Half-Life 2: Episode One 1
was released a bit over 8 years ago, as the even then long-awaited expansion of the original, critically widely acclaimed game. Since it is part of the Orange Box, the Half-Life 2 Complete Edition and the Valve Complete Edition, chances are great you already own and have played the original Half-Life 2
The good news: Episode 1
continues on the high level of level design and gameplay the original had set. There is however an important shift in focus, as the greater part of the game is played alongside Alyx, Gordon's female companion-in-arms. Alyx happily stands her own against the enemy hordes and doesn't need any sort of "babysitting" games wtih less well developed AI sometimes call for. She's been updated graphically as well (looking even better ;-)) since Episode 1 makes use of the High Dynamic Range lighting effects first tried out by Valve in Half-Life 2: Lost Coast
. However, compared to that playable tech-demo, environments in Episode 1 are a bit disappointing and don't always offer the best opportunities for the upgraded engine to shine. There are no wide-open vistas, and although the opening level in the Citadel is impressive, it also has a sort of repetitiveness that comes to the fore now and then.
On the other hand, gameplay-wise everything is as top-notch as it was in the original game, and the fact that you play alongside Alyx offers some interesting opportunities. There's even a Steam Achievement called "One Bullet" which gets unlocked by playing through the entire game (!!) using one single bullet. The rest of the kills/actions has to be made by using the Gravity Gun, which gets an upgrade during the early part of the game. This calls for clever thinking, and I tried to get it, only to find myself missing the shooting action after a couple of hours ;-).
All in all, Episode 1 is a good to very good expansion, continuing the story of the original game in a logical and interesting way. There's no reason at all not to give it a shot (...) when you've played the original Half-Life 2
Overall rating: 8/10