Computer games are a funny old thing. One moment you can be spending all your time bemoaning how episodes are a failure and how Valve has failed to make the episodic method work from a storytelling viewpoint and then you can get bumped back onto your ass – proven wrong in a single game.
In fact, just yesterday was I moaning and whinging to a fellow journalist about how episodic gaming wasn’t really working and how ironic it is that Half-Life 2 was acclaimed for its deep and original story when, in reality, the twists were fairly obvious and the story was never fully explained.
And today, I beg forgiveness.
Episode Two is awesome. Awesomely awesome. Having literally just finished playing it, I’m still on the edge of my seat and I can still feel my hunched shoulders burning like molten glass from the tension of pushing through another instalment of Gordon Freeman's adventure.
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I’ll come right out and tell you now, throwing myself nakedly (not an image I needed while drinking my morning coffee - Ed.) before you – episodic gaming is awesome. The Orange Box was worth the delay. I’m going to give Half-Life 2: Episode Two a ten out of ten score. Let me tell you why, in a completely honest and spoiler-free review of the facts.
Okay, before we go anywhere, I’ll just say that this review is going to assume you’ve already played Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode One. It doesn’t assume you’ve played Portal though, so don't worry about spoilers unless you are stupid enough to jump in and start the series from Episode Two. Got that?
Good, now we can begin.
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As Half-Life 2: Episode One closed, Gordon and Alyx (yes, MS Office, I have spelt that correctly actually) were escaping from City 17. They’d apparently toppled the Citadel, home of the Combine advisors. Doctor Breen had escaped into a host body via a portal, the suppression field was down and the Combine found themselves off-guard for the first time ever.
Gordon and Alyx had teamed up, Gordon apparently free from the grip of the mysterious G-Man, and helped Barney shuttle as many citizens as they could out of the city before they left themselves on the last train. The Citadel finally fell and a shockwave reached out towards our two heroes. Doom couldn’t have been more impending than if John Carmack was about to pounce on them - this is where Episode One faded out.