The environment: stunning. Religious themes: stunning. Visuals: stunning. Levels: stunning. Gameplay when it’s at its best: stunning.
Probably the best story-driven game I’ve ever played (note: I have not played many), though it could be so, so much better.
Lots of filler content, particularly in the middle 4/5ths of the game. Felt kind of like Half Life 2: you keep trying to do a basic thing, then your plans get thrown off. During this part despite the lackluster plot, the changing environment and visuals were awe-inspiring.
First 1/5th and last 1/5 of game… wow. Video games as a storytelling mechanism. Better than many books I’ve read. I need to think through this for a bit to make sure I understand the story.
I’ve been telling myself that I’m going to play Half Life 2 beginning-to-end for 9 years at this point. This week when everyone at Hack Club was off for Christmas, I actually got around to it.
Overall, very positive experience. The first 2/3rds felt like fetch quest after fetch quest, except instead of retrieving items you’re attempting and failing again and again to retrieve people. The ending of the game is when it started to get unique and interesting for me and wow, the ending cliffhanger left me wanting more.
Ravenholm near the beginning freaked me out. I didn’t totally understand Father Grigory. Later environments were interesting and, for the most part, fun to play through. Driving on the beach felt like it could have been done in 1/2 the time. The ant levels were fun for the most part, though I did get stuck with one of the parkour puzzles.
The wide variety of weapons was very fun to engage with, though it felt like there was a lot of simple pointing and shooting at wave after wave of enemy. Being able to control the ants and, later, a squad of fellow rebels was novel. NPCs were very fun to have as companions throughout the game, especially later into the game where you needed them to clear complex waves of enemies.
The combination of enemy types was very fun. Headcrabs freak me out. Combine, their large vehicles, zombies, and the ants all kept it interesting.
I played the first 1/2 on my 13″ MacBook Pro using integrated graphics running at low settings at 720p and plugged into a TV, with an Xbox controller. Plug-and-play controller support was better than I expected it to be. The second 1/2 was played on the 13″ MacBook Pro plugged into an eGPU with a Radeon RX 5700, graphics set to max, and resolution to 1080p with a keyboard and mouse.
Graphics were surprisingly good and immersive, especially given Half Life 2 was released in 2004. I know there’s a graphics mod out there that overhauls a large number of things – even to the point of substantially changing levels, perhaps worth trying.