A new lease on Half Life
September 4, 2009 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I just finished Half Life 2 Episode 2. Now what?

I wouldn't consider myself a first-person shooter type. Only a couple have really gotten me. I used to play Battlefield 2 a lot, but that kind of game is less attractive now because I don't dedicate anywhere near as much time to computer games any more. I liked it because it wasn't so bad about being the kind of game you had to play a whole lot to be good at, but it still had that quality.

Half Life 2, though... especially Ep. 2 is majorly impressive to me. I'm also the type to skip all of the cut-scenes in a game, but the story and characters engaged me to a degree that only the best movies and books manage. I mean, if people let me, I'll talk about this game like it's an academic piece of art, which I consider it to be.

On top of that, I love the game-play itself. I can't think of other games that reward creativity in combat so well. Battlefield was very good at this, but Half Life is better. I guess that feature comes down to the grav-gun and physics-based damage. Oh, and the car. The way you're guided through levels is amazing too. I don't know if there are multiple paths through the story, but several times I felt like I was exploring an irrelevant path, or being subversive to the level design, but wasn't.

So now what do I play? I understand episode 3 isn't coming out til '10 now?! I've been playing HL via Cider on a relatively new MacBook Pro that ran HL at 1080 resolution with no problems (except for some Cider glitchiness). I have been considering an xBox 360, but I dunno... I don't think I play enough video games to justify that.

I should probably Boot Camp windows, huh?

I see one very similar question with good answers, but I'm in a somewhat different boat than the other guy.
posted by cmoj to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
And , yes. Portal.
posted by cmoj at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2009

Left 4 Dead.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:57 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since it seems like you've got your hands on the Orange Box pack, I suggest you boot up Team Fortress 2 and try your hand at it. It's not so much on the engaging story, but its huge on creativity in combat - want to heal? Try a Medic. Want to build an impregnable fort? Play Engineer.

And as a bonus, there's a solid chunk of MeFites that play TF2 nightly. Check out MeFightclub for server info.
posted by Wulfhere at 11:57 AM on September 4, 2009

It's an old game, but if you can get past the turn-of-the-century graphics, Deus Ex is considered by many to be one of the best story-based FPS games of all time.

Another game you should try is Bioshock, which has a similar story driven feel to it. You can download a demo to try for yourself.

On the multiplayer side, Team Fortress 2 is definitely an excellent game for creativity and skill in a team environment.
posted by demiurge at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2009

I've only started to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but it's a first person shooter that has a reputation for not only solid gameplay, but a very engrossing experience in terms of character and plot development in the campaign mode. I'm playing it now because I'm attracted to the same things in games that you mention, and I love the HL2 series for those same reasons.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:05 PM on September 4, 2009

Maybe a dumb question, but have you played HL1?
posted by lohmannn at 12:05 PM on September 4, 2009

Unlike you, I found "the way you're guided through levels" to be the biggest drawback of the otherwise fine Half-Life 2 games. I felt as if I was on rails with only the barest of lateral movement allowed.

The recent game closest to the Half-Life "plot driven, level by level" approach would be Bioshock, I think, which is just as pretty as HL.

Now, a couple of first person thinker-shooter games that meet your "reward creativity in combat" very well (even better than HL2, I think) would be Fallout 2 and Red Faction: Guerrilla. They're both extremely pretty and with good stories, especially the post-patch Fallout 2 with the better ending and expanded "epilogue". RF:G is painfully underrated. Brilliant game all around: destructible physics was never so satisfying or sensible, storywise (you play a guerrilla working to bring down an entire planet's infrastructure.)

And they both start in such perfect ways, too.
posted by rokusan at 12:10 PM on September 4, 2009

(Oops, I meant Fallout 3, the recent one, not the older Fallout 2, which is different kind of game altogether.)
posted by rokusan at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2009

I mean, if people let me, I'll talk about this game like it's an academic piece of art, which I consider it to be.

That's because it is, and all the major academic VG institutions treat it as such!

Another game you should try is Bioshock, which has a similar story driven feel to it. You can download a demo to try for yourself.

So I'm a bit more cautious about Bioshock. The gameplay isn't nearly as rewarding as HL2, and the story is overcooked. It's enjoyable (I didn't like it too much, but others love it) but it's not a candidate for "Best Game Ever" the way HL2 is.

And (aside from Portal) that's the problem with your q: HL2 is one of the best games ever. Finding a peer will be somewhat difficult. I'd suggest Cave Story as a game that accomplishes similar things.
posted by achompas at 12:23 PM on September 4, 2009

Mass Effect.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:24 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry -- to expand a bit. I think you SHOULD get a 360. There are a lot of really amazing games for it (you will really enjoy The Orange Box), and being able to stream Netflix along with it will make it highly unlikely that you'd regret the purchase. Fallout 3 is also pretty great, I think you'd probably like it a lot. Left 4 Dead, because it's also Valve. You can get it on the PC.

Finding a peer on the PC for HL2 is going to be incredibly difficult. Most games of that caliber are on the consoles at this point, since developing for PC is now a beast, and the market is shrinking every day. If you're dead set against getting a 360, are you willing to play some older games? The graphics are so old school now it's likely ridiculous, but I really enjoyed Deus Ex.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:29 PM on September 4, 2009

Get a PS3. Most, if not all, of the games people are recommending are available for the PS3. You can get a new one for $299 - 15% through Dell, and you get a great Blu-Ray player and media box out of it.

