Friday 1 April 2016

Half-Life 3 (April Fools!)

Co-developed by Valve, Quantic Dream, and EA and out now exclusively for Wii U comes Half-Life 3. The long-awaited sequel’s Nintendo exclusivity came as a surprise to some, but not nearly so much of a surprise as the fact that the game actually got released. The earnest expectation of series fans that Valve would release a Half-Life sequel, despite the company being content to get fat off the immense profits of Steam (never mind the fact that they haven’t even finished the Half-Life 2 episodes yet) had become desperate to the point of being positively adorable. But the joke is on the doubters, as here it is.

This was only possible, of course, due to Valve contracting much of the work to other developers (their money pit is high maintenance, after all). The subtle storytelling of the first two games was simply too low-key, so David Cage and his team were brought in to give the story more emotional impact. And what a result! This being a Cage project, there is of course a shower scene (and boy, does Alyx look hot in it!), plot holes large enough to drive a Jean Claude Van Damme movie through, and plenty of thrilling minigames and button prompts for prosaic actions. In a cheeky little nod to Heavy Rain, you can even press X to Jason.

You’ll be pleased to hear that the dull-as-dishwater designs and characterisations have been binned to bring the series into the 21st Century. No longer is Gordon Freeman a bespectacled mute; the glasses are gone, he’s totally ripped (as you can see in the multitude of cutscenes), and he comes out with a constant stream of hilarious quips during gameplay. For example, in one scripted sequence during the early stages where Alyx is mobbed by headcrabs (tearing her already-skimpy shorts and boob tube to shreds, and rendering her hair yet more tussled), Gordon cries “Man Alyx, that’s a bad case of crabs you got there!” while rescuing the helpless maiden. Once rescued, Alyx giggles coyly, and jumps up and down for three minutes while her newly-enlarged breasts fly around in a manner as impossible as it is mesmerising.

EA meanwhile have been brought in largely for polish. They’ve done a great job; it’s an extremely good-looking game, running at 1080p and 60fps in a consistent manner usually reserved for Nintendo-developed games. More controversial, perhaps, are the microtransactions. While the unexpected introduction of Half-Life Ultimate Team is interesting, allowing you to construct and upgrade a mixture of humans and aliens for your allies (provided you can afford the cards, of course), other areas are more questionable. Okay, being able to buy new (cool) outfits for Gordon and (sexy) outfits for Alyx doesn’t make much difference to play. Including things such as weapons, the ending, and the ability to jump in the season pass seems a little off, though.

Continuing the effort to bring Half-Life in line with modern gaming, Gordon now has a faithful canine companion. Your dog (Simon) is equipped with an mp3 player, allowing you to personalise your journey with a variety of tracks available for fairly reasonable prices. The one song you get for free is The Star Spangled Banner. Play this and, for as long as it lasts, Gordon weeps patriotic tears as he barrels through all obstacles with the invincibility that God’s favourite song affords him. Press X for God to bless America.

The boss battles are, quite frankly, awesome. Especially the one against G-Man in his mech. Hint: when you destroy the mech and he mutates into the dinosaur, watch his attack patterns. When his stomach flashes orange, hit it with everything you’ve got!

Now that it’s been updated to be more like a proper game, including the decision to finally take out all of those tiresome puzzles, Half-Life 3 is an incredible, unforgettable experience. Never mind the fact that all of the DLC was available to buy three weeks before the main game was; just buy this now! And get your pre-order in for the recently announced Half-Life: Origins.

Get a Half-Life. 5/5.


Luke Kemp

Half-Life 3 at CeX

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