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[[[Half-Life 2: Episode Two|edit]]] GameplayEdit

Like its predecessors, Episode Two has the player navigate Gordon Freeman through a linear set of levels, fighting off transhuman troops known as the Combine as well as hostile alien creatures. Puzzles and 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.[7] Episode Two has more puzzles than Episode One, including the biggest physical puzzle yet in the series—a damaged seesawing bridge.[7] The game 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.[7]

Episode Two features the new Hunter synth, 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.[8]

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.[9] 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 have a powerful gait similar to a gorilla's, and are very swift. 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 destroy the Magnusson Devices that the player must use.[9]

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 flechette 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 (one of the in-game Achievements). In outdoor environments, they can be run over with a vehicle.[10]

Two new forms of antlion are present. The first is the glow-in-the-dark antlion grub, a harmless, worm-like creature which functions as a minor health pickup and a light source. Killing all 333 of these earns an Achievement. The second is the worker antlion (or 'acidlion') whose body produces a powerful and poisonous acid; in addition to firing it in a ranged spit attack, the acid is spread a short distance around them when they explode, making them dangerous to fight in close-combat. Functionally, they are similar to the bullsquids of the original Half-Life, but are thematically closer to the poison headcrab—a creature that the player will instinctively prioritize as a target. A new antlion guardian, which has glow in the dark features, was also added. This "Guardian" hunts the player in the final stages of his quest for the larval extract in the antlion caves. Despite this, the vortigaunt that accompanies the player forbids him from harming it, as the extract will be ruined if he does, so the player must accomplish his goal while being harried by a creature he cannot eliminate, though the player is eventually given the chance to kill it.[11]

This episode also re-skins one kind of Combine soldier. (The change is also seen in the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the other Half-life 2 games.) The shotgun wielding soldier is now given a different body armor, with a reddish brown tint instead of the standard greenish tone, to make players more alert of their presence. Other than the different weapon, these soldiers feature a somewhat different combat AI, generally trying to stay somewhat behind to surprise the player and shoot while in close range.[12][unreliable source?][citation needed]

[[[Half-Life 2: Episode Two|edit]]] Weapons Edit

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An in-game white-board depicting how the Magnusson Device functions.Episode Two features no new additions to Gordon Freeman's inventory, but introduces a new form of Gravity Gun 'ammunition', the "Magnusson Device", named after the egotistical head of the White Forest base rocket project, Dr. Magnusson. Prior to the game's release, this weapon had been referred to as the 'Strider Buster'. The item is useless on its own—it must be deployed via the gravity gun. Level designer Dario Casali describes it as a "sticky bomb that you fire at a Strider's underbelly that will draw power from the Strider's internal power source." In-game, the device will stick so long as it contacts the Strider's body, and will instantly destroy it when fired upon with any other of the player's weapons. However, Hunter escorts will prioritize them as targets, either destroying them in the player's grasp or shooting already-attached ones off.[13]

Valve's developers said new weapons were not a priority. The gravity gun was the direction of innovation they were most interested in, and objects like saw blades and flares were more interesting additions to the game. This policy was implemented with the Magnusson Device and more varied Gravity Gun "ammunition" such as logs and half-height butane tanks, which are easier to aim than full-size fuel drums.[13]

[[[Half-Life 2: Episode Two|edit]]] VehiclesEdit

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.[14]

The game had an average score of 90% based on 21 reviews on the review aggregator Game Rankings.[21] On Metacritic, the game had an average score of 90 out of 100, based on 18 reviews.[22]

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.[27] 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."[27] 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.[13] 1UP.com praised the game, noting that the game's "entire five-hour experience" was "vivid, emotionally engaging, and virtually unsurpassed."[23] PC Gamer UK also applauded Episode Two, noting it "is the most sumptuous chapter of the Half-Life saga, and by a country mile."[28] The New York Times enjoyed the gameplay, saying, "The battles in Episode 2 of Half-Life 2 often require as much ingenuity as they do fast reflexes."[29]

Computer and Video Games commented on the game's graphics, saying that although the game's engine was "starting to look its age," its "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," especially applauding the open forests and rocky hills from Episode Two.[24]

Several reviewers noted shortcomings. The New York Times commented on the story for Episode Two, noting, "While it sows a few seeds for the final episode of the trilogy, the game lacks the driving force of the previous episode."[29] GameSpy criticised the game, saying it is "a little more inconsistent than its predecessors," and that the opening segments of the game were "arguably the weakest" parts.[26]

==[[[Half-Life 2: Episode Two|edit]]] References==

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