VIDEO: Half-Life 2 (2004) is a bad sequel

Quod erat demonstratum, eh mofuckas? If you think this video is too confrontational, suck it! Roland works for a living, and doesn’t have time to mince words on the internet. So let’s rock and roll, and say your piece in the comments section.

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  • You couldn’t really step back and analyse HL2 as a story to be honest, because there isn’t enough to it. It’s more like a collection of post-apocalyptic tropes held together by really slick presentation, which is probably why it was so popular. It reminds me of The Last of Us, a thoroughly generic and unremarkable zombie story that knocked gamers off their feet with good presentation.

    The story of TLoU is presented almost entirely in cutscenes and is shot and conveyed like an Oscar-Bait film. This method hits the desired emotional cues but in a film would be seen as too generically ’emotional’ and trying too hard to be artistic, but as games have no real standard for serious drama it has been received as some kind of masterpiece, similarly to HL2’s ‘storytelling’. I’ll give TLoU this though, unlike HL2 it does actually have a story.

    Overall I think they’re the videogame equivalent of airport novels: light, unchallenging and easy to play storytelling. TLoU would be gaming’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, having a dark enough subject matter to pretend it’s more mature and meaningful than it is.

  • David F White

    I am still playing Psi-ops!! Great game!!!

  • MichaelANovelli

    An M-4 with a grenade launcher is an M-203, actually. ^_^

    • The M203 (no dash) is just the underbarrel grenade launcher part. It would be an M4 with an M203.

      • MichaelANovelli

        All I know is the only people who were ever assigned them were the guys working to radios back at the TOC. Caused me no end of frustration, lemme tell ya…

        • Give it a fun nickname, like “Chuck.”

          • MichaelANovelli

            It’s not a chainsaw.

  • Mark Brown

    I never really thought about it much until now, buy yeah, you’re right, it is a bad sequel.

    I enjoyed HL2, and it’s still one of my top games, but the original is still so much better. The narrative and the pacing are just superb in HL, while in 2 it drags in quite a few places (The boat sections pain me), and feels more like I’m performing odd-jobs rather than having my own goals. Oh, and yes… most of the time in HL2 when a new character was introduced my first thought was “Wait… am I supposed to know who you are?”. HL2 isn’t a sequel, it’s a new story which happens to involve Gordon Freeman and people he supposedly knows from Black Mesa.

    A few random thoughts:

    I never liked the gravity gun. It was fun for about 5 minutes in multiplayer, killing people with toilets and radiators, but got quickly boring.

    The puzzles in HL2 always seemed to have more of a purpose towards showing off the physics engine, whereas in the original they always seemed to fit into the narrative.

    Respawning enemies annoy me most of the time, as I prefer slow and sneaky to a heads-on approach. HL2 had them in several areas. I don’t recall the original ever using them.

    People like Ravenholme (did I spell that right?)? I hated it. It also had those damn respawning mobs in places. Urgh.

    It’s been a while since I played either game, but I still remember the story of the original pretty well. HL2 though? Nope. I think I was on the boat to the escape the city, for some reason. But what was the point of the coastal road again? Or leading the antlions into the prison? I remember it more as a string of events rather than a narrative. Mostly fun events maybe, but still…

    I may be sad, but one of my favourite things in the original was trying to lead the survivors to safety. You could only do it up to a point, but there was something satisfying about gathering several scientists and guards into a safe place.

    • Mark Brown

      Thinking about it, it’s probably my fault there are so many people from Black Mesa in HL2 :-P

  • Fantasy Mission Force

    Definitely agree. I’m still playing the original Half-Life more than ten years later, while I put maybe two hours or so into part two before I got sick of it forever. If it wasn’t Half-Life 2 but instead some generic title like Gravigun or something, I don’t think as many people would forgive all of it’s flaws. It’d probably just be another middle of the road title, nothing especially horrible, but nothing all that impressive, either.
    I never understood the hype about the gravity gun, either. Well, the ‘attracto-beam’, or whatever, really. It was just, whatever. Like, okay, it can pick things up and fling them at enemies. Ah… whoopdie shit…? What’s supposed to be impressive about that? I don’t really get it. I really don’t get it.
    Really like your videos, always glad to see a new one go up.

  • Rrrevan

    I don’t know why you’re so angry, but this review wasn’t done with your usual clear headedness. Spewing sarcastic quips over a game that was leaps and bounds ahead of everything in 2004 and still is better paced and well written than 99.9% of the garbage currently on the market seems like a desperate bid for attention.
    Your general negative reaction to mainstream tripe that plagues the gaming market (terrible pacing, bland/annoying characters and writing that rivals soft core porn) make this HL 2 crucifixion all the more baffling
    I’ve rarely seen such vitriol, and given how Half Life 2 is being judged from a 2014 perspective, your points are even more ludicrous.

    1) Setting: The original HL had no story either…Half Life was never about story….it is about the setting with mystery. An abandoned lab and a strange city with a mysterious citadel in the center following a post apocalyptic event.

