Half-Life 2: Episode Two

PC / Action / Release: Oct 10, 2007 / ESRB: M

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Double Action mod alpha side-dives out

Related Topics – Half-Life 2: Episode Two, mods, PC
Double Action mod alpha side-dives out

Double Action: Boogaloo may have missed its crowdfunding goal to fund full-time development, but it continues in slow-motion.

The John Woo-y HL2 mod, whose makers include folks behind Half-Life mod The Specialists, have dropped an alpha version which is naturally a bit barebones but has the core of what you want: akimbo pistols; dives; rolls; slides; wall-running; slow-motion; and other men to shoot.

Watch: Sliding shooting ducking diving »

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Zombie Master 2 mod shambles out

Zombie Master 2 mod shambles out

You try hurrying when your knees are splintered and tear rotten flesh with every step. After almost three years of development, Source mod Zombie Master 2 launched over the weekend. The follow-up drags the asymmetrical multiplayer RTS-FPS into the Orange Box version of Valve's engine with new features t'boot.

Read more: Humans play FPS, zombie master plays RTS »

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J.J. Abrams says Half-Life and Portal movie idea is 'real,' promises collaboration

J.J. Abrams says Half-Life and Portal movie idea is 'real,' promises collaboration

Kicking off the DICE summit in Las Vegas today was a keynote presentation by Valve head Gabe Newell and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams. At the talk, the two teased that they were interested in working together on future collaborations. "There's an idea we have for a game that we'd like to work with Valve on," Abrams said, while Newell said: "We're super excited about that and we also want to talk about making movies, either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie."

But how serious are the pair in making their wants a reality? Apparently, pretty serious. "It's as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets," Abrams said. "Which is that we are really talking to Valve, we are going to be bringing on a writer, we have a lot of very interesting ideas."

Read more: Abrams aware of gaming's 'cautionary tales' »

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Half-Life 2 VR mod awaits Oculus Rift

Half-Life 2 VR mod awaits Oculus Rift

With the Oculus Rift getting people all hot and bothered about virtual reality once again, one canny modder has prepared for its launch by whipping up a VR mod for Half-Life 2 and its episodes. Able to track the player's head and any plastic weaponry they may be holding, the mod looks jolly impressive in a new video.

Watch: Become Gordon Freeman more than ever »

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Half-Life 2: Episode 4 media details the 'Return to Ravenholm'

Half-Life 2: Episode 4 media details the 'Return to Ravenholm'

"Return to Ravenholm," aka "Half-Life 2: Episode 4," was a Half-Life 2 episode set in the spooky abandoned town. It's been canceled for a few years now, but we've gotten a better look at the game that could have been thanks to some new concept art and animation tests. It was in development at Dishonored developer Arkane Studios around 2006, but was ultimately scrapped.

Watch: The Half-Life episode that never was »

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Black Mesa: Uplink remakes Half-Life demo

Black Mesa: Uplink remakes Half-Life demo

The Black Mesa mod is a remarkable accomplishment, remaking Half-Life in the Source engine, and now a mapper building upon their work has remade another slice of Valve history. Black Mesa: Uplink remakes HL's classic Uplink demo, which curiously for a demo was a new slice based upon levels cut from the game during development. And now that's available in shiny Source-o-vision.

Read more: Took three months to finish »

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Shack PSA: Black Mesa now live

Shack PSA: Black Mesa now live

Grab your crowbars and spectacles, everyone. The Source engine fan remake of the original Half-Life is now available. It went live at 8:47 AM Mountain Time, which should sound awfully familiar to fans. The labor of love has taken eight years and has added a few notable tweaks to the classic, with at least one more revision on the way post-launch.

Read more: Xen revision coming »

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Black Mesa coming September 14

Black Mesa coming September 14

You thought the day would never come, and it still hasn't quite yet, but Black Mesa now has a release date. After eight years of development, the fan remake of Half-Life in the Source engine will be released on September 14. Except it won't be quite complete; the team is still working on expanding HL's reviled Xen section and plans to release it later.

Read more: Xen "basically a complete game in its own right" »

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Black Mesa gameplay trailer leaked

Black Mesa gameplay trailer leaked

The Half-Life remake mod Black Mesa really is coming, and now a leaked video confirmed as real has surfaced with a peek at its jazzed-up 'On a Rail' chapter. You know, that frightful section with the tedious trains then glorious rocket launch.

Watch: Three minutes of confirmed leaked gameplay »

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Black Mesa sputters into life with new screens

Black Mesa sputters into life with new screens

After eight years of development and several years of silence, it seems Black Mesa may be coming. No, seriously this time. The fans remaking Valve's Half-Life as a Source Engine mod have shared new screenshots, teasing that there's more news to come. At some point. Hopefully.

