Why Half-Life 2 failed

Portal. I’ll borrow the words of Ben Crosham and say that “If you don’t like it, you are stupid.” You can get dizzy, you can get movement sickness but you can’t get bored playing. It is fun and it is smart.

Since I’ve played Portal and like it so much, I decided to play its father, Half-Life 2. You know, I had some fun playing Half-Life, even when, in the last chapters, they give you more ammunition that you can carry, which you completely deplete in a few minutes and then you are left with a shitty weapon that throws bees (which is the only thing you can use for long range.)

Half-Life 2 was praised for being amazing and received a lot of good critics. So, why no to try it?

Well, I must say that I’m not completely impressed by it and it amazes me that it received such praise.

First of all, you don’t the story very much. I mean, of the strongest points of Half-Life was the story. Not much like “We opened a portal to another dimension (with things that are/look like demons) and now you have to kill everything that moves.” More like “We opened a portal to another dimension and you must close it. Oops, it looks like you can close it this side, you must go there and close it in the other side.” Of course, most of story is only understood in the latest chapter (the one you run without any bullets and kill enemies with a crowbar and bees) but it explains much of what you have done. Makes you feel like you just watched “Fight Club” and finally realised what the story was about.

Anyway, Half-Life 2 doesn’t have this kind of closure. Maybe because they decided to split the story in three parts, so you’ll have to wait for Episode 3 to be released to understand why you were put on stasis (which I only discovery reading the Wikipedia page), why you were brought back (still no answer) and why you keep running back and forth (still no answer.)

Second, there are a bunch of chapters (five or six, I can’t remember and I don’t want to remember) which the level designer probably had a fetish about Dukes of Hazzard:

You get a hovercraft-like vehicle and run around in radioactive waste and water. And every time you see a ramp, you have to jump it. If it slightly looks like a ramp, you must jump it. You try to go around it and you find that you need to come back and jump it to keep going forward. Just before the end of those chapters I found a ramp, tried to jump it and failed. The first thing that came to my mind was “Ok, now the guys are making fun of me. ‘We put all those ramps to make you jump, now we are going to put one just to mock you’.” Well, in the end, it turned that I tried to jump it before I could. And I had to jump it.

Still about vehicles, it seems the game designers drive things with a lot of weight in the back and no weight in the front. You get the constant feel that your vehicle (hovercraft, car) is constantly sliding the front wheel.

Third, there is the constant “let me show what our physics engine can do.” You move things, you need to pile things to make ramps (which you use to jump with your hovercraft), you lift bars on doors to keep going… And some things break and some don’t. Door are barred with wood planks, which you can easily break with two or three hits with the crowbar. But, some wood planks used as wall, you can throw three grenades and it would still be there. Ok, your physics engine rocks, Valve, but for the fuck of God, if you put wood somewhere, make it behave like wood in a consistent way!

Fourth, and I will again still from Ben Croshaw and his review of Crysis, some points require that you assign your left button and right button to quick save and quick load. It is so annoying that you need to jump in a three centimetre square or you’ll either fall in the hole of infinite depth or into fire. Or realise that you forgot to put an empty barrel under the bridge, so it won’t fall in the electrified water. Not to mention that you need to do that pretty quick, in a 90 degree turn, jumping over three of those three centimetre squares while a strider is shooting your ass.

Fifth, linear paths. Although it is kinda good, so you don’t get lost while searching for the air conduct hidden in the darkest place of the last room in the corridor you just came from (’cause, you know, there is no point in turning back), it also gives you a complete feeling of lost of free will. You path has been already chosen and you can’t get out of it. Sometimes I found myself wondering “were the fuck I’m going?” just to get there and people say “Hey Dr. Freeman, you made it!” Made WHAT? I was just following the only possible way!

Sixth, fanboynism. At first, it seems nice that everybody remembers you and seem to be happy that you are around. But when completely strangers, just by hearing your name, come like “Dr. Freeman, I’m a man, but I want to be the mother of your child! Make me!” then things start to get weird. It also adds another point to the failure of the story: why the fuck everybody in the whole planet things you are their saviour, their messiah, their Jesus? No explanation so far, except that you killed a lot of them.

