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Half-Life 2 and "story games"
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lpkmckenna
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Feb 8, 2011, 02:31 PM
 
So I finally decided to buy the Orange Box for Mac. I knew Half-Life was a seminal game, I knew about Dr Freeman and his trusty crowbar, but that's pretty much it.

I also knew Half-Life 1 wasn't available for Mac, and I wasn't sure I wanted to play an old game from 1998 anyway. Given the 6 year time span between 1 and 2, I was sure Half Life 2 would tell me what I needed to know.

So, can someone tell me what the fnck is going on? Who are those aliens and why do they revere Freeman so much? What the hell is Black Mesa: an evil corporation, Freeman's former employer, the local pub, what? Why is the gov't banning procreation?

I know "cut scenes" are a bad word in Half-Life, but really, couldn't VALVe have given me a little information before hundreds of different NPCs start talking to me as if I knew who they are and what they're babbling about? I have zero background info at all.

Then it took about an hour of walking and talking before someone gave me a gun. Then I was introduced the Never-Ending Jet Ski Experience. And why did I have to wait for a magical alien to tie a gun to the Jet Ski before I could shoot someone from it? Don't I have a machine gun, a pistol, and a bunch of grenades?

Don't get me wrong: I'm having fun. I'm now in Ravenholme with the Gravity Gun having lots of fun. But the "story" isn't as compelling as I expected, especially since the action is much less interesting than Unreal Tournament 2004, which came out the same year.

I never used to play "story" games. I was a UT/Quake junkie. If I wanted story, I'd read a book or see a movie. Now I'm playing the Mercedes of story games, and it feels like I wasn't missing out on anything. Maybe Half-Life is so great only in comparison to other story games. I'm also playing Borderlands, but frankly, it feels about the same. And Borderlands doesn't feel like a single hallway like HL2 does, though granted that single hallway is disguised pretty well.

I bought and neglected BioShock a while back. I'll finish HL2 and BioShock, and maybe Borderlands, but I'm not sure story games are for me. Good thing Orange Box has Team Fortress 2.

In case you're wondering, I already played Portal when Steam for Mac became available. Yes it rocks, much better than HL2 in my opinion, and I am very excited about Portal 2.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Feb 8, 2011, 02:33 PM
 
Opps, I forgot: I have Prey half-completed as well. And I think that story is much more compelling than HF2, so far. I should finish that before BioShock.
     
The Final Dakar
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Feb 8, 2011, 02:34 PM
 
I found trying to get into HL2 to be a tiresome experience. Even without regards to a story I knew nothing about, being herded for the first hour or so of the game was irritating.
     
sek929
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Feb 8, 2011, 02:48 PM
 
Firstly, I think HL2 has an amazing story that does not present itself in conventional ways. At the beginning of the game simply taking your time, taking to NPCs, and listening to the Overwatch Broadcasts (woman's voice) helps piece everything together.

The backstory is as such. Black Mesa was a research facility for the Lambda Corporation, who dabbled in everything high tech including teleportation technology. Gordon Freeman was a doctor working at said facility and came into work one day at the teleporter lab. Black Mesa was using a 'hub dimension' known as Xen to allow them to sling matter to and fro, unfortunately the Combine (or Universal Union) were also using this dimension for their own sinister purposes, that is, to conquest and assimilate other life forms into it's collective.

Once a stable link with Xen was established the Combine sprung their trap and began to take over the Black Mesa facility. The Vortigaunts (aliens in HL2 you are talking about) were also enslaved and had no choice but to attack you throughout HL1. Basically you end up destroying the overlord watching over the Vortigaunts and 'set them free' .... temporarily of course. HL1 is available through steam, though not for OSX, but if you have bootcamp set up I urge you to play it, it revolutionized the FPS and is one hell of a game.

At the end of HL1 you are confronted by the G-man, a shadowy trans-dimensional charatcer that offers you a job, or gruesome death. It is presumed you picked the job option at the beginning of HL2.

