Getting Things Done

Half Life 2: Episode 2Given my EverQuest II sabbatical, I’ve been able to finally sit down and play through The Orange Box, particularly Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Portal.  While I certainly enjoyed Episode 2, I found the end to be a bit of a struggle, not because it was overly difficult, I was just ready for it to be over with already.  Unlike Half-Life 2 itself (Episode Zero?), where the end caught me by surprise (I think I literally said, “What?  It’s over?”) and left me wanting more, I found myself struggling to continue through to Episode 2’s conclusion.  I finally just said to hell with it, sat down and powered through the last twenty minutes or so.

Ultimately I was satisfied with the Episode 2 experience, but I think I’ve reached a point where I’m more interested in the over-arching story line than the game play.  I found that when you get right down to it, Half-Life 2 is really just a puzzle game framed in a first-person shooter.  It’s just a series of closed set pieces strung together.  Once you’ve figured out one set-piece and completed it, you’re allowed to move on to the next one.  I found this mechanic to be painfully more obvious in Episode 2 as opposed to the previous episodes, and it “took me out of the game”. 

The first third of the game, spent fighting ant-lions in various tunnels was a bit of a drag.  Quite frankly, I don’t want to fight ant-lions, I want to fight the Combine, and sure enough it was the later levels where I began to enjoy the game more.  I don’t want to discuss the game any further for fear of spoiling something for anyone reading this that is still looking to play, but the ending (despite my diminishing motivation to get through it) has me looking forward to the next, and hopefully last episode.

I also finished Portal, which I found to be a fairly entertaining game as well.  This game is all about the end, not so much the content leading up to it.  Again, I won’t go into details to avoid ruining anything, suffice to say that Portal served as a very nice time filler for those times I just wanted a few minutes of game play.

Not long ago I also made my through Bioshock.  In my humble opinion, this game did not live up to all the hype and love surrounding it.  Granted, the production values are top notch.  The graphics and sound are both terrific, and the setting and atmosphere are fantastic and quite absorbing.  The game itself though quickly became monotonous and, especially toward the end, quite tedious.

The first few levels were very captivating, but each level after began to fell the same as the last.  There are essentially only two types of enemies to fight, Splicers and Big Daddies, so every encounter felt the same, despite the number of plasmids available.  The hacking mechanic, while fun and interesting at first, quickly became frustratingly annoying.  The story was interesting enough, but it dawned on me quite early on in the game what was going on, and that’s all I’ll say about the story to avoid spoilers, except to say that I hate it when story-tellers, be it in games or movies, think they’re being so incredibly clever, when really they’re just following the same formula that’s been done many times before.

I’ve got a couple other gripes I’d like to share, but they run the risk of spoiling something so I’ll keep them to myself.  Ultimately this game really let me down, as my hopes for it were quite high based on all the pre-release, and even post-release hype.  I’ve played much, much better shooters in my time.

Anyway, it felt good to get in some single-player game time instead of spending every ounce of free time I had in EverQuest II.  I think I may finally get to all those other games calling out to me on my shelf.

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