Seventh, AI. Although it is cool that people actually use space in the game and you can’t just, say, walk through them, it is freaking annoying that they decide to stay in the fucking way all the time. At first, you get annoyed that, when some enemy throws a grenade at your feet and you move back to avoid the explosion, the friendly IA decides to stay in your way and you can’t get away from it (and probably saved their stupid, pathetic life using your body.) But, then again, you can’t stop smiling when they look at a granade in the floor and look at it like “oh, shinny!” and blow up in pieces. “That would teach them how to get fucking out of the way.” The friendly AI is so stupid that, later, I realised that it wasn’t worth try to save them. Just let them die, maybe they’ll learn how to shoot and avoid grenades in their next life. This is partially solved in Episode One, as your only companion is Alyx (which, much for your happiness, her bootilicious body can’t die.)

Eighth, infinite enemies. At one point, Valve pushed the physics to be the most realistic thing possible. On the other hand, you have this portal to another dimension, which is not something we see every day. Although you can balance those two to work as a normal sci-fi thingy, you can’t stop wondering where the hell are all those enemies coming. First, you have the combine, which captured part of the human population and turned them into mindless droids. By my counts, if you take all 6 billion people living on Earth today, kill some when the combine appeared, kill the children, kill the old, take some to make a resistance, turn everyone else into droids, you’ll probably get the count of 10 billion people. I’m not kidding here. In one of the last chapters of Episode One, combine soldiers keep coming in a steady pace. You need to take some survivors to a train while preventing the combine soldiers to kill them. If you try to kill the combine soldiers before letting the survivors to reach the train, you’ll see yourself in an infinite loop of kill, get ammo, run, come back, kill more, get ammo, and so on.

The insectoid race is even worst. In one chapter, you’ll see yourself in the set of “Tremors“:

You are in a beach where you can’t step in the sand, otherwise a swarm of insects (which look a lot like the bugs in Startship Troopers) will crawl from the sand and attack you, so you need to keep jumping over rocks and other stuff in the ground (remember the “mouse buttons as quick save and load”?) And, if you survived around three waves of such thing, you’ll wonder how the beach didn’t sink after so many bugs coming out of it (remember the “infinite number of enemies” thing?) In Episode One it gets even worst: the insects just pop from holes in the street and the only way to stop them is to move cars over them, so they can’t get out of. You don’t do it, they just keep coming and coming and coming. It is like the whole insect planet from Ender’s Game were inside Earth, which would be hollow and full of bugs. Either that or they reproduce at the speed of 10 per second.

Ninth, story don’t flow if you don’t do what it is expected (yeah, kinda like the fifth point.) You are in a corridor, there is a strider just behind you and the only person who can open the door in the end of the corridor refuses to go out before you blow up the strider, even if you can safely go all the way to the door. That happen about three times in Half-Life 2: the story just stops if you don’t kill a certain object, even if you can safely get away from it.

Ok, that’s what I came with in the last 30 minutes, just remembering some pieces of the game. I must say that the Half-Life 2 guys must learn something from the Portal dudes. Portal, although is just 1 hour long (18 minutes, if you are pretty fast and watch the YouTube video), have a complete story, nice puzzles and it is not annoying. I’m hoping that Episode 3 will take most of good stuff from Portal and be something that actually adds some closure to the Half-Life 2 story arc.

35 thoughts on “Why Half-Life 2 failed

  1. Totally unrelated, but those dukes’ daredevilness would just kill the driver (and its passengers) from that height.

  2. Firstly, you have a shit load of typos, tons of missing words and run on sentences. I’m going to include some run-on sentences of my own for your entertainment.

    You complain about a game that was made four years ago. Why are you writing this now?

    The fact that you complain about “fanboyism” is utter garbage. It’s Half-Life 2 and you expect them to say “Oh, ok lets NOT talk about the game and lets watch you run around and wish your Xbox 360 didn’t get the Red Ring of Death.”

    “At one point, Valve pushed the physics to be the most realistic thing possible. On the other hand, you have this portal to another dimension” – You’r an idiot, it’s a video game about killing giant bugs, freezing time, and finding health kits in crates, and you bitch that there is a portal in the game. This part is in Episode 1, NOT HL2- which is what the title of your article says “Why Half-Life 2 failed”. This part of the game was prolonged- I’ll agree with you, but the fact that enemies come in at a steady pace is to prevent boredom among the players.

    You should seriously consider, not writing articles about games that were released years ago. While I’m on here I wouldn’t mind seeing a Mortal Combat 2 review from you.

