Half-Life 2: A Stressful But Satisfying Experience

As part of my effort to expand my gaming horizons, I've been trying to play games in genres I normally avoid. One of the biggest gaps in my gaming knowledge is First Person Shooters, which is why the first game I bought for the PS3 was The Orange Box. On Wednesday I finished my 2nd ever FPS, Half-Life 2 (the first was the original Halo.) I know that Half-Life 2 isn't the most difficult shooter, and that in the grand scheme of things this isn't the grandest of accomplishments, but for me it's pretty significant.

When I first started playing Half-Life 2 several months ago, I found it very stressful and a little unsettling. I wasn't used to the fast pace, enemies jumping out of corners and dark spaces, and constantly being shot at from myriad locations. But over the last few weeks, as I played the game more regularly and eagerly, the tense shout-outs became almost normal. While they were still a little stressful, they became more exciting and I actually looked forward to discovering what new scenario, set-piece, or battle lurked around the next corner or down the next tunnel. I don't think I'll ever become a hard-core shooter fan, trying to play all of them. My successful completion of Half-Life 2 shows that with a little dedication, I can delve into genres other than RPGs and strategy games and come out unscathed, probably all the better for it.

Just as with any type of media, it's important for consumers to be able to experience and appreciate different types within that form. I may not like very many romantic comedies, but I can understand what others see in a particularly well-made film. Similarly, I don't desire to play very many shooters, but I certainly see why they can be so appealing. There's a distinct thrilling from encountering a group of enemies and having full control over your character's capability to engage them and remove them as a threat. It's exciting and makes you feel very powerful, especially in a game as well-made and with such beautiful combat scenarios as Half-Life 2. My successful completion of this game gives me heart that other shooters are not beyond the realm of my capabilities. Bioshock will, I think, be even more intimidating as it subscribes to a freakier/creepier cast of enemies, but I know it will be well worth the journey.

In the meantime, before acquiring other PS3 games to expand my library beyond the single game I currently possess, I'm going to take a short break from Half-Life 2. Although I beat the game, The Orange Box also includes Episode 1 and Episode 2, each of which are about a third as long as Half-Life 2 and directly pick up the story. I believe these 2 episodes, along with the as-yet unannounced Episode 3, serve as a sort-of unofficial Half-Life 3. I'm going to take a break from shooting things for a little while, just to give my nerves a rest, and so my girlfriend will stop thinking she lives in the middle of a war zone.

Of the multiple console games I have yet to finish, the most likely games to work on before becoming a shooter aficionado again are the first disc of Final Fantasy IX, the first character of Odin Sphere, or figuring out where the heck I am in Jak II. I'm leaning towards FFIX as a way to continue using my PS3 and not have to switch around cables. Before my shooter hiatus, I should have one more post about Half-Life 2. For an inexperienced FPS gamer such as myself, it was pretty incredible and jaw-dropping. Except for the zombie infested Ravenholm section. That scared the pants off me.


Michael Abbott said...

Welcome to the FPS genre, Korey! :-) It's not my favorite genre, but games like HL2 are well worth enduring the stressful situations they present. I think you'll really like Episodes 1 and 2. Valve refines its storytelling formula in both, and Alyx becomes much more interesting and necessary. Hope you enjoy them!

Korey said...

Thanks. The only other FPS' I've played were some multiplayer Red Faction in college, and I've completely played Perfect Dark for some reason. It's still not my favorite genre, but towards the end of Half-Life 2 I felt much more comfortable and at home with it. I think future ventures into shooter territory should be much more familiar and less intimidating.

Greg said...

Half-Life 2 was also my first shooter, if you discount older games such as Heretic and Doom. I got it free with a graphics card I bought and wound up absolutely loving it. The sci-fi storyline totally grabbed me. You're in for a treat when you get to the sequels. There are a couple hard parts, but since they're shorter, they've really packed in the content.

If you're new to shooters, you really need to try out Portal too, especially if you've already got the Orange Box.

Korey said...

Hi Greg. I'm really looking forward to the two Episodes, given how highly praised they are by most people. And I have already played Portal. It was actually the first part of the Orange Box I completed. I thought it would be a less-stressful way to ease me into first person perspective games. I wouldn't mind playing it again with the developer commentaries turned on, though.

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