The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Valve

Half-Life 2- Downfall: A Reflection

“Prepare for unforeseen consequences.” —The G Man, Half-Life 2 Episode 2

Gordon Freeman is tasked with retrieving a resistance weapon capable of destroying Combine Citadels in a mission whose timeframe relative to the other events of Half-Life 2 are not known. After arriving at a sawmill, Freeman fights his way through hordes of zombies to reach a derelict mine guarded by a veritable armada of Combine soldiers. Entering the mine, Freeman begins his descent into the bowels of the earth itself in search of this weapon. Released earlier this year as a Half-Life 2 mod, Downfall is an excellent fan-made addition to the Half-Life 2 universe that remains highly faithful to the mechanics and visuals of the Half-Life 2 games. Set in the White Forest area, the atmospherics and visual effects are top-tier, matching those of Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in most areas and surpassing it in others. The mod is incomplete at present, and two more chapters are planned. The first chapter is a ways longer than Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast. The mod is comparable to a single chapter in a Half-Life 2 episode, taking around three-quarters of an hour to beat on standard difficulty, but it’s an immensely thrilling ride, being the next best thing to a proper announcement about the likely non-existent Half-Life 2 Episode 3 and Half-Life 3 itself.

What makes Downfall such an entertaining mod is the fact that, while the level design is structured consistently with what is seen in the actual Half-Life 2 titles, Downfall introduces a new twist on things: players are only equipped with the legendary Zero-Point Energy Manipulation Device (Gravity Gun) to begin with. Upon arriving at the sawmill, zombies begin appearing en masse to attack the player, forcing players to get creative with the objects available in the environment. Even after a crowbar is found, things remain quite tricky – clearing an area of zombies and moving onwards is an especially rewarding feeling. One of the more exhilarating moments was fighting a poison headcrab zombie in one of the houses: I’m accustomed to having some heavy firepower in the form of under-barrel grenades and a good stockpile of hand grenades when taking these monstrosities on, but Downfall only provides players with a pistol at this point. Running out of ammunition will occur before one can take down the poison headcrab zombie, so players are forced to bait the zombie into throwing the poison headcrabs at them, and then dispatch each individual poison headcrab with the crowbar. As players acquire more weapons, the gameplay in Downfall begins feeling more like a traditional Half-Life 2 mission; engaging Combine soldiers and other enemies become rather more straightforward.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Downfall opens with a casual Sunday drive to a location where a beacon signal is transmitted, under what appears to be the setting sun. Downfall could hypothetically be set in the moments following Episode 2, after Eli Vance is killed by a Combine Advisor; Freeman must then regroup with additional members of the Resistance before they set off for the Borealis. Once players reach the sawmill, the muscle car must be abandoned.

  • There’s a definite calm in the atmosphere as Freeman begins exploring the area, and there’s an abandoned boathouse adjacent to a lake. Of all the existing instalments in Half-Life 2Episode 2 stands out as having some of the most memorable scenery, being set in the remote forests of Eastern Europe rather than the close-quarters of City 17. I’ve heard that Episode 2 was inspired by forests of Oregon.

  • The moody skies in Episode 2 bring to mind the mood of my area shortly after the Great Flood of 2013. The Royal Family visited the area shortly after, and I recall listening to a news programme covering the event while I was fighting my way through the White Forest Inn ambush. The quiet beauty of the area is offset by the fierce onslaught, so after the fighting died down, I spent a few moments exploring the area.

  • Because players only start out with the Gravity Gun and find a crowbar early into Downfall, the first segments of the mod handle similarly to the Ravenholm mission. To encourage creative play, Valve implemented an achievement called “Zombie Chopper” for using only using the Gravity Gun. While seemingly a difficult task, ammunition was already quite scarce in Ravenholm, and bullets are actually less effective against zombies than large objects.

