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Review of Episodic Content, Half-Life 2 Episode One

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the future-of-content dept.


Half-Life 2 was worth the wait. Great story, beautiful graphics, and inventive gameplay made the game a worthy successor to Valve's 1998 classic. Last week gamers were finally allowed access to the next part of the story. Half-Life 2: Episode One is a fast-paced and entirely worthwhile continuation of Gordon Freeman's tale. It also raises some really good questions about the very idea of charging for small chunks of content. Read on for my review of this $20 experience, and a few comments on the episodic content debate.

  • Title: Half-Life 2: Episode One
  • Developer/Publisher: Valve
  • System: PC

The climactic finale to Half-Life 2 (HL2) left most players with mixed emotions. Elation at the completion of a fantastic shooter, and frustration at the sudden ending to the game's engaging story. Episode One picks up immediately after HL2 leaves off, and quickly reacquaints you with Alyx Vance and her robotic comrade. Within minutes, you're back in the thick of things, hard at work playing liberator to the human race. Episode One's story centers on the escape from City 17, the aftermath of the events of the original game, and the relationships between the resistance movement members. There are a few answers, some disappointing cop-outs, and a lot of new questions raised. The fate of Doctor Mossman, in particular, is a nagging question; her exploits are a briefly mentioned plot thread that is never readdressed or resolved. Like HL2 proper, the end of the episode is a major cliffhanger. If I had as many 'fade to white' moments in my life as Gordon has, I'd be awfully confused. These are hallmarks of Valve's storytelling at this point, though, and I don't begrudge them the need to keep us begging for more.

In fact, in almost every way possible Episode One is a success for Valve. This game is the first in a trilogy planned to end next year, and Valve has done a fantastic job in capturing interest with this initial effort. Unlike SiN Episodes , which amused but failed to engage, Episode One was so gripping I almost immediately restarted the game with 'commentary mode' enabled just to see if I could glean any more from a second go-round.

As entertaining as the story is, this title truly shines in its gameplay. Creating Half-Life 2's gameplay was a long process of trial and error. For the player, a degree of handholding was required to teach the skill required to play. Episode One, in contrast, relies on your knowledge of FPS controls and experience with the original title, packing the relatively short game with eyebrow-popping moments. New uses for the gravity gun, clever physics puzzles, the near-constant presence of Alyx Vance, and some very challenging gunplay all add to the title's brisk pace. Of particular note are the moments where Valve tweaks the player expectations. A quick crawl through the ducts becomes a drawn-out odyssey through heavily trapped rooms; you know you're having fun when death provokes a laugh instead of a sigh of frustration.

While I certainly wouldn't classify HL2 as 'easy' on normal mode, the difficulty of firefights in Episode One takes things up a notch or two from combat in that game. Several action set pieces move beyond the more straightforward boss battles; they pit you and Alyx against waves of different enemies, or put you in close quarters with some vastly unpleasant creatures. The addition of a new zombie (the 'zombine') and smarter combine soldiers contributes to this challenge. The zombine in particular (a headcrab-infested combine soldier) is a tough opponent. It takes quite a few more hits than the normal zombie to dispatch. It also displays limited tactical ability, waiting for a small knot of its kind to form before rushing you, or using a grenade to act as a walking bomb. The smarter human footsoldiers are often a frustrating surprise; they take cover and shoot straighter than their cousins in the original game.

Episode One looks great, of course. Some additional shiny has been added to the title, but for the most part you're going to be seeing the same textures and environments as in HL2 proper. It would have been nice to see some dramatically new areas, but the urban jungle you traverse on your way out of the city is as engaging as it is familiar. Sound effects are also reused, but the musical stings to accompany important moments are new and seemed more carefully composed than some of the previous offerings.

In a nutshell, Episode One is Half-Life 2 all over again. Perhaps because of its short duration (only about five hours or so), it actually manages to be even better than the original title in almost every way. The puzzles are inventive, the combat is more intense, and the story grabs you within minutes of game start; the moment, early on, where Dog and Alyx have a great moment of simple character interaction made the price of entry well worth it (for me). I've played a lot of games since Half-Life 2 came out, but this is still a franchise that impresses; Valve delivers on everything it promises. If you like story with your shooter, play this game.

The fact that Valve has released a great product should come as no surprise. What strikes me most about this title is its place in a larger debate. Episodic content has provoked a number of earnest conversations this year; how much to charge, how much content is enough, and how often content is released all seem to be sticking points in the gaming community. When Bethesda began releasing commercial mods for Oblivion earlier this year, there were a number of people that felt three dollars for horse armor was a tad much. Subsequent releases for that game have been weightier, and their low price (just $1.98 for a pirate ship) seems to have allayed criticism of those offerings.

In comparison, last month's SiN Episodes was 5-6 hours of gaming for twenty bucks. About it, I wrote "If Emergence was $15, this would be a sure thing; at $20 I'm not sure this particular ride is worth the price of admission." Now that I've seen what my $20 can get me, I know it's not worth the price of admission. If we can expect Valve's success is a high-water mark for episodic content there's going to have to be a serious reexamination of pricing and release for future, lesser offerings. I'm willing to wait for Episode Two at this point; as far as I'm concerned Valve already has my money. At the same time, I'm unlikely to purchase the next episode of SiN. The story just didn't grab me, but the amount of time we're going to be waiting is what really frustrates. With no word yet on a release for the next episode in SiN's season, we're looking at a three months wait (or more) for another length of lackluster writing and time-worn gameplay.

Valve has proven they can deliver, and four dollars an hour should be a premium price for their premium product. In contrast, SiN is just not worth it. I want faster, cheaper, or more. Two of those three will make the next developer to try for the episodic market a success. Perhaps a SiN-quality game that lasts eleven hours for $15? Or the same length for $10 every other month? I would even be interested in true micro-installments. Two or three hours of content for five bucks every month would be a good standard to set. At that rate, the television season comparison SiN is reaching for becomes a reality.

