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Half-Life 2: Episode Two Review

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October 22, 2007 10:28:27 AM

Half-Life 2's episodic series returns with Episode 2, and this time the game is longer than Episode One. But does having more content actually make Episode Two better?

http://www.tomsgames.com/us/2007/10/22/halflife2_episode2/
October 22, 2007 11:47:16 AM

I see where you're coming from, but I have to say that honestly I disagree.

Every point this article brings up is valid; the more times I read through it the more that I have to admit that episode two is not perfect. The fact of the matter, though, is that it was fun.

Yes, there was an antlion shoot em' up sequence, but it wasn't completely straightforward (It wasn't halo, anyway). The addition of turrets and mines gave it something in the way of using your environment to aid the battle, and the final swarm was fun. I like the music starting while I destroy hordes of enemies in an almost cinematic fight scene.

I see where you're coming from, I really do, but the more time I get to spend in the half-life universe the better. My $0.02.
October 22, 2007 12:20:45 PM

I liked Ep2 more than Ep1, although I still have no clue what's going on, other than i'm forgiving for a certain casserole incident. I love HL (I still have the Adrenaline Pack, freakin huge box), just keep getting more mysteries!

I hate caves, and I liked the run-from-the-guard run, squished all those little bugs.

The car needs a rocket launcher and a bulldozer blade, all I did was run the Hunters over, alot easier. Maybe they could add some kind of garage at those rebel bases where you could outfit your vehicle if there is anymore cars/buggys.
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October 22, 2007 1:10:34 PM

i gotta agree with Linkrift, while i didn't think it was great it was still alot of fun. I'm not a critic on level design so I won't get into that. I was actually happy to not do the usual building/apartment/house affair and found the caves to be a nice unexpected portion of the game. Also, while I agree that there one too many lulls in the action, I still welcomed them because the heavy action sections could become tedious on harder difficulties.

Valve really put time into making sure that you could conserve your ammo and use your environment to help you fight then they have in the past.

Also, with the combination of Portal, they've introduced ALOT of interesting points and questions to be asked about what's going on in the HL2 universe. The car sequence could have used some weapons but in the same token, running down bad guys was good enough for me . Actually it would have been nice if Alyx drove and you just had to shoot.....wait they did that in Episode 1 didn't they ?

In either case, I did agree that the last 2 minutes were weak and somewhat expected but it didn't kill the game for me. Plus the voice actress for Alyx really produced a good amount of emotion and it made me feel alittle bad that I didn't care much that that person died.

I'd say that Episode 2 deserves a 7.5 to 8.0 in my opinion.
October 22, 2007 1:47:15 PM

I have to disagree with the article and agree with the rest of the posters on this thread.

HL2:ep2 was a very good game with fast action packed scenes with a cool down period in between. if anyone here has read the book "HL2 Raising the bar" they would know it was intentional for Valve to put in those "breathing periods" so the game wouldn't seem like one big blur of fighting.... I think the game gave some really interesting game play along with a very nice/difficult end fight scene (it was intense those hunters give you a run for your money) as for level design, I think the levels were well thought out and if they we're made to be more elaborate then there would be more "fat" as the author stated which is a bad thing. and the ending was very good which helped with adding a lot of emotion and speculation to the sequel Episode 3.

And RobWright you say you have never met a bigger half life fan? Well here I am... I couldn't imagine gaming being the way it is now without all of Half-Life's contributions to the gaming industry. I constantly play HL2: Deathmatch on a daily basis, on a monthly/bi-monthly basis I will play through all the Half-Life games from start to end. I have the half-life logo tattooed onto my leg with plans of getting a dog and combine elite on either side of it to make a whole leg sleeve. I have purchased almost every t-shirt from the valve store also picked up 3 head crabs, 1 vortigaunt, a "Raising the Bar" book and a limited edition signed lithograph of combine soldiers. (I wish I could have had the combine wall one too but they were already sold out) I also purchased the limited Half-Life 2 collectors edition which came on 1 DVD and came with a LE T-shirt, and many other posters and misc Half-Life goodies. I have been playing Half-Life for 9 almost ten years since 1998, I'm sorry but I'm a much bigger fan-boy than you. :p 

9.0/10
October 22, 2007 4:21:00 PM

I got to agree with most folks here. Episode 2 is far better than Episode 1 in my opinion. I found Ep.2 much more challenging, particularly the battle with the striders and the hunters. It made for the best HL2 set piece battle thus far. Much more fulfilling than the final sequence in the original HL2, and even better than the boring and easy final strider battle in Ep1.

