Now I’ll take care of Episode 1 and Episode 2. Keep in mind this is loaded with spoilers so don’t read unless you’ve played the games or don’t mind having them spoiled.
Undue Alarm – Our Benefactors was an amazing level, and even though this is pretty much the same I didn’t care for it at all. What amazed me most about the series is how each level offers something different. Developer commentary made me appreciate this one more but this is more of the same and just didn’t impress me this time around. 5/10
Direct Intervention – Yes ANOTHER blue gravity gun level that also didn’t impress me. Enough already! However I liked this one better than the last and seeing the pre-combine soldiers at the end was pretty cool. 6/10
Lowlife – Zombies galore! The inclusion of the Zombines was cool because if you’re not careful they can obliterate you and it’s about time the series hints at a challenge. Finally we get weapons and shining the flashlight on the enemies was cool though it doesn’t beat fighting them yourself. I just wish they fixed the flashlight problem before the game was released instead of Episode 2 since sprinting while your flashlight is on usually wasn’t an option unless you don’t mind it running out of battery after a few seconds. Fending off the zombies in the darkness while waiting for the elevator was awesome, though. Better, but not there yet. 7/10
Urban Fight – Here we go. Nothing too original about this level but we’re finally introduced to a level that feels like it could’ve been in Half Life 2. I loved how the antlions were added and the pushing cars was a lot of fun. Alyx sniping while you raid buildings was sweet, since you’re finally teamed up with a somewhat competent ally. Once again we have a nice zombie showdown in the hospital (with combine!), though I was starting to get sick of them by the end of the level. 8/10
Exit 17 – The escort mission is probably the best I've ever seen in a game, but it's still an escort mission and semi-tedious. The strider showdown at the end is outstanding and easily the most exciting moment of the game. It kinda makes Episode One worth it. 8/10
To The White Forest – Too many antlions! A pretty straightforward mission that isn’t so memorable though the cave was a pretty cool setting. The inclusion of the green antlions was great, since they almost brought a challenge. On hard they can obliterate you in seconds plus they stand back so you can’t tear them down with a shotgun that easily. 6/10
The Vortal Coil – More antlions (and zombies!) but an improvement over the last mission. Defending the base was cool although super easy once you know what you’re doing and how it works. I also loved teaming up with the vortigaunt even though I wish it came with a muzzle. Another rehash, but some moments such as what I just mentioned and running from cave to cave from the antlion queen made this one the better and more memorable level of the two. 8/10
Freeman Pontifex – There are great battles here, ranging from the antlion showdown with the gravity gun to fighting the zombies in the house and much more. The problem is this is another example of “been here, done that”. Nothing is new; we’re already crossed antlion filled areas, fought rooms full of zombies, crossed acid, etc. 7/10
Riding Shotgun – Here we go, this is the beginning of what is perhaps the greatest streak in any Half Life game to date. Although short it is definitely one of the most action packed and eventful levels in the series. There are so many epic moments here, from confronting Hunters for the first time to witnessing the actual combine to running from all of their forces. This level truly gives you the feeling that you’re constantly being chased (which you are). Every second of this one is epic. 10/10
Under The Radar – What starts off as just a good level becomes spectacular by the end. Clearing out the turrets while avoiding zombies was fun, but the atmosphere truly takes over after that. I was afraid that this would turn into a boring driving level but as soon as things get too quiet you’re ambushed and involved in one of the most intense battles yet. The bit at the end with Dog and the strider is also epic. 9/10
Our Mutual Fiend - I don’t want to say too much but this contains the greatest battle in any Half Life game to date. It’s also the only part that I had to restart two or three times that wasn’t because of Alyx getting killed by zombies. Kudos to Valve! 10/10
T-Minus One - There isn't any actual gameplay here but it really makes me want to play Episode 3 when it comes out in 2015.
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|Suskie - July 14, 2008 (01:44 AM)
Good call, my friend! I was going to suggest someone make another one of these, or else I would've. I'm on a bit of a Half-Life high at the moment.