What I enjoy most about the concept of episodic content is the potential. Can developer schedules achieve a brisk enough turnaround? Will enough gamers purchase the second episodes of SiN and Half-Life 2 to ensure there will be a third? With the popularity of Xbox Live, will more developers jump on the episodic bandwagon? I, for one, certainly hope so.

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So.... uhh.... /shifts eyes (3, Funny)

loraksus (171574) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473567)

Anyone have the .torrent?

Re:So.... uhh.... /shifts eyes (4, Funny)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473585)

I can hook you up... for a price... shall we say... $25?

Re:So.... uhh.... /shifts eyes (1)

idonthack (883680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474041)

You would still need Steam to play it. And you need an account to use Steam. And Steam will check to make sure you've actually paid.

Until someone patches it ;)

not doing that (4, Insightful)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473568)

In a nutshell, Episode One is Half-Life 2 all over again. Perhaps because of its short duration (only about five hours or so)

Five hours of gaming for $20... I must admit my reaction has been tempered now I think that $20 is like £14... but that is still a lot for 5 hours. If I buy a game for that much I would want a lot more than 5 hours of play; maybe I'm just tight. I've bought games in the past for less than this (infact I actually got a copy of Metriod Prime 2 free from nintendo) and they have given me easily over 20 hours and counting.

Re:not doing that (2, Insightful)

ahsile (187881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473611)

I'm more than a little peeved that I paid $20 for this amount of content. I expected the game to take me at least a few nights to beat, but instead I was finished by early Thursday evening. The gameplay was a little tougher than the original HL2, but I'm still not convinced it makes up for the price.

I may play the game again in commentary mode, which was enjoyable in HL2:Lost Coast. But, in contrast, I have devoted countless hours (read:many many days of life and *cough*work*cough*) to CS:Source, and it just happened to come along with the package I got for HL2.

Re:not doing that (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473693)

I'm more than a little peeved that I paid $20 for this amount of content. I expected the game to take me at least a few nights to beat, but instead I was finished by early Thursday evening. The gameplay was a little tougher than the original HL2, but I'm still not convinced it makes up for the price.

Don't take this the wrong way, but where have you been? Since the beginning, everyone has known it would only be a few hours long, hence all of the complaints about episodic content in general. So long as you read the slightest preview or article or web post you'd know it was only a few hours long.

I beat it in a little over 4 and I was taking my time. But I knew that going in.

Re:not doing that (1)

ahsile (187881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473742)

Heh. I weened myself off Valve games for a good 5 months or so. I loaded it back up last monday, saw the new game... and I was compelled to buy. Seriously, I had no idea. I went in blind.

Re:not doing that (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474151)

Heh. I weened myself off Valve games for a good 5 months or so. I loaded it back up last monday, saw the new game... and I was compelled to buy. Seriously, I had no idea. I went in blind.
Ah, then you're forgiven :-)

I never really thought about it, but for someone completely in the dark I don't think they ever offer what the "episodic content" on Steam really means; like they don't flash "up to 6 hours of gameplay" or something.

That lack of a banner might tick some people off.

well (2, Funny)

xusr (947781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473649)

You've got to admit that even 5 hours is more entertainment value than that other thing called "episode one" offered.


Re:not doing that (5, Insightful)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473692)

Is $20 for 5 hours really that bad? A movie ticket to see a two hour movie costs $8-$10 (or more). $20 isn't going to get you 5 hours worth of games a place like Gameworks or Dave and Busters. A hardcover book costs around $15-$20 and maybe only last around 5 hours if you're a fast reader.

Put it in context (1, Troll)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473905)

A MMO will run you $20-$50 for the base package and $15 a month, and will provide you with an unlimited number of hours of entertainment. It amortizes much nicer. I'll admit I don't purchase many games - but my brother does, and most of his games last him more than 20-40 hours, and at a top sticker price of what, $30-$50, that is a lot cheaper. ($2.50 down to less than $1 an hour, if even, depending on the price breakdown). Myself I am a MMO fan, you can't beat the price... I've been playing the same MMO for 4 years and my gaming budget is exactly $100 a year ... the yearly subscription fee to Everquest. I play roughly 2 hours a night... 13 cents an hour.

Compare apples to apples. I mean, we could try and compare this to a hooker, the game would come out a lot cheaper, but come on... which would you pick? (assuming it is a morally valid choice, etc, YMMV)

Re:Put it in context (1)

idonthack (883680) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474068)

A MMO will run you ... $15 a month, and will provide you with an unlimited number of hours of entertainment.
Wait, wait... How many hours are in a month?

Re:not doing that (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473914)

You're comparing apple to oranges. Compare it to other games.

Or if you're going to compare it to random things- my guitar has given me hundreds of hours of enjoyment. Playing poker actually makes me money per hour. My internet connection gives me dozens of hours for just $50. And so on.

Re:not doing that (-1, Troll)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473918)

Is $20 for 5 hours really that bad?
Yes, if you're not stupid.
A movie ticket to see a two hour movie costs $8-$10 (or more).
Not at the dollar theater (most recent movies are only worth that much anyhow).
$20 isn't going to get you 5 hours worth of games a place like Gameworks or Dave and Busters.
That's why they call those places "rip-offs."
A hardcover book costs around $15-$20 and maybe only last around 5 hours if you're a fast reader.
You don't buy a hardcover if you're only going to read it once! Have you ever heard of a "paperback" or, better yet, a library?

Re:not doing that (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474155)

You dug your own septic system, didn't you?

Clearly games are a priority for some and not all of us have to save for 6 months to justify a $20 purchase.