    The game can be argued by anyone if it is good or not. But the simple fact that you don’t like anything in this game leaves you to be just another lazy person who only points out the negatives in a game because the grocery store you go to three times a day didn’t have the hair volume shampoo that you need oh so very much.

    Please discontinue writing these “articles” as they are garbage and deserve to be kept away in the archives of the deep who-gives-a-shit section of the internet. Maybe you should go to college and get an associate degree in journalism. Who knows, you might write better shit.

  3. This is the worst review I’ve ever read. Your points are pretty much invalid, the AI one is the only one I would agree on (but the AI was still pretty advanced for the time).

    There NEVER was an amazing storey for any of the HL universe, it kinda makes sense, but not really.

    The physics engine was pretty damn revolutionary, and I actually spent about an hour just playing with it when I first got the game, so forcing the payer to use it was pretty revolutionary, and most people found it fun and a new aspect to gaming.

    Also, you claim that you enjoyed HL, but then you say HL2 sucks for a bunch of stuff that pretty much defines the HL universe.

    tl;dr: you’re a fucking idiot, please proceed to kill yourself, it’s just to cleanse the gene pool, nothing personal.

    Have a nice day.

  4. I think we can all recognize that the author is terrible at video games and would prefer to play a nice game of Peggle Extreme rather than a heart pounding journey through the Half-Life 2 universe. Shun the non believer.. SHUN

  5. You’re a dumb fucking retarded bitch and I hope you burn in hell.

    Also nice grammar, spelling and overall use of the English language. It helps being out the validity of your point.

  6. Wait you finished it with “I must say that the Half-Life 2 guys must learn something from the Portal dudes”.

    You know they are the same people right?

  7. Dude, you are pathetic… I hope you did some research about hl2 before complaining about it. First, you talk like you have no idea what happened in the game, are you retarded? They tell you the story as you go along. But you probably just skipped them and tried to speedrun the whole game. Secondly the game was leaked when it was in beta stage. They had to redo the WHOLE game! Every single material. Third, valve did make portal, it was just some college kids that came up with the idea and valve brought it forward. I hope u played ep2. If u didn’t understand it, then i’m sorry to say it, you my dear fagget, must be fully retarded.

  8. Okay, I have no idea why you guys decided to pick on a *blog* post that’s six months old, but, anyway…

    @Jack Mehoff: If you had read the article, you’d notice that I say I bought Portal and then decided to play Half-Life 2. That’s why I was talking about an old game (that and the fact that Valve is taking a long time to release the episodes.)

    The “Fanboyism” I said that inside-game-related. Again, if you actually read the article, you’d noticed that I say the other characters were being fanboys of Morgan Freeman. And that’s what makes it so creepy.

    The “Portal to another dimension” had a good back story in the first Half-Life: It made you believe it was possible (the fact that you did have to play the game to open the portal was a very good approach to that), but I didn’t had the same “I’m part of this” feeling in HL2.

    And I never claimed it was an “article”. I’m not a professional writer and English is not my mother-language. I have no idea where you get this idea that this is an “article” Whoever pointed it to you is the stupid person.

    @Paul: Yes, same company, but different team. Wikipedia says Portal was written by a group of people in the DigiPen Institute of Technology but all I could remember was that Portal is fan-made (much like Gary’s Mod.) So…

  9. @Theguywhodidurmom: Yes, I played Episode 2 and I was completely blown away. That’s what HL2 should be since the very beginning. I just didn’t had the time to write about it.

  10. Garry’s Mod isn’t fan made. It’s made by some of the top modders of the 3d community and a faggot named Garry from FacePunch.

  11. I jsut read the “Okay, I have no idea why you guys decided to pick on a *blog* post that’s six months old, but, anyway…” form your posted and decided to say.

    You’re stupid and so the fuck what if it’s 6 months old? You reviewed a game thats 4 YEARS old. ANd I guess I’m to blame for all the negative attention as I sent the link along with my first response to major gaming websites and majority of the readers felt your negative comments to nothing for the world, and prove that you cant argue this fact.

    Please visit http://www.tubgirl.com to get more info

  12. And I never claimed it was an “article”.

    Usually when someone is written like this people tend to call it an “article” rather than “the page on the internet where stuff is written about a specific subject.

    And if everyone believed wikipedia we’d all be shoving golfballs up our ass to prevent chemical attacks.

