Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Half-Life 2: Episode Two is a 2007 first-person shooter game developed and published by Valve. Following Episode One (2006), it is the second of two shorter episodic games that continue the story of Half-Life 2 (2004). Players control Gordon Freeman, who travels through the mountains surrounding City 17 to a resistance base with his ally Alyx Vance. Like previous games in the series, Episode Two combines shooting, puzzle-solving and narrative elements, but adds expansive environments and less linear sequences.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two
Cover art featuring (from left) Gordon Freeman, the Combine Hunters and Alyx Vance
Composer(s)Kelly Bailey
October 10, 2007
  • Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
    • NA: October 10, 2007
    • EU: October 18, 2007
    • AU: October 25, 2007
  • PlayStation 3
    • AU: December 20, 2007
    • EU: December 14, 2007
    • NA: December 14, 2007
  • Mac OS X
    • WW: May 26, 2010
  • Linux
    • WW: May 10, 2013
Genre(s)First-person shooter

Episode Two was released on 10 October, 2007, for Windows on Valve's distribution service Steam, and as a part of The Orange Box, a compilation of Valve games for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The PlayStation version was produced by Electronic Arts. Episode Two received positive reviews.

Half-Life 2: Episode Three was announced for Christmas 2007, but was canceled as Valve abandoned episodic development. In 2020, after canceling several further Half-Life projects, Valve released Half-Life: Alyx.

Gameplay edit

As with previous Half-Life games, Episode Two is played in the first person as Gordon Freeman against transhuman troops, known as the Combine, and other hostile alien creatures. Levels are linear but add a more open environment, consisting of puzzles and first-person shooter game-play. Sequences involving vehicles are interspersed throughout the game, breaking up moments of combat.

One of the focal points of Episode Two was meant to be increased use of vehicles in open areas. However, the game retains its original linear style until the final battle.[1] Episode Two has more puzzles than Episode One, including the biggest physics puzzle yet in the series—a damaged bridge.[1] As in the previous two games, Episode Two features numerous "achievements" (similar to PlayStation 3's Trophies and Xbox Live's Achievements) for carrying out certain tasks. Some are essential to game progress, such as helping fight off an antlion invasion, or defeating the first Hunters. Others are optional tricks or feats the player can perform, such as killing a Combine soldier with their own grenade or running down a certain number of enemies with the car.[1]

Enemies edit

Episode Two featured a new Hunter enemy, which had just been seen briefly in a recorded message in Episode One. The Hunter serves as one of the most dangerous enemies within the game and as means of emotional development for Alyx Vance. The Hunter is a powerful and resilient enemy which players must often run from while seeking a means to fight back; Episode Two's environments are designed with this in mind.[2]

An interview in the August 2006 issue of PC Gamer magazine revealed that the Hunter stands 8 feet (2.4 m) tall. Erik Johnson, the game's project lead, states that the Hunters are "big and impressive, but they can go anywhere the player can go", as the player can encounter them both indoors and outdoors.[3] Ted Backman, senior artist for Valve, talks about how the Hunter can express emotions, being a somewhat non-human character. "We want the Hunter to be able to express nervousness or aggression, [to show you] whether it's aggressive, hurt, or mad." Hunters are very aggressive and they tend to operate in packs, but can also be found supporting other Combine troops. Late in the game, they can be found escorting Striders, using their flechette guns to protect the Striders that the player is trying to attack.[3]

Hunters primarily attack the player by bracing themselves and firing bursts from their flechette cannon. Four flechettes can vaporize an ordinary human soldier. If they do not strike a living target, the flechettes charge up for several seconds and then explode, dealing minor damage to everything nearby. Hunters may also conduct a charging attack or strike with their legs if the player gets too close. Hunters are vulnerable to all weapons, but to compensate, are still quite resilient, making explosives and the pulse rifle's charged energy ball the most attractive options. Objects thrown with the gravity gun are also effective, especially if the player catches some of their flechettes with the object before hurling it. In outdoor environments, they can be run over with a vehicle.[4]

Weapons edit

An in-game white-board depicting how the Magnusson Device functions

Episode Two features no additions to Gordon Freeman's weapons inventory. Instead, Valve chose to further explore uses for the gravity gun, with which the player can pick up and throw large objects. They introduced more varied Gravity Gun "ammunition", such as logs, flares, and half-height butane tanks, which are easier to aim than full-size fuel drums.[5]

Near the end of the game, the player uses "Magnusson Devices", which designer Dario Casali described as a "sticky bomb that you fire at a Strider's underbelly that will draw power from the Strider's internal power source". The player uses the gravity gun to attach the bombs to tripodal enemy Striders; the bombs detonate when fired upon with any other of the player's weapons, instantly destroying the target. The Hunter escorts prioritize them as targets, either destroying them in the player's grasp or shooting already-attached ones off.[5]