Also, recommending Fallout 3 and Batman: Arkham Asylum.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:43 PM on September 4, 2009

Seconding Lohmann on Half Life 1 if you have not played that yet. There are also the several related games like Half-Life: Blue Shift where you play as one of the security guards in the compound at the same time Freeman is there, and Opposing Force where you play as one of the marines sent in to kill anything that moves. Both play a lot like Half-Life 1. As for other universes that have great stories, I'll second Bioshock and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. I have played both of them to the end and I think both will please you.

Team Fortress 2 is also really good, but it is strictly multiplayer, so don't go that route if all you are looking for is single player story telling. However, if you do decide to get the TF2 and/or the Orange Box, I highly suggest that you stay away from the Xbox 360 version. Valve has been able to get some updates and bug fixes to them, but due to memory constraints in the console, you will not see a lot of the new content the PC version has gotten since launch (new weapons for most of the classes, new maps, etc not including user made content).
posted by Chan at 12:46 PM on September 4, 2009

And now that I see a suggestion to buy a PS3, my advice for the Orange Box still applies. If all you're going to get is the Orange Box, do not get it on either console. The 360 only got minor fixes, and the PS3 version got absolutely nothing, so people are still using bugs to trap people in walls and stuff on the latter. For clarification: for any other games though, go ahead and get a console if you wish, but the Orange Box is nowhere as good on either console as it is on PC.
posted by Chan at 12:48 PM on September 4, 2009

Sounds like you need some Bioshock.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 1:08 PM on September 4, 2009

nthing Half-Life 1 (and Blue Shift, and Opposing Force) and Deus Ex. You might also want to play through the Marathon trilogy, an FPS made by the same company behind Halo, if you don't mind the dated graphics. The story is great, and there are still plenty of jump-in-your-chair moments.
posted by xbonesgt at 2:06 PM on September 4, 2009

I played HL1 some time ago and tried again recently, but the cider port is pretty unplayable.

I've also played cave story. It was fantastic.

I'm in the process of boot camping now, and I'm being nudged toward a console.

Great suggestions, btw. Maybe i will be dedicating more time to games...
posted by cmoj at 2:26 PM on September 4, 2009

For more Half-Life style fun, check out Research and Development. It's an exceptionally well done mod where you play as a rebel scientist stuck in an R&D lab that is under Combine attack. The twist to the game is that you don't have any weapons, and only get the gravity gun for the second half, meaning you need to be clever to avoid death, dismemberment, and headcrabs. Make sure to restart Steam after you install it so it will show up in your games list.

As far as the suggestions for Half-Life 1 games, Opposing Force is much better than Blue Shift and feels closer to a complete game rather than an expansion, but both of them have interesting riffs on the overall story. Also keep an eye out for Black Mesa, a remake of Half-Life 1, which the developers swear is going to come out this year.
posted by CheshireCat at 2:51 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion for Bioshock. Would you kindly check the specs of your graphics card? Bioshock runs heavier than Half Life 2.
posted by shino-boy at 4:03 PM on September 4, 2009

I'd recommend Mirror's Edge, which has a really neat parkour system (plus a very minimal use of guns), gorgeous graphics, and a good but not intrusive story.

Fallout 3 is really well done and has even more open-endedness... it's about exploring the post-nuclear waste rather than following a single story.

Jade Empire is great too, especially if you have any fondness for martial arts movies. Its storytelling is probably better than HL2's. It's by the same people as Mass Effect, which I'd recommend if you've ever wanted to be Capt. Kirk.

Finally, I like to plug Beyond Good & Evil. The graphics are a couple years out of date, but it's a fantastic game, well acted, with some interestingly varied gameplay.
posted by zompist at 4:30 PM on September 4, 2009

You should definitely play Fallout 3.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:11 PM on September 4, 2009

For even MORE Half-Life fun, check out Riot Act, a HL2 mod about a prison break out from Nova Prospect, and I especially recommend Minerva, which is a very nicely-done mod involving a mysterious tangent to the HL story. I've also heard that Eclipse is good, though I haven't tried it - it's a total conversion of HL2 into a fantasy RPG with supposedly stunning artwork.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:14 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you NEED puzzle solvyness you might not like Fallout 3 so much. If on the other hand, you would enjoy wandering a post holocaust waste and finding a little story all in rubble and bones (they're all over the place) you'll enjoy Fallout 3.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:15 PM on September 4, 2009

Also, Halo I is a great game, and I've been lusting after Halo II (I only hold back because I know it will take over my life for several days). It doesn't involve as much crafty combat as HL2, and isn't as detailed, but it's got a good storyline and gameplay.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:30 PM on September 4, 2009

i know the answer is most obviously "duh" but since no one brought it up:

have you tried replaying all three HL 2 games with the commentary turned on? it's one of my very favorite things about valve games that i wish more developers would do.
posted by sammich at 2:34 AM on September 5, 2009

Seconding the HL mods idea. Minerva really is fantastic and Dear Ester was posted on here a while ago.
posted by alby at 6:55 AM on September 5, 2009

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