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Half Life 2: Episode 2

OK, so here we are with Half Life 2; Episode 2.

Valve released the episodic content for Half Life 2 with the intension of quicker releases instead of us gamers waiting for a whole new game which can take years to produce. That idea has quickly died and the release dates have been steadily becoming more and more distant from each other.

Episode 2 takes off right after the end of Episode 1 (surprise, surprise) and begins with the aftermath of the Citadel going nuclear. You start stuck in the train wreckage along with Alyx and having to force your way out. From the beginning you get the sense that this episode is going to be different. The immediate surrounds show you that.

This game radically changes the environments we are use to in Half Life 2. Instead of the desolate, haunting streets of City 17 we have been given green trees and scenic surroundings. Oh, and the best addition to the environment is the gapping hole of pulsing energy reaching into the distant sky above the ruined Citadel, awesome.

The Combine is on the move and is trying to get a message through the hole in reality above the ruined Citadel and bring the Combines armies through to Earth. Bad times. So you and Alyx must contact the Resistance and get to White Forest to stop the Combine and close the hole forever by launching a satellite. Easy.

The blue skies give way to closed mines as you navigate towards White Forest underground. Antlions make a return and you even have to make your way towards their nesting area and the Antlion Guardians don’t like that one bit. One of the best sections of the entire episode is holding off an Antlion attack from multiple directions and varying strengths. Great balls-to-the-wall moment.

This Episode also gives us the Zombine a twisted mix of Headcrab and Combine Enforcement officer who charge directly at you instead of ambling towards you. Oh. And if they get bored with trying to claw your face off they will pull out a grenade, hold it above their head and do a Vasquez from Aliens.

The graphics have been improved and make a nice addition to the game updating it slightly but in no way outpacing the previous games. Character models have been improved as well as the lighting and environments but not to such an extent that its off putting or makes old episodes look bad graphically.

You only get select guns in Episode 3 and not as many as Half Life 2 or Episode 1. The game sticks to the crossbow and the magnum for most of the game with spattering of small machine gun here and there. Controls are no different but the flash light gets a change and doesn’t link with the sprint to share the same energy bar (always found it strange that using the flash light could stop you from running).

There is a great section (in fact a major section) of driving a bitchin’ stripped down muscle car with an in-built radar for locating Resistance drops full of health and ammo. You get to see the grandeur of the journey you are on to White Forest and it just feels strange not skulking around a ruined city but speeding around mountain trails.

Towards the end you get a great open map in which to defend the research base against Striders and Hunter packs. You get your Muscle car and some portable bombs you can throw at the striders to help you out. It’s quite tense as these are still Striders and will mess your shit up if they have too. The Hunter packs are not easy opponents either, just one can kill your easily but three are a nightmare. All this and you got to stop multiple attacks from multiple directions at the same time.

Loads of fun though and the length of the game is a good 6-8 hours and makes up for the time you have waited for it to come out (which means that Episode 3 will be 100+ hours of game play, lol). Episode 2 arguably, contains the best content of the entire series. With fantastic scripted moments that I really want to tell you about here but don’t want to spoil it for you. There are some tense “boss” battles and very imaginative scenery and features. Valve and the Half Life Series at its best. Reviewed on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Roll on Episode 3….*sigh*….

96/100

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Half Life 2: Episode 2, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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