Now readers of this blog will attest that I am a huge fan of the Half-Life series; first person sci-fi shooters with unrivalled gameplay, storylines and immersion, where you play as scientist Gordon Freeman as he gets mixed up in an alien invasion. Half-Life 2 remains the benchmark by which all story-based first person shooters should be judged, and even though Valve originally promised a trilogy of spin-off episodes … to date they have only delivered two, leaving audiences on a cliff hanger at the end of episode 2. That was four years ago, and what have we had since? NOTHING. Valve will not confirm or deny the existence of another Half-Life game in development, and although rumours have swept the internet of possibly Half-Life 2: Episode 3 being announced, or even more excitedly, Half-Life 3, we still have a wall of silence from Valve. This is simply not good enough in my opinion, and I’m beginning to resent Valve’s attitude not only to the beloved gaming series, but also to its loyal fan-base.
Over on Valve’s own Steam community forums, a group has been started asking for more communication from Valve on the subject, stating they do not want to rush the development of the next Half-Life, but would like to know at the very least, that another Half-Life is in development. Other developers are only too happy to shout about their games, and Valve’s famous secrecy has begun to grate. I can see such behaviour back firing on the developer, as when the next Half-Life does come out, it will only be its loyal fans that take notice, and the majority of the gaming community, drip fed on yearly Call Of Duty games will not even understand its significance. Which would be a huge shame, because to date, Half-Life 1, 2 and the two episodes have delivered supremely entertaining gaming, and if Valve were to deliver the next Half-Life to the same standard, if not better – then once again, we’d all have to sit up and take notice. Let’s hope we still care when and if that happens.
As a log time fan of much celebrated, uber-secretive video games developer Valve, I was excited about playing this much hyped sequel to the award winning Portal. Valve are master game designers with an almost scientific approach to gameplay and structure that is unheard of in the industry. One only has to look at their back-catalogue of games, with titles such as Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, Counter Strike and Half-Life to see where I’m coming from. So naturally just a few minutes of this game left me with such awe and amazement.
The concept of Portal is an easy one. It’s a puzzle game from the first person perspective where you use a gun that can fire portals, that you must then use to navigate the increasingly clever ‘test chambers’. Developed from its initial short-lived previous game, which was celebrated not only for its ingenius puzzles but also its clever story telling and the malevolent character of super-computer GlaDOS, this takes that admittedly clever-ass blue print and develops it to its fullest potential. This time we have the additional character of spherical robot buddy Wheatley, who pops up from time to time to help you on your way, whilst all the time you put up with the sarcastic and mildly threatening comments from your super computer nemesis, still holding a grudge after you killed her in the previous game.
I can honestly say if you never played Portal, you will certainly find this fresh and unique and quite unlike any other game on the market. It’s both brain-melting and exciting, and often laugh-out oud funny. Production values as expected from Valve are top-notch with a highly developed version of their Source game engine shown off brilliantly in dilapidated, post-apocalyptic chambers that live and breathe personality and atmosphere.
One aspect I’m yet to explore (bit itching to) is the co-operative multiplayer where you and an online buddy can traverse a series of test chambers, working together to solve each puzzle. This again offers a unique and refreshing spin on multiplayer gaming and promises to be as addictive and absorbing as the main game. I’ll certainly report back once I’ve had a proper go at it and on my thoughts of the game once I’ve finished it.