Wednesday, November 24

Game: Half-Life 2

Wow. So far I've played very little of the game but already I'm impressed. Maybe I'm swallowing the hype (although those that know me would baulk at that suggestion. I'm very anti-pop, apparently), but I am truly amazed.

Apparently, some people rate the GTA3 series as being "open" since you can wander off from the path of the main game and steal cars, smack people, stuff like that. Looking deeper, you'll find that this isn't actually the case - what the clever developers have done is to hard code in so many different ways of playing the game that it appears you're choosing your own arbitrary actions to perform. So when you play Pool in a bar you're playing a preprogrammed Pool simulation and not using fundamental mechanics of the game. It's all just foresight, which admittedly in itself is an achievement, but not freedom.

The guys at Valve have taken a different approach. Although the game may be heavily scripted (perhaps moreso than GTA3), the script itself is, well, acted out. I hope that you see what I mean here. Here's an example: Say you hit a set piece, like when a character is supposed to talk to you. Unlike other games which may display a cutscene where the actors move on rails, HL2 will do the whole thing in realtime with the actors behaving in different ways depending on your arbitrary position at the time. Another method used to provide this "improvisation effect" is to make the characters lips move depending on what they are saying rather than preprogramming the movements "by hand".

Anyway what that all means is that no two cutscenes, set-plays and therefore full plays of this game will be the same. That's real freedom in my opinion, and that's what makes HL2 so bloody excellent. But I'm sure it has a cracking story like the first did too though.

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