these creatures are from other planets, then the machine was probably intended as some sort of teleporter–a way to bypass the problems with faster than light travel and all that. This seems the most likely, although it seems kind of odd that every single creature is able to survive in Earth’s environment. (Unless of course that’s precisely WHY they picked that planet to try and transport to, of course, which would be a neat way of explaining it away.)
An inter-dimensional gateway could still be used as a teleporter in our dimension I guess–Half-Life wouldn’t be the first sci-fi story to try to explain teleportation as “ripping a hole through space.” It wouldn’t even be the first to hinge a plot on such a disaster. (I’m looking at you, Doom.) If this dimension/planet/both were only accidentally reached, though, it would make it a LOT more coincidental that all the creatures can survive on Earth, though, so I’m fairly certain its probably another planet. And I’m also going to assume (based on the fact that Black Mesa is quite obviously VERY heavily based on the Area 51 mythos) that we probably discovered the planet and teleportation technology via some sort of Roswell-esque alien contact. Which would ALSO neatly explain how the creatures are able to survive here–they chose Earth, not the other way around.
Of course, that begs the question, where is the ship, and who are the aliens that crashed it? So far it doesn’t seem like any of the aliens we’ve encountered so far are intelligent enough to fly a ship or invent that level of technology. I thought the Vortigaunts might be, since we’ve seen them teleport themselves around, but since that time we’ve also seen Houndeyes and even Headcrabs teleport in to surprise us, so I’m assuming that these teleports are simply “aftershocks” of the initial teleporter accident, and aren’t intentional on the creatures’ part. Certainly none of them have shown any signs of intelligence beyond rudimentary survival and fighting skills.
Then again, there’s still plenty of game left to play. Let’s hope answers are forthcoming!