Read more: "Hold on to your lab coats!" »

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Valve's Steam Coming to Mac on May 12

The Mac OS version of Valve's digital distribution platform Steam will be released on May 12, the company confirmed today.

No other details on the launch were given--the announcement was a brief two sentences--though it will presumably debut alongside the native Mac versions of Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Portal and the Half-Life series originally slated to launch with the Mac client in April 2010. Read more »

"Do macs have enough hardware to run these games? When I walked past the apple store and had a ..."
- simonfrance    See all 54 comments


Steam Coming to Mac in April, Portal 2 This Fall

After some heavy-handed hints, Valve today confirmed that it will be bringing its previously Windows-only digital distribution platform Steam to the Mac in April 2010.

Said the company: "Steam and Valve's library of games including Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, Portal, and the Half-Life series will be available in April." Read more »

"Hey Valve/Apple, promote this in the Apple Store. Not only that, but have life-sized cardboard ..."
- xeropulse    See all 219 comments


Valve Reveals Lifetime Retail Sales of Half-Life, Counter-Strike Series

Beloved developer Valve has released lifetime retail sales figures for some of its more popular games, including the Half-Life and Counter-Strike series, revealing that the studio has sold over 32.8 million games since the 1998 release of the first Half-Life.

Sales from Valve's digital distribution client are not factored in, with the figures only accounting for worldwide retail sales. With Half-Life 2, Valve began simultaneously releasing all of its PC games at retail and via Steam. The numbers were originally printed in the November issue of Game Informer, then republished by Gamasutra. Read more »

"They STILL don't count online and digital sales? *holds X - moves mouse to ARGH!*"
- ElArabDeMagnifico    See all 143 comments