We're Americans! Absurdly well-to-do, wasteful to the point of our own extinction. But no one ELSE is going to take us down!

Re:not doing that (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473701)

I think its quite reasonable, with the price of drink in Dublin now its easy to blow $20 an hour on a night out

Re:not doing that (1)

oudzeeman (684485) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473811)

you can make $20 last an hour at the pub? :) I guess that isn't too far off. Don't try to make $20 last an hour at club supersexe in Montreal though!

Re:not doing that (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473747)

(infact I actually got a copy of Metriod Prime 2 free from nintendo) and they have given me easily over 20 hours and counting.
As somebody said in the Sin thread, you can also play solitaire for 50 (or even 500) hours for the price of the cards.

As Zonk said, the commentary mode adds a lot to the replayability, making 10 hours of fun as opposed to 5 hours of fun and 5 hours of filler you'd have with some other games. I didn't find the comments as interesting as the ones in Riddick, but they revealed a lot about the game making process and actually pointed me to a few interesting gameplay moments I didn't notice the first time.

Still, the question of value is different for everyone depending on the budget and/or *cough* bandwidth, so I'm not saying that everyone would find it reasonable to pay $20 for this game.

Re:not doing that (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473763)

how much entertainment would you get in a pub, or a cinema, or in a restaurant for that £14? As a one-off event.
We used to pay 10p a game for space invaders, and it was well worth the money. Now we expect 400 hours of amazing 3D entertainment for less than the price of a medium pizza...

£14? You're out of touch! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473799) nds []

The pound is just getting stronger and stronger...

Re:not doing that (1)

Datasage (214357) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473838)

Quantity is probably not the best way to look at it. Everyone puts a value for diffrent content. While I would never pay to see a film like the Break Up, I think $20 for HL2:Episode one is a good price to pay reguardless of length.

So is it worth $20, yes to some people it will be. But not for everyone.

Re:not doing that (1)

nEoN nOoDlE (27594) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473995)

If I go see a movie in the theater, I'm going to be paying 11 - 14 bucks for 1.5 - 2 hours of entertainment. CDs with 45 minutes worth of content go for 9 - 15 bucks, and DVDs go for $15 - $20 as well. $20 bucks for 5 hours of gameplay sounds very reasonable to me, and pretty cheap considering the alternatives.

Re:not doing that (1)

ronanm (92344) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474057)

I think that $20 is like £14...

What kind of maths is that?

$20 is £19.99, or at least it was when I was in Game earlier - id=326437 []

That's about ten pints in Whetherspoons. (Which because I'm such a lightweight will last me a lot longer than five hours. ;)

Re:not doing that (1)

Ulrich Hobelmann (861309) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474123)

Well, five hours of fun, plus you get to resell it for maybe $10-15. That's not bad at all, but of course value is in the eye of the beholder.

Whoring myself out with more episodic content (4, Interesting)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473580)

Hope nobody minds, but here's a link to my own MINERVA [] - more single-player Half-Life 2, but entirely unofficial and apocryphal. And with more than a passing nod to a certain Marathon...

Valve likes it [] , anyhow. And yes, I'm a complete fanboy!

Re:Whoring myself out with more episodic content (1)

jpardey (569633) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473932)

I agree, great game. Can't wait for the third episode. Everyone with HL2, waste some of this guy's bandwidth!

Re:Whoring myself out with more episodic content (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473935)

When part 1 of MINERVA came out I was like "WTF, that ended at the worst spot, I want MORE." When part 2 came out, I was like "WTF, that ended at the worst spot, I want MORE."

So stop posting on slashdot and go back to mapping! >.>

I wish I had more time to play it... (2, Funny)

Mr. Samuel (950418) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473586)

But upon the release of the PS3, my new PC is going in the garbage.

Re:I wish I had more time to play it... (1)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473655)

I've always thought that buying a $600 dollar console is worth dumping thousands of dollars of equipment into the garbage for. I'm glad I found someone who finally agrees.

yay (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473593)


English translation anybody (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473600)

this "review" was more an incoherant collection of strings pasted together to form paragraphs rather than an explanation of what the game is about and how you progress through game

so an English translation would be apreciated, if i wanted ramblings i would be surfing MySpace

Re:English translation anybody (1)

adachan (543372) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473815)

what are you talking about?

Re:English translation anybody (1)

Spokehedz (599285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474012)

Okay... Your a troll, but I'll bite. Here's your synopsis of a synopsis for ya:

Its HL2.1. If you liked the first one, you'll like this one. And for half the cost (ha-ha. half-life at half-cost.) of the original game, its hard to pass up. No waiting in stores, just click the button and in about 15mn your ready to go.

Also, there is a new update in Cedega that allows the game (and all Steam games) to work better in it. So, not only is it cheap but it's also 'cross platform' to boot. Use the cash you saved on buying Windows and play the game. Cedega is worth the 15 bucks, I feel.

P.s. I beat HL2 in just under 6 hours and I'm a die-hard gamer. I beat the HL1 with every weapon*, then just the crowbar*. Then with individual weapons*.

* Where applicable. Some things required a grenade, etc. to pass. The hardest one was the grenades, with the rocket launcher following, surprisingly. The crowbar was almost the easiest, because you could just bump into the enemy and wack 'em a few times... But I digress...

Download problems? (1)

Mxyzptlk (138505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473603)

Does anyone else have download problems? I purchased it, and it started 58%, but when it gets to 81 or 82%, it stops downloading. After I restart Steam, the download is back at 58% again... :-( I haven't got a response from Valve yet, but it is really annoying to spend money on a game that you can't use directly. It's like Civ IV all over again.

Re:Download problems? (2, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473661)

Does anyone else have download problems?
yeah, my torrent also got stuck about halfway through, when all the seeds suddenly disappeared. Thankfully though, everything went back to normal an hour or so later. Oh, you mean downloading it from Steam...

