Half-Life 2: Episode One (PC) (Expansion)
Release Date: June 1st , 2006
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Valve Software
Genre: First Person Shooter - Sci-fi
Posted: June 11th, 2006
Last Updated: June 24th, 2007
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Written By Dav0r
Half-Life 2: Episode One is the long anticipated “sequel” to the widely popular Half-Life 2 franchise. I put “sequel” in quotes because this is more or less the first part or episode of several sequels that valve hopes to release in succession to continue the story of Gordon Freeman and his battle in City 17. This chapter picks up right where the story left off at the end of Half-Life 2 with the explosion of the Citadel’s dark fusion reactor. Some strange things happen right in the beginning with quite a twist with the G-Man and after a unique cut scene the game begins with Dog and Alyx digging you out of the rubble. My first impression of this chapter was WOW. They really improved the graphics a lot; using techniques like High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting in every level really improves the looks of this game. It also however bogs down your system so you’ll still need quite a powerful machine to run this game to its full potential.
The story to this episode is basically this, you and Alyx are about to get incinerated by the Citadel and you must escape the city before this happens. As you would expect Alyx is with you for pretty much the entire game. She sticks by your side giving you useful hints in certain areas and also combat support. There are a few instances where the game developers cleverly got rid of her so you could do a puzzle or fight some enemies on your own. The first thing you do is go back inside the Citadel (a rather hilarious way of getting there too) and you must stop the Citadel from exploding immediately so you have time to escape. This opens up much of the story and you learn a lot of things before leaving. Alyx also steals some information from the Combine which we’re not told what it is yet, but the Combine doesn’t like you having it so this would by why they are chasing you throughout the game.
After escaping the Citadel you end up at the bottom of a train station with all the lights out and multiple zombies everywhere. Your basic objective is to get to the surface without a headcrab being attached to you. This is where HDR really shines I felt, because the flashlight is your main source of light in most of this level and really reflects well off surfaces and enemies. This level also introduces a new enemy the combine-zombie or Zombine as Alyx dubs it. This baddie can be quite a pain and usually requires several blasts from a shot-gun to bring it down; also they hold grenades and can blow you to smithereens rather fast. Once you reach the surface you fight awhile through City 17 much like you did near the end of Half-Life 2, but not quite as intense. Another cool thing added is combine soldiers repelling down the buildings from the roof’s to get you. This is pretty neat as you can peg them off before they reach the ground and then you get to see a cool falling rag doll.
Later in the game you fight in a hospital which was based of a WWII hospital so it’s quite eerie. You get to fight a gunship on a wooden roof and as you fight it the ship will shoot the wood that’s blocking its view from you and debris is constantly falling everywhere for a really cool effect. I really enjoyed how they ended this episode by instead of fighting some monolithic boss instead you have to escort a number of citizens through part of the city to the train. Each time you go back to get another group the combine has set more traps and or more soldiers to stop you. This is quite unique and changes things up quite a bit. Once you’ve escorted all the citizens to the train you must board it yourself, but not without fighting a strider of course. This is a really sweet fight as well as the strider’s huge laser weapon can knock back the huge steel carriers that you’re standing inside. After you finally reach the train you’re treated to a fantastic ending with an amazing light show and then a cool cut-scene that gets you ready to play Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
My only disappointment is that it only took me about four hours to beat. I suppose for 20 dollars that’s not too bad, but I really was looking forward to some more game play than that. The commentary track adds to some cool replay value and lets you know what the developers were thinking throughout the game which is kind of neat. If you were a fan of Half-Life 2 then by all means pick this game up, as I’m sure most of you already have. All in all I give this game a 9.5/10.
My computer specs while running EP1:
Processor: AMD 64 3000+
RAM: 1 GB DDR 400 Dual Channel
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT
Average FPS: 30-40 with all graphic options full and 1152x864 resolution.