In the time you are sleeping (thus wake up Dr Freeman) the Combine thoroughly kicked Earths ass, and have set up massive containment cities to round up humans and enslave them. Some are Civil Protection, regular humans in suits, some are Combine Overwatch Soldiers...modified and tortured to dissolve their humanity, and some suffer much worse fates either killed or turned into horrible aberrations called Stalkers. A human being by the name of Dr Breen has been working with the Combine all along, helping them understand the best ways to overthrow us, and resides in the massive structure at the center of City 17, the Citadel.

If you want to know anything more just ask. I've played through HL2 at least 6 times, and all the chapters. I think its story is incredibly deep and interesting, but you have to go looking for it. None of this info isn't in the game itself, and there are tons of secret areas and dialogue options.

The Vortigaunts are also trans-dimensional characters, and seem to know of Freeman's importance in the grand scheme of things. Whether they are truly friend or foe is unclear.

Edit: Also, at the beginning, you're not supposed to know what's going on. You are thrust into the middle of humanity being eradicated while a huge friendly face welcomes you to City 17 and says "it's safer here" I absolutely love the opening of this game.
( Last edited by sek929; Feb 8, 2011 at 02:54 PM. )
     
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Feb 8, 2011, 05:27 PM
 
I bought "the Valve pack" or whatever it was called back int he last sale, and I'm also playing through HL2 now. I can understand why people loved it back then, even if some things fell odd with a modern way of looking at things. Also, I can't believe how dull things looked before HDR - especially since some things (water reflections) look quite modern.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Feb 9, 2011, 03:28 PM
 
Has anyone ever considered the possibility that Freeman is actually mute? That's why all his friends talk to him without expecting a response? Yes, I know Valve simply decided against a game mechanic involving conversation, but after having done so, perhaps they wrote everything with the implication that Freeman can't really talk at all?

If they made a Half-Life movie (a constant rumour), perhaps they could write it with Freeman really being mute. It would avoid creating a character that didn't resemble the Freeman from the game.
     
sek929
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Feb 9, 2011, 07:29 PM
 
It's difficult for the main character of a game to be voiced without making him seem intrusive to the experience, but in all reality Gordon Freeman going through 2 games and 2 chapters not saying a word is almost just as silly.

I liked the mute character from GTA 3 better than any of the subsequent voiced characters.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Mar 2, 2011, 09:59 AM
 
So I'm continuing my adventures in story games. I'd like to rant about about it.

Half-Life 2 and Prey. I finished Prey. If you liked HL2, you'll like Prey. It operates on the same "endless halfway" design. The interactions with NPC works the same. There are vehicle sections like HL2, and just like HL2 they generally suck, but at least they are shorter. And there are puzzles, but instead of see-saw and crate-moving puzzles, there is "spirit-walking" and rooms with variable gravity. Overall, Prey is a much better game: the story is concise, the puzzles are more interesting, the weapons are unique, and the designs of the levels and monsters is just fantastic. I'll probably play Prey again sometime, after playing HL2 e1 and e2.

Multiplayer Tangent: So for $5, VALVe sells a deathmatch add-on for HL2. I downloaded it and what do I discover? No bot support. Prey's deathmatch mode (included with the game) also doesn't have bot support. Team Fortress 2 appears to have bot support on only 4 maps, as only those 4 maps are available when you select Offline Practice. All I can say is: what the hell? Is this common in the gaming world? Because it's incredible stupid and annoying.

