Half-Life 2: Episode 1 - The Elevator of Doom

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?


Gregory Weir said...

I believe that the intended solution is to hold down the right mouse button while aiming at the debris. It's been a while, but I remember easily catching the debris with the gravity gun, then tossing it off of the elevator.

Korey said...

Thanks for the tip. I only tried shooting the debris with the alternate fire on the gravity gun (R2 on the PS3, what I'm playing it on). That proved pretty difficult. The only thing I (for some reason) didn't try was pulling in and 'catching' the debris (with alternate fire - L2) and then shooting it away with the primary fire. Is this what you're talking about?

I finally made it through by using the energy balls around the room, which relied a little too much on the debris following the physics in just the right way.

Gregory Weir said...

Yes, that's it. Catch with secondary, launch away with primary. Sorry, I'm used to the PC controls. I'd guess you didn't think to catch the debris with L2 because it doesn't quite make sense with the way the g-gun is presented in the first game. When it's the normal, yellow g-gun, it couldn't possibly catch something as massive as that debris. It's the powerup to the white g-gun that lets you do that, I guess, but it's still a bit wonky. I did it instinctually, but in retrospect it's rather weird.

Demiath said...

Since dealing with the debris requires such fast and precise responses, this is one of those sequences which you ideally want to play on a PC with a mouse. It's probably more challenging with a controller than it was originally intended to be, so I can certainly understand your frustration. I remember dying a few times myself before I got the hang of it in the PC version.

Korey said...

I had nearly forgotten about PC controls. You're probably right that this section may have been easier with a mouse, especially the way I did it, trying to grab an energy ball, turn, look up, aim, and shoot.

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys I almost poked my eye balls out on this part.

Lj Darnell Jr said...

You're not going to make me unbookmark you are you?

Just kidding. Hope everything's okay.

Miss your writings, and just wanted to let you know.

Anonymous said...

It's really not that hard, not really luck dependent either. Just keep looking up, use the "grab" not the "push". Grab the object and quickly punt it away.

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