The Purple View

Reviews, rants and purpleness

Whats So Good About Half-Life?: Hey, Good Lookin’

Posted by Nathan Hardisty on February 2, 2009

Ah, good morning my precious darlings. It’s currently 6:22 in the morning and it’s -2 degrees outside, I’m tired and quite hungry, but I’ll try my best to write this thing. Don’t blame me if I keep writing the same sentence over and over again. Don’t blame me if I keep writing the same sentence over and over again.

The half-life franchise has always been praised for it’s ‘next-gen’ age ushering graphics, when the first half life came out, they thought it looked like Crysis at the time, when Half-Life 2 came out, they thought it was Crysis 2 at the time. But what’s so good about the engines now? Surely they must be on their last legs, the answer? Well, short answer – yes, long answer… no… let me explain.

Now, there’s a unpretty game. Just looking at the washed out textures, monster look and general blood – don’t look too great. But at the time when Halo was just on the concept board (and not in Microsoft’s console, cough) this was probably as pretty as it wuz gonna get. The gun textures ain’t actually half-badly done and aside from the horrible textures, you can still actually see it.

Then 2 weeks later, the first Halo screenshot came out and everyone went crazy. Half life was actually considered a ‘pointer’ into the next-gen cloud, well we all know what happened? I can’t remember the godamn engine so don’t even start about that. Don’t even start about that. I played this game to death , and to be honest, the looks never got in the way of gameplay… even if it was reptitive as miliking a blue cow on wednesday for 15 years straight.

The first thing I saw of Half-Life 2 was actually the ‘Water Hazard’ gameplay level, and good god was I stunned. I think it was the first graphically stunning game and I doubt that anything else looked as good at the time, when the Xbox 360 was on the concept board and Halo 2 was just out, I think everyone went crazy for the looks of HalfLife 2, and it was definetly a basis of graphics for games even 4 years on.   

But, oh yeah a big old but, the crucial thing to know was that H-l2 wasn’t marketed as ‘the next generation of hi-tech graphics’ or ‘the greatest graphics since Halo’, it was marketed as Half-Life, and never once did they talk about the graphics… but the journalists did. They had a riot over this thing, and with Steam… steaming up nicely, it only upped the hype moar.   

The problem with good looking games, is that you can’t market them for graphics anymore – ‘cos now we’ve all got a steel grey, poopy brown textured game that looks like life timesed ten thousand depression. This has nothing to do with Half-life 2, but I just thought to mension… that probably the first ever good looking game… wasn’t marketed as a good looking game.

As the age of the Xbox 360 was nearing in and Crysis was on the drawing board, Valve knew they had to make their next chapter of the H-L2 saga, as awesome as possible… and what did they do? They stuffed us in generic hallways, did a horrible remake of the dawn of the dead and decided to do it all… in the VERY same enginge… with only a few lighting changes.

Now when I actually played this, I felt a bit shortchanged, maybe even moreso. I was stuck in generic hallways and well, it was the same old same old. Maybe Valve just wanted to get it out there, mayb they started development too early. I don’t know, but at a time when the next generation was just coming in, they could’ve atleast made an effort to change the engine slightly more or made it a better and more rounder experince than the last.

Then along came Episode 2, with destructible enviroments, better water physics and textures to make optitions cry. It was a definate improvement… for once… but god darn it could’ve been better. Once again, we got a re-used engine and once again, most of the textures were copy and pasted. I’m starting to think that the Source engine is on it’s last leg… or torso…

To be honest, whatever the next episode has in store, better be a huge improvement… we’ve never seen snow or ice in the Source engine before, so it could be a break from the usual corridors, metal rooms and caves. Hopefully it’ll be a better alround experince too, but Episode 2.. is well… treated as ‘the middle child’, since the plot revolves around nothing and the characters say nothing and graphics mean nothing.

Next week: Gameplay : We’re No Strangers To Love/Gunplay

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