Vehicles edit

Large sections of the game feature a car which resembles a gutted-and-rebuilt 1969 Dodge Charger. It appears to have been tuned for performance. A radar system is installed later in the game, allowing the player to locate Rebel supply caches. In the final battle, a rear-mounted storage rack for Magnusson Devices is added and the radar is adjusted to track enemies and Magnusson Device dispensers. A homing unit is also installed so the player can quickly locate the car in the chaos of the final battle via a readout in the Hazardous Environment suit.[6]

Plot edit

The Combine responds to the destruction of the Citadel by attempting to open an interdimensional portal, which would allow them to summon reinforcements and defeat the Resistance. Outside City 17, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance (Merle Dandridge) escape the wreckage of a train they used to flee the city. The two proceed to a transmission station, where they make contact with Isaac Kleiner (Harry S. Robins) and Eli Vance (Robert Guillaume), who have arrived at the White Forest rocket facility. Kleiner and Eli inform them that a copied Combine transmission Alyx is carrying may be able to close the portal. The pair make their way to an abandoned mine, where Alyx is critically wounded by Combine forces. A vortigaunt (Tony Todd) arrives and leads the two to an underground Resistance outpost, where Freeman is instructed to help gather larvae from a nearby antlion colony to heal Alyx. After the larvae are gathered, vortigaunts begin to heal Alyx, and the G-Man (Michael Shapiro) takes the opportunity to contact Freeman, revealing that he rescued Alyx from the Black Mesa Research Facility despite objections from an unspecified third party. The G-Man instructs an unconscious Alyx to tell Eli to "prepare for unforeseen consequences".

After Alyx recovers, she and Freeman travel to White Forest, where they reunite with Eli, Kleiner and Dog and are introduced to Arne Magnusson (John Aylward). The facility's scientists are preparing a rocket which they plan to use with the code to close the portal. After Freeman repulses a Combine attack on the facility, Alyx gives Kleiner a message recorded by Judith Mossman (Michelle Forbes), which contains the location of the Borealis, an Aperture Science research ship which vanished years ago. Kleiner and Eli argue on whether to use or destroy it, but both agree that Alyx and Freeman will travel to the ship and locate Mossman. Alyx unconsciously delivers the G-Man's message to her father, troubling him. Eli reveals to Freeman that the G-Man provided the test sample which caused the Black Mesa incident, and that he whispered the same warning to Eli as Freeman entered the test chamber. He promises to explain more after the portal is closed.

While the scientists prepare the rocket, White Forest comes under another Combine attack. Freeman defeats the attackers using experimental explosive weaponry created by Magnusson. The scientists launch the rocket and close the portal, trapping all remaining Combine forces on Earth. As Alyx and Freeman prepare to leave for the Borealis, Eli delivers a warning about the ship's "cargo". The trio head to a hangar, intending to board a helicopter, but two Combine Advisors suddenly appear and restrain them. Eli is killed by an Advisor before Dog bursts in and chases the Advisors away. Alyx, sobbing, clutches her father's body.

Development edit

Episode Two was the second in a planned trilogy of shorter episodic games that would continue the story of Half-Life 2 (2004).[7] It was developed simultaneously with Episode One (2006) by a team led by David Speyrer. This schedule of simultaneous development aided them in streamlining the story between the two games to create an immersive story. The technology used was the same for both games, allowing the development teams to quickly fix any technical problems that might arise from either game; this happened often because of the multi-platform release.[8] The team originally planned the ending to feature a comical sequence with Lamarr, Kleiner's pet headcrab, floating in space outside the rocket Gordon launches into space; however, Valve president Gabe Newell requested killing off a major character to create a cliffhanger for Episode Three.[9]

An announcement was made on July 13, 2006, stating that Episode Two would be released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in addition to the PC, where previous iterations of the series separated.[10] Valve handled the development for the PC and Xbox 360, while Electronic Arts (EA) worked on the PlayStation 3 version.[11] It was announced on September 7, 2007, that the PlayStation 3 version of the game would be delayed because the EA studio behind the game was in the United Kingdom, away from Valve's development team, and therefore lagged behind in its schedule. According to Valve's marketing director, Doug Lombardi, the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC versions would be identical in functionality and performance.[12]

An audio commentary is also featured, as in Episode One and Lost Coast.[13] Tony Todd replaced Louis Gossett Jr. as the voice of the Vortigaunts.[14][15]

Reception edit

Half-Life 2: Episode Two received an average score of 90.68% based on 22 reviews on the review aggregator GameRankings.[16] On Metacritic, it has an average score of 90 out of 100 based on 21 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[17] As part of The Orange Box compilation, Episode Two shared with Portal and Team Fortress 2 in winning "Computer Game of the Year" at the 11th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards.[25]

