I just beat Half-Life 2 the other day, which is by far the most popular game I've heard almost nothing about. Sure, I still see headcrabs, Civil Protection, and crazy Gary's Mod stuff pop up in the media from time to time, but you hear almost nothing about what actually goes on in the game, or at least, I've heard almost nothing, compared to the amount of stuff I've heard about other Valve games.
But man, maybe that was a good thing.
As I've made clear before, I'm not a shooter person. My little brother called me the other day to rave about how awesome Killzone 3 was... I just shrugged. Over the phone. Too much BLAM BLAM KAPOW WHEE! Where I like to sit still, stare at whats around me, and participate in combat sparingly. My last game purchases were Rune Factory Frontier, Persona 4, Amnesia: The Dark Decent, and Pokemon White. Two relationship sims, a thing I cant play because graphics card wahey, and something to play on the bus.
But, you know, for all the BLAM BLAM KAPOW WHEE in the game, theres a lovely chunk of just sitting and taking in the scenery, my favorite part of any game. And despite being ultra linear, theres plenty of stories behind the placement of a little side root, a body, a ton of rockets, and two Civil Protection burning corpses. Every place feels like it was something before the distopia, even when you take a second look around and realize how absurd some setups must be.
There's so many things I could say about Half-Life 2, but I'm going to just say the one thing that stuck out. There was an amazing bit around the part of chapter "Follow Freeman!" when you're trying to break into the Citadel (does that count as a spoiler?). This is when you pick up NPC squad members left and right. And they die... left and right. I began shouting at them after a while. "No, dont follow me you fools! Just because I am a tank doesnt mean you're safe! Nooooo! Dont you die on me Bandetto! You were the medic, now the rest will drop like FLIES!!!" I was seriously affected by this. Tossing antlions at people was one thing, they're freaking bugs, but people, real people entering a meat grinder? I saved and reloaded so often, just to see a few more resistance fighters live.
I went to jebus (I'm borrowing the game from him) and said "why do they keep fighting?! why?!"
"Yeah, their AI is kinda dumb, isnt it?"
" D8 " Not really a good answer, did he even get into the game at all?
I restarted the game and began griefing the tutorial area. I listened to Breen before... he was talking about instinct, submit to the aliens, dewp dee do... wait a minute. Reproductive urges suppressed?!
Resistance: "Oh god, we cant bone, all thats left is fighting!"
" D8 " That cant possibly be the answer!
I later thought that the reproductive thing was an elaborate way to not have any children in the game. Clever, Valve. Very, very clever...
I love this game, it thinks of everything and tells you only if you care.
And it really, really makes me understand the desperation of resisting a huge, overwhelming power... I'm in a roleplaying game right now, trying to incite that kind of rebellion.
It's now a little scary to think of people when they're desperate, willing to throw their lives on on the line to fight beside a sliver of hope...
But I cant protect you, Resistance! Aug, noooo!
There are games that dump mountains and mountains of dialog behind characters, and still cant flesh them out. There are games that dump mountains and mountains of dialog, making people into awesome characters, and I can still watch them die and know they'll be fine. Then there's Half-Life 2. Sure, all members of the Resistance are a little interchangeable, but god, I dont want them to die.