  • The crowbar is a fantastic weapon against leaping headcrabs and can kill one in a single hit, including poison headcrabs. A large number of zombies, including zombines, appear here, but the abundance of objects that can be thrown means that there are no shortage of options for dealing with zombies. The tire swing on the left of image can be used to great effect; it is hilarious to send conventional zombies flying with it, but there is also a risk: I lost thirty points of health because the tire swing swung back at me after one use.

  • In the sawmill’s attic, players will come across the control panel for opening the flood gate, allowing Freeman to move into the next area. There’s also a large ammunition cache here, plus several computer terminals, indicating that the sawmill was probably used as a Resistance outpost before the Combine overwhelmed them. For the time being, there’s no way to actually get into the ammunition cache, which is present purely for aesthetic purposes.

  • The house here is infested with poison headcrabs and a poison headcrab zombie: while I’m accustomed to using heavy firepower to deal with them (burning them with explosive barrels, or otherwise using a combination of hand grenades and the MP7’s under-barrel grenades), these are not options in the house. Instead, Freeman must bait the poison headcrabs into leaping off the zombie, and then beat them down with the crowbar. After all of the poison headcrabs are expended, the zombie itself can be pummeled to death using physical objects, and the cinder brick found in the cellar of this house is particularly useful for that task.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that it’s been five days since Christmas, and six days since I posted anything. This is because it’s been a bit of a relaxing, if somewhat busy Christmas: on Christmas Day this year, the day began with a fantastic breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, hash browns and Belgian waffles. After the opening of gifts, I took a walk on the nearby hills by afternoon despite the -20°C weather, where I found some Christmas ornaments hanging on one of the aspen groves, and then spent the rest of the day playing Overgrowth. We finished the day with prime rib and the remarkably flavourful beef bones.

  • They definitely aren’t kidding when the say that the Icefields Parkway is a remote stretch of road with reduced maintenance in winter. The drive back home was as treacherous: a blizzard had began in earnest when we began making our way back. Last evening, temperatures reached a low of -31°C before windchill and a fresh snow had fallen. It’s expected to be -32°C later tonight (-43°C with windchill), making me extremely appreciative of being able to rest in a warm place. I’m sure readers are not here about the cold, so we’ll return to Downfall, where the mines are warm, even if inhabited by barnacles.

  • Upon exiting the first of the mines, Freeman comes across a rail line covered by a Combine Sniper. There’s practically no cover leading down the tracks, and while there is another path that allows Freeman to close the distance between him and the sniper, I chose to make use of a log and well-known limitation in the AI to close the distance more quickly. The sniper will throw back the first grenade, but will not do anything about the second grenade Freeman throws at them.

  • The Colt Python pistol, for all of its incredible power, is constrained by a small ammunition pool, and I’ve typically not run into situations where I’ve required it. It’s best saved for Combine elite soldiers and Hunters; in Downfall, these enemies do not appear and so, it can be used to quickly deal with the first wave of Combine soldiers Freeman encounters. Here, I look back at the train tracks and the scenery.

  • With the sniper now cleared out, I take a look around at the setting and marvel at the details of the mining structures. This mine forms the setting for the only firefight against Combine soldiers in Downfall, and while players are armed with only the pistols at this point, use of cover and a little bit of creativity will allow for the first wave of soldiers to be cleared out in a relatively straightforward manner.

  • I finally acquire the MP7, which is probably my most-used weapon in all of Half-Life 2 and its episodes simply because of how plentiful ammunition for it is. The weapon is used extensively by Combine, and ammunition crates for the weapon are easily found. While ineffectual at longer ranges owing to its spread, its large magazine capacity and carrying capacity makes it a solid all-around weapon for most close range engagements.

  • I cannot quite put my finger on what it is about the lighting and assets that give Episode 2 environments such a unique feel to them, but overall, the presence of open wilderness as opposed to urban build-up meant that, had Half-Life 2 Episode 3 ever come out, I would have been hoping for more rural settings. With the story hypothetically set to take place in the arctic, it seems that players would have had the chance to explore non-urban settings.

  • There’s a restrictor here that keeps the Antlions away. These insect-like aliens can spawn indefinitely and overwhelm players with their numbers, but they can be kicked back using the gravity gun. Enough hits from the gravity gun will kill them, although their numbers makes the technique viable only with solitary antlions.

