Games of the Decade – Part III

Continuing ElectricDeathRay’s Games of the Decade, we give you a tour-de-force. And the first game with guns. Big ones too. We give you…

Not an image from War of the Worlds

HALF LIFE 2…

I wanted to go left-field, you know? A little off the cuff with my choice, but I just couldn’t. If we’re looking at games in accordance with how much fun and how much time we put into them, then I simply couldn’t afford to ignore it.

Half Life 2 is the thinking man’s blockbuster from the last decade. Well, I use ‘thinking’ a little loosely, it’s more of a thinking man’s first person shooter, but that’s no bad thing. Unlike the Call of Duty’s and Crysis’s of this world, Half Life 2 is the giddy heights of narrative, intelligence and emotion.

Like its predecessor in the previous decade, HL2 set the marker pretty damn high. And while that might sound like a flippant remark, it’s absolutely true – hence it’s appearance in this series of GOTD features.

The original set the pace when it came to the combination of narrative and function. Neither Gordon Freeman nor Black Mesa where wholly original, but it didn’t seem to matter because Valve designed levels in such a way that  it compelled the player to continue. The introduction of the soldiers, for example, wasn’t just to provide the player with stuff to shoot but also to propel the plot forwards. You couldn’t say the same thing of Quake 2. This underlined how Valve never truly told a story they provided a world that contained enough hints necessary to allow the player to draw their own conclusion. It speaks volumes when I say that I never found an out-of-place wall, door or corridor and that’s because Valve understands the medium of gaming so completely there’s no need for ‘filler’. Of course, this comes with a downside – the sheer length of time needed to produce each game.

HL2 was, then, a continuation of the original in every way. The technology was superior, the narrative better, the combat more rounded and the AI gifted with higher IQ. Compare it to say (inevitably) it’s modern equivalent, Modern Warfare, it knocks its socks off in every way. In MW2 – the fifth or sixth incarnation in as many years – the graphics look great, which is to be expected, but it falls flat in almost every other area. The fact it still doesn’t have a serious physics engine, for example, is a massive, ridiculous failing and it is nonsense to think that despite it’s profile, it cannot hope to come close to the professionalism of HL2.

But Valve’s achievements don’t stop there. Just take a look at the Orange Box. Is there a more complete collection of games in the whole wide world? Even LucasArt’s own Best of Star Wars from 2008 is a pale shadow of Valve’s collection of masterpieces (masterparts?). And then there’s the modifications, especially Garry’s Mod which even now is unstoppable in its simple brilliance…

I could go on, but I don’t need too. Half Life 2 doesn’t need the praise. It’s a Game of the Decade.

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