Half-Life 2. The most immersive first-person shooter I’ve ever played. From it’s “throw you in at the deep end” beginning – chased around the streets of the overpowering City 17 by Combine agents, rushing through apartments as raids go on all around you – to it’s immensely clever, multi-faceted puzzles – how do I get past that guard? I could creep by him: I wonder if he’s paying attention… or throw that can to make a noise… maybe I could knock him in the back of the head before the security camera sees me… can he swim? – it’s a thrilling game. In the Half-Life tradition, very little is given away, and the player is left to make many of their own assumptions about the way the world around them works; I find this a little frustrating (I’d like to hear more back-story), but this is soon taken away when I’m drawn into another firefight. The game is gorgeously detailed – the characters around you frown, smile, wink, raise an eyebrow… and genuinely look relieved, scared, upset, etc. Meanwhile, explosions outside are rendered beautifully, water reacts like it should, and the ‘Havok’ physics engine means that if you can imagine it, you really can build it out of the myriad small items around you.
Despite Paul and my complaints about the Steam distribution system, it’s all seemed very good – owing to it’s modular design, I was able to start playing the game when it was just 69% downloaded (and when I ‘caught up’ with it, I only had to wait a few seconds for more content to be downloaded). Paul may be relieved to hear that once the game is downloaded (or activated, if it’s store-bought) it can be played in “offline mode”, and never accesses the internet without permission, it won’t auto-update unless you let it, and there is an option to back up the version you currently have installed – to CDs, for example – so that you could, if you wished, reformat and reinstall Windows and re-install the game without having to download it again. In addition, the modular design meant that my download was ready sooner than it might otherwise be, as it took advantage of the files I’d already downloaded as part of the demo version. I’m still not sure of any way to install to a different drive, which I’d particularly like to be able to do, but nonetheless I’m more impressed with Steam than I expected to be.
I managed to play Half-Life 2 for four hours… before I began to feel motion sick (I’d recently had a plasma cannon installed on my hovercraft, and driving it [with my left hand] while aiming and firing the weapon [with my right] left my poor eyes sufficiently confused that I’m now taking a quick break). I’ll probably go in again and blast some more Combine scum before I go to Sian and Andy‘s New Year’s Party. Yeah!
Update: Fixed link to Paul’s new blog after he moved it, breaking a universe of links. Old content was at http://www.livejournal.com/users/thepacifist/202607.html