  • The elevator here leads to the control room with the energy orb powering the Combine defenses here, and disabling it will lower the force field covering the path Freeman needs to take. Antlions begin swarming the area, although now that Freeman’s got the MP7 and SPAS-12 Shotgun, taking them on becomes a bit more straightforwards.

  • While there’s been no official news of Episode 3, some dedicated folks have begun working on an unofficial continuation using the Unreal 4 Engine, which powered my Master’s Thesis project. This continuation, titled “Project Borealis”, is being undertaken to build a game from the story that Marc Laidlaw provided back in August, outlining what Episode 3 would have entailed. The project’s lead manager has industry experience and seeks to create the best possible experience for fans of the series and presently, the story is around half finished.

  • Some interesting concept art has also been provided for Arctic headcrabs and a new model of Strider. Enemy AI and weapon concepts are also entering testing; while no news of when Project Borealis’ release was provided, the team did mention that they will be keeping the community updated as they continue with the project. This is quite exciting, and it seems that, even if Valve has no interest in continuing the Half-Life franchise, dedicated and devoted community members can and will keep things going. I’m curious to see where things will end up, and with the Unreal 4 Engine driving things, the game could look quite refreshed once completed.

  • After entering the main mine shaft and descending deep underground, Downfall comes to a close. The bitterly cold winter evening is upon us, and after a warm dinner of fried chicken, I’m watching the mercury plummet. The weather is expected to warm up as we enter the New Year; before 2018 sets in, I’ve got one final post for 2017, dealing with Nekopara‘s OVA. 2017’s been a bit of an interesting year for the blog, and while I can’t say that my numbers are particularly strong a motivator for continuing this blog, a strong reader-base and the associated discussion means I’m not quite ready to call it quits fully yet.

It typifies Valve’s ability to create suspense and horror in games whose aim is not solely horror, and Downfall makes excellent use of Valve’s techniques to create a mod that feels as though it is a proper instalment in the Half-Life 2 universe. While faithful to Half-Life 2 in design and concept, subtleties in the gameplay show that there remains some room for improvement still: besides cleverly forcing players to adopt different strategies, there are other minor surprises in store for players, with the most notable being the Combine Sniper that returns a grenade players throw at them, requiring players use a second grenade to defeat the sniper. This moment was completely unexpected and shows that the Source Engine, in spite of its age, can still be made to throw off players to create refreshing moments. While there’s been talk of Half-Life 3 and Half-Life 2 Episode 3 sporadically in the years since I first beat Episode 2, my intuition tells me that the expectations for these two items is one of the contributing factors to why Valve is not actively pursuing a continuation of Episode 2. With this being said, Downfall isn’t quite finished yet, and it will be interesting to see as to whether or not its continuations will come out as the modder has suggested – if there are indeed to be future instalments of Downfall, I will definitely be interested in seeing where things are headed.

Steam Winter Sale 2016

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” – Josh Billings

The 2016 Steam Winter Sale ended about two hours ago at the time of posting, and today, while I’ve technically got the day off on account of a Bank Holiday, I’ve spent much of the morning working on work-related things. The last and only time I wrote about a winter Steam Sale was back in 2014, right before I took off for a two-week vacation in Taiwan and Hong Kong. During that sale, I picked up Valkyria Chronicles alone, and it turned out to be one of the best games I’ve ever played through. This time around, I decided to pick up Far Cry 4 and Sim City 4: the former was because I was interested in playing an open-world shooter, while the latter, I decided to reacquire on Steam so that I would not be required to insert a CD-ROM into my computer every time I wanted to build cities (and because my MacBook pro lacks a CD drive). Besides these games, there were no other titles that caught my eye. During the course of the sale, I also accumulated a large number of trading cards, crafting a level two Steam Awards badge, plus badges for SUPERHOTDeus Ex: Mankind Divided and Valkyria Chronicles in the process. Having beaten all of the games I bought through the course of 2016, in 2017, I imagine that between Sim City 4Far Cry 4 and Battlefield 1, plus the other titles I’ve been longing to play through again, I will have plenty on my plate from the gaming perspective to keep me occupied.

