Your hour has come again.Half-Life 2: Episode One
is the first title in an episodic trilogy
of games that serve as the sequel to Half-Life 2
. Episode One
picks up directly where the previous game left off, with protagonist Gordon Freeman being pulled from rubble by Dog at the base of the Combine Citadel. He is reunited with Alyx Vance, and the pair soon discover that the only way to prevent the Citadel's explosion—and subsequent destruction of City 17—is to directly intervene in the core. The inside of the ruined Citadel is a maze of smashed metal and radioactive sparks. For the first two chapters of Episode One
, the only weapon available to the player is the gravity gun, which has been supercharged as it was at the end of Half-Life 2
to allow Freeman to pick up and launch much heavier objects, including enemies. The first third or so of Episode One
is spent inside the Citadel.
After this, it starts to pick up more. Alyx Vance is alongside you for the entirety of Episode One
, and it makes Half-Life
feel like a different game. Alyx doesn't fight in the same way as the rebels from the previous game. She strafes, takes cover and shoots similarly, but she can also use melee attacks on enemies and in one sequence even uses a sniper rifle to cover Gordon as he makes his way through the city. Alyx's character is a lot less annoying in Episode One
, but her personality still seems a little unclear. There's a scene where she seems horrified by the stalkers losing their humanity, but minutes later she's making puns about zombies. It feels forced, as though the developer felt the need to go in depth with her character, but didn't really want to. It would have been better to keep her as the Robin to Freeman's silent Batman. I suspect should Episode One
have been longer, Alyx's constant one-sided banter would have become irritating, but the game's length keeps it at a tolerable level.
Gameplay is essentially the same as Half-Life 2
, but with several minor nuances. Firstly, nothing besides the gravity gun comes into play for the first part of the game, keeping it primarily puzzle-oriented in early chapters. Second, new level design includes dark rooms filled with zombies, forcing Freeman to use flares and his flashlight to keep track of them. This adds an element of survival horror, and was a welcome nod to the genre, but really doesn't have a place in a bigger Half-Life
Graphics remain unchanged from Half-Life 2
, with the exception of several new particle effects. The game's soundtrack deserves it's own mention. The style of music in most scenes is understated and adds to the atmosphere, with occasional bursts of intensity such as in the hospital scene. Many of the tracks are forgettable, but some are memorable enough to stick with you.Half-Life 2: Episode One
triumphantly adapts the Half-Life series into an episodic format, keeping with the flavour that fans love while adding enough of it's own elements to stand out by itself.