I only got started on Half-Life 2 a couple of nights ago as I got The Orange Box. In order to review Episode 2, I obviously need to go through the original game and its first expansion (being Episode 1). The prospect of playing through what is essentially two games in order to review three more (Episode 2, The Portal, Team Fortress 2) seems a daunting task, considering that there is a bunch of other games to review, too.
However, it’s been such a thrilling ride so far that I don’t mind. I don’t like Half-Life’s clinical mood when compared to the likes of the Halo series, but the pacing is just sublime. Every scene presents you with a new thing to do, changing the scenery while at it, and drags it out to just the right length. The way City 17 is portrayed is something other developers should mimic – you want to know what goes on behind those apartment block exteriors, not to mention the huge tower rising from the middle of the city. The storyline is gripping, too.
There were technical issues. I first installed the game on the PC, but ended up playing it on the Xbox 360 due to the infamous stuttering issue. One night’s worth of hard drive defragging later, it now runs smooth. Comparison-wise, the 360 version is not quite as pretty, with overdone bloom and some low-res textures, and it doesn’t have that solid 60 FPS on a three year old PC title frame rate, but it loads much faster and I prefer to play with a pad. (Thinking about it, the PC version probably supports a 360 pad, too.)