  • I’ve found that Steam’s current way of doing things during a sale, by offering trading cards for exploring one’s discovery queue (and then voting on community events) is the best way of doing things: no longer do I have to vote every eight hours or run the risk of losing cards. This year, the community event was The Steam Awards, where players can vote for their favourite games. Some of the titles I’m fond of, including Portal 2 and DOOM, made the finalists for the awards.

  • Just Cause 3 and Grand Theft Auto V remain high on the list of games I’d like to try out, but because they’re open world, I imagine that I would probably not find the time to beat them. At present, the only true open world games in my library besides Far Cry 4 is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which I picked up during the Summer of 2013 for a song and still have not beaten yet.

  • With the crafting of my SUPERHOT badge, I managed to efficiently use all of the money in my Steam wallet. I entered the badge-crafting spree this year with exactly zero dollars and zero cents in my Steam Wallet, sold off all of my excess trading cards, and bought enough cards to complete three badges, returning my wallet’s funds back to zero. Besides the SUPERHOT and Mankind Divided badges, I finally got a badge for Valkyria Chronicles, as well.

  • I’m fond of including profile screenshots as the closing image to these posts mainly because they show snapshots of my Steam profile through time. Perusing earlier posts show how my page has changed through the years, and also give indication of how icons to the applications I use change. Here, I’m rocking the Alicia wallpaper I got from crafting the Valkyria Chronicles, and she remains one of my favourite characters in the game from both a gameplay and writing perspective.

My purchase of Sim City 4 presents with it an opportunity to do a new series of posts for 2017: I’ve done some basic strategy posts in the past, but have never really shown off my cities. Since I upgraded my computer back in 2013, my old cities were lost, and until now, I’ve not bothered to reinstall Sim City 4. Thus, to follow my quest to build a region-filling megalopolis, I will be dropping by on occasion to showcase how the city is doing, and initially, will be playing through Sim City 4 without any modifications. Of old, I used to have mods that enabled for better pathfinding, increased transportation options even further and provided new landmark buildings. Once I fill out a majority of the tiles in the region, I will reinstall some of the modifications and see about extending the game’s features further, but until then, it’ll be interesting to see how my cities progress. On the Far Cry 4 end, I will go through the campaign and explore Kyrat at a methodical pace. There will be a handful of posts about that, as well: it’s time to conclude reminiscing about this year’s Steam Winter Sale and begin enjoying the titles I’ve picked up.

Steam Winter Sale 2014

“The well-satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.” —James Cash Penney

I believe this is the first time I’ve done a talk on the Winter Steam Sale: last year, I picked up Trials Revolution and Bioshock Infinite during the sale: the latter went on a 75 percent off sale, and I sold one of my old Salvaged TF2 crates for twenty dollars, which gave me sufficient funds to pick up Bioshock Infinite. At the time of writing, I’ve beaten the latter, and I’m probably a quarter of the way through the former, which is a consequence of the classic “Steam sale allows players to have more games than they can realistically play” syndrome. It’s Winter 2014 now, which means now it a good time as any to consider which of the titles I have actually made a substantial amount of progress in. The answer is not surprising: “very little”: between The Stanley Parable, Wolfire Overgrowth, Receiver, Skullgirls, Tomb Raider: UnderworldMagicka and Borderlands 2, I’ve played through and gotten several endings in The Stanley Parable, gotten to chapter 3 in Magicka and are presently level 12 in Borderlands 2. I’ve also become accomplished at reloading the weapons in Receiver, and as Overgrowth is still in development, I haven’t played through it much. Skullgirls and Tomb Raider remain completely untouched, and I added Crysis WarheadGo! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip To Japan~ and DEFCON to my library through the autumn Adventure sale. Because I love shooters, Warhead is done, and I’ve also gotten halfway through Go! Go! Nippon!, so I should have some talks for those out at some point in the future.

