sat down before my usual half-life 2 replay to try and cook up a scheme to make the game fresh again. anyways the only thing i could come up with was livetweeting the entire thing stream of consciousness style. this is gonna take forever and suck let’s do it Image
i’m probably just gonna rattle on about literally everything: plot details, gameplay setpieces, easter eggs, weird stuff in the maps, etc etc. it’s the quintessential “i have nothing else to do today and will undoubtedly regret starting such a massive commitment” vibe. godspeed
starting with Point Insertion, obviously. these horrifically low resolution chapter images are practically a source engine art form Image
There’s basically nothing new that can be said about the G-Man intro. Earlier drafts of it were really grandiose, sweeping views of what happened following Black Mesa. Fun for lorebrains, but there’s a lot that can be said about subtlety, too! I’m happy the intro is so reserved. ImageImage
Try to put yourself in the perspective of someone with no foreknowledge jumping straight into Half-Life 2 after the first one. You get a nice visual of the Anti-Mass Spectrometer to get your memory flowing again, then this really striking shot of something... new. ImageImage
It’s a great, disconcerting slow burn to ease you into what is quickly going to become a very disconcerting setting.

there’s an alternate universe where the intro has grand sweeping shots of the seven hour war or some shit. i hope the version of me that lives there is dead
The composition here doesn’t gets enough appreciation. Starts on a gross closeup of the G-Man’s eye, switches a gross close-up of his mouth. Cue seconds of dead silence where the dude just looks at you as he switches from greyscale back to his regular colours. Uncomfortable!
And, of course, the little white specks that whiz by. Continuity! Image
One thing I’ve always found interesting about the opening monologue is its underlying meaning: The G-Man hired you for a job, and you’re gonna do something. Do what, though? You don’t need to be told, he just knows you’re gonna do it.
Free choice, or lack thereof, is a hugely important overarching theme in Half-Life 2 and the Episodes. Probably the closest thing it has to anything meta, considering they’re all linear games with one set destination.

note: if half-life ever has explicit meta themes i will die
The G-Man’s final statement for the next 12 or so hours is weirdly taunting for him, as if imparting direct blame for the state of things on Gordon. What a jerk.

Train! I’ve always wondered if this baits completely new players into thinking they’re going back to Black Mesa. ImageImage
false alarm! half-life 2 doesn’t take place in Eastern Europe, the resonance cascade just really ate into the quarterly budget and black mesa had to compensate by importing railcars from Bulgaria
okay enough nerd shit the game is starting Image
fuck! this isn’t Wacky Science Land! I’m in Alien Fascism World!

Half-Life 2’s train sequence could’ve started any number of minutes from its destination. Instead, it starts mere seconds before the train comes to a stop. Image
Given the new engine capabilities, it’s a surprising choice! I think I’m glad they held off on making it longer, though. It lends the entire area an air of disconnected mystery that you never really get to fully unravel.

Some of the original plans, for reference. ImageImageImage
I personally hate most of The Beta, but this is definitely one of the most appealing things from it. I’m in love with the idea of the entire thing being a weird, trippy sequence, with the train gradually changing as you pass through the darkness of different tunnels.
The Quarantine Zone in Alyx reminds me of some of these ideas, in terms of “Old City” kinda stuff
I wonder if the end result of the train ride was cut down for time, or if it was a conscious writing choice? Who knows. I think it could work, but it’s probably better in the end that they kept it jarringly short. No time to think, you’re just awkwardly thrusted into things
Just noticed the bullet hole in the window here! We’re learning already! Image
There are even more! I count eight total across the entire train. I’m something of an expert now. Image
Half-Life 2’s premiere characters, Train Guy 1 and Train Guy 2, don’t have much to add to current events. He expresses mild confusion at Gordon bending space and time, then goes back to minding his own business. What a champ. Image
You can squeeze some cutting-edge interactivity out of these dudes with your use key. They’re being relocated, apparently a somewhat common occurrence. They’re also wearing matching outfits. That might not be a common occurrence. Maybe these people are just weird. ImageImage
I love how this guy says “End of the line.” Dude isn’t even scared, just really tired of putting up with this goof shit Image
But why leave, when there’s so much to talk about? Listen to the rumbling train ambience! Look at the garbage on the ground! There’s high-quality graffiti everywhere! Even the seats are shiny, for some reason! ImageImageImageImage
oh boy Image
Gonna save precious time and link to this great analysis on citizen behaviour in Point Insertion. There are a lot of neat details in the way they move around that are pretty cool to know about!
As I was saying:

Half-Life 2’s intro is JARRING. You go through the trippy sensory overload of a G-Man sequence, get thrown on a train that’s about to stop, and are IMMEDIATELY assaulted with a ton of shit, the worst of which is this robot. Fuck! My eyes! ImageImage
Shout out to Half-Life 2’s most unspoken character, The Garbage Poltergeist
god where to begin

City 17 is SO fascinating. There are so many things I could talk about. It’s the sort of setting you legit wish you could forget about so you could experience it again. It’s a dangerous, unfriendly place. Right now, it’s resting, but it has teeth.
What else to set the scene but police brutality!

He probably just wants one suitcase on the cart, but I like to imagine that ALL of them are his. Dude is just trying his best to be really materialistic given the circumstances Image
Nearby, you may recognize a familiar face sweeping under watch behind a fence: It’s a Vortigaunt! Half-Life 1’s Interloper tried vaguely to communicate that the Vorts are more or less just unwilling slaves, something which Half-Life 2 builds off of in a huge way. Image
Well, sorta. The Combine enslavement of Vorts was more of a beta thing and is basically never relevant again (until Alyx). Even the model with the slave collars is only seen one other time in the game, that being on this poor Vort that was being interrogated in Nova Prospekt. Image
At least poor Sweepy is finally saved following Half-Life 2! As seen in Episode 2, he now lives comfortably in White Forest, still sweeping, apparently. This feels like a weird allegory so I’m just gonna move on Image
All of City 17’s phone wires have been systematically cut. Seems pointless, since they definitely wouldn’t work anyway, but hey you’ve gotta clock in those totalitarian regime hours somehow Image
Time to stop avoiding the elephant in the room. There’s an old man on a screen! What’s his deal?

We’ll get very uncomfortably into Breen’s head down the line, but it’s still worth looking at how expertly done and subtlety uneasy these early speeches are. Image
Breen welcomes people into City 17 with lots of vaguely concerning platitudes. It’s just *safer* here, it’s not actually safe. But safer from what? What happened to the other cities? Are people not here by choice?

Also, he lives in something called a “Citadel”. Sounds boring.
Combine propaganda is so, so good. Image
Oh yeah, the Metrocops. If you try to interact with one once, he’ll push you off and give you a warning. Do it again, he’ll light his stunstick. One more time, and he gives you a big ‘ol wack. Then he gives you some sort of demerit. Fucker! ImageImageImageImage
the havok physics engine says ACAB ImageImage
“Were you the only ones on that train?” A lady cries out from behind a fence. Apparently, Overwatch (foreshadowing!) stopped her train in the woods (foreshadowing!) and took her husband in for questioning. Seems like a lot of effort to stop a train, wonder what he did? ImageImage
i want a fan-made expansion focusing on Combine train operators
my assessment that this was “way too much work” was 100% correct. gonna at least try to finish Point Insertion before i decide whether i wanna keep committing or not. once you get a gun there’s thankfully less narrative stuff to comment on
I’ll continue when I can, but before I pack this in for the night, I’m gonna give you what you’ve *really* been waiting for. Cold, hard facts. Something that’ll change your Half-Life experience forever.

You can open these lockers. There’s garbage in them. ImageImageImage

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