Review by JW ACE

"An Episode that Shows the Best of HL2"

Half Life 2: Episode 2, is the second game, in what will become a trilogy, of the Half Life 2 expansion. The focus of this game is on game play in a more open environment as apposed to the more urban setting in Episode 1. Not to mention, it continues the great Half Life story. The main problem is the same as Episode 1; the game just isn't that long. But is that inherently bad?

The Source engine looks a good as ever. All the models look even more realist, if that were possible and there are plenty of amazing vista's throughout the game. The only problem I've noticed is that some of the trees don't really look all that realistic up close. At a distance, however, they look good. And who could forget the amazing water effects?

Sound is great. The music I could do without, but that is easily remedied with the options to turn off the music during game play. Leaving the music on will greatly add to the tension of the game; just like in a movie. Still, the only thing wrong with the sound is that the music isn't too my liking. Everything else is great…most notably the new Striders.

The controls are exactly the same as in Half Life 2. There aren't any new guns sadly, but you will find some new uses to the gravity gun. Physics are really the controls of the whole game.

Game play
More of the same Half Life 2 and that is a good thing. Once again, you start the game with only the gravity gun, and you will have to go through a series of puzzles with it. Even when you get all your weapons later in the game, you will still be using your gravity gun a lot to do some puzzles.

Almost all of the game takes place “outside”. Think of the Half Life 2 levels Canal Route and Highway 17. You get to drive the car again in this game, and that is really the bulk of the later half of the game. You drive your car, get attacked, drive some more, explore, and so on. As with Episode One, Alyx pretty much never leaves your side, and she helps you out in most situations. You also get to travel with Vortigon's for a short while. It turns out they are much more powerful than they were in Half Life, so it seems at least.

There are some very memorable moments in this game as there are in the last. The most would be the final battle, which is brilliantly designed. There are also Ant-Lion guards, Gun-ships, Striders…the whole nine yards. Oh yes, and not to mention the much anticipated new enemy, the Hunter. These are basically mini Striders, with the same relationship as the Star Wars AT-AT and AT-ST/PT walkers. The Striders are large and lumbering with supreme firepower, while the Hunters are small and quick, with typical infantry firepower.

A single Hunter is nothing to worry about. The problem is, they are smart enough to know that there is strength in numbers. You will usually face 3 or 4 of them at the same time. Not to mention they are best suited for supporting Striders. It's a whole new ball game when facing a Strider that has Hunters with it.

Speaking of balls, there is a new item that you get to use with you gravity gun to instant-kill a Strider. It resembles a Rugby ball. You pick it up and shoot it at a Strider, it will stick if it touches it anywhere in the head area, and then you shoot the ball with your gun of choice. This will kill the Strider, and it is much quicker than shooting it with 7 or 8 rockets.

This game picks up right where Episode One left off, on the train. Or what is left of the train at least. You then proceed to regroup with the other resistance fighters. You encounter all your favorite enemies along the way. Once you get to your base, you will need to defend it. As usual, the game is told completely through uninterrupted game play, not by cut-scenes. Also, to keep the Half Life tradition going, there is a cliffhanger ending. I'm very happy to say that it is just as good as the ending to Episode One, maybe even better. It is very hard to mention anything beyond that without going into spoilers. The only other thing I will mention is that, finally, the Combine seems to actually be on the run for once.

In conclusion, this game is just great, the only bad thing is that it is too short. However, Half Life 2 was too short in my opinion, and instead of waiting 7 years for that, I only waited about a year and a half for this one. The game alone is a bit pricey for only 5-6 hours. You are much better getting this in the Orange Box collection, which will also give you Portal and Team Fortress 2. But if you are a Half life fan, you need to play this game, and if you aren't a Half Life fan, you will certainly become one once you play.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/29/07

Game Release: Half-Life 2: Episode Two (US, 10/10/07)

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