Half-Life 2 starts with the most ominous and impressive piece of tone-setting voice over I’ve ever heard in a game, “Wake up Mr Freeman, wake up and smell the ashes”. Maybe the comment was just a way for the games most popular mystery character to goad the game’s protagonist, Gordan Freeman, into some manner of emotional action/reaction, perhaps also it was a commentary on the recent destruction of the known world Freeman came from, before being unceremoniously transported to the future to correct the aftermath of that destruction. Either way, it is the entire game in one statement.
Yesterday marked the ten year anniversary of what is arguably my favorite modern video game. Not only is it immersive with its first-game shooter perspective, but all plot developments are done via in-game scripted sequences, as opposed to more disruptive cut-scenes that remove one from the game. It’s all one continuous level as well. Factor in the original game, and the two-out-of-three mini-sequels that followed, and one has an expansive, sprawling story of drama of resistance painted with a fantastical otherworldly quality to it. And while yes, it dealt with an alien invasion force enslaving earth, the game designers never lost sight of the fact that the drama, the emotions, the rolling out of the story should have a realistic quality to it. It felt real, and the immersion did so much to add to that.
So I’m going to chip away at this game again, starting from the original, through Half-Life 2, and onward toward to the two-of-three mini-sequels, knowing I’ll be playing towards emotional distress due to the missing final installment which was never published. A pain that many fans know all too well, and lament, given the massive cliff-hanger ending in the latest installment.