    2) Production Quality: 99% of other games only wish they could construct a character as likable as Alyx Vance. Almost a decade later, and she is still the closest thing to a genuine, down to earth ally that exudes HUMANITY the gaming industry has ever produced. While the rest of the field writes utterly forgettable female leads, HL 2 created someone we could enjoy because she felt like a real human being. If you can name me half a dozen female characters in the gaming industry that don’t rely on their tits, innuendo or hand holding and a male lead to solve all problems, I’d love to hear them.
    3) Pacing: The original HL rarely dragged. If 20 Seconds of banter in HL 2 for every 3 hours of gameplay is poor pacing in your book, then there is no pleasing you. Running from combine, Jumping from rooftops, hover crafting, running through a haunted city, creeping through an underground mind shaft, sand racing on a buggy, using Ant Lions as allies, driving down the coast with the combine on your ass, etc. etc. You know what I call that…never leaving the player board. At no point in HL 2 are you not full throttle.
    I could on, but with all the dreg out there in this gaming world of high end visuals masquerading in an empty suit of annoying stereotypical characters, hand holding checkpoints, and awful writing, you could do a lot worse than HL 2.

    • My comparisons are the same as they always are: to other games available/popular at the time, or in the case of sequels, to the games that preceded them.

      Far Cry came out in 2004. Earlier in the year than Half-Life 2. It makes Half-Life 2’s modified Quake engine look like it should be running on an N64.

      Alyx has very little character or backstory, but people remember her as being a good character because she flirts with you in first person. She’s not like a sexy secret agent, so she seems more realistic, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lot of character depth.

      Half-Life 2’s pacing is take it or leave it. It’s not set by the player as it was for most of Half-Life (after you get the intro out of the way). The dialogue scenes are NOT 20 seconds long, they are several minutes long. And every segment, be it the mines, Ravenholm, driving buggies or airboats or muscle cars or scoring railing kills with the gravity gun, overstay their welcome by a bit.

      In any case, you should watch the whole thing, so you don’t miss the joke at the end. :)

      • I disagree about Far Cry 1. It was technically advanced back in ’04 but now is really quite ugly. Half Life 2’s look meanwhile holds up well a decade later, which I’d put down to having really good ‘realistic’ art design (I’d say the same for COD 4).

        • I brought up Far Cry because you said I was looking at it from a 2014 perspective. From a 2004 perspective, Half-Life 2 wasn’t an innovator.

          • I think you’re confusing me for the guy above me.

          • Yep. I am. Sorry. :C

  • Moppet

    Not really in reference to the game itself, as any Source engine game could do these things, but the facial animations and lipsyncing are still amaze me today, or, rather, I should say that modern developers (in too many cases) haven’t taken note of something a, now, very old engine did almost ten years ago. We still have games with mouth flapping (Alien Isolation, hello!) and games that have to create entirely new lip animations for multiple languages (Hi Final Fantasy XIII). You’d think something as good for development as what we saw in the source engine with lipsyncing that tries to match up to any vocal language you put through it, and the facial animation system in general, would be of note.

    You’d think, but you’d be wrong. Not wrong in every case, you have games today with great, even better, facial animations but at the same time you see modern games with ungodly budgets that don’t even try. Hello again Alien Isolation. You know what makes Alien Isolation’s attempts at more photorealistic graphics fall apart? The body and face animations being terrible, and the lip flapping instead of actual animations that make the lips try and match up with what’s being said.

    Okay. Graphics aren’t everything. I’ll still go back and enjoy old pixel art adventure games like Quest for Glory. Visuals never have been everything. And yet, a lesson learned should be a lesson learned, something that’s beneficial should be taken note of and become a tool in any engine’s toolbox, right? These are things that aren’t just sensible, but that can actually save you money and time and effort.

    This really didn’t have anything to do with Half Life 2 or your video. Sorry. The video just made me dwell on that. As for the video itself, well, I agree and disagree at different points, but, overall, my viewpoint is little different than when I first played HL2. I like HL2, its episodes and HL1 and some of its expansions. For different reasons, obviously, but I like them none the less. Liking HL2 (and HL1) It doesn’t make many of the points you brought up any less true, obviously. If I’m honest I like HL2’s episodes 1 and 2 better than the core game, I’ve always been especially fond of Episode 1 for some reason.

    Thanks for the video as always, lots of stuff to think about in there. It did feel a bit harsh at times, not in terms of the points, but the tone, but that’s all relative and up to personal taste. I still think you did a good job.

  • Gallen Dugall

    I played Half-Life, never had any inclination to play the second one. It’s all part of the best ever worst ever internet mentality. Halflife gets the greatest ever label as arbitrarily as some things get the worst ever label.

  • TheCrazyFish

    I think it’s an issue of not remembering shit. I played Half-Life once, a LOOOOONG time ago, and forgot most of what happened, so when when I played Half-Life 2 I didn’t even notice how much it ignored continuity.

  • Ebalosus

    I don’t necessarily agree with all your points, but understand where you’re coming from nonetheless. What are your thoughts on the Black Mesa TC?

    • It makes a GREAT prequel to Half-Life 2.

  • Thomas Loney

    So your objection with HL2 is that there are actual characters instead of a collection of the same 3-4 character models from HL1? The only thing I can say about that is games changed a lot in the intervening years. Shooters went from Doom type blastathons with little to no story to basically emulating System Shock, with characters, a story, and plot told through a collection of NPC logs or interactions. HL1 was a Doom style game told in a more cinematic fashion. HL2 was more of a SS style game that tried to tell an actual story along with the “go from point A to B” missions. I agree that it wasn’t as good, or nearly as revolutionary as HL1 when it came out. I played through HL1 probably half a dozen times because it was extremely groundbreaking. I played HL2 once.

  • lamebrain

    i love this video