Undue Alarm - This is a repeat of Our Benefactors without the surprise or brilliance in level design. They don't really do anything clever with the super-powered gravity gun this time, instead offering just a set of simple hallways with very little excitement. The first five or ten minutes serve as a neat intro to the story, but otherwise this chapter is negligible. 5/10
Direct Intervention - Now they're starting to do something interesting with the powered-up gravity gun, offering more action and a few somewhat perplexing puzzles. At this point, though, I'm starting to get tired of it. I want my old arsenal of weapons back, as they've strained this Our Benefactors thing for all it's worth. 6/10
Lowlife - Probably my least favorite chapter in the entire Half-Life 2 series. It's partly placement -- I've just struggled through two levels of Our Benefactors rehash and I want to get down to some real action -- and it's partly just a poor attempt to bring survival horror elements back into Half-Life, with part of the chapter spent with no real weapons, and no interesting enemies to fight. Plugging up the antlion holes with cars is a decent idea, but the zombines got on my nerves very fast. Didn't like the elevator sequence one bit, either. This is one level that couldn't have ended quickly enough. 4/10
Urban Flight - Now we're talking! Episode One returns to the high-octane thrills that made the final act of Half-Life 2 so outstanding, as we finally get to take on some Overwatch troops with real weapons. It's got just enough action to make it the most exciting chapter in the game, and just enough "quiet" moments (like the room full of laser tripmines) to keep from being beaten over the head. The run through the hospital was a stellar way to top this chapter off, and the battle against the gunship in the attic killed. This chapter also goes on for a nice long run, which is good considering how enjoyable it is. 9/10
Exit 17 - I was fine with the escort mission, but it's still pretty lazy game design, having you run back and forth repeatedly like that. (This level is tiny when you think about it.) Still, it worked, thanks to the increasing stakes on each run. Plus the ending is spectacular. I was disappointed in the severe lack of strider up to this point, but the finale totally made up for it. Great ending cinematic, too. 8/10
To the White Forest - Very short chapter, and the first half is essentially just an extended cutscene, albeit a well executed one. Alyx getting attacked by the hunter rocked my world, since I'm now at the point where I actually care what happens to her. You know how I feel about the mines, though, and unfortunately the earliest parts are the dullest, even with the introduction of the poisonous antlion. 6/10
This Vortal Coil - The turret segment at the beginning is a nice homage to Half-Life 2's Entanglement chapter, and the vortigaunts make a great entrance. The mines are more imaginatively designed from here (especially the part where you sneak into the guardian's lair), but I'm starting to get tired of all these antlions. G-man making a surprise appearance was great. 7/10
Freeman Pontifex - Great vista when you emerge from the mines, and the ensuing battle against two guardians was a treat. I could take or leave the sub-Ravenholm segment leading up to the car, but it at least provided a few worthwhile moments and was over too quickly to be considered tedious or superfluous. Bridge jump at the end was pretty cool. 7/10
Riding Shotgun - Incredible. This is where Episode Two truly takes off and resembles an expanded Highway 17. The hunters make a spectacular entrance, and the scene with the Advisor was one of the series' most chilling moments. Ending with the helicopter chase, and then defeating the helicopter with its own bombs, put this extraordinary chapter in the Half-Life hall of fame. 10/10
Under the Radar - Another fantastic chapter. Taking out the super gun at the beginning was a well paced on-foot segment that gave us a brief break from driving the car, then it's back on the road. Searching for the caches with the radar made me feel more involved in the adventure. The ambush in the mountain village is one of my favorite singular battles in the entire series, and Dog's cutscene at the end was unforgettable. Another stellar level. 10/10
Our Mutual Fiend - Flawless integration of vital cutscenes and intense action. The silo bits were entertaining for sure, but the game tops everything else Valve has ever done in the amazing final confrontation. Seriously, how Dagoss wasn't utterly astounded by this sequence is something I'll never comprehend. It requires more strategy than you'd think (especially if you want to get the achievement for keeping all the buildings intact), and the Magnesson device is a terrific new weapon that I'd like to see more of in the future. What an incredible chapter. 10/10
T-Minus One - Not actually a level, but this one really caught me of guard and, yeah, makes me want to play Episode Three. Poor Eli...
|Halon - July 14, 2008 (06:12 AM)
Haha I was actually about to do Call of Duty 4 but though doing this would be more interesting.
Also some bad news. Apparently Episode 3 isn't going to be shown at this year's E3 which means we'll have to wait until probably fall 2009 the earliest for a release date. Left 4 Dead better be good.
|Halon - July 14, 2008 (06:19 AM)
Oh, and I forgot:
Lost Coast - Pretty graphics (at least when I played it) but short and nothing special. I only played it once and have no desire to do so again (though I kinda want to now). It's pretty cool how every weapon is put to use in the 7-10 minutes it takes to finish this one but been there, done that. 4/10
|Suskie - July 14, 2008 (07:49 AM)
I have Lost Coast but haven't played it yet.
|EmP - July 14, 2008 (10:54 AM)
ONE DAY I will finish the left and forgotten playthrough of Half Life.
Stupid mine cart.....