BioShock and Borderlands: This isn't the "endless hallway" design, but rather "open environments" that you zig-zag across over and over again completing "quests." Both games feature the same kind of treasure-hunting gameplay: walk to item or dead body, click item or dead body to search it, click item or dead body again to claim it. Click, click, click, click. Bioshock makes it even more onerous by occasionally requiring either hacking or telekinesis before I can search and then claim my item. Both games have pointless RPG elements tacked on that are confusing and time-consuming. "Find gun, use gun, provided you also find enough ammo" works great, so why does Bioshock mangle it to "find plasmid, use plasmid, provided you also find enough Eve to power them, but we're limiting the number of plasmids you have access to, but don't worry you can buy more plasmid slots, and by the way, if you run out of Eve in the middle of a fight we'll screw you hard by making your character stop fighting and jam a Eve hypo into your arm, which is completely the opposite of how running out of ammo works." There might be a great game in Bioshock, but the RPG elements just ruin it with endless resource management. And then there's the combat: Splicers too easy, Big Daddies too hard, robots too annoying. Don't forget to take a picture (??) of each and every enemy before fighting them, and if you decide to hack a robot in the middle of a fight, the NPCs will politely wait for you to finish. At least it doesn't have the pointless "collect every weapon you find and sell them" mechanic in Borderlands, or the dozen active quests. But the NPC model designs of both games are the same: boring as sh!t. Did I mention the horrible, confusing maps in Bioshock?

I think Bioshock and Borderlands have cured me of ever buying FPS+RPG ever again.

Portal, Braid, and Unreal Tournament 3: You might be surprised that I've grouped these together, but they are all "perfect" for the same reasons. Really. Just go into a level and play. No pointless resource management. A story that doesn't slow down the game. And re-playability is much, much higher. And every aspect of the designs are great. The character designs of Borderlands and Bioshock really blow in comparison to UT3.

Both Braid and UT3 were heavily criticized for their stories. Braid is too ambiguous, and UT3 is pointlessly silly, and besides where's the tournament? Fine. I'm not talking about the content, but the method of storytelling. The way the story is being told in Bioshock really sucks: listening to endless dialog over a walkie-talkie really bites, and having to listen to it again if you want to ever replay the level really, really bites. And the endless "kill and loot and sell/upgrade" systems of both Borderlands and Bioshock really destroys any desire to replay any levels of these games.

/rant

Go play Prey and Portal and Braid if you haven't. They really rock. Warning: Braid can be really frustrating, but boy, is it ever rewarding when you solve a puzzle.

If you liked UT2004, or like deathmatch and capture the flag FPS, then give UT3 a shot. The gameplay is much tighter than UT2004, and the vehicle combat is even better. and don't listen to nonsense about "console-itis." This game does not feel like a console port. If anything, it feels like the original Unreal Tournament.
     
BLAZE_MkIV
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Mar 2, 2011, 11:50 AM
 
Story + puzzle games? Sorry have to mention Marathon. In the last two months one of the debs posted a the timeline for Infinity. It looks like a gant chart.
     
Leonard
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Mar 2, 2011, 01:59 PM
 
Yeah, Marathon was a goodie, an oldie, but goodie.

Another oldie, is the original Unreal (no it wasn't a Tournament when it started). I'm not talking multiplayer, I'm talking the original single player Unreal. It was the first 3D game that blew me away. Your a prisoner on a ship that just crash-landed on a planet. You know nothing about this beautiful, lush planet. You start running into the indigenous species and their villages and other runes.
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lpkmckenna  (op)
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Mar 2, 2011, 03:29 PM
 
BTW, the Mac App Store is selling most of these games. Braid is $15, Bioshock is $40, and Borderlands is $50. Right now I'm eyeing Trine ($20) and Knights of the Old Republic ($20), but I'll play HL2 e1 and e2 before buying any more games.

Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition is at the App Store for for $10. Anyone ever play it?

I've still got Force Unleashed to play, but I'll probably need a newer system first, since it runs like crap. You can turn down the settings, but then it looks like crap.
     
PhilCat
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Mar 3, 2011, 02:17 AM
 
I tried to play HL1 about 96.
With earth shaking sound system and shaker forceback joy stick,
I almost needed therapy seeing feeling my spine ripped out and thrown out in front of me.
Never enough ammo. Never played it again.
FPS types are liked. A look at some listed would be interesting.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Mar 7, 2011, 01:26 PM
 
Braid is on sale for $2 at the Mac App Store, for Hothead Games fifth anniversary. Go pick it up.