  • Valkyria Chronicles was not on sale during the first day of the winter sale, and I was considering purchasing the game at full price had it not gone on sale. However, by a curious stroke of luck, the title went on sale for 25% off on Friday: I had arrived at the lab and was loading the textures to my cell model, as well as looking over a term paper that I was trying to finish before the deadline. Upon learning about the sale, my first inclination was to purchase the game.

  • However, Friday was anything but conventional: I ended up heading downtown with a friend so he could purchase an HG Tieren All Region Type, and we subsequently stopped for poutine. I subsequently proceeded to finish the paper, and before turning in for the evening, picked up Valkyria Chronicles. The game is now retailing at full price again, but I imagine that it could go back on sale during the encore sale on the final day.

  • I was able to get all of the cards on fairly short notice because I was crafting badges at a fairly high volume, enough to go from level 16 to level 19. Coupled with the purchase of Valkyria Chronicles and some trades, I got all the cards quite quickly. The setup this year, where one vote earns one badge, was much more manageable than the system employed in previous years. Thus, I could go watch The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies and enjoy a dinner with the extended family without any concern for missing vote deadlines.

  • At the end of the day, I’ve got Valkyria Chronicles on discount, the Holiday Sale 2014 badge and on top of that, are level twenty now. Leveling up from here on out will be exceptionally difficult, so aside from the level 5 Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip To Japan~ badge, I’ve also set my sights on a level 3 Valkyria Chronicles badge. This will be the final post between now and 2015, so to all the readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

One would imagine that, with such a vast pile of games, I would probably pass on the Winter 2014 Steam Sale, and they would be correct, were it not for the fact that Valkyria Chronicles went on sale for 25 percent off on December 19. I’ve been interested in playing this game for quite some time (ever since I watched the anime last summer), although it had been available for the PlayStation III only. Back in November, a PC port changed all that, and the game is supposed to handle quite well on the PC. To this end, I aim to complete Tomb Raider before Valentines’ Day so that I may begin Valkyria Chronicles after that. The game is supposed to have around 40 hours of game time, so this will be fun, and I anticipate beating it (hopefully!) by the end of summer 2015. If I make it in a reasonable ways by the time the 2015 Steam Summer Sale rolls around, I’ll probably pick up one of Wolfenstein: The New Order or Call of Duty: Black Ops as my summer shooter, but we’ll see what happens. What I do know is that it’s time to roll out with the Edelweiss and decimate any Imperial forces that I encounter. On another, unrelated note, I’ve finally reached level 20 in Steam, and my remaining focus now is to acquire a level 5 Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip To Japan~ badge for the sole purpose of bragging rights.

Steam Summer Sale 2014

The Steam Summer 2014 sale has been over for a little less than an hour, and we’ve now come a full circle from last year’s Steam Summer sale. Since then, much has happened from my end: I’m now rolling into a MSc of Computer Science in the fall, and half the summer has already elapsed. In that time, I’ve picked up the basics to Unity and learned some C# in the process. Last year’s Steam Summer sale, I picked up four titles and had a blast with them, although the backlog endures: in fact, I’ve only just gotten around to playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Of course, this summer sale saw some impressive deals, as well, and overall, after some forty dollars worth of purchases later, I ended up with The Stanley Parable, Wolfire Overgrowth, Receiver, Skullgirls, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Magicka and Borderlands 2. This is rather more than I purchased last summer, and I doubt I’ll be able to beat everything by the end of this summer, or next summer, for that matter: I have enough games to last well through to next year. Thus, I am now presented with the classic conundrum: will I ever get around to playing some of the titles I purchased (or even finish the titles from last summer)? Given that Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Skyrim and Borderlands 2 are not typical AAA shooters with six-hour campaigns, it’ll be unlikely that I manage to succeed before the summer is over.

  • At the time of writing, I’m level fifteen, and are 24 XP points away from reaching level sixteen. The main incentive to level up now is to get at the extra showcase box so that I can show off my favourite achievements.