The game's story line is getting bigger and more interesting as well. I do agree with Rob about the ant lion sequence getting a bit dull at times. But the acid spitting spider like ones made them much more challenging than before. Here I was hoping for that gland thing again, and pulling up a horde of them to attack the striders! (Ep 3? Valve that would be cool if you read this!) ;) 

Overall I had a lot of fun playing Episode 2. The puzzles were more challenging than Ep1, and I felt a greater sense of fulfillment when finishing the game.
October 22, 2007 4:47:57 PM

HL2:E2 Loved it, loved it, loved it (in my best Dom Delouise voice). Sure the car could have used a weapon, but that could have been bashed as more of the same. Loved the physics puzzles as well. I finished the games twice. In the first go through I didn't use the car at all during the fight with the Striders/Hunters. The second time through it dawned on me to use the car to run over the Hunters (much easier on me and my ammo) which I loved. That last fight sequence is one of the best I can remember in a long time in any game. The tension I felt between the time I attaching a Magnusson device to a Strider and switching weapons to shoot it was amazing. Pure brilliance to have it so the Hunters could shot it off the Striders, or have the Strider turn around and walk backwards to face it away from you. The only sequence I felt was a bit weak was when you fight the Guardian and the Ant Lion Queen. This didn't really add anything; just stay in the ring of stones and hurl fuel barrels at them. Other than that, I loved the entire game.

As for the lead up into Episode 3, there are some possible links to be made with Portal. First off Judith Mossman finds the Borealis lost by Aperture Laboratories. Aperture supposedly competed with Black Mesa on similar experiments/science. Aperture Laboratories is the place you are trapped in for Portal. This leads me to believe that the Portal gun will be discovered in Episode 3 when you find the Borealis. Whose with me on being revved to solve combo portal/physics puzzles. Better yet open a portal from one wall and one behind an opponent and then throw something at him through the portal, or above him and drop something on him. Sounds fun to me.

So with all due respects Rob, I've gotta wholeheartedly disagree with you on this one.
October 22, 2007 5:05:31 PM

I really enjoyed EP2.

I fell in love with the lighting effects in EP2. Maybe I missed a graphics setting in EP1 that made the flash light cast shadows on various static and physics options around the map. This effect is fantastic and really adds to the creepiness of dark areas.

I liked the story and environment a little more, and the people at valve really make you want to play the next installment to see what happens next. (You'll know what I'm talking about if you've played to the end)
October 22, 2007 6:24:00 PM

again, I agree with all the guys above, I couldnt stop playing the game till it ended. I've been a HL fan boy since 1998 and ever since, fps games have changed.

HL2:Ep2 Loved the action, music, storyline, game play, and achievement whoring lol

Just wanted to know what Ben Meyer had to say...I was hoping for a video review including both of you guys (damn it u had one for halo3...lame)

9/10
October 22, 2007 6:38:04 PM

Rob did you play Ep2 on XBOX? (didn't mention anything in the article)

What's with the achievements? I couldn't care less, after the first one I never paid attention, glad it was just a little box in the right corner.
October 22, 2007 6:49:08 PM

I played HL2 on a P4 3.0 with an ATI X800. I am still using this system. Does episode 2 up the hardware requirements?

TY
October 22, 2007 6:59:18 PM

I don't know that they upped that hardware requirements, but there are a lot more added "high end" features to the system. Mainly facial, dynamic lighting & shadows from what I understand.

System Reqs: (Minimum) ---- (Source: http://www.freakygaming.com/pc/action/half-life_2:_epis... )
CPU: 1.2 GHz Processor
RAM: 256 MB
Graphics Card: DirectX 7 capable graphics card
Windows 2000/XP/ME/98
Mouse
Keyboard
Internet Connection
CD or DVD rom drive

I'm also pretty sure most of the new features can be disabled by lowering the quality.

October 22, 2007 7:42:01 PM

Quote:
Rob did you play Ep2 on XBOX? (didn't mention anything in the article)


Uh, no. PC all the way. Sorry, should have clarified that.


Quote:
What's with the achievements? I couldn't care less, after the first one I never paid attention, glad it was just a little box in the right corner.


Not sure why Valve had achievements in this one. If I had enjoyed Ep 2 more, I might have gone back and and tried to unlock some of the achievements I missed. As it is, I did not enjoy it. But it seems like most everyone here on this thread enjoyed the game -- all good points, too -- so maybe I just had expectations that were too high. But I don't miss that game a bit.

Team Fortress 2 is another story, however...I sure wish I had it with me on vacation right now....
October 22, 2007 7:45:30 PM

rgeist554 said:
I don't know that they upped that hardware requirements, but there are a lot more added "high end" features to the system. Mainly facial, dynamic lighting & shadows from what I understand.