Re:Download problems? (1)

sporkmonger (922923) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473892)

I had an issue with disk space while downloading. Steam was installed to my E: drive, with 700+MB free, but my D: drive had a piddly 100MB left. There were some old registry settings left over from my original Steam install on the D: drive and the installer never overwrote them, so it was trying to put CS:S and HL2:E1 onto the D: drive instead and then running out of space. The download would just hang with no error.

Check to see if your disk is full I guess?

clientregistry.blob (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473977)

Deleting clientregistry.blob will force Steam to rediscover it's directory tree. Basically if you move it around you need to delete the clientregistry.blob or it will use the old directories.

Re:Download problems? (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473959)

Try pausing and resuming the preload if it stops. Also, note the steam tray icon. If it has the dotted line thingies, it's downloading, if not, it's not (and I would pause/resume the preload to try and force it to resume, although it will resume itself if you wait).

Basically I would advise patience. Try letting it run overnight, you'll probably find it done in the morning.

waiting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473609)

I'm just going to wait until they release all three episodes in a nice little package.

Re:waiting (1)

MonkeyPaw (8286) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473773)

That's what I'm going to wait for as well.

I do have HL2, but I'm not going to bother with the "sequals" until they're complete - then I'll play them straight through.

Fantastic (5, Interesting)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473618)

Granted, it is short (but if you consider it 33% of a game, its about right), but, unlike even halflife 2, itself, its the most immersive game I've played. Because they concentrated on such a (relatively) small amount of game, they were able to completely and utterly finish it. Alyx reacts to most major situations, jokes during 'down time', and everything. Once all three are finished (assuming the other two are just as good as the first), and you play them in order, you'll agree that it's the best game, yet, that valve has released, and you have to play an additional $10 to get them in pieces instead of waiting over a year to get it all...


Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473624)

What the FUCK kind of the theme do you have going on here?? Why do you want to KILL people on Monday morning with such shocking horror? Put the score on the left side so that I can continue perusing the -1 posts without seeing the idiotic +5 posts!! NOW BITCH!!

Movie? (4, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473630)

If you read through the original (linked from this article) review of Half Life, and then look at what is to be in "Episode 1", it seems that HL2 paints a rather dramatic and almostly cinematically interactive picture. While I'm sure that a good start with episode one will promote the HL2 franchise, with all the other VG movies in the works, I do wonder if Valve would be considering something of a movie-proper related to the Half Life storyline. Certainly, if followed, the plotline could probably be drummed into something decent... especially with the expected content to be added through the continuing episode.

Has anyone heard any rumours/press in regards to this? Maybe I'm just hopeful (and overly optimistic that if it happened, it wouldn't be a massacre), but a movie involving post-war apocalypse, a savior scientist, the comedic relief (Barnie), a hot sidekick, a nuttie scientist, cruel otherworldly footsoldiers, government conspiracy, and aliens that attach to one's head for happy zombification sound like a good combination to me. Hell, headcrabs and headcrab-zombies are probably in itself one of the cooler things... like an upgrade to the freakiness of chest-bursting nasties from the Alien movie series.

Episode One.1-3, The Movie (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473634)

Can someone publish the recorded, noninteractive machinima of a thrilling victory in the game? Maybe a 3-part series, about 90 minutes each, pausing at meaningful points in the plot? Get a champion player as the "actor", record the stream of game events, play them back in the engine. Is that technically possible with Half-Life2, or any video RPG? Maybe an open source engine...

Re:Episode One.1-3, The Movie (1)

mnemonic_ (164550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473659)

No, demo recording does not exist.

Re:Episode One.1-3, The Movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473823)

It's not what you're looking for, but the original Half-Life 2 has already been speedrun in just over an hour and a half ( One thing I think'd be pretty interesting is a plot speedrun of a game, keeping the important plot events but skipping the majority of the gameplay inbetween.

Re:Episode One.1-3, The Movie (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473880)

Read Concerned [] .
Its a comic based in the half life world thats actually very amusing.

Its created using a hl2 mod which allows posing and positioning of all the "actors" in any scene however you like.
You can make movies out of it apparantly.

Re:Episode One.1-3, The Movie (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473974)

From what I can tell, you want a demo recorded of someone good playing the game. Definately doable. ding_Tools [] for the specifics, to anyone interested.

20 dollars? try 12.99 retail (3, Informative)

Some_Llama (763766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473656)

buy it in the box and save your self 7 bucks, I am willing to actually buy this at 12.99, this was seen at Fry's electronics (if you have one near you).

Re:20 dollars? try 12.99 retail (1)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473755)

Does the boxed version come with all the extras the Steam version does? ea=package&SubId=79& []

Re:20 dollars? try 12.99 retail (1)

schwal (836247) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473891)

wow, all that free stuff that you got for buying the base game!!! WOW! but in all seriusness, youd save that much on gas by getting it on steam.

Re:20 dollars? try 12.99 retail (1)

SScorpio (595836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473965)

I can't say that the boxed version includes those "extras". But you already have all of them if you have a copy of Half-Life 2.

Re:20 dollars? try 12.99 retail (2, Informative)

athakur999 (44340) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474140)

That's was I was trying to find out. If you have a boxed versin you're probably better off getting the retail version for cheaper. If you're new to HL2 though the Steam version may be better since you get HL2:Deathmatch (which otherwise costs $10 if don't already own HL2).

Then again, I don't know how much appeal this game would have to those who haven't already bought HL2...

The problem (5, Interesting)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473679)

The problem with episodic gaming is that once companies get a taste of the cash that episodes generate, they (and their shareholders) will look for any way to generate more revenue from it. Often times, this means raising the price every year or so. This happened to MMORPGs where the prices suddenly jumped from $10/mo to $15/mo. And once one company does it and gets away with it, the rest follow suit. I understand you need to adjust for things like inflation, but inflation does not justify a 50% price hike.