  • Compared to last year, I purchased more games, but I should also be good for the next while as far as buying things during Steam sales should go: there’s enough content here to last me at least two years (with the way I progress). I probably won’t buy anything during the Winter 2014 sale this year, as I more or less have everything that I was looking to buy since last year (MagickaTrials: EvolutionBorderlands 2).

  • After initial rumours that the teams were rigged to win fairly, Red Team won consecutively for four days in a row. I was assigned onto Pink Team after crafting a badge for Portal 2, and ultimately, Pink Team was able to disrupt Red Team’s streak. The setup allowed me to craft two Summer 2014 badges, which are cosmetic but do add a bit of customisation to one’s Steam profile.

  • With all these games on my plate, Battlefield 3 is something I will set aside for the present. Besides the new games, I’m also doing more pencil sketches and have finally made progress in my books from last year. Over the weekend, in a strange twist of déjà vu from last year, I went out for dinner at The Green Chili for Indian cuisine, then watched How To Train Your Dragon 2). I also finished building the HGUC Full Armour Unicorn Gundam (Destory Mode) model that I had acquired during Otafest 2014. We now reach the halfway point of summer, and with the time remaining, besides hanging out with friends for wings, I should also resume biking.

Now, that isn’t to say everything is doom and gloom: from the looks of things, I have enough games to last the next while. Moreover, games like The Stanley Parable, Magicka and Skullgirls can be played at a more casual pace. For the present, I’ll probably alternate between Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Magicka. At some point later this summer (say, late July to early August), I’ll start Borderlands 2 and Tomb Raider: Underworld (after I find a software for capturing screenshots: Steam Overlay doesn’t work with the latter). I will also find time to get back into Skyrim and finish the main quest line near the beginning of August. Over the course of the sale, I also was able to level up from rank twelve to rank fifteen by crafting badges. Through voting and contributing points to pink team, I contributed 24 points, acquired 26 cards to craft a level two Summer 2014 badge, and with that, I’m getting closer to rank twenty (which means an additional showcase for my profile). I understand that there was quite a bit of heated discussion on social media surrounding the whole “earn points for your team” mechanic, but at the end of the day, what really matters is the sale, and that for now, I should aim to complete at least Deus Ex: Human RevolutionMagicka and Tomb Raider: Underworld before term starts in September.

Half-Life 2 Episode Two: A reflection

Half-Life 2 Episode One was good, but Episode Two was phenomenal. After the train derails, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance attempt to make their way to the White Forest base to deliver a code that will collapse the Citadel’s portal. En route, Alyx is mortally wounded by a Hunter, powerful and resilient enemies with a flechette cannon and wickedly sharp claws. The player fights through an antlion colony to retrieve the extract necessary to heal Alyx, before driving through the countryside to reach White Forest ahead of the Combine. Once the rocket is launched, Eli Vance is killed by a Combine Advisor, and the game ends after Dog drives off the Advisors. Of all the Half-Life 2 games, Episode Two is set in the countryside and therefore feels a lot more open compared to its predecessors, even though it is as linear as Episode One and Half-Life 2. My first experience with this game was back in March 2008; after finishing my chemistry, English and calculus coursework, I spent the remaining three days of Spring Break playing through this game, although looking back, I feel that the experience is far more enjoyable with a larger screen.

  • Episode Two is an amazing experience all around, but its most infamous achievement is the “Little Rocket Man”, which is notoriously difficult to complete. I might go back and try to get it later, but for the present, I’m occupied with Battlefield 3. So…the preview for posts are as follows: I’ll have a final impressions post for Infinite Stratos² and Non Non Biyori by Christmas Eve at the latest.

  • I’ve omitted the antlion colony level from the screenshots simply because those levels were a shooting gallery, and I was admittedly having too much fun squishing antlion larvae to obtain screenshots. Before picking up the vehicle, the player must take down both the antlion guard and the antlion guardian. There are many explosive barrels scattered throughout the region, so even if one is short on ammunition, it’s possible to make use of these barrels and the Gravity gun to take down these mini-bosses.