Dan Adams of IGN rated the game 9.4 out of 10 and praised its improved visuals and expansive environments, but cited the short six-hour length as a drawback.[19] He said: "Any way you look at it, Episode Two stands out, even among the Half-Life series, as something special ... a burly experience packed into roughly six hours or so that offers up all the diversity, level design, and thoughtful gameplay we've known while making sure to propel the story forward and leave us wanting more."[19] Bit-tech.net awarded the game a 10 out of 10 score, citing approval of how the story turns and the introduction of side stories and new characters.[5] 1UP.com said it was "vivid, emotionally engaging, and virtually unsurpassed".[18] PC Gamer UK felt Episode Two was "the most sumptuous chapter of the Half-Life saga, and by a country mile".[20] The New York Times enjoyed the gameplay, saying that battles "often require as much ingenuity as they do fast reflexes".[23]

Computer and Video Games said that although the Source engine was dated, the "wonderful art design and the odd bit of technical spit-shine ensure that Episode Two [...] doesn't lose any of its wow factor". They also noticed that the game "goes about fixing a lot of the niggling complaints we had about Episode One," applauding the open forests and rocky hills.[22]

The New York Times wrote that "while it sows a few seeds for the final episode of the trilogy, the game lacks the driving force of the previous episode".[23] GameSpy felt it was less consistent than its predecessors, and that the opening segments were "arguably the weakest".[24]

Sequels edit

Half-Life 2: Episode Three was scheduled for release by Christmas 2007.[26] It was canceled after Valve abandoned episodic development and began developing a new game engine, Source 2.[27] After canceling several further Half-Life games, Valve released Half-Life: Alyx in 2020.[28]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Half-Life 2: Episode One Interview 1". GameSpot. May 30, 2006. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  2. ^ Simmons, Alex (August 24, 2006). "GC 2006: New Half-Life 2 Trailer Dissected". IGN. Archived from the original on September 7, 2006. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Half-Life 2: Episode Two". PC Gamer. August 2006.
  4. ^ Goldstein, Hilary (October 9, 2007). "The Orange Box Review". IGN. Archived from the original on April 18, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Martin, Joe (October 11, 2007). "Half-Life 2: Episode Two". bit-tech.net. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  6. ^ "Steam Update". Steam. February 16, 2007. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  7. ^ Dobson, Jason. "Half-Life 2: Episode One Dated, Trilogy Confirmed". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  8. ^ Bramwell, Tom (June 6, 2006). "Opening the Valve". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on April 8, 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  9. ^ Keighley, Geoff (2020). The Final Hours of Half-Life Alyx. Steam.
  10. ^ Ocampo, Jason (July 13, 2006). "Half-Life 2: Episode Two - The Return of Team Fortress 2 and Other Surprises". GameSpot. Archived from the original on July 19, 2006. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  11. ^ Remo, Chris (June 15, 2007). "Valve confirms Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 launch date". Shacknews. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved June 15, 2007.
  12. ^ Bramwell, Tom (September 7, 2007). "Valve explains PS3 Orange Box delay". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  13. ^ Cashon, Jonathan (November 5, 2007). "'Half Life 2: Episode Two' entertains as strong sequel". University of South Alabama. Archived from the original on December 27, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  14. ^ "Half-Life 2: Episode Two". GameFAQs. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  15. ^ "Half-Life 2: The Orange Box". Yahoo! Games. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  16. ^ a b "Half-Life 2: Episode Two — PC". GameRankings. Archived from the original on February 21, 2012. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  17. ^ a b "Half-Life 2: Episode Two". Metacritic. Archived from the original on February 23, 2010. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  18. ^ a b Elliott, Shawn (October 10, 2007). "Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (PC)". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on October 28, 2007. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  19. ^ a b c Adams, Dan (October 9, 2007). "IGN: Half-Life 2: Episode Two Review". IGN. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved October 10, 2007.
  20. ^ a b "Half-Life 2: Episode Two". PC Gamer UK. October 10, 2007. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  21. ^ Reed, Kristan (October 10, 2007). "Half-Life 2: Episode Two". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  22. ^ a b "Review: Half-Life 2: Episode Two". Computer and Video Games. October 10, 2007. Archived from the original on April 27, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2008.
  23. ^ a b c Herold, Charles (October 25, 2007). "In 1 Box, 3 New Games Filled With Puzzles and Fights". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 2, 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  24. ^ a b Accardo, Sal (October 10, 2007). "Half-Life 2: Episode Two (PC)". GameSpy. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved May 12, 2008.
  25. ^ "D.I.C.E. Awards By Video Game Details The Orange Box". interactive.org. Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original on November 13, 2023. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  26. ^ Dobson, Jason (May 25, 2006). "Half-Life 2: Episode One Dated, Trilogy Confirmed". Game Developer. Archived from the original on May 16, 2022. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  27. ^ Marks, Tom (March 23, 2020). "Valve Explains Why Half-Life 2: Episode 3 Was Never Made". IGN. Archived from the original on March 23, 2020. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  28. ^ McWhertor, Michael (November 21, 2019). "Half-Life: Alyx is Valve's VR-exclusive, full-length prequel to Half-Life 2". Polygon. Archived from the original on November 22, 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

External links edit