What all of you suckers who buy into episodic gaming can expect in the future is increased prices, more frequent releases of episodes with less and less content, and purchasing the initial version of the game that has had features that SHOULD have been included scraped to provide "must-buy" content for the inevitable episodes. Unfortunately that last one affects EVERYBODY who might buy a game, not just the idiots who buy the episodes as we all saw with Oblivion's horse mod.

All episodic gaming is is an attempt at prepping consumers to be nickle and dimed for every game element the companies can think of. Think ringtones, wallpapers and games on cellphones, only more expensive.

Re:The problem (1)

duerra (684053) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473979)

Think ringtones, wallpapers and games on cellphones, only more expensive.

This is exactly what I fear in regards to episodic content, and why I have been so adamantly against it since I first heard about it. Back when I got my first cell phone, it came with dozens of ring tones (including many recognizable songs), and 3 (full) games built right into it. Did I mention that I got the phone for free?

The last phone I purchased, for $400, came with almost no ring tones, and only DEMOS of a couple games, of which you could play a level or two on before the game prompted you to buy the full version.

Of course, I could go out and buy these ring tones for $2.99 a piece (what about iTunes and their $0.99 model for the whole song, and higher quality to begin with?). Or I could go buy the games such as pac-man that can be found just about anywhere for free, for $5-10 per game.

I'd love for somebody to step up to the plate and tell me that the game industry won't end up like this if episodic content starts to take off.

Re:The problem (1)

espressojim (224775) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474095)

I think TES:Oblivion is another good example.

Lots of addons have come out for that, and many seem to be either junk or very small chunks of content that are fairly useless.

Re:The problem (1)

theskipper (461997) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474156)

But is there a reason why cost-benefit shouldn't apply to online subscriptions? When price goes over the tipping point then, theoretically, other games will supply the competition. Or a majority just don't accept the $15/mo and subscriptions fall. The manufacturer then has a choice to make. If enough people are willing to pay $15/mo then that's the proper price based on what the market is willing to bear. The word "sucker" is a relative term.

The same applies to the $20 games on Steam that pop up every once in while. Personally, if they were $10 I might pull out the credit card. Wrt this episode, it looks like it's worth $20 so the card will probably come out this weekend. If the next episode is $30 then most likely the sale will be lost.

The point is that basic economics applies to the new download distribution methods just as it does in meatspace.

Clothes? WTF! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473680)

And she STILL has clothes on. WTF? Twenty dollars can get me into ANY strip club.

Motion Sickness (3, Interesting)

TerenceRSN (938882) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473695)

Has Valve solved the issue that some users (including me and my brother on a different computer) were having with motion sicknes when playing Half-Life 2? I've played a lot of computer and video games my whole life and I'd never gotten motion sickness until I played HL2. On my old laptop I could play for a while without any trouble but after updating to a newer one - and nothing state-of-the-art - I couldn't play at all without feeling sick. I know there were some possible work arounds but I couldn't make it work.

Anybody else have these problems? Or know if it's better in episode 1?

Re:Motion Sickness (1)

Gimble (21199) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473955)

Me too. Also had queasy moments with Far Cry. Never had a problem with any other FPS.

Re:Motion Sickness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473962)

agreed. I have the same problem with only this game and no other. My guess is that V-sync is not working properly. When disabled for other games like quake and doom, I get motion sickness. Maybe fiddling with the drivers will help. Is there an issue using Vsync and SLI?

i'm about 2 hours into it. (2, Interesting)

schwal (836247) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473702)

basicaly, if you liked hl2 buy it. now. also, the guy failed to mension the sin episodes comes with the original sin game. and the "zombines" are the coolest enemies ever. shoot, switch to grav gun, grab nade, throw nade, lotsa dead zombies.

Re:i'm about 2 hours into it. (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473726)

Handy hint for the dark sections - your can light up zombies with the flares.

Not only does it kill them in a sufficiently amusing and gratifying manner, you can also see where you're going...

Half-Life 2...great story? (2, Insightful)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473712)

Am I the only one who thought that Half-Life 2's story was very bad?

Re:Half-Life 2...great story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473759)

Probably not.

Re:Half-Life 2...great story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473832)

It's good for a game. Same as it's much praised voice acting.

Re:Half-Life 2...great story? (2, Insightful)

LMN8R (979699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473859)

The story is very subtle and not at all in-your-face. It's an absolutely amazing story considering there wasn't a single cutscene, and if you pay attention to all of the details in the world you'll be amazed at just how rich the gameworld is. Don't believe me? Check this out: [] Not at all pulled out of his @$$, but rather a thourough analysis of everything.

Re:Half-Life 2...great story? (1)

daranz (914716) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473988)

HL2's plot wasn't great, even if the world where it took place was very fleshed out. The game involved a lot of "go there, now go there" plot, with paper-thin reasons for doing it.
One thing that bothers me a lot is that Gordon Freeman never speaks. It feels like a severe artificial limitation on the game, and makes it that much less immersive. Were HL2 a movie, or a book, Gordon Freeman would attempt to learn what the hell was going on - even if nobody was able to provide an answer. In the game, Freeman just does whatever he is told to, like a dumb sheep, instead of trying to make sense of the situation. That makes the plot of the game feel like it's full of holes, for me.

Re:Half-Life 2...great story? (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474036)

While some people don't understand it, the whole reason Gordon doesn't talk is because you are Gordon. If Gordon talked, it would ruin the character-as-player that the games run on.

You're not alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15474131)

I kind of was expecting something other than space-zombies from outer-space, and "Time, Mr. Anderson" at the end to give a kind of a teaser. Only to say that they couldn't figure out anything. Had a lot of nothing to say. Just like potheads.

