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Half Life 2: Lost Coast (PC) artwork

Half Life 2: Lost Coast (PC) review

"Graphic geeks and tech nerds gather ‘round, ‘cause Gabe’n the Gang are gonna take us on a tour!"

How do you review a tech demo? The answer is you don’t. It’s a niche subject matter, almost documentary-like in its appeal. Graphic geeks and tech nerds gather ‘round, ‘cause Gabe’n the Gang are gonna take us on a tour! By that token I’ll do my best to share with you what interested me during this introspective.

The first thing to understand is it varies in length. The mission is a outright dead end looped elegantly so you can exit with some kind of closure, however vague. That part of it is roughly half an hour long. You’ll meet a fisherman who tells you you’re here to stop the Combine. Which, of course, you are. Then you’ll scale a cliff face, shoot some Combine, collect some weapons and experience bleeding edge HDR rendering and some well designed scenery.

HDR, in this instance, presents a higher dynamic range of light than previous versions of the Source Engine, all without new hardware requirements. Granted that doesn’t change hardware limitations, but it does improve immersion. The developers explain it in far more technical detail than I’m going to here, so let’s focus on that.

When you start a New Game, you’re given the option of playing with commentary on or off, a feature you may have seen in Portal and Portal 2. Putting so much work into something, it’s natural to want to talk about it, and the software team go deep. That will eat up about an hour and a half if you listen to all of the commentary. I’ve done it twice over the last six or so years. Yes, it is that interesting to me.

Visually speaking, Lost Coast is at the level of Half Life 2 Episode 1, which makes sense, because it was a testing ground for an area rejected from Half Life 2. You’ll hear it referenced in HL2, and then abruptly shut down as an option. Just before you head to Ravenholm, in fact.

It’s not hard to see why it was shunted. Disabling a headcrab launcher and fending off a short wave of Combine soldiers isn’t exactly engaging. The church setting is lovingly rendered, but about as enthralling as the fight with the helicopter that ends much too quickly. It just wasn’t of the same storytelling quality as the rest of HL2. Most of the scenes we’re accustomed to are loaded with detail, and this one just doesn’t seem like it’s going fit the bill.

While Valve makes questionable decisions, there is no doubt in my mind they’ve made many sound ones with regards to Half Life. What intrigues the inquisitive mind is what might have been. Instead of spawning on the dock, it’s clear the buggy could have been driven in on the other side of the bay, under the bridge. A firefight in town could have followed… and then, well, you do what? Disable the launcher and then leave town? Guess not.

Since HL2:LC is bundled with Half Life 2 and its respective Episodes, it’s not essential to play, but for those who want to learn more about how developers deal with rendering challenges, there’s a lot to learn here. It does seem a 4GB download is a lot for such a short experience, but it’s not going to reside on your drive long anyway.

Definitely worth a look.

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (August 18, 2017)

At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.

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