previewed on PC
Gordon Freeman, the stuff unwilling heroes are made of
This year, Valve will once again revisit the world of Half Life 2 and continues the ongoing story of Gordon Freeman as he fights for survival in the post-apocalyptic world. Gordon was summoned to this world by the mysterious "G-Man" and, joined by his companion in arms Alyx, they will encounter a new cast of enemy, both alien and mutant as they make there way through the countryside of this war-torn world.
At the risk of spoiling the ending of Episode 1, Alyx and Gordon were last seen escaping City 17 via a train. The Combine citadel finally goes "Nova" and both Alyx and Gordon are rendered unconscious by the blast that has ripped through the countryside and you are left with the sound of twisting metal, and then darkness. This is the exact moment where Episode 2 is to pick up. From trailers that have been released by Valve, the first moments of consciousness is spent with our beloved Alyx hanging precariously from steel debris from the train wreck. It has already been made painfully obvious that Alyx sustains some sort of dire injury that will take her out of commission for an undetermined amount of time in the story arc. The final outcome and the fate of Alyx are yet to be known.
New environs and challenges
Episode 2 will bring Gordon and his allies outside of the limits of City 17 and into the countryside. The environs will resemble modern day suburbia, with the exception that you have all manner of cybernetic hunters and gunships chasing you down. The battles will rage from the forests to freight yards and into the abandoned buildings that make up the landscape around City 17. Though it is expected that Episode 2 will contain more physics puzzles than there were in Episode 1, the combat AI has also been ramped up considerably. Battle environments will be large and free flowing, allowing the player a bit more freedom during combat. This is a good thing if the AI is as smart as the claims make it sound.
This is only the beginning
Valve has promised that the developing story of Gordon and the world of Half Life 2 will continue for many more episodes. Though at the moment we can only speculate on how long the series will continue, it is certain that the story will offer many twists, turns and losses as it unfolds in future episodes. Confirmation has already been given by Valve director Gabe Newell that "Primary characters will die over the course of the episodes." IN addition to the grave news of possibly losing a favorite personality from the Half Life 2 cast, there are rumors that Gordon may run into one more survivor from the Black Mesa incident in the near future. The only thing that remains assured is that the ongoing saga will remain dynamic and will keep everyone guessing.
Support for multiple platforms and additional extensions
Episode 2, when released, will be multi-platform. Currently, support for the PC, X-Box 360 and the PS3 has been announced. The "Black Box" release version will be for PC only and contain Episode 2 as well Team Fortress 2 and Portal. The "Orange Box" release will only contain Episode 2 for the PC. The release packaging for the X-box 360 and PS3 will include both Episodes 1 and 2 in addition to Team Fortress 2 and Portal. The X-box version will have X-box Live support for multiplayer.
The included title, Portal, is an extension of the developing Half Life 2 storyline. Set in the Half Life 2 universe, Episode 2 will introduce "Aperture Science". The player will learn the most about Aperture Science by playing through the Episode 2 content. However, by playing Portal, the player will learn bits of the Half Life universe that exist outside the constraints of Episode 2 and the existing titles. It may serve to offer an interesting look at the player's role in the big picture.
Team Fortress 2, on the other hand, is completely unrelated to Half Life 2 and is the highly anticipated sequel to the Team Fortress Quake mod from 1999. Though the release version of Team Fortress 2 is clearly intended for light hearted fun with its cartoony art style, it still maintains the signature playstyle of the original Team Fortress with its multiple classes and specialized abilities embedded in a team based environment.
As anyone would expect, the quality from Valve is excellent. Sound, voice acting, physics and same awe that struck everyone who played Half Life 2 for the first time is all here to be experienced again. With new creatures, vehicles and cast members coming into the story, Valve is emphasizing a fresh play experience in the series with noticeable differences between Episodes 1 and 2. Currently, Episode 2 has a tentative release date of Q3 of 2007 and holds an ESRB pending rating of "M" due to violence and gore. Once released, it will be available via STEAM or DVD and Blu-Ray from local retail outlets.