System Reqs: (Minimum) ---- (Source: http://www.freakygaming.com/pc/action/half-life_2:_epis... )
CPU: 1.2 GHz Processor
RAM: 256 MB
Graphics Card: DirectX 7 capable graphics card
Windows 2000/XP/ME/98
Mouse
Keyboard
Internet Connection
CD or DVD rom drive

I'm also pretty sure most of the new features can be disabled by lowering the quality.


Did anyone else have trouble running the game? Ep 1 ran perfect for me, but I had to make a few adjustments with the game on the last chapter. Once all the Striders and Hunters attacked (which was great, BTW), the game had serious problems.
October 22, 2007 8:07:42 PM

I had no problems what so ever even with everything cranked @ 1280X720

but here are my specs:

windows Vista
Asus 8800 GTS 640MB
AMD opty 148 @ 2.4GHz
2GB RAM

I'm sure the video card is the cause of my great experience.
October 22, 2007 10:02:32 PM

I actually had the exact opposite problem. EP1 would constantly crash due to Windows errors, while EP2 ran smooth and beautiful.

Rob, I'm with everyone else in completely disagreeing with your review. So much so, that I feel your 6.5 does the game no justice. Compared to EP1, which felt like an add on that Valve finished on a whim, EP2 was epic. Sure there were moments where you didn't need your gun out (in fact I played much of the game with just the gravity gun, a fact that I thought was particularly brilliant on Valves part - moving away from mindless shooters) but that just added to the games fun. Not to mention, that the 'lulls' provided some of the best story telling in recent gaming and on top of that, EP2 did all of its story telling without falling back on continual cut scenes and instead passed on all the information and story through dialog with Alyx.

Your article also failed to mention just how breathtaking the game looks and feels. You always read about games trying to be 'cinematic' but EP2 actually was. From the scripted events to the battles to the AMAZING cut scenes EP2 grabbed hold of the player and made them feel they were in the game, not simply detached and shocked by great graphics.

Rob, sorry to say, but I think you seriously missed the boat with your review. To anyone else reading this forum, disregard the review of the game, go out, buy Orange Box and enjoy the ever-lovin-gravity-gun outta EP2.
October 22, 2007 10:47:17 PM

I too have to disagree. While you did have a lot of good point Rob I think you were a little harsh on the score. HL2:EP2 to me was just amazing. Yea it had a few parts with a little dialog but compared to most other games it was probably about the same. Plus not having to wait for the cut scenes to load is a plus to me since I can run around in circles while they talk and look to ammo.

In term of graphics, I have still not seen one game that amazes me with the facial technologies that Source has. They even updated it. Along with higher res textures and the voice acting that just amazes me. Even the G-Man who is so evil its chilling. Plus with HDR it just adds something a lot of games don't have. I love being able to come out of a dark place into the light and watch the screen adjust to it.

The soundtrack was even better than the previous two games. Had a lot better timing and could normaly last the entire battle compare to HL2 where it would begin and end pretty quickly.

The antlion cave was pretty boring but it was more of the break from fighting. I do have to admit it was very pretty in design. The way the walls would shine from a small source of light(due to them being wet) and the overall atmosphere of it especially since you never knew where an antlion would come from next. Well the workers anyways. I always let the Antlions drown.

I for one loved the driving part. I think Alyx could have done a bit more but running over the Zombies and Hunters was pretty fun. Well except when you hit a Striders legs. All I can say to that one is ouch and to not be thrown out of the car must mean Gordon always buckles up(this ad brought to you by the Combine Motor Vehicle Department and Saftey Dept.).

Oh and by the way in the last battle with the Striders, it wasn't so much that the "Magnesson Device" would fall off if you weren't quick, it was if you didn't kill the hunters around the Strider first they would shoot the device off of the Striders. Once I figured that out I had no problem. Then again I am very fast and twitchy with my hands so switching from Gravity Gun to Pistol was easy.

I too want more weapons. A lot state they want the old ones from HL1 back but all the weapons they are thinking of came from aliens that are no longer in the series as Gordon closed the portal to Xen and obviously opened the portal to the Combine universe at the same time.

And even if the ending was a bit predictable it was still very sad. And if you ran through the game with the Developer Commentary on, like I did after beating it, you would see that it was to show you what the Advisors are made of and what you will most likely face next. You also have to think about what Eli said. I just wounder if you can choose yes or no or is it planned. I wouldn't mine the portal gun just no GLAdYS... But make sure there is cake.

I would have to give EP2 a 9/10. It was just fun and had plenty of fighting mixed with a bit of calm to kinda relax and explore the massive outdoors. I just still can't figure out how to get thelil Gnome to the rocket without dropping him.