Half-Life 2: Episode Two Review

Half-Life 2: Episode Two is part of The Orange Box. Don't forget to check out our reviews of the also-included Portal and Team Fortress 2. Half-Life 2: Episode Two opens with a "previously in Half-Life 2 episodes" sort of recap montage that is the game's only real concession to the kind of static, cutscene-driven storytelling that still dominates video games. Certainly, some are of the opinion that the Half-Life series, particularly beginning with Half-Life 2, employs its uncommon brand of contextual narrative and in-game cutscenes as just a more interactive version of the traditional style, but such characterizations sell the developer's efforts short. With unfortunately few examples of others catching on since Valve started adhering to its own rigid design principles with its first game, the studio still knows how to subtly and seamlessly direct a player's eye through entirely in-game means better than just about anyone else working in the medium. Episode Two reflects the latest in Valve's continuing goal to build on its already top-notch sense of pacing, atmosphere, gameplay variety, and content density--from Valve, it's just what you would expect, at least if you're a Valve fan or have been keeping up with the pre-release coverage, but relative to the pace at which most developers exhibit this kind of growth, it's practically a marvel. How so? While Episode One took the formula largely established by Half-Life 2 and refined it--regardless of whether you found that evolution an improvement; I did--Episode Two refines it yet again but also introduces a much more dramatic spate of new elements to the mix than did its predecessor. The game sees a broader range of environments, that in a first for the series leave concrete and steel behind and branch out to the wilderness. In a great touch that speaks to Valve's instinct for thematic cohesion and iconography, a constant visual reminder of the center of the Half-Life 2 mythos is visible in the distance from nearly every outdoor location. New gameplay vignettes are introduced, bolstering the series' already impressive repertoire. It has to be tough at this point figuring out new physics puzzles, but they are here--and one, conjuring images of a designer wracking his brain for new material, is satisfyingly ridiculous in its abuse of reality. Despite its gravitas, Half-Life has always embraced the less realistic, more video gamey side of things when it comes to puzzle solving, and this game is no exception. Most crucially, however, is Valve's first stab at taking combat into broader arenas. This is what gives the game such an impressive breadth--there is plenty of Half-Life corridor fighting, and an early underground sequence showcases the Source engine's lighting improvements in a gorgeous fashion, but there are also shootouts in small villages and building clusters. Hunters, Episode Two's new three-legged mini-Striders, add an element of combat nonlinearity new to the series. If you hole up in a house, they might come up through the cellar; if you run outside, one might climb up to the roof to gain a better line of sight. These encounters feel more replayable than past Half-Life fights. While they don't attempt to match up in scale to franchises like Halo, whose stock and trade is large-scale combat, and they can be played as straighter firefights if you desire, they do represent one of the biggest steps Valve has taken in terms of broadening what is already one of the most impressive and well-executed ranges of gameplay to be found in the entire straight FPS genre. Episodic sidekick Alyx gets a boost too, with further improvements to her combat AI and range of animation--she'll lay down blind suppressing fire from behind cover if the situation gets too hot, and if she happens to be standing on the driver side of the wonderfully stripped-down muscle car that accompanies you through much of the game, she'll enter by sliding into the passenger seat from the hood. Deserving of special mention is Episode Two's ending battle, an extremely ambitious capping off of Valve's first foray into open-ended combat, and one of the most frantic and memorable ending battles in any shooter of recent memory. Also noteworthy is an almost arcade-like automated turret sequence that both introduces yet another kind of gameplay encounter. The two NPCs who drive the sequence strongly highlight the extremely visible contributions of Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw, the Old Man Murray creators currently serving as writers at Valve. ("No offense, Freeman, but things were pretty quiet until you showed up," gripes one of the scene's main characters.) Faliszek is said to have been more involved in Episode Two, and he brings a needed breadth to the game world's inhabitants. While Marc Laidlaw remains the mastermind of the overriding fiction, Faliszek's contributions turn the supporting cast of "extras" from a Greek chorus of Freeman-worshipping clones to a broad range of personalities encapsulating not just despair and adoration but comic relief, frustration, and a sense of a larger world. The game even pokes fun at the series' relentless "right man in the right place" mentality (or is it "the right man in the wrong place"?); at one point, a Vortigaunt wryly considers aloud how "the Freeman" plans to circumvent the latest "parade of obstacles." Meanwhile, the more operatic elements remain intact, with plot elements such as the G-Man seeing both questions addressed by cryptic answers, and new questions raised. Just as the gameplay in parts reflects the more open approach to environments, so too does the music. Kelley Bailey's sparse and conservatively-rationed electronic musical accompaniment to the world of Half-Life has always been more impressive and well-used to me than most game music of similar genre, despite that genre being traditionally overused in video games--though it is being displaced by the generic B-grade Hollywood symphonic score. The music is as well-placed and heart-pumpingly-timed as ever, but it also takes on a more organic quality than it has ever had in a Half-Life game. Along with the move out into more natural environments comes a greater reliance on less-synthesized instruments--or at least the effect of them. With Bailey's somewhat distanced sense of composition and general "Half-Life" sound still in place, the change contributes excellently to an overall sense of evolution in the series as a whole. Longtime series fans are also likely to pick up on some subtle gameplay-to-music linkups that pay subtle homage to past moments. (As an aside, though nobody would confuse this game's music with the kind of thing generally associated with muscle cars, there is a nice bit of synergy in the hopefully-not-coincidental inclusion of both a snarling, turbo-charged metal steed and the series' most rock-driven soundtrack yet.) With neither length nor the release frequency of the Half-Life 2 "episodes" being particularly episodic, it has fallen to the narrative and plot elemets in Episode Two to live up to the designator. Episode One took criticism for lacking tangible plot relative to Half-Life 2; whereas Episode One was largely driven by a general sense of urgency, Episode Two is much more practically driven by concrete plot motivations in the style of Half-Life 2. For better or worse, elements of the game's fiction allow for occasional brief toe-dipping into more static cutscenes. And the game's ending, which surely fits the "episodic" bill better than anything else in either episode yet, is less of the "I wish they didn't end this here" variety as in Episode One and more of the "TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, YOU BASTARDS" kind. You know, in a good way. In some ways, the subtlety and effectiveness with which Valve grows its design sense presents problems for its own marketability. Many reviews of Episode One glossed over the improvements to pacing and density that the game demonstrated, while placing perhaps undue weight on length, a fairly arbitrary game property that is probably more tied to quality in this industry than it should be. Episode Two has a better sense of its own marketing, with more "bullet point" improvements than Episode One--new environments! new enemies! more hours of gameplay! and so on, surely to the relief of distributor Electronic Arts, but it never feels as if such inclusions are gratuitous. On that note, by packing Episode Two with the rest of The Orange Box, Valve has sidestepped many of the inevitable complaints about the latest iteration of its current development model. Certainly, in regards to Episode Two itself, some may still wish for greater length, but at this point the company has turned out a game that is of comparable length to many standalone games--and, for the price of one of those standalone games you get an extremely robust multiplayer offering as well as one another single-player offering that is one of the most inventive around, not to mention two proven single-player games that you can use to convert the unconvinced. Is there anything negative to say about Episode Two? If you're on board with the kind of thing Valve does, not really. Those turned off by the heavily on-rails nature of the series will find little change here, despite the more open nature of individual battles themselves, and those frustrated by the game's cryptic story and endlessly deus ex machina-driven plot points may still be left wanting. But in a genre where even the best games tend to just pick one thing and do it well, Valve continues to pick more and more things and do them well--and some of them the company still does better than anyone around. Once again, the bar has been raised, and it is impossible not to recommend this game.

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