Finished Bioshock last night. (I played the good guy.) There were a few story twists, but most of them I saw from a mile away.

I played the game to about halfway on medium, then switched to easy. The Big Daddies felt invulnerable on medium, but were too easy on easy. (But it might have been finding the Grenade Launcher, which makes mincemeat out of everything, including the Big Daddy.) I might replay some levels on medium.

So overall: Bioshock is a beautiful FPS that is ruined by the RPG elements. While the weapon upgrading was kinda cool, everything else was a bore and a chore. Most strange: if you're eventually gonna give me a gun that shoots fire, lightning, and cold, why did you bother giving me magic powers that do the same thing?
     
sek929
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Mar 7, 2011, 02:18 PM
 
Crossbow with trap bolts = Big Daddies become a joke on any difficulty.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Mar 7, 2011, 03:18 PM
 
Really? I didn't use the trap bolts much at all. Of course, the crossbow is the last weapon you get, so I didn't get much opportunity to learn the nuances.
     
The Final Dakar
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Mar 7, 2011, 03:24 PM
 
My favorite memory of that game was setting up like 15 of them, bouncing a grenade launcher shot off a big daddy's head and watching him charge me through them, only to have his body slide to my feet, dead.
     
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Mar 7, 2011, 04:03 PM
 
I would always use the shotgun with the electro-shells, and try to draw the Big Daddies into areas where I'd hacked turrets (especially the rocket launcher turrets). The flying bots were always good for annoying them, too.

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sek929
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Mar 7, 2011, 07:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by The Final Dakar View Post
My favorite memory of that game was setting up like 15 of them, bouncing a grenade launcher shot off a big daddy's head and watching him charge me through them, only to have his body slide to my feet, dead.
Exactly.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Mar 22, 2011, 01:53 AM
 
So I just finished HL2 Episode 1. It was ok, but it finished on a very meh point: second last mission was an escort mission, which fortunately wasn't as lousy as other escort missions I could name (cough Bioshock cough), but I got bored of it pretty fast. And the last mission was just like HL2: a Strider battle, but with lousy cover this time. Nailing it with 5 rockets before it kills you is a matter of random chance, with the odds against way against you. Die, replay, die, replay, until the Fates' smile.

Overall, it was a much weaker game than HL2. Some nice level design, that's it.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Mar 22, 2011, 03:43 AM
 
Just played the first 30 mins or so of Episode 2. Holy crap, the level designers really brought their best with this. Feels much more real.
     
ajprice
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Mar 22, 2011, 08:05 AM
 
What kind of spec Mac do you need to run the Mac App Store games you're talking about? Would they be ok on a Core2 with integrated graphics (Mac mini/Macbook) or do you need an iMac with a graphics card or an i3/i5 processor as a minimum to get them to run decently?

It'll be much easier if you just comply.
     
sek929
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Mar 22, 2011, 11:34 AM
 
Valve games scale very well on older hardware. For comparison my iMac Core 2 Duo with a mobile 128mb GFX card was able to push 50-60 FPS at High quality in Half-Life 2. The FPS goes down with the subsequent Half Life chapters as they added new fancy tech and better lighting.

Edit: High settings at max resolution (1680 x 1050). I'd imagine your machine, with enough RAM of course, would be able to do over 30 FPS at High quality (1280x720), but admittedly I'm not familiar with the integrated GFX performance.
     
sek929
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Mar 22, 2011, 11:37 AM
 
Originally Posted by lpkmckenna View Post
So I just finished HL2 Episode 1. It was ok. Overall, it was a much weaker game than HL2. Some nice level design, that's it.
Episode 1, for me at least, is more of a story filler than a standalone game. The part where you are underground is the highlight of the whole game, as is the Citadels destruction at the end.