One little last thing. I ran it on my system flawlessly at 1280x1024 with everything maxed including AA8x and AF16x along with full HDR and Ultra High res textures.They added a few new things to the SOurce engine and I am sure that 4-5 year old systems won't run the game with the same settings as mine did but it will still look nice.

My System:
Windows Vista Premium
Asus P5K-E
Intel C2Q6600 @2.7GHz
2GB Corsair XMS2 PC8500
ATI Radeon HD2900Pro 1GB GDDR4 @Stock
October 23, 2007 1:53:54 AM

I also VERY STRONGLY disagree with Rob. i personally think HL2:E2 was one of the best yet, if not the best! now i played it with everything maxed out on an 8800gtx, core2quad, 2 gigs, z5500's with an x-fi blasted up, and a 22'' widescreen (1680x1050). so i received one of the best gaming experiences valve had to offer, which could effect my opinion compared to others... but it was truly amazing. the beautiful scenery, detail and lighting effects. the amazingly high quality sound (which for some reason sounded much better than other high end games high quality sound i have played recently), the INTENSE fighting and escape scenes (the guardian had my hart pounding extremely hard when i heard him gaining so quickly on me!) The story i think is still very good and strong. valve has also done a good job of keeping their options open with what they can do with this great story. though no new real guns were introduced, i still dont have a problem with it. now in ep3 if there are still no new weapons, then that will be annoying to me. overall, this is simply one of the best game/experiences i have had... ever. to me i put it up there with bioshock (which i also loved, though took a little getting used to) and hl2 the orig. Rob i love your reviews most of the time, but this time i feel much much much more different than you about this excellent game. nevertheless i respect your opinion, and people just have different tastes. so its stupid to argue over something like who's right.
October 23, 2007 2:18:09 AM

I played HL2 on a P4 3.0 with an ATI X800. I am still using this system. Does episode 2 up the hardware requirements?

TY said:
I played HL2 on a P4 3.0 with an ATI X800. I am still using this system. Does episode 2 up the hardware requirements?

TY



i played it on my x600 (hp zd8000) playes fine, not the best graphics, but runs smooth on medium~low
October 23, 2007 3:57:59 AM

i used a 6600gt with an athlon x2 5600+ and 2gigs of ram. the game ran pretty crap (about 20-30fps out doors) with medium-just above medium candy @ 1024x768. i feel the performance:graphics ratio is in such a way its not worth turning the gfx down and i think of myself as preferring eye candy over fps.

sorry rob but i also have to disagree with you. episode 2 is simply the best game i have ever played and yes i've played all 4 of em. the only thing i didn't like was the last minute or so was a bit too predictable and sometimes it felt as they were giving away the solution to puzzles but the worst thing would of have to have been crashing into a strider's legs. apart from that everything else about the game couldn't have been better in my opinion.
October 23, 2007 8:19:51 PM

robwright said:
Did anyone else have trouble running the game? Ep 1 ran perfect for me, but I had to make a few adjustments with the game on the last chapter. Once all the Striders and Hunters attacked (which was great, BTW), the game had serious problems.


I found that if you turned off the HDR it ran fine. Granted I did have to drop it down a res level to 1024x768, where I ran HL2 and Ep1 in 1280x1024 on the following hardware:

Athlon 64 3200
2 gigs of DDR single channel
Radeon 9800xt video card

Thankfully my new PC will be set up in a week or so to cope with the newer games out there.
October 23, 2007 8:46:05 PM

They probably did force a decrease in performance on some older machines. I just played through the game with commentaries last night, and they added a new physics engine - or tweaked the existing one - so they could make large scale destruction of environments. Just play the first level near the train w/ commentaries on and it talks about how many calculations / sec are required for the computer to show off possible little tiny spoiler for the first 5 min of ep2!
Spoiler
the falling train.
October 24, 2007 6:06:57 AM

Rob

Clearly you need to revisit your rating of this game! Even with the criticism against it the "What I liked" warrants for better rating.
Got the game yesterday afternoon. I stayed up until 03:00 this morning to finish the game because the experience was that good - I couldn't put it down until it was finished. Pity I had to go in for work 3 hours later!
My machine is fairly moderate(P4 with ATI 2600XT) and the game experience was flawless (1280x1024,2MSAA,4AF,HDR, everything else max). The scenery is spectacular, I wouldn't mind playing it again just to take everything in. There is enough hidden detail to explore, especially the driving stage. The caves was not a drag at all, the ambient sounds made the caves okay for me, and it wasn't that long before the guardian chase scene.
There is enough addition the the HL plot as well, and I wouldn't be to critical of things being unanswered in eps 2 - look at where Matrix 2 left us - once the trillogy is concluded I'm sure we HL junkies will be satisfied. You have to leave some things unanswered to keep the interest and as far as FPS goes, the HL series has more fiction than most.
I cannot wait for Episode 3!
October 24, 2007 9:49:28 AM