It is so worth the $20 (1)

moe.ron (953702) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473740)

Anyone going into this game just looking to kill time with 'yet another shooter' is going to be disappointed. That is because they will be expecting something this game is not. It is an installment of a great, interactive story. If all you want is mindless shooting, save your money and get some been-there-done-that FPS. If you're interested in immersive, interactive entertainment, get this game. This is the beginning of a whole new level of entertainment folks. Would you spend $20 for an interactive movie that was 5 hours long?

How to complain about episodic gaming: (2, Insightful)

spentrent (714542) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473757)

If you play and you do not feel you got your money's worth, complain. Call billing support and ask for a refund.

If that fails, charge the fuckers back.

These guys set their prices based on your willingness to pay. Talk with your wallet.

Think about this: most people won't bat an eye when they are asked to pay 20 bucks to buy a new book. That's five hours of content, considerably cheaper to produce than a video game

Re:How to complain about episodic gaming: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15474104)

You are comparing entertainment with art.

The true value for money (2, Interesting)

falcon8080 (975701) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473762)

Ive played HL2 EP1 - and I agree with the majority of the review comments. However I do not believe that this episode was worth $20.

"Once youve brought all three youll have a complete game and you wont have to wait an extra year for it"
No, no I wont have a comeplete game. The reason being is that these episodes are reusing textures, prefabs, characters, sounds, AI and the graphics engine from HL2.When I spend $60 on a new game I want it to be just that "A new game!". I dont want to spend $60 on a game that has basically been modded from a previous game ive already played. Not only that, but it also does not come with multiplayer, I cant return it if I hate it and I have to wait an additional year from when I first start the gameto when I am actually allowed to complete it.

Seriously, where is the value in that? - sure you can suger coat it with "But they have updated the graphics engine!", "They have new character dialog", "its soo rich and immersive" - at the end of the day though you are just paying for a remake of a game you already own, with the added bonus of paying an additional $60 and having to wait a year to complete the game.

I have now tried episodic gaming, I realise now more than ever that I hate it, and I will never again all into this trap. I urge the rest of you to boycott this type of sales behaviour before we see games chopped up, released slowly and costing more before its too late.

Re:The true value for money (1)

Mysticode (696150) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474016)

You don't like having to wait a year before you can complete the game? HL2 took five years before it came out after the release of HL1. A year seems like a small wait in comparison and you get to play some of the game during that year instead of having to wait until the end for anything.

I haven't played it yet but I think that $20 is perhaps a bit much. Luckily for Valve, this isn't going to stop me from buying it as I really like the quality of story that they put into their games.

Re:The true value for money (1)

Zaplocked (925208) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474060)

does not come with multiplayer
When I preordered it, I got the multiplayer addon for Half Life: Source (not hl2, the source port of HL1).
I have to wait an additional year from when I first start the gameto when I am actually allowed to complete it.
To do it in a non-episodic fashion would not make it come out faster - rather, you'd get the whole game at the end of the production time for all three parts, as opposed to being able to play it throughout the year. That alone I consider worth the couple extra dollars.
reusing textures, prefabs, characters, sounds, AI and the graphics engine from HL2
I somehow doubt the game would be "improved" with all-new models or textures - why does this matter to you?

Re:The true value for money (1)

Zaplocked (925208) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474103)

Blegh, I think I misplaced my break tags...

inventive gameplay??? (1)

Viriatus (886319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473781)

in HalfLife 2??? ROFL

Commentary Mode (1)

bsytko (851179) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473797)

For me, what made the game worth the $20 was the commentary mode alone. I would have paid for the game regardless, but this mode is akin to the extra features you get on DVD releases today. The extra information given reeeaaalllyy helped fill in some gaps and gave a preview of Episode Two if a few spots. With the commentary it adds in another 4-5 hours of gameplay alone.

Missing (2, Informative)

gmerideth (107286) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473821)

I guess I missed something in this expansion. The first 15 minutes of the game are watching a purely scripted environment. You have absolutely no control over the outcome nor can you make any decisions (other than to jump off of a cliff). This game is *way* to scripted to be enjoyable and combined with the inability to shoot friendlies to me has less flair than the original.

Wow.. I actually.. *agree* (5, Insightful)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473844)

First of all, I was disappointed that for the first day I tried to buy/download episode 1, I kept getting "server is too busy, try again in a few hours" errors.

When I was finally able to purchase the game, I downloaded at about 400KB/s, which is pretty respectable for my connection (though it can do ~1MB/s to the right server).

The production value of the game is very good. The character interactions are very good and the constant interaction with Alyx is very good. She does neat little things like covering her face when there's an explosion hear her.

The story is "ok". I'm pretty picky about plot in general, so "ok" from me probably means "pretty good" for most other people.

My beef with the game has to be Alyx's health/ammo levels. She has infinite ammo, so there's bits where in order to conserve ammo, you have to pretty much just wait around for her to kill baddies (and point them out with the flashlight.. which while being cool at first gets old). The second bit is that she can die, but there's absolutely no indication of how much health she has. There's no number anywhere and it's not depicted on her character, either. She's fine, she's fine, she's dead. If she starts saying "Oww!" a lot, then you probably need to get her away.

Anyways, they've got my $20 for episode 2.

"Tweaking" the straitjacket... SPOILER warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473845)

***SPOILER warning***!!!!

The idea that Episode One makes use of experience with the previous game is not 100% true. There is at least one instance I can recall right off, where my expectations from the previous game caused me to do the wrong thing for a while; the level where you must escort groups of fighters from Barney's hideout to the train.

In the original, the *only* way to take out snipers was with grenades. No other weapon would work, even ones that ought to -- the rocket launcher in particular. This design "strait-jacketing" was a bit too much, I thought, and was one of my gripes with HL2. In the "escort" level, when I found the case of rockets, I thought for certain it was a gunship level, the pattern of the original was so tight. Well guess what? No gunship. And guess what suddenly works to take out the sniper now?

