Half-Life 2: Episode One review
Such a Tease

The good:

+ Feels just like Half-Life.

+ We get to see what happened at the end of the game.

The bad:

- Rather short.

- Doesn't really add anything new.


Oh Gordon Freeman, you perplex and allure us with your stoic speechlessness and uncanny ability to thwart hordes of heavily armed alien overlords. Your cliffhanger ending in Half-Life 2 left us wanting so much more. More enemies, more weapons to eviscerate them with, and more closure.

Valve has decided to deliver a morsel of what we all desire: more. (But just a little) with Episode 1, the first in a tri-fecta of HL2 expansion episodes. Unfortunately what we've received is more or less an extended demo of what should be Half-Life 3. Just as I was starting to really get into the "game", the credits started rolling (much to my dismay).

But of course, there's no denying that what little Valve has offered us is satisfying enough to keep HL2 addicts at bay for just a tad longer. You'll spend nearly all of your time with the lovely Alyx Vance, which gives the expansion a new feel that differs from much of the experience in the first game (where you spent most of your time alone). Alyx is both a blessing and a curse since she will back you up with support fire and offer you helpful advice, but on the flipside, she rarely shuts the hell up.

Aside from that, you'll be doing much of the same stuff you did in the larger game: solving puzzles, navigating obstacles, fighting off waves of enemies, and destroying gigantic machines of death all by yourself. The gameplay is well-done, but it lacks that freshness feeling since you spend all of your time in areas similar to places you've already been in the game prior. It also doesn't help that the game sends you through some of the less desirable locales, such as a crumbling metro complex, a crumbling hospital complex, and a crumbling train complex.

I was hoping for some new weapons (at least one), but the expansion left me disappointed. The only really new feature is the "Zombine". Those with basic math skills can probably put two and two together and conclude that the Zombines are Combines turned into headcrab zombies. Aside from being faster and tougher than normal zombies, they don't add much to the experience (though their abilities to use grenades is rather interesting).

And that's about it. A short review for a short expansion.


Gameplay: 4. Typical Valve affair but doesn't really add anything new to the formula (yet).

Control: 4. The HL2 controls still work great. No surprise here…

Story: 4. This expansion answers a few questions but raises many more.

Graphics: 5. The whole package is rendered in Valve's silky smooth HDR technology (if your machine can handle it, that is). Plenty of nice visual effects and all the spit and polish of the original game have come through here.

Sound: 5. Great ambient sound and high-class voice acting.

Lifespan: 2. Extremely short, but the game contains commentary worth playing through again. Valve tries to soften up the short length by packaging HL1 and HL2 deathmatches, but…. Yeah.

FunFactor: 4. Much like HL2, this expansion picks up like a train and doesn't stop until the credits start rolling. Certain sequences of the game border on exhausting with their alarming immersion and intense action.

Lasting Impression (Independent Score): 3. I had heard the expansion was short, but I was hoping it wasn't true. The length is disappointing but the game still offers more of that excellent HL2 gameplay that we're all dying to get more of.

Bottom line:

I'm hoping that the three episodes will add up to create one complete expansion package, but if they're all this short and unworthy of the 20 dollar price point, then those with a passing interest in the series should just wait until all three have been released and Valve packages them into a special edition game.

But if you're like me and would eat a live headcrab with a spoon to get more HL2, then this game might satisfy just a little of your craving.

4 out of 5.

Final score is an average of the seven above factors (excluding Lasting Impression).

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