The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Water Hazard

Occurring immediately after the acquisition of the airboat, Freeman continues to make his way through City 17’s canal system to Black Mesa East, engaging numerous Civil Protection units and a hunter chopper en route to the base.

  • The airboat mission is perhaps one of the most engaging missions in the game. Freeman must pass through numerous canals, some of which containing clean water, and others containing radioactive waste. Controlling the airboat is dependent entirely on the WSAD keys, contrasting other games that involve the mouse in steering.

  • The Soviet-style apartments are my favourite part of the level design. Initially, the airboat lacks any weapons, forcing the player to either splatter enemies a la Halo, or else disembark and manually shoot them.

  • The SMG proves to be immensely useful at medium range against a moderately large  group. Modelled after the Heckler and Koch MP7, it is fully automatic and has a high rate of fire, making it most useful when fired in bursts.

  • Half Life 2 often tests the player’s ingenuity, forcing them to come up with creative solutions to overcome locked gates and so on, contrasting the paradigm behind previous games, where a steady aim and quick trigger finger proved more than sufficient to complete levels.

  • The graphics for this game were amazing for its time: loading windows in between sequences took the top gaming machines of its day several minute to load. I remember upon finishing our Goldberg machine project, several of my buddies headed downstairs to watch movies in between loading sequences. When I played this game myself in 2006, the loading screens took less than 30 seconds.

  • The setting sun basks the land in a warm glow: the only thing is, this is a dystopian world where people aren’t permitted to enjoy sunsets. Thus, the weather looks strangely intimidating as one heads closer and closer to the Black Mesa East complex. Shortly after this point, you finally pick up a pulse rifle.

  • This was one of the parts where my friends got stuck on the first time they tried it out. None of us could figure out that we could interact with the laundry machine inside the basket, thus preventing us from getting to the ramp. I believe the magnum I have here was picked up from one of those firefights with combine forces while trying to open the first gate.

  • The Combine get serious about preventing Dr. Freeman from reaching his destination: the hunter chopper from earlier is still tailing him by this point, and Combine dropships deploy numerous soldiers in an attempt to impede his progress. Fortunately, the player also has access to the awesome pulse rifle now: the ammunition recharges on short order, but it is still advisable to fire in bursts.

  • The end of the level is marked by a final confrontation with the hunter chopper that has been shadowing Freeman for the past two levels. Sustained fire will make very short work of it. The pulse rifle can also be used to clear the mines that are deployed against the players.

It was May 2005 when I first played Half Life 2; I was working on a group project for a science class and we were taking a break after a day’s effort. When my friends first tried the game, they found themselves stuck at the closed harbour and never made it to the final confrontation with the hunter chopper. My friend would later lend me Half Life 2, alongside Episodes 1 and 2, for the sake of discussion. I subsequently beat both games, but across all three titles, Route Kanal and Water Hazard proved to be two of the most enduring levels in the games. To date, at least one of my friends has expressed interest in playing Water Hazard and cutting down the hunter chopper as a team on co-op. I’ve happily obliged, of course.

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