09 January 2010
There’s something Half Life 2 does effortlessly that few games do well: It marries tenderness with technology.
In the movies this is nothing new. George Lucas once made us care about real characters struggling for freedom in a fantasy world with his first trilogy. Even the beauty-and-the-beast love story in the original King Kong was as impressive as the ape effects.
These are special effects movies that make us feel something more than excitement. It has long been a criticism of video games that they look great, but they typically don’t have the ability to make us feel anything. “Half-Life 2” and its subsequent episodes are among a new generation of titles that are changing how we feel about video games. It is not only among the best games I’ve ever played, but it is touching as well. There are moments of pure, character-driven drama. Since the drama unfolds in-game (not in cut-scenes) you’re always watching it unfold as a character in the scene. When one character hugs another in the middle of the game you can walk around them and watch from all angles. When a character is in distress or pain you can zoom in on their faces and watch them feel these emotions. It’s hard not to feel it, too. For this, I consider these games monumental achievements.
Aside from making you feel something for a change they are exciting and beautiful, to be sure, with plenty of action and physics-based puzzles to keep even expert gamers busy. I’ve always been a fan of this series for its intelligent sensibilities and complete lack of ego. The two extra episodes go a long way to propel the art of gaming both in play and narrative.
If you don’t feel something while you’re playing through the Half-Life 2 saga, maybe you should see a therapist (or a priest), because this game has a lot of heart.
You’d have to be a zombie not to notice.
By Victor Paul Alvarez