Thanks to Andy we’ve had a copy of Halo 2 in the house for three weeks now, and thanks to my convenient excuse/justification of “I’m sick, I should stay in this weekend,” I now have a copy of Half-Life 2. Two very different games, yet oh-so similar.
First, to solidify my already well-established geekiness: A quick coolness comparison list:
- Coolest weapon: Half-Life 2 (because unlike Halo 2’s energy sword, I can’t get my ass kicked by Half-Life’s gravity gun)
- Cooler music: Halo 2 (ooooo-eeeeee-ooooo, oooo-uuuu-oooo-uuuuu)
- Cooler physics gimmicks: Half-Life 2 (look, I can swing on a swing!)
- Cooler dead body, rag-doll physics: Halo 2 (thump, tumble-tumble-tumble)
- Cooler vehicles: Halo 2 (I know there are more coming in Half-Life 2, but I doubt they’ll come close to the Scorpion tank)
- Cooler (or more obnoxious) headcrabs: Half-Life 2
- Cooler spooky settings: Half-Life 2 (I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “Oh my god, what the fuck was that?” while playing)
- Cooler multiplayer: Halo 2 (when it comes to playing online with annoying 13-year-olds, I’d much rather the option of running them over with vehicles, than playing terrorist/counter-terrorist with them)
- Cooler stereotypical African-American resistance leader character: Halo 2 (Johnson’s vulgar one-liners trump the peg-legged guy in Half-Life 2)
- Coolest shooting-radiator-at-zombies moment: Half-Life 2 (Halo 2 was seriously lacking in this area)
Game that’s made me swear at it more: Half-Life 2 (although still nowhere near Ninja Gaiden’s record)
Verdict: They’re both pretty darn fun games.
Continue for a rant on story, plot and perspective in games…
Reviews for both games have been exceedingly positive, but a common complaint about Halo 2 is that the story is too complex (read: utterly unintelligible), and a common complaint about Half-Life 2 is that there isn’t much story at all. The more a game tries to be a cinematic experience, the more removed you become from the action and from the character you’re supposedly playing. Every time I see a “directed” cutscene in Halo 2 with the Master Chief (you) standing there delivering cold, ironic one-liners, I’m further removed from the game experience. “Oh, right, it isn’t actually me doing all these things, it’s this cyborg soldier guy.” On the other hand we have Half-Life 2. Every event that takes place in the game is from a first-person (your) perspective. Sure, people refer to you as Gordon here and there, reminding you that you’re playing a character, but the camera view never looks back on yourself. When it comes to story/plot development the latter technique is a thousand times more effective, in my opinion. No matter how beautiful the cutscene/cinematic might be, whether it’s rendered in the game engine or not, if I’m suddenly forced to sit through a little 5 minute, non-interactive movie, which tries to explain some (ridiculous) plot twist, I just get bored. In Half-Life 2 (granted, I may not even be halfway through it yet) you’re experiencing the story the entire time. There have been a few twists and plot developments so far, and while they aren’t explicit, “This is what’s happening, and this is what you have to do,” they are much more effective. I guess immersion is the word. You’re dropped in a fucked-up world and you have to figure out what’s going on. I’ll take that “story” and immersive game experience any day.