  13. you appear to continuously pick up on the idea of the physics being overused in hl2, however did you infact notice that they are a pivotal part of the game along with the gravity gun, as well as being state of the art for their time, your argument is as valid as slating the graphics of doom 1.
    Also you appear to pick up the idea of not all wood being indestructible, infact why not go the whole hog and complain how concrete and mud are not effected, is it perhaps to stop you deviating off in a useless direction?
    Also i have seen far worse AI than in Hl2, in Crysis for example the north Koreans will get snagged in a stairwell and amass in a large group.

    In conclusion you are totally barking up the wrong tree, criticizing outdated technology while referring to the excellence of several of the orange box games running on a newer updated version of the engine. Basically, don’t ever bother reviewing games ever again and if you cant stand respawning enemies for god sake never NEVER play COD4.

  14. @Clayman: I like the physics, but I think it was over-used, most of the time. Usually those demonstrations were put on places you have to stop and make something and see it react. The jumping sequence in the hovercraft is one of them. You have to stop your race two or three times to play with the physics (and built a new ramp!) The magnet part, where you drop containers over enemies is one point where its use was well thought.

    I would expect that a concrete wall wound take a lot more damage than a tin foil or a wood wall. The point is the bad choice of texture, actually.

    I’m not picking on the games in the Orange Box. I played Portal and I loved it (it was the reason I bought HL2, anyway.) The post is about HL2 and its first episode (and, as pointed before, I really enjoyed Episode 2.

    And I’m sorry but this is my own blog. I could simply delete everyone comments about this but, as I pointed in the Disclaimer, I’ll let anyone say whatever they want (as long as it’s not spam) because I also want to have the right to say whatever I want.

  15. HL 2 is the best fucking game ever made, you are a douche bag if you think its a failure. Plus its not the games fault that you run out of ammo or cant jump over ramps during the game. It’s cause you suck. I can go smoothly without running out of ammo.
    So if you don’t like a game, please dont spam. Now Fuck off and die.

  16. @Some guy: I can’t remember running out of ammo (except in the first Half-Life) and I could jump all the ramps, although I found it pretty boring to do it over and over again.

    I did *NEVER* spam this post anywhere. I posted on my blog and that’s all. You can blame “Jack Mehoff” for the spamming (he pointed he didn’t like this “article” and decided to post it on several gaming sites.)

  17. i have to agree with mehoff along with most everyone else’s posts here.
    you can’t compare the newer games from the orange box to the older half-life 2. I really can’t believe you think the Portal storyline is easier to understand than half-life 2. Portal has almost NOTHING! You’re a labrat for some sci-fi test lab thing. If it wasn’t for HL2 tying Aperature into the HL2 universe, you’d have no idea of the setting of the game.
    and on the game Portal, you are correct it came from DigiPen. DigiPen is a video game college and a group of students created the basics for Portal as their final project. Valve bought it and built it up into what it is now.
    what you said about destructible surfaces (ex wooden walls vs wooden boards) is not fair at all. Games have been and still are doing that. The fact that the wooden boards even broke was an incredible leap in technology at the time. Valve can’t just make the game’s surfaces completely destructible, because even if the computers could handle it that would mean the players could bulldoze their way through the all the levels, skipping everything.
    your point on fanboyism, or Freeman’s popularity with the citizens in the game, is downright stupid. You’re not supposed to be just another grunt. Gordon was the lone scientist who battle his entire way thru the black mesa incident. of course he’d gain some notoriety for fighting off an alien invasion.
    The issue with the NPC’s getting in the way wasn’t really a fair one, dynamic pathing maps were new. HL1 vs HL:S really shows it too, because you can see how much easier it is for the NPC’s to navigate corridors and they rarely get stuck, unlike the dreaded corners in HL1.
    your eighth point is just dumb. antlion are cannon fodder. you mow them down with ease. I would have been dissapointed if they would have “run out” during the level. it wouldnt be much of an invasion if there were only 100 or so.
    as for your ninth point about the mandatory unrelated objectives. this is not new. have you EVER played an RPG before. No matter how quick you speed through it, or how long you drag it out, the repairs on the north gate finish just after that item-fetching mission. the GTA series is a fine example. Huh, it sure was a good thing the bridge to the other island was fixed just as soon as i completed the last mission here. I would have been stuck on the island with nothing to do!

