Half-Life 2: A Great Way to Introduce New Weapons

First-person shooters terrify me. On The Orange Box, I played Portal first to sort of ease myself into that perspective, even though there's no shooting. That only lasted a few hours (although quite a few more than I expected) so I'm now up to my neck in Half-Life 2. I know. It's possible I'm the only gamer left on the planet who hasn't played it.

I'm about one-third of the way in, and Valve created a breathtakingly paced game. It rarely slows down for you, and even when it does, you're just waiting for the next adrenaline-fueled task to pop out of the wall and challenge you. But what Half-Life 2 does exceptionally well is familiarize you with the weapons at your disposal within the game. If you've been running along with only a pistol and start encountering groups of enemies, you acquire their assault rifle. When lightning-fast zombies appear, you get a shotgun, which is perfect for blasting their ranks since they get close to you so quickly.

But the perfect example of acquainting you with new mechanics in the heat of battle is the gravity gun. It's acquired in the chapter titled "We don't go to Ravenholm." Up until this point in the game, you've largely been fighting through waves of Combine police and the occasional robotic seeker. But now, I know that nobody goes to Ravenholm because it's completely overrun by zombies. They're everywhere! The beauty of giving you the gravity gun at this point in the game is simple: it doesn't use ammo.

Up until this point, you can easily blast through soldiers with your assault rifle and gather more ammo than you'll ever dead from their bullet-riddled bodies. But in Ravenholm, there are no Combine soldiers. Only zombies. And as everyone knows, zombies don't use guns. They just unceasingly march towards you, arms outstretched. If you try to plow through Ravenholm with your standard arsenal, as I did, you'll soon find yourself very low on ammo. Logically, since the zombies don't use guns, they don't drop ammo when they die. Sure, there are a few hidden weapon caches, but they're not nearly enough to sustain you through this lengthy chapter.

Your only savior is the mighty gravity gun. And you'd better master it quickly, because the zombies aren't the most patient of teachers. You can then casually pull a barrel towards you, and then fling it at a zombie at neck-snapping speed. Even better, pick up a saw blade and watch it slice through as many zombies as you can line up. With no ammo in sight, the gravity gun is the only way to make it. Save your ammo for the numerous ambushes.

Unfortunately, as I already mentioned, I didn't know ammo would be so scarce in Ravenholm until I was well past the point of no return. But I've now hoarded enough ammo to safely see me through the rest of the level. And since I was forced to use the gravity gun so much, I feel much more confident and comfortable with it. Bravo, Valve. Excellent introduction of a unique, powerful weapon. Of course, I'm not out of the woods yet. In fact, I'm in the mines.

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