HL2 was often a bit narrower than it needed to be, and tweaking expectations born of that is just frustrating the gamer, not good design.

IMO $20 is too high for something that ends so soon, we actually got *less* of Dog than in the original, this episode wasn't nearly as engaging IMO, and the "tweaks" were often simply frustrating. But overall, sufficiently decent to keep me in for Episode 2.

Is Episode Two... (1)

guitaristx (791223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473858)

... when Gordon Freeman finally gets his tea? Hasn't he been wandering around with "no tea" for long enough?

Arthur Dent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15474128)

You're thinking of Arthur Dent

I dig it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473884)

I was originally turned off when the episode ended shortly after taking down the stalker. I got a few hours of play (i think about 5) and was a little disheartened compared with the many, many more hours i put into HL2.

I replayed the new episode on hard setting, got killed almost instantly, and tried again. I think that if people, instead of just playing it on Normal or Easy were to try it on every skill level, they would find that it fills the time between releases better and make you a better player (after, of course, you realize that a shotgun blast to the face doesnt stop an enemy as easiliy).

Also, charging for their comparitivley small episode i think is just fine (now, i should say). I dont mind the $20 (or 14) for the playing time, but I would have been more keen on it if it was say $15 or so. Not a huge loss to Valve, and also that would have been a more comparative price to the full HL2 game.

A little disappointed (1)

Skagit (910458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473887)

The episodic expansion included five hours of new game play, no new weapons, no new vehicles and one new monster. The environments are all the same stuff we've already seen. How long did that take them and how much did we have to pay? Sure, they have other stuff going on, but after HL2 I feel a little let down. Enough so that I don't think I'll be downloading the SIN episodes.

Still, I'll keep buying just so I can find out what happens, but I thought Minerva: Metastasis was more interesting and engaging and free. Valve should have given the cash to Adam Foster.

Well worth $20 (5, Informative)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473888)

I found Episode 1 has more entertainment value per square inch than the original Half-Life 2, which more than makes up for it being shorter. It most certantly makes the $20 price seem low now that I've played it.

There were new "gimmicks" introduced (new enemies, new puzzle components) and variants thereof used very well. They were fairly easy to figure out but that didn't make it any less satisfying when the way forward would open to more cool stuff. You seriously can't go more than a few meters without something cool happening.

The commentary is a bonus. I was disappointed that there were only a couple that took control of you or tweaked the rendering engine temporarily to show you something, more of that sort of thing would have been real neat. But the commentary itself was still very good, you learn a bit about the behind the scenes stuff (sort of like a mini "Making Of" while in the game. However, sometimes it's hard to hear commentary if in-game characters are talking at the same time. Fortunately you can always move away to more easily listen to the commentary.

The only qualms I have is that I had a weird hanging problem (maybe something with my drivers, who knows) but on a second play through it disappeared.

Also, I missed vehicles. The episode 2 teaser reveals large outdoor areas, hopefully you'll get a vehicle for part of the episode.

In short: I am quite looking forward to episodes 2 and 3 and will preorder as soon as the option becomes available on Steam.

The only problem here is (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473913)

I got bored of HL2 like a year ago, so I have little interest in buying/playing another chapter. If Valve can't release episodic content fast enough, then their consumer base will dry up as more interesting and exciting titles come along. I can only focus so much time on a game, I am not 12 years old anymore and don't have 8 hours of downtime after school or work every day to have 10 games on the go at a time. Once I have finished a game, I uninstall it and move on, and I am sure many HL2 players have moved on.

but can it be played in cedega? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473916)

I wonder how long it'll be before I can play it in cedega :(

Physics (1)

WinEveryGame (978424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473927)

Really, you found the physics in the game to be good!!? Perhaps by the standards of Warcraft, may be..

Separate episodes = more consistant quality (1)

LMN8R (979699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473930)

One note that I didn't see mentioned is that because, at least at Valve, each episode is being designed by a different team, every single episode will have much more consistant awesome quality than a single 10-15+ hour game. They need this in order to keep people buying the episodes, but at the same time it's because they don't need to worry about pacing nearly as much. Half-Life 2 Episode One was incredible, and the commentary added a huge amount of insight to their development philosophies. Not to mention they talked about a lot of redesigns that areas went through for sake of keeping that quality gameplay in tact. Alyx could have been an extremely annoying companion, but because the "cabal" was focused on only 4-6 hours of gameplay, they could do everything that they needed to make her addition enjoyable instead of a burden. As for reusing textures - they created a whole new material and texture set for this game, which was noted in the commentary. They painstakenly detailed every part of the city, and oher areas, to make it recognizable, but different because of its tremendous destruction. And finally, with episodic content they can keep on top of technology much better thanks to a 6-12 month development cycle instead of 4-6 year. The episode 2 trailer at the end looks incredible, keep it up Valve!

The 'Lost' of Video Games (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473941)

Its sad how valve built this amazing story universe and refuses to cash in on it even a little bit. HL1 built the world and gave it meaning. Most of HL2 was 'get from point A to point B', and ALL of EP 1 is 'get from point A to point B'. Nothing is revealed, there are no story points, just get from here to there and - OH SNAP! - another obstacle just popped up so you'll have to take the more dangerous route, Dr. Freeman!

They're so afraid to reveal anything that they reveal nothing. They're so afraid to tie up a plotline that they have no plot. Sound to anyone like an ABC drama that slowly drove off a cliff?

If not for the polish and gameplay (linear as it is) I'd have given up on HL a long time ago.

