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Half-Life 2: First Impressions

No spoilers…

Besides the 5 CD’s, the game comes with a coupon for $20 off the latest ATI graphics card and a small Quick Ref card – no manual.

I had a little trouble getting it up and running properly. First, you must activate the game in order to play. The activation/registration servers were bogged down last night given that everyone in the country was trying to activate their game. Eventually (10 minutes later?) the program came back saying it was gave up and to just go ahead and play until the server could be reached.


I then restarted the game, and it took another 15-20 minutes for the game to validate its files.

Okay, so I didn’t really care so much that all this took so long as I was working on something else at the time. Had I been really wanting to play the game immediately after install, I’d have been livid.

After starting the game, I immediately went to settings and cranked the resolution up to 1600×1200. That was a big mistake, as I got a blank screen and no way to task swap out. I rebooted, restarted the game and once again got a blank screen with no interim steps for me to change the resolution. I tried one more time unsuccessfully and then wound up finding the setting in the registry to set the resolution back down to 1024×768. I left the rest of the settings alone and started to play.

First, let me say the game looks pretty good at this resolution. I’ve got most of the settings at High. The first most noticeable eye candy was the people. Gone are the pointy heads! Not only do they look good, but they react normally to you. If you walk up to someone they’ll look up at you inquiringly. Yeah, inquiringly. It may be my imagination, but it sure looks to me like peoples’ expressions change. You walk up to a civil patrol and he’ll push you back gruffly. Walk up to him again and he’ll tazer you.

The game starts with a short train ride. You get a chance to walk around the car you’re in and marvel at how well the other passengers are rendered. The train stops and you get off the train and notice some kind of alien or mutant sweeping the station floor, and civil patrol guys gruffly pushing people along. Dr. Breen, the facility administrator from the first game, is on an overhead display welcoming people to City 17. Dr. Breen seems to be all over, in fact, from the soda machines to to posters, etc.

City 17 looks like a high-tech rendition of East Berlin. Civil patrol guards are everywhere and they’re usually beating up on people. There are little floaty cameras following people around and if you look at them they’ll take your picture, blinding you for a few seconds.

There’s no obvious tutorial, but the game ingeniously walks you through certain aspects of the game. For instance, a civil patrol guard will knock a soda can on the floor and tell you gruffly to pick it up, thus teaching you how to manupulate objects.

I played maybe 1/2 hour into the game, and there was some hella cool stuff in that 1/2 hour. I’ll stop here, as anything else I could say may spoil the experience for others. Suffice it to say that I’m really looking forward to getting back in!

10 Comments on Half-Life 2: First Impressions

  1. The physics engine is astounding. I think they put things in the game just to showcase the physics – a playground, for instance. But tonight I was slogging through some water and tried to climb on a floating pallete. It acted exactly as I would have expected it to, which, I’m guessing, is no small programming challenge.

    And speaking of water, Half-Life 2 water is best by a ‘far cry’.

  2. If I had a decent web connection – I would so be all over this game… plus if I had brought my 15 pound laptop which was waaaay to heavy to carry on this trip…

  3. What a roller coaster. I was so looking forward to this game, but it was delayed, delayed, delayed (you get the point)

    Finally it was released, elation- but wait, there is no multiplayer! and you havet to be online to play the single player! but you can’t get online because the single point of failure – STEAM – has failed! ever since it came out steam has been an unbelievable HOG on the machines it infects, now it is the gatekeeper – dissapointment and discust.

    I have bought the game, but i downloaded a hacked version (without steam) and thats the one i play. i really pissed at Valve but i must at least try the game . . .

    enough about the punitive copy protection (it only gets in the way of honest people) – the game.

    i wanted to stay mad at valve . . . but i couldn’t. the game is AMAZING i finished it tonight

    Graphics – B+

    Sound – A+

    Gameplay – A

    Story – B+

    Overall – A

    the interaction with the other NPCs is the best i have ever seen. the scripted sceens in the last “level” whith my headphones on stairing at my 20 inch display are and engrossing as a top film in the movie theater my mouth was open most of the time

    i am sure i missed quite a bit in my first trip through the game i often got the sense there were several ways to get through a level i did get stumped twice and had to seek help but overall they do a first rate job of moving you through the game

    this game is fun – i dare you to play it an not have a good time

  4. If steam is the gatekeeper, who is the keymaster?

    I’ll have to play this one just as soon as I upgrade my entire machine. Otherwise, my PC would cry like a little girl when running it. But it does look cool.

  5. the keymaster is a group called Vengeance or EMPORiO – they will set you free . . .

    i just re-read my post, i think i must have typed it with my nose

  6. I’m having the same problem with my resolution (blank screen) and was wondering what registry key u found the setting in cause i was unable to find it. I would appreciate it very much.

  7. Answer for above from Eric;

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Valve|Source\hl2\Settings

    in the list are Screenwidth and Screenheight, use the Hex and Decimal radio buttons to make them more familiar, like 1024 vice 400

    Now, to a rather basic question; I’m using the ~ key but my console will not start. Any advice? (I’ve tried it with Shift, Alt, Ctrl and all combinations there in… nothing…)

    Lastly, this game is Amazing!!! I’ve finished it and now want to explore it with budda or god mode to get to see everything, and thus need the console to work….

  8. OK – Just found the console option under the Options – Keyboard – Advanced button at the bottom.

    Time to get busy!

    I should be gone for several days, have my mail forwarded, thanks.

  9. IM STUCK ON THE PART WERE YORU RUNNING AWAY FROM THE SECURITY AND U RUN TOWARDS THE ROOF THEN SOME BLOKE SAYS IN HERE,WHICH IS A ROOM WITH STAIRS,SO I VE FOLLOWED HIM AND HE CLOSES THE DOOR AND SAYS GET GOIN UP TO THE ROOF BUT THE STAIRS LEAD TO THE CONCRET CIELING THATS IT,I VE GONE BACK AN HAD ANTHER GO WELL A FEW AND I CAN T SEEM TO FIND ANOTHER WAY APART FROM GOIN IN THIS ROOM WHICH RESULTS IN ME BIENG TRAPPED

  10. Well, I finished the game, and I have to say its a fine job for Valve again. I would call this a fine sequel and a worthy successor for the first game. Overall a great job telling the story and mixing action in with the other elements, and while the game is pretty linear – it does a great job in not fully appearing that way. I guess I enjoy a well laid out story and can accept the fact that travel everywhere is not possible and maintain a path. The ending was great and I recommend playing it through to see how the game ends. The only downer I think for me was the big fight that these things lead up to was not what I expected, but I don’t want it to appear that I didn’t like it. I just expected a different battle at the end – well cheers and enjoy this one…

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