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Half Life 2 is one of the finest games ever created, so I'm sure there are essay across the internet dissecting its brilliant design choices. Consider this my own small contribution to this collection.
An hour ago, I downloaded Half Life 2 so I could remind myself that video games are awesome. I have to do this from time to time when I'm reviewing a truly horrendous game. Anyway, within a minute, all of the positive memories came flooding back. This is my favorite shooter of all time, and it's stunning how it hasn't aged a day, even though it's nearly 7 years old.
I could write about the oppressive atmosphere being so artfully conveyed without the need for cinemas, or how the muffled voices of the police force is so much more terrifying than if there were allowed to speak clearly, but I'd rather focus on something else that hit me so forcibly I had to stop what I was doing to document my experience.
A few minutes into the game, you find yourself in a chase through the dilapidated rooms of a crumbling apartment complex. The combine have sensed an extra person in this compound, and they immediately set out to exterminate the interloper. At this point in the game, you have yet to find a gun, so you can only run away as fast as you can.
The chase starts on a stairwell. Armed soldiers are coming up the opposite stairs, so you duck up the nearest flight and head toward the roof. Snipers are taking aim and you can hear the yells of a gathering force, but you don't have time to look around. If you stop, you die, so you just have to keep moving as quickly as possible and hope you can make it through alive.
Unarmed citizens are all too happy to help you escape. They usher you into their homes, waving you to hurry on, and then seal up the entrance to slow down the following threat. It's an exhilarating chase, and the brilliant level design makes progression through this apartment building logical. You don't have to spend time figuring out where to go next, you just head for the open doors and let the events unfold around you.
After a few minutes of this, a pair of armed troopers appear in a doorway directly in front of you. I stopped and turned toward the other door. That too busts open and soldiers bear down on me. I turn around once more, back to the wooden stairway I had climbed down seconds earlier. I take one step, then another, and then the stairway crumbles under my foot. I turn around, the combine are closing in. They take out their electric zappers. There's no way out. I can't even fight back.
The screen goes white and I hear a voice in the background. A savior? A few muffled punches, someone collapses, and I open my eyes. Alex is in front of me, smiling. Across the room lay six soldiers, knocked out cold. What happened?
It's such an incredible introduction. The feeling of camaraderie when you're being helped by strangers melds wonderfully with your feeling of helplessness. You're unarmed, you need all the help you can get. And then this unseen power rescues you from harm. It tells so much story in such a small amount of time, without hitting me over the head with exposition or taking control away from me to watch non-interactive cutscenes. It's a truly masterful opening.
And now, back to City 17.
Nintendo announced Project Cafe today with this carefully worded message:
Right smack dab in the middle they say, "We will show a playable model of the new system and announce more specifications at the E3 Expo," which everyone has latched on to as confirmation that Project Cafes will line Nintendo's booth and everyone will be able to get their grubby hands on this fabled system and its magical new controller.
I disagree. That statement seems to have been written by a master lawyer -- a modern day magician of lies -- in the way that sets up expectations without promising anything. Playable model? Who speaks like that? Deceivers, that's who. My bet is that Nintendo shows off the hardware itself and some early, prototype games running on a giant screen. And that's it. There will be no controller reveal, and the press will not get their hands on this system. It's not coming out for 18 months, after all, and they wouldn't want to get everyone excited now only to make them wait forever before they can actually spend their money.
I hope I'm wrong and Nintendo floods the LA Convention Center with amazing new games. But in reality, I think they'll focus on that new Zelda game for the Wii and a sackload of snazzy new 3DS games. Either way, I'm intrigued.
Oh, and shout out to Shaun McInnis for coming up with the best name ever for their new system: Dolphin Revolution. It sells itself!
Kurtis has to play cooperative games all by himself.
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