Multiplayer? (1)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473943)

Your review didn't touch on what I'm more interested in - Multiplayer. SiN Emergence : Episode 1 let me down considerably by not having a multiplayer option at release date, despite touting multiplayer throughout its developement. If HL2 : EP1 has multiplayer options included at launch date, this certainly makes the $19 price tag more attractive. On their web site they state "two multiplayer games." Anyone who purchased Ep1 have any info on what's been added?

Re:Multiplayer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15474153)

It's got HL2DM if you don't already have HL2, plus it comes with Half-Life Deathmatch Source (the port of HL1's deathmatch). So, it's only got two *new* multiplayer games if you didn't buy HL2.

Good, but it wasn't THAT good (1)

khendron (225184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15473970)

That is one glowing review. Myself, although I enjoyed Episode 1 a lot, didn't think it was *that* great.

For one, it was relatively easy. I played it through on Normal skill, and died very few times. None of the puzzles were difficult enough to delay me more than a minute, and I found that the new zombine enemies just blew themselves up.

I found the music annoying, to say the least. I considered turning the music off, but quickly realized that the start of dramatic music always foreshadowed an unexpected twist.

I was disappointed that there were no "Wow" moments as far as graphics were concerned. During the original HL2 there were times (like at the bridge) when I just had to stop and admire the scenery. Most of Episode 1 happens indoors.

Also, is Alyx invincable? While I was playing she occassionally got overrun by baddies, but alway came through without a scratch.

In summary, I was disappointed. I enjoyed playing the game but was not wowed by it. I will probably get Episode 2, but I will hardly be waiting with bated breath for it.

5 hours but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15473972)

it seems like a 1/2 hour of that was waiting for Alyx to get her ass in gear and open up locked doors while she was droning on about cupcakes and lollipops or something.

Story? I don't think so... (1)

Mathonwy (160184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474000)

Elation at the completion of a fantastic shooter, and frustration at the sudden ending to the game's engaging story.

I often wonder if people are playing the same game I am... Seriously, the story for Half-Life 2 can be accurately summed up as: "You're in a dystopian future, and the dictator in charge cooperates with aliens. Get to him, blowing up everything on the way!"

For that matter, the original half-life didn't fare much better, as it had a plot that was basically equivalent to the plot of DOOM: "Science made teleporters, but now aliens are coming through them! Someone must go through and blow them all up!"

What made both of these games good (Besides solid level design and gameplay) was the PRESENTATION of their stories. But at no point in either game did I ever keep playing because I wanted to "Find out how it ended" or "what happens next". I kept playing because I wanted to see what new and original game scenario the designers had crafted. But the stories were, quite frankly, poo.

Now, if they hooked up that kind of presentation to an actual STORY, they'd have an absurdly amazing game. But at least at present, spare me the "HalfLife[1/2] had such a great story!", because it really didn't. It had the bare minimum story required to give you an excuse to run around with a big gun and move from scenario to clever scenario.

Episodic Games (1)

D.A. Zollinger (549301) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474066)

For most other games, what you are purchasing is a complete story. While many of the games may leave the door open for a continuation of the story for a sequel if the demand for the first title warrants it, the primary story line has a conclusion. In episodic entertainment, this is not true. Both SIN episodes and HL2 Episode One are designed to provide more questions than answers. In SIN episodes, the most recent bad guy may be dead, but the root cause of the problem (Alexis Sinclair) still exists. You have been injected, but with what you do not know - and now, Jessica Cannon has been infected as well. Your primary suspect is dead. The City is under siege. How much longer are you in control of yourself?

Similar plot points exist with Half-Life 2: Episode One. What was contained in the message the Combine sent out? What were in those pods, and how do you defend yourself against a psy-attack? What project is Judith going after, and why is it important enough to involve one of the major characters? And why does the Combine have a recording of that message?

Unlike a monolithic game which includes a complete story line, the developers of episodic content are hoping that your curiosity and your desire to see a conclusion to the questions raised is enough to drive you to purchase more parts to the story. The marketing efforts for the later episodes will be much less, only to inform customers that the new episodes are available, and allow customer curiosity to drive sales.

In 2003 I purchased and played Ubisoft's XIII, which ended on a " be continued." It is now two and a half years later, and I have no desire whatsoever to see the conclusion. It wasn't always this way, and I had a desire to continue when I had completed the game, but after waiting for so long without any word of continuing the story, my personal curiosity has abated. Similarly, episodic games cannot wait long between releases. At most, I would think that 6 months would be the limit before my interest between episodes would begin to fade. A finely tuned project would have great success at one month release intervals. More frequently, and individuals will still be focused on previous episodes while new content is being released. Less frequently, and there is a risk that players will find a new title to interest them - delaying or foregoing a purchase on the next episode. To really make episodic content work, content creators must lose the "It'll be done when its done" attitude and adopt a strict development schedule. It worked for Gnome, and it is what is needed to ensure the success of episodic games.

Funny coincidence (1)

Devir (671031) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474075)

I had Episodic Content as a big part of my business plan 3-4 years ago when i was seeking Venture funding for a game company.

I was after a base engine design the was easily modified and expanded on. THe main game would be a bigger chunk and a single story. The Later content could be added ontop of the main story and add to, expand or even take it to a new direction.

The main goal was for a small Indie game shop to make games incrementally so you could get them to shelf sooner and start making return on investment sooner. As the compant grows more content can be added. This sounded like a great Idea but no Ventures bit. They sort of laughed at the idea because they were thinking Grand projects. Incremental releases would have built a grand game, over time.

My concept was a blend of the NWN style as well as Episodic content. Too bad it never "took" hold when i thought of it so many years ago.

All Episode Pack?? (1)

EzarKun (979709) | more than 8 years ago | (#15474082)

I think there would/should be a complete HL2 + Episode package, or Episodes alone later on (like HL platinum pack, or maybe not), but that would be a long time, whos gonna wait for that??
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