humanfarm

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Smelling the Ashes

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“Tell me, Dr. Freeman, if you can: you have destroyed so much — what is it exactly that you have created? Can you name even one thing? … I thought not.

I came across a topic on Facebook asking users and gamers one thing you hate about a seemingly perfect game called Half-Life 2? I was tempted to post a reply but when I began to think about it I thought it would be too long a rant and to a point no one would ever try reading it, including myself. So I decided I post it somewhere else that in time someone might come across, hopefully, someone who jives and understands just what in the world am I even talking about.

This issue that’s been troubling me when I played Half-Life 2 would go by technical aspects or the game itself as it is. And I thank the geniuses at Valve for making such a brilliant ‘next-gen’ game that impressively runs on modest systems like mine, I’ve never played that many video games and HL2 was something of a wait.

As a player and a lifetime fan of the first game, Half-Life back in the late 90’s, and an avid X-Files audience at the time, the story and the atmosphere of the first game just sucked me right in. The second installment is graphically superior that catches me in awe most of the time overlooking at realistic depictions of the city, its Eastern European architecture and such. I thought why in the world, or in this case, why in City-17 would I ever want something like in Black Mesa to happen here? Sure, many reviewers describe this place to be fascistic, even though the more appropriate term would be ‘totalitarian’.

Half-Life 2 occurs years after the first game and anyone who has played the first would understand that you have been placed in a stasis after surviving the Black Mesa incident and has been awakened by an enigmatic G-Man, now in a world ruled by a centralized government system (NWO-type) known as the Combine. The manifestation of Gordon Freeman (You) in City-17 gives me this impression of a virus that is transmitted to an already weak body. The Combine itself gives appearance of an seemingly oppressive government, a police-state that relies on its military arm for security. The Combine also imply propagandas like the Breencasts which nobody ever really gives much agreement or even the slightest interest. The outside on walls and public offices there you can find Combine posters that doesn’t really rouse encouragement among civilians, and when you look at it it doesn’t really mean anything at all. Something Valve lack was showing players how implanted the Combine really is to its people. The same people who they robbed the entire planet from. Unfortunately, the Combine have very insignificant to none existent civilian support, no possibility of a secret police, since every Civil Protection officer (Metrocop), and Combine soldier hide behind a gas mask-like headgear, combat vest, a pair of long black boots and those awesome radios with vocoders you hear which they use to communicate with each other.

Knowing Your Enemy

Metrocop

Metrocop

I never fully get the notion why I fight against them, save for the impression that they are evil and of course they are programed to be that way. Although, I often wished the Combine were portrayed a little more that just an police-state. In the earlier parts of the game I was waiting for images of random public ridicule and group executions in the same nature the Nazis have in Roman Polanski’s film, The Pianist just to get players going and who and what kind of people we are up against. But I don’t recall even seeing those except for a scene which looked accidental (Two CP’s were interrogating two civilians and when they saw me one of them instinctively shots a civilian).

Fighting these Metrocops earlier in the game geels like I just killed a bunch people who wanted to have a better living by working for a government I am suppose to hate but don’t know much about, just because a handful of people against that government say they’re evil. It’s like instilling hate to all North Koreans or all Chinese and wish they all to die just because I do not approve of Communism.

Even your old friends from Black Mesa don’t help. They hardly tell you much about everything and everyone. I believe they even know more info on this G-Man character that I really don’t trust since the first game, nevertheless they never talk to me about him anyway.

The game is fun but exhausting, mostly because I wanted a richer in-game storyline instead of a roadshow adventure, and Half-Life 2 being beautifully rendered, I may have expected too much albeit, excessively. The whole game got way too fast as I wanted to see the sights too, meet different life-like NPC’s, study the new alien creatures that have made their new home here on Earth and not just blast the living daylights out of them most of the time.

In HL1 I understand you get to fight the covert US military division in Black Mesa to save your life when they initiated a black operation in an underground research facility by executing all witnesses to the alien dimensional breach. It was obviously self-defense; you had no choice and no agenda behind your actions but to survive. I can only imagine the controversy if the game was made this day and age. Probably the reason they created the Opposing Force expansion to counter that hullabaloo. However, unlike the soldiers in HL1, where you get to overhear their conversations revealing their dislike for killing civilians, the Civil Protection who are ordinary human beings as well (not trans-human/synth like the rest of the Combine armed force) are never given a chance to speak for themselves even though they only enlisted to acquire a better standard of living, additional food rations which is very normal and quite a sacrifice thinking most of them may have families to support evident from conversations of some civilians having thoughts of joining Civil Protection earlier in the game.

The Combine government might be considered a video game depiction of an Orwellian world of the novel, 1984. Though I don’t believe the Combine is as strong as Big Brother without support from its citizens and other civilian groups as depicted in the game; especially during an event known as the Battle of City 17 wherein the resistance launches a massive attack on the city, revived by Gordon Freeman’s Rambo-type exploits. Naturally, the rebels don’t stand a chance from the Combine’s arsenal but they prove a big help in the missions and greatly adds fire support. Having A.I. allies this smart is also one of the many reasons why HL2 is fantastic and a big step from the first game. Still, I was hoping for a smarter AI for the supposedly well disciplined Combine soldiers and CP officers, like taking cover and avoiding those unrealistic charging tactics towards a hail of bullets and survival techniques similiar to the AI in another FPS called Vietcong (Now those were smart sneaky bastards) I don’t think I have met AI’s like those not since Operation Flashpoint.

The frustrating AI of Combine soldiers and Civil Protection has often met satiric criticisms from players who used machinima animations and mods to create webcomics and videos depicting via comedic approach the many errors of the Combine and Civil Protection tactics used in the game. I agree its hard watching these elite-looking guys drag down because of their lack of intelligence. Valve could work through this for future installations or even an update, and more information and not just scribbled data to tease us will be gladly appreciated by fans. I’m feeling excited to discover a white Half-Life box with an Overwatch Elite’s face in it sometime in the future, but that’s just me imagining things, as I’m still asking myself where does Adrian Shephard fit in all of this? Could it be that since the Gman has lost control of Gordon Freeman he’d use Shephard to hunt him down?

Written by humanfarm

February 18, 2009 at 2:38 pm