I liked the game very much, but playing at normal level i actually FINISHED THE GAME IN ONE PLAYING SESSION. With all retries i was done in just over 4 hours. This kind a gave me a bitter taste in my mouth. Even thought the game was visually stunning, funny and challenging at some point and certainly at the end, i find a playing time of only 4 hours
unacceptably short...
What I liked a lot was the increased use of physics puzzles.
October 26, 2007 4:38:51 AM

lcilliers said:
Rob

Clearly you need to revisit your rating of this game! Even with the criticism against it the "What I liked" warrants for better rating.
Got the game yesterday afternoon. I stayed up until 03:00 this morning to finish the game because the experience was that good - I couldn't put it down until it was finished. Pity I had to go in for work 3 hours later!
My machine is fairly moderate(P4 with ATI 2600XT) and the game experience was flawless (1280x1024,2MSAA,4AF,HDR, everything else max). The scenery is spectacular, I wouldn't mind playing it again just to take everything in. There is enough hidden detail to explore, especially the driving stage. The caves was not a drag at all, the ambient sounds made the caves okay for me, and it wasn't that long before the guardian chase scene.
There is enough addition the the HL plot as well, and I wouldn't be to critical of things being unanswered in eps 2 - look at where Matrix 2 left us - once the trillogy is concluded I'm sure we HL junkies will be satisfied. You have to leave some things unanswered to keep the interest and as far as FPS goes, the HL series has more fiction than most.
I cannot wait for Episode 3!


Same here *giggles with antisipation*

einheriar if you didn't like the shortness of the game (4hours on normal is standard for eposodic games)
bump up the difficulty. I'm sure that will extend your playtime...
October 26, 2007 5:04:31 AM

Hey, I'm currently running Half Life 2 on all high settings on the lowest resolution (I'd take performance over resolution any day) with no problems but I'm not sure if I can run HL2: EP2. Here's my system:
AMD Sempron 2600 oc'ed to 1.7ghz
1gb pc2700 ram
ati radeon x1600 pro
Do you guys know if it will run on medium-ish settings reasonably well? Thanks
October 26, 2007 6:35:45 AM

hard to say... It should run it no problem if you turn of all HDR effects.
October 26, 2007 1:35:02 PM

Quote:
Hey, I'm currently running Half Life 2 on all high settings on the lowest resolution (I'd take performance over resolution any day) with no problems but I'm not sure if I can run HL2: EP2. Here's my system:
AMD Sempron 2600 oc'ed to 1.7ghz
1gb pc2700 ram
ati radeon x1600 pro
Do you guys know if it will run on medium-ish settings reasonably well? Thanks


O.o I'm assuming you can run it, but like the dude above me said - Turn down / off HDR, lighting & shadows, and water. These are the big performance killers. Also, upgrade your system man! The people at the Homebuilt area will help you out. :D 
October 26, 2007 1:42:49 PM

I'm plannin on upgrading my system when I actually have money lol, :) but thanks for the help.
October 29, 2007 6:17:02 PM

I have to disagree with the part about the magnusson devices falling off the striders. If you listen to the NPCs they tell you what's going on. The hunters will shoot the devices off the striders. You have to take out the hunters prior to using the device or it's really difficult to attach and blow them up.


Spoiler
I simply ran over the hunters with the car. If you go fast enough you can kill them with a single hit. I often used the BOOST if I thought my speed was insufficient. Although you have to hit the handbreak shortly after. It was definately more difficult with multiple hunters though, sometimes up to 3.

I'm not sure if it's similar on all difficulties as I only played all of HL, HL2, HL2:E1 and HL2:E2 on Hard difficulty. If I'm going to buy a game I'd rather it not be a cakewalk. :D 


Also, I found the breaks in battle to be a sigh of relief. Some breaks however were a little less enjoyable. Most kept your adrenaline pumping because you knew soon you'd be under attack again but not from where or by what.
October 29, 2007 10:53:22 PM

Funny, when playing the origional half life 2 and episode one, my crappy machine could play them at 1600x 1200 and at full settings.

My system is:

2.8 ghz Pentium four processor
1.5 gb ram.
6800 video card
November 3, 2007 8:25:01 AM

what kind of audio device are you using (on board / addon pci, pcie)
I would recommend blowing away your audio drivers and reinstalling them see where that gets you :) 
!