Monday, January 19, 2009


I’ve been playing Half Life 2 recently, having finally been able to wrangle a copy from not entirely legitimate sources.

If you maintain a certain aloofness from the sad, Cheesy Poof-dusted world of gaming, or at least pretend to, you may have missed the phenomenan that is Half Life 2. It's a hugely popular first person shooter released in 2004. In it you play Dr Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist possessing an unlikely ability with crossbows and laser-guided missile launchers, who must rescue the remnants of humanity from alien overlords known as The Combine. This involves running around a crumbling urban landscape shooting bad guys, solving jumping puzzles, and desperately scrolling through his available weaponry looking for the right gun while being swiped at by an alien zombie that just popped up out of nowhere:

Ow! Okay, close quarters large target, that OW! sounds like a job for the shotgun OW! So I’ll just scroll to OW! that… oops, too far, that’s OW! the crossbow, I’ll just scroll over to… OW! no, that’s a grenade… I’ll OW! scroll again… well OW! the .357 Magnum is OW! close enough… BLAM!

The characters are exquisitely animated, without the inhuman blockiness that plagues other games, and the environments are beautifully rendered and evocative. While the occasional jumping puzzles are annoying, most of the time the gameplay is natural, with little of the “monster suddenly materializes out of thin air behind you” nonsense that game designers use to generate a cheap adrenaline jolt.

It’s been a lot of fun (highlights include the moment in which you must use a crane to drag a shipping container across a wharf, smearing a platoon of bad guys across the concrete like a housewife wiping down a countertop) and I think it sits just below Bioshock as my all-time favourite game. And I’m not alone in this assessment. The internet is rife with obsessive Half Life 2 fans of varying skill, creativity and personal hygiene levels.

On the one hand we have Christopher Livingston, creator of the much loved Half Life 2 satire comic “Concerned”, which uses a modified Half Life 2 level generator to illustrate the story of Gordon Frohman, a naïve schmuck whose adventures mimic Gordon Freeman’s, only without the heroism, intelligence or salvation of humanity.

On the other hand, however, we have squirrelking, a fanfic writer with negligible English skills and the narrative eloquence of the average sock. His illiterate blathering was destined to sink without a trace into the sea of fanfic ignominy, until it was appropriated by other, more talented people. They took his fan fiction and used it as a script for Half-Life: Full-Life Consequences and Half-Life: Full-life Consequences 2: What Has Tobe Done, two little videos that are made up of bafflement and hilarity in roughly equal measures.

Please enjoy them both, taking due care not to laugh your head off at the dead pants gag. I’ve only just now got my head back on.


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