Half-Life 2: Episode One for Linux Review

excellent
key review info
  • Game: Half-Life 2: Episode One for Linux
  • Platform: Linux
  • Gamepad support: Yes  
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Half-Life 2: Episode One

Half-Life 2: Episode One is the direct sequel of the Half-Life 2 blockbuster and, at the same time, the proof that Valve can make mistakes.

Most of what Valve has released so far, in its many years of existence, has been praised by the gaming community and everyone acknowledged its ability to produce near-perfect titles.

The first Half-Life game had a couple of official expansions, as they were called back then, and they weren’t even developed by Valve. A smaller studio, Gearbox Software (Borderlands series), took the reins from Valve and produced two amazing sequels.

When Valve announced that Half-Life 2, a game that we reviewed a short while ago, would be followed by an expansion called Aftermath, everyone thought that the same recipe would be applied.

The same type of enthusiasm wasn’t showed towards Valve when it announced the introduction of a new system of expansions, called “episodic content,” but the company's track record assured its fans that the product would be great nonetheless.

Half-Life 2: Episode One starts right after the conclusion of the first game in the series, with Gordon Freeman buried under a pile of rubble. He’s dug up eventually by his companion Alyx Vance and her faithful robotic pet, D0g.

Without having to give away too much from the first game, we have to make a really short description of the background story, so that it makes sense to everyone.

Gordon Freeman is sent into City 17, a location under the control of an alien race called “The Combine,” by a mysterious character named G-man. Little is known about him, besides the fact he seems to appear at will, wherever he wants to. His real intentions are unknown.

The Combine have some nefarious plans for the people in City 17 and a lot of them are taken to an unknown destination against their will, while the city itself has been turned into a labor camp.

Gordon Freeman manages to get inside the Citadel, a towering alien building, eventually triggering the self-destruction of the complex.

The entire first episode is dedicated to the aftermath of that explosion. Right after Gordon is saved from the rubble by Alyx and D0g, the player learns that he must return and delay the destruction of the Citadel, long enough for most of the residents of City 17 to escape the blast.

Inside the alien structure, the player also gets a better understanding of the mysterious Combine and of their true intentions.

Gordon and Alyx make a daring escape from the city, aboard a train, but the explosion catches up to them and the episode ends.

This is the main reason why the concept is called episodic content. The ending of the game feels like the end of an episode that just says “To Be Continued,” instead of the conclusion.

Besides this issue, Half-Life 2: Episode One does everything the way it should and introduces some new graphical updates for the Source engine, which is almost the same from the base game.

The one thing people can still remember seven years after its launch, and that can be still  noticed if you are playing it for the first time, is the advanced AI Valve used to animate Alyx.

She feels human, she’s scared from time to time or she's just stupidly brave while you’re cowering in a corner. Alyx was created by Valve to complement some of the default abilities of the player, but she quickly became the most important character in the game, beside Gordon, of course.

The AI developed by Valve is so advanced, that even by today’s standards, there are very few possible comparisons. You’ll have to play the game to believe it.

The Good

  • Great storytelling technique
  • Amazing sidekick AI
  • Beautiful graphics

The Bad

  • Too short
  • Episodic content format

Conclusion

Half-Life 2: Episode One has showed everyone what Valve can do with episodic content, but the fact that it didn’t follow through completely makes it a useless exercise.

If not for Alyx Vance, the game would have been rather dreary. There is no multiplayer and much of the same level design was recycled from the previous title.

Nobody really complained about this because of the powerful bond between Gordon and Alyx. If you want to see how a computer-controlled AI should behave, then there is no better game than Half-Life 2: Episode One. Better yet, it’s Linux native.



story 9
gameplay 10
concept 8
graphics 9
audio 10
multiplayer 0
final rating 9.2
Editor's review
excellent
 

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