Half-Life 2: Episode One Review

By on August 9, 2006

Half-Life 2 Episode 1 is the first installment in a new trilogy of episodes. Maaz Ali has the review.


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First Impressions
My reaction is

It’s amazing how quickly time passes by. Just last year, I was playing the “The Game of the Year” Half-Life 2 and now I’m playing Episode 1 of same series.

Before I continue, let me make one thing clear. Half-Life 2 Episode 1, previously named Half-Life 2: Aftermath, is not an expansion pack and is a stand-alone product. Hence, you don’t need to buy the original Half-Life 2 to play it. However, it does make the game a lot enjoyable if you play Half Life 1 and 2 first.

Anyone who has finished Half-Life 2 will know that the game ends on a cliffhanger that leaves you anxious about what happened to Gordon and the gang whilst you are on the edge of your seat. Episode 1 picks-up at the exact moment where Half-Life 2 ended and puts you in the role of Gordon Freeman, the silent type, crowbar-wielding protagonist of the series.

The story of Half-Life 2 Episode 1 revolves around Gordon, Alex and City 17. The main objective of the game is to escape City 17 before the inevitable explosion. The gripping story makes Episode 1 a worthy addition to the Half-Life series.

Half-Life 2 Episode 1 is built on the Source engine. However, you will notice a few improvements like the lighting effect known as HDR (High Dynamic Range) that was not present in the original Half-Life 2 (with the exception of Half-Life 2: Lost Coast). The HDR makes the game look much better (supported Video Card required). With HDR, the environments and the outdoor just look fabulous; even the shadows and the dark areas look impressive. Valve’s innovative facial animation gives you the feeling that you are interacting with real person rather than a game character. Valve has improved the textures in a few areas of the game like the guns and characters, especially Alex. Overall the game look sharp and hot.

The gameplay of Episode 1 is a memorable one and is more satisfying than Half-Life 2. Half-Life has always been a mixture of puzzle solving & shooting and so is Episode 1. In Episode 1 the puzzles are more challenging, complex and require the player to use the real-world mechanism (thanks to the brilliant physics engine), which might sometime make you scratch your head. Even the battles are more challenging and require you to fight whilst solving puzzles. It looks like valve has designed this game for the Half-Life aficionados. In Half-Life 2 Episode 1 the weapons are same as in Half-life 2 but unlike Half-Life 2 you get the gravity gun right from the start. The usual cast of Half-Life is back in Episode 1 and the game features awesome voice acting. If you have played Half-Life 2 you will experience some Deja-Vu as City 17 is familiar territory.

Valve has changed the traditional gameplay of Half-Life by introducing the new team dynamic system. It’s about time that Gordon had a companion and who better to fill the role than Alex. Having Alex around is just simply great; you can rely on her while solving puzzles and even for survival as she seems to be invincible and carries unlimited ammo. Another great thing about having Alex around are her hilarious comments. Her jokes, comments and expressions really builds-up a connection between her and the player. The brilliant voice acting and facial animation helps too. The A.I for Alex is superb and is one of the most advanced A.I in the gaming world.

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The Scorecard
Gripping story and new team dynamic system.
Beautiful HDR lighting and sharp look
Perfect voice acting with amazing dialogues
Developers’ commentary and two online modes
A gigantic thrill ride with great sound, gameplay and graphics


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