Originally Posted by lpkmckenna View Post
Just played the first 30 mins or so of Episode 2. Holy crap, the level designers really brought their best with this. Feels much more real.
Episode 2 rivals HL2 as my favorite content. It's much shorter, but as you said features some really awesome levels. Not to mention sweet new enemies and more story than you can shake a stick at. The GFX are much improved too, and outdoor areas are beautiful to behold.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Mar 22, 2011, 09:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by ajprice View Post
What kind of spec Mac do you need to run the Mac App Store games you're talking about? Would they be ok on a Core2 with integrated graphics (Mac mini/Macbook) or do you need an iMac with a graphics card or an i3/i5 processor as a minimum to get them to run decently?
All the games I've mentioned here run well on my 2 GHz Core2Duo 13" MacBook with 2 GBs of RAM. The iGPU is the Nvidia 9400m.

Older machines with the old Intel iGPU will not run Bioshock or Borderlands, but the Half-Life games, Portal, and Prey should all run just fine on lower settings.

Just for info, you cannot buy any of the Valve games (Half-Life series, Portal, or Team Fortress 2) from the Mac App Store. You need to download them from Valve's own online "app store," called Steam. Go to steampowered.com and check it out. They sell apps from other developers too, just like Apple.

I'm not sure where you can buy Prey for Mac online. I got mine in a box from a real store.
     
ajprice
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Mar 23, 2011, 03:22 AM
 
Thanks for the info guys. I'm not thinking of it for my current MacBook, it's running 10.5 anyway and it's connected to a 24" screen. Just haven't decided what is going to replace it yet. GMA950 and 24" screen is not a good combination on the stuff I've tried (gave WoW a go once, not good).

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lpkmckenna  (op)
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Apr 4, 2011, 10:37 AM
 
Just completed Episode 2. Definitely the best of the three. The vehicle sections didn't annoy me as much as the first game, but I hope they find a way to make driving more fun in HL3.

I have to say, if the still hidden twist turns out to be that G-man is Gordon Freeman from the future, I'm gonna be unhappy. It's just too obvious, and that's bad in a game where I otherwise don't have a clue what the hell is going on.

I have to say I'm kinda burnt out on story games, though. I might go back and finish Braid or Borderlands, but I'm not itching for anything else. Except Portal 2, of course. The whole world is gonna play that game.

EDIT: changed my mind, bought Amnesia: The Dark Descent on Steam because it's on sale for $10. Creepy as hell but fun.
( Last edited by lpkmckenna; Apr 4, 2011 at 07:34 PM. )
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Apr 5, 2011, 11:10 PM
 
I've been enjoying Amnesia very much. It's scary and you can't fight back, only hide or run away. Yes, I've been playing in a dark room with headphones to compete the immersion.

Having to hunt around for lamp oil and matches is a chore, but that's the only serious complaint I have. However, I've twice gotten stuck and had to look for help online in order to proceed. The puzzles aren't hard, but it's very easy to miss something in a dark room when you're trying to conserve your resources.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Apr 21, 2011, 08:39 PM
 
Having finished Portal 2, I have to say how refreshing it is not to have to search every drawer and cabinet just to play a game. Amnesia, Bioshock, Half-Life, and Borderlands have programmed me to click on every desk and cabinet I see, and I found myself having to fight off the instinct to go treasure hunting in any Portal 2 rooms filled with furniture.
     
sek929
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Apr 22, 2011, 12:57 PM
 
Portal in general is a refreshing change of pace from any game.

Kinda confused about HL2, there really is no opening things for loot, usually is out in the open or in well-marked crates you smash.

Bioshock is another can of worms. That game would have greatly benefited from an inventory, like SS2.
     
lpkmckenna  (op)
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Apr 29, 2011, 03:31 AM
 
In HL2, there are lockers you need to open to find stuff.

Finished Amnesia. The final level is underwhelming but overall this was a good experience. Having read all the letters in-game that explain what you forgot because of amnesia, I'm not sure I quite get the point of it all.

Because of the Portal 2 ARG, there's a new, Portal-inspired story added to Amnesia called Justine. I played a bit. It seems you're supposed to save people from being tortured, and a GlaDOS-like narrator talks to you thru a phonograph. But I think it's time for a break.
     
   
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