    When you review a title, you can’t just grade it from your perspective. you have to consider its setting, like when the game was released, and critic the game for everything it tried for.

  18. you know what GTFO. if you dont like it dont play it you BITCH. FUCK YOU YOU DONT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST GAMES AND YOU DENY IT???? GET A FUCKING LIFE

  19. Stop whining you bitch. Half-Life 2 beats any other shitty game you played. Also learn grammar you retarded kid. Half-Life was a world known video game, and earned more awards than you’ll ever be able to get. Half-Life 2 brought the world of physics into the revolution of gaming. and you whine like a little pussy on the internet? Go to a LAN party and state you’re entire speech. You will indefinitely get your ass kicked. Good bye also I can’t wait for your website to be hacked and filled with gay porn XD.

  20. The amount of “oh, I’m being repressed” comments from Half-Life fanbois yields that they don’t even have a half life to brag about.

  21. Seriously though, I do find it strange you failed to enjoy HL2, it was widely received as a great game, a classic even. Not one person I have spoken to has had this many qualms with the game, but each to his own I guess. If you didn’t like, then you just didn’t like it, and that’s it.

    BTW @Lolrile: You’re a loser. Same with all the other fanboy’s desperately defending HL2, you all sound fucking retarded

  22. Wow… As some guy quoted on the forum said, u mentioned some parts that don’t exist. I know there was the story cutting out if you don’t kill the enemies (i know because in episode 2 u have to kill those 2 antlion guards and one is glowing, its annoying). Since i got freaked out in Ravenholme on a pirated HL2, and and i played the Whole HL2 Demo (my mate done a small portion but almost died) i ran out of downloads before i could go through it, and now i played episode 2 and got hooked, almost completed it, but alot of stuff is untrue, and some are true. i rate ur blog, 2.5/5 mainly because grammar (easily explained), mentioning parts not in there, and some other stuff.

  23. Please don’t ever try to review another PC game as long as you live. You are terrible at it and have offended many people.

  24. I’m gonna be honest, you can’t name your article “Why Half-Life 2 Failed”. You should’ve titled it, “Why I think Half-Life 2 Failed”. It’s not fact that it failed. It’s a fact that it did financially well. It was very open and vulnerable when it came to modding, that is what made it extremely great. Not to forget that the story was awesome and the game play wasn’t bland like America’s Army or Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. Seriously.

    One more thing, your as bad of a writer as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) with your run on sentences. Take a few classes please, thank you.

  25. Half-Life 2 is one of the greatest games of all time, the mood and atmosphere are perfectly matched by a great story, controls, and superb voice acting. So, shut the fuck up, and go suck a dick.

  26. I agree 100% with Duca’s post. Your points about why HL2 “failed” have a very weak foundation.

    Next time you write a review, Please put yourself back in the time period when the game was released..
    I guess you have no idea how fast computers advance within a month, so writing a review like this 4 years later just doesnt make sense at all. HL2 introduced a lot of new technologies that was never seen in games up until that point. I dont know why you even brought up Portal.. that game builds off of HL2’s engine and its a fairly new game. You might as well review Doom1 and pick apart all of its flaws..

    Yet, I also think some of the kids posting here are being uneccesarily harsh.

  27. What you must understand about this backlash is this:

    You rated a game that everyone who reviews games, professional and amature, basicly came when they played it.

    Saying anything other than “I need a cigarette after playing this” is like taking a child’s teddy bear, opening it up, removing the stuffing, refilling it with your own excrement, and sewing it back up… But not expecting that the child will be upset.

    You really should make big blog posts in something like Word or OpenOffice. They have spellcheckers for a reason.

    I am aware of internet traditions.

  28. @That Jewish Dood: What, should I answer a bunch of 13-yo who only knows how to say “faggot”? Also, what should I answer if Duca didn’t ask anything? And yes, I’m reading all the comments, I just don’t feel I need to answer anyone who just says “Go suck a dick, your faggot” or anything like that.

    Look, this is my blog. I write whatever I want on it. I could simply delete all your comments and keep showing to everyone how awesome I am (or some other bullshit “real” game review sites do.)

    I got this game 4 years later because it was the only time I could legally buy this game with my own money and had a computer that would run it. There was no way HL2 would run on my Thinkpad 390E (A Pentium II 300 with 512Mb RAM and a shitty video card.)

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