The second episodic chapter in the Half-Life 2 series is arguably the best of the adventures of Gordon Freeman, and maybe even one of the best games of all-time. Half-Life 2: Episode Two was first released by Valve in 2007.
Episode Two carries on directly from the end of Episode One, with the inimitable Gordon Freeman crawling his way out of the wreckage of a train, with the help of his trusty female sidekick Alyx Vance. Once again Gordon starts off with just the Gravity Gun as a weapon and gradually acquires more ordnance as he progresses.
After a short period of exploration Alyx is then gravely wounded and her and Gordon are rescued by a Vortigaunt, who leads them to relative safety from The Combine and stabilises Alyx. This then leads into a quest to save Alyx by acquiring the larval extract from the Antlion queen (a large large and deadly creature that doesn’t want to give it up freely).
Beyond that there are many other memorable sequences, like acquiring a car from an overrun resistance base; a drive through White Forest, deserted villages, and tunnels – while being chased by a Combine attack helicopter; a meeting with an ‘Advisor‘; a showdown with said attack helicopter, and a fairly challenging ambush at The White Forest Inn.
These, though, pale in comparison with the final challenge: fending off a Strider/Hunter attack on the resistance base, which is done using the car and a new toy called a ‘Magnusson Device‘, which is a sticky bomb that you launch at Striders using the Gravity Gun and must then shoot with a pistol to trigger an explosion. This battle is incredibly tense and exciting, and if you want to complete it cleanly – without the Combine destroying any of the resistance buildings (and therefore unlocking the “Neighborhood Watch” achievement) – then you’ve really got to bring your ‘A’ game to the party to do that. I managed it once, but wouldn’t want to try it again…
And while we’re on the subject of achievements: Half-Life 2: Episode Two contains one of the greatest (and most difficult/funniest) achievements of all-time, the Little Rocket Man achievement, where you have to carry a garden gnome through most of the game with the Gravity Gun in order to place it into a rocket nose cone at the resistance base. Again: I did it once, but wouldn’t want to try it again…
The only real downside to Half-Life 2: Episode Two is that – from what we can tell so far, at the time of writing – it is possibly the final game in the entire Half-Life series, as Valve seems to have little interest in continuing. While some refuse to believe that Half-Life is over, others regularly point out that Valve no longer seems interested in video game development any more; preferring instead to reap the dividends of its online games service, Steam. My own personal view… my hope, is that more single-player, non-VR Half-Life games are being developed in secret and will eventually see the light of day. Most recently Half-Life: Alyx was released – a Virtual Reality (VR) game that experimented with the franchise, but in my opinion it was just an experiment and nothing more. While I have absolutely zero interest in VR games, I do still have a thirst for single-player Half-Life games and don’t believe that Valve has exhausted what it can do with the series. Nor has Valve fully explored what it can do with current levels of video gaming technology in single-player games. So I remain hopeful that Gordon Freeman will eventually return… [Fingers crossed].