  • The remnants of the Citadel can be seen way out in the countryside. I’m about to reach the radio station and fight the Hunters for the first time. Guides recommend using the energy ball to take them down quickly, but the shotgun is also effective. Using bunny-hopping to perform hit and fade assaults, the Hunters are no match for my über-micro skills.

  • This abandoned farm is where the player first encounters a Combine Advisor: be prepared to be impressed by the Source engine when one of the Advisors uses telekinetic powers to crush a barrel. Even the super-powered Gravity gun can’t do that.

  • The mountains and atmosphere in these parts are somewhat similar to that of the Rocky View County region during autumn, when grey skies and the vast prairies end in distant mountains. It’s a very calming place to be, even when it’s overcast. Here, another assault chopper pursues the player, but upon reaching a Resistance base, there is a chance to square off against it using the Gravity gun and the chopper’s own mines.

  • This is the White Forest Inn. More Hunters and a Combine unit show up. I recall that Sunday in July when I had taken down the last Hunter; the basement television was on and the news was broadcasting Prince George of Cambridge’s birth. Though I am not too terribly interested in the British Monarchy, the event itself was particularly noteworthy from a historical perspective, and so, this part of the game will forever remind me of this event. It’s been some five years since I last played this, so I don’t have any memories attached to this part of the game from back then.

  • The Magnusson device is the ultimate weapon against Striders but requires precision aiming to operate. During the last mission in Episode Two, the player is tasked with defending the White Forest base long enough for the preparations for a rocket launch to be completed.

  • It looks like one could take out a Strider with a single shot from the USP Match here; in a sense, this is now possible. After sticking Magnusson device to the Strider’s underside, the pistol is the recommended weapon to use: the 9mm rounds are enough to trigger the device, and the pistol has a reasonable firing rate. It is very satisfying to bring down the Striders using this weapon.

  • As the battle wears on, the Striders begin targeting the buildings housing the teleporters. The vehicle can carry one Magnusson device at any given point, so it is imperative to make every shot count. Hunters escort the Striders: they represent additional firepower and should be dealt with quickly, although priority should go towards taking out the Striders.

  • After the last of the Striders are downed, the player has the honour of launching the rocket. The codes the satellite transmit are successful in shutting down the Combine super-portal, but there isn’t a happy ending: Eli Vance is killed by a Combine Advisor, leaving behind more questions than answers. With the release date for Episode Three is nowhere in sight, I have no idea what the Borealis’ role is, or even where the next game will take place. Over the past few years, April Fools’ jokes surrounding Episode Three have been made, leading some fans to believe the game was available for sale for 29.99 at one point.

At present, Half-Life 2 Episode Two reminds me of two moments during the summer. The first memory was on July 20, when I am driving down a railway track to a Resistance hideout to get the radar installed. I was set to go on a short outing to Canmore at this time: for most of Summer 2013, the floods completely threw my hopes of travelling in the mountains out the window. I had made donations to help flood victims and also to flip the bird at the weather for having caused the flood to begin with, but by late July, when I had reached this point in the game, much of the Trans-Canada highway had been repaired. This trip succeeded in giving me a brief  but much-needed respite from work. I spent a sunny afternoon in the mountains, partaking in a hike before having afternoon tea at the Communitea teahouse. A few days later, on July 22, while the media was buzzing with announcement about Prince George of Cambridge’s birth, I reached the White Forest Inn. Admittedly, I am not particularly interested in the Royal family, but the announcement meant that the mission “Under the Radar” would be associated with this historic event in my books. I beat Half-Life 2 Episode Two a few days later. It’s been some five years since I first played through the Half-Life 2 episodes, and although clues about Aperture Science’s Borealis are tantalising, Half-Life 2 Episode Three or Half-Life 3 show no signs of release anytime soon. So shrouded in mystery these games’ statuses are, that I’m willing to bet that I’ll probably be a few years into my full-time occupation before it comes out.