HL2E1: Escort Mission

Speaking of hardware modification, it turns out that I was right: all that I needed to pass the Point of Certain Crash in Half-Life 2 Episode 1 was a second gigabyte of RAM, which seems to cost about two cents per meg these days. So the stated “minimum requirements” of the game, which would have it running on a fraction of the RAM I had beforehand, are a lie. This is probably pretty common. There’s little motivation for game producers to tell people in advance that they shouldn’t bother buying their games.

I’ve mentioned before how the structure of Half-Life 2 makes me end most sessions in the middle of a difficult battle. The latest quit-for-the-night scene for me is one of those scenes where people start following Gordon around and get massacred for their trust in my ability to defend them. This time around, though, it’s not just a regrettable happenstance. Defending them is in fact my explicit goal: Barney has dragooned me into shuttling people from a safehouse to a waiting train, four at a time. (This seems to be a magic number for the game engine. Whenever NPCs are spawned dynamically, there are always four of them. New folks show up only as fast as you let the old ones die. If it were a movie, I’d suspect that they only had enough money to hire four extras.)

So, it’s an escort mission, that traditional bane of shooters. I don’t know yet if getting my charges killed actually makes any difference in the game here, and on the basis of precedent, I suspect it doesn’t. But for various reasons, I’m unwilling to let them die, and this makes the scene harder than it would be otherwise. The fact that it is my explicit goal is of course part of it. There’s also the fact that it’s my fault that they need to get on the train in the first place — the reason they’re fleeing the city is that it’s about to blow up, due to my own actions in the endgame of Half-Life 2.

But also, it just seems like discharging a karmic debt. The whole episode so far has essentially been one long escort mission — one viewed from the opposite side. Gordon frequently has to concentrate on things other than shooting, like operating machinery or pushing cars onto antlion burrows to block them. And whenever the player is occupied in this manner, Alyx covers him. There have been battles where I’ve hardly fired a shot. In one of the scenes shortly before where I am now, Alyx climbed up onto a high vantage point with a sniper rifle to pick off enemies while I ran ahead. I’ve played that exact scenario in several other games, but always as the sniper. So after being the beneficiary of so much uncomplaining protection, it would be ungracious to refuse the same to others.

1 Comment so far

  1. Mark Stevens on 5 Sep 2008

    The most interesting aspect of the “Alyx gets to play with the sniper rifle” sequence is taking advantage of the opportunities to let Alyx do as much damage as possible. I.e., lead the headcrabs outside so she can take pot shots at them. Crowbar the wooden panels along the overpass to give her a clean shot at the marauding zombies.

    Of course, you could just take out all the enemies yourself, but on the hardest difficulty level you’re more concerned with conserving ammunition, thus making it all the more important for Alyx to get rid of the enemies.

    Without giving too much away, this sequence is revisited in EP2, albeit in a much more epic way, with some pretty nifty level design/flow.

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