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Lonely games
lokimotive
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April 28, 2009 - 5:03 pm
Member Since: April 19, 2009
Forum Posts: 23
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I used to play in the forum a while back and very infrequently, I doubt anyone remembers me, but I thought I would pose a question thanks to the recent cheapness of the Orange Box.

I had been thinking about purchasing the Orange Box recently, for some strange reason. When I saw that it was only ten dollars I thought, well I suppose there won't be a better time.

I had finished the first Half Life 2 in one marathon run at a friends house when it first came out and had purchased Portal as a stand alone a while ago, but I hadn't played any of the episodes. To be honest, I was rather disappointed with Half Life 2. Expectations were high and the game just couldn't live up to them. It's a finely tuned gaming experience, but I don't feel that it really pushed the genre forward like the first one. Added to that was how impressed I was at Far Cry a few months before.

That being said, I really enjoyed the episodes over the weekend. The didn't wear out their welcome (not that Half Life 2 really did either), and I found them mostly compelling all around. I thought running around with Alyx was great in the first episode, and driving around the country side in the second was exhilarating. But I think the best thing about all of the games is the atmosphere that's created. One of my biggest gripes with the recent games that I've been playing has been a consistent lack of feeling as if I belonged to a bigger group. 

Bioshock is so lonely I just gave up on it. Fallout 3, despite being less lonely still feels like it's you up against the world. I haven't gotten very far in Crysis, but I get the impression that my teammates are going to drop off precipitously. The protagonist in Assassin's Creed seems confrontationally independent, a characteristic, it seems, we're supposed to admire. In Far Cry 2, you just step out of your door and people want to kill you. Plus, it sucks.

Half Life 2 and its episodes are nothing like that. Sure Gordon is 'the hero' but everyone around him is always doing something, and quite often it's not even something for him or something even remotely related to him. It would seem that Gordon's ridiculous silence would be a hindrance on this atmosphere, but I actually feel that it helps. I don't feel he's the main character, which is great because so often game companies have an incredible amount of trouble writing main characters that seem believable. In Half Life, your main character is just a camera for the larger picture. Everybody's admiration seems warmly comical to me. Sure, I killed the Striders, sure I stalled the reactor, but that's just because I didn't really have a choice in the matter. I'm just playing the game, everyone else seems fleshed out enough that they are actually invested, despite being fictional.

*SPOILERS*!!!!!

Unfortunately, I don't think this is going to last. It seems like the last episode is going to be cold and lonely. Alyx will probably be there, though she may very well be mopey. It doesn't look like any of the resistance will be there: just the Combine. That is, of course, if the game is ever released.

*SPOILERS*!!!!!

I suppose I'm getting tired of the one and only hero, the burden of the world on their shoulders. It seems a ridiculous, probably Western, ideal to me. A corelary to this is how so many games have a, usually telegraphed, betrayal by someone you're supposed to trust. The prevelance of this creates narrative paranoia in me. Any character taht seems to be helping you tends to get written off by me as a potential heartbreak.

So what are your favorite games where you really feel like part of a larger whole. Final Fantasy III/VI, and to a lesser extent Final Fantasy IX seem like good examples. Even though Raz is clearly a "save the day" guy in Psychonauts, he has enough help and is surrounded by enough rich characters that it seems like there is an actual whole world outside of the game.

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Steerpike
Subtropical Southeastern Michigan
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April 28, 2009 - 6:28 pm
Member Since: April 10, 2009
Forum Posts: 3310
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You know, you make some really interesting points, Lokimotive, and I think you're onto something there. The AI-driven camaraderie in Half Life 2/Episodes is amazingly rare in story driven games. Perhaps the thing I enjoy most about the HL2 saga is that I feel like I'm part of something bigger, and the characters are well-written and well-acted enough that I can maintain the illusion.

(spoilers)

I wouldn't get too depressed about HL2-Episode 3 before I see it. Yes, Alyx will be sad; and yes it may be a partly lonely experience. But remember that Dr. Mossman and a bunch of resistance troops are up there - plus maybe Barney, given that he didn't appear in Episode 2. I trust Valve to know what it's doing as far as what audiences want.

What it really comes down to is that the player cares about the characters in HL2, whether they're with you or not. That's what so many games are missing - an emotional link to the characters. Even if they're villains you feel it (think GLaDOS in Portal, and SHODAN in System Shock 2) when it's well-written and acted. Let's hope to see more of that in the future.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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