After delving back into the world of Half-Life with Episode 1 recently, I got stuck in the first chapter on possibly the most frustrating gaming section of recent memory. There aren't even any enemies involved, just deadly, falling objects.
Near the end of the first chapter, as you try to make your way to the core of the Combine Citadel, you come across a powerless elevator that looks like it descends to the core. So I casually turned the power on for the elevator, and as it started moving, waited patiently for an expected Combine assault. After all, on a similar elevator ride in Half-Life 2, Combine soldiers fired on me the entire time. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong.
The Citadel core was unstable, and threatening to blow up the entire place. Thus, the walls had been constantly shaking. On the elevator, Alyx Vance, your indefatigable AI partner, warns you to "Look up" and "Watch out!" The danger in this section of the game was not soldiers or bullets, but huge falling chunks of debris from the unstable building. What made this section so annoying was that it only partially depends on the player's skill; there's also a significant luck factor involved. Combine this with 15-20 seconds of loading each time you fail and die, and you have a tedious exercise in figuring out how best to approach the situation.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that your elevator, in this high-tech, futuristic fortress, is made of frickin' glass!? Are you telling me glass is the most stable, strong building material the Combine had available? What this means in practical terms is that if a single large piece of debris hits your elevator: Boom, Crash! - instant death, load, wait, retry.
Granted, during this section, although you have no traditional weapons, you do have the super-charged gravity gun. One option is to use it to simply repel the 4 or 5 pieces of debris away from you. Apparently my timing isn't good enough, because that method just didn't work for me. The other option is to grab energy balls lining the walls and fire them at the debris to knock them off course. After dozens of hours of playing Half-Life 2, I'm pretty decent at aiming my guns, especially at large objects. But where the luck comes into play is that even if you hit the piece of debris with an energy ball, that's no guarantee it won't still crash into the elevator. The physics and gravity modeled in the game may still pull the debris right into you, or it might bounce off the wall and ricochet into you. Since this is a one hit death that is only partially within your power to prevent, it was incredibly frustrating. I must have played this short segment for nearly an hour before finally getting past it. I even had to make a quicksave halfway down the elevator shaft to give me a decent shot of making it through.
I suppose it wouldn't have been so bad if the loading time wasn't so long between retries. Usually the loading between sections isn't a big deal, because it loads a large area of the game and I don't die all that often. This is the closest I've been to hurling a controller across the room since the original Super Mario Kart. Thankfully, I made it past, and am now in the core battling the more forgiving Combine soldiers. Phew!!!
Did anyone else have a similar experience during this section of Episode 1? Was it just me? What other games have you become frustrated at in unexpectedly difficult/unfair situations?