camwyn: (half-life)
Presenting the Disney version of the Half-Life story: Shockley, the Littlest Houndeye.

I'm pretty sure little Shockley would wind up in Black Mesa because he and his pack got chased into a cave in Xen by the evil Nihilanth's army of Vat Trooper robots. Because it doesn't count as killing if you're killing robots. Anyway, the pack would be running for their lives and Shockley the Littlest Houndeye would trip and fall trying to keep up with the pack when they ran up the stairs, and the Vat Trooper robots would miss him or ignore him because he landed in an adorably crumpled heap and they thought he was dead already. This would be the equivalent of the barracuda attack on Nemo's unhatched brothers and sisters.

He'd get up eventually and start trying to find his pack, and he'd have to wander through this huge scary place and hide from monsters. But he'd find the Man in the Orange Suit in the middle of a fight with the Vat Trooper robots. Then he'd be scared because let's face it, that's all scary stuff, but the Man in the Orange Suit wouldn't kill him because maybe Shockley got up enough nerve to sonic-bark the last robot into falling apart when it got up to try and get off one more attack. And then the Man in the Orange Suit would patch him up because he was hurting. Then there'd be a sequence of 'we're even, go away, I don't need to deal with you any more', but Shockley would try to find him again. Only he wouldn't manage it because he'd almost catch up with him only to find himself right at the edge of this huge drop.

He'd be a sad little houndeye then and go wandering off sadly, and that's when he'd run into the humans who look and act sort of like the Vat Trooper robots, and he'd be scared of them too. But that's when he'd find where his whole pack was being held prisoner! So he'd go to try and find the Man in the Orange Suit again because maybe he could help, and he'd see that the humans were fighting those mean ol' robots. And he'd be very brave and get in the fight himself, but he'd get hurt and the humans would start losing and the Man in the Orange Suit would show up and then they'd start shouting and it would be scary. But Shockley would come limping out and nuzzle them on both sides (licking their hands would be kind of hard) and they'd sort of growl at each other instead of shooting.

And then they'd start talking and somebody would realize there was a TREMENDOUS blue monster on the way and OH NO WHAT DO WE DO. Shockley would then lead the Man in the Orange Suit and one of the scary humans to set his pack free, and they'd find a whole ROOM full of shiny tau cannons (because energy guns aren't as bad as guns that shoot bullets), and they'd take them and the humans would work together with the WHOLE PACK to bring down the awful blue monster. And it would be just like fighting Maleficent the dragon. They'd even chase it into that big drop so it would fall out of sight and not actually die on screen.

Then the humans would shake hands and it would be okay, but Shockley's pack would be really scared and unhappy because the evil Nihilanth had sent the blue monster and they couldn't ever go home while the Nihilanth was there, so the humans would offer to come help, and that's how Shockley and his pack and the Marines and the Man in the Orange Suit would all go to Xen together and make it to the evil Nihilanth's chamber. Most of the Marines would be busy shutting down the Vat Trooper factory so the robots would all go off line. And to destroy him and end his evil forever they'd have to blow up the spikes in his secret chamber, so the head Marine, who would probably be Adrian, would get one spike, and the Man in the Orange Suit would get another, and Shockley would have to destroy the last one. And then everybody would go home and be very happy and Shockley and his pack would all celebrate and it would be great.

Half-Life 2 would begin when Shockley's pack's territory got trampled by a Gonarch running away from weird new monsters, only to get captured and hauled away. Shockley would follow it to find out what was going on, and that's how he'd discover the Citadel... but that's a story for another time.


ETA: Actually, maybe Shockley ought to be a girl. You know. For spunkiness. And gender equity. It's not like Shockley's got genitalia or anything, just hire a ten year old voice actress and nobody'll ever know the difference.

ETA 2: That or Shockley picks up a female buddy early on in the form of Hedy the headcrab.
camwyn: (half-life)
Since I've got one entry left to write for Half-Life 2 and then it's on to the Episodes, I thought I should gather all the back material I've got so far here. Clicking the entry tags is all very nice but sometimes it's just easiest for me to have the links in one place.

Half-Life write-ups, aka the Homicidal Evil Space Chicken Reports:

Part 1: Knight of the First Crusade
Part 2: TENTACLES WHUT
Part 3: "Whoever wrote this episode should DIE!!!"
Part 4: Ho Ho Ho, Now I Has A Rocket Launcher
Part 5: The Final Apocalyptic Battle Of- Oh Hell, I Lived
Part 6: TESTICLE MONSTER. WTF.
Part 6a: An Interlude Upon The PS2
Part 7: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH

Half-Life 2 write-ups:

Part 1: WELCOME TO NEWARK
Part 2: WHOA WHOA WHOA NOT THE BATMAN
Part 3: NOT YOUR GODDAMN KWISATZ HADERACH
Part 4: STUPID CHOPPER, YOU GO SQUISH NOW
Part 5: RAVENHOLDM. U SUDNT COME HERE. With bonus links to the opus of Squirrelking!
Part 6: COME BACK WITH MY CAR
Part 7: BUGS BUGS BUGS IT'S ALL BUGS
Part 8: ATTACK OF THE TOCKLAFANE
Part 9: WELCOME BACK TO NEWARK
Part 10: MAKE THE SPIDERS GO AWAY

I should have part 11 done tonight, and then after that there'll be write-ups for Episodes 1 and 2. I do, however, have a question. I bought an Xbox 360 specifically so I could play other video games without having to upgrade my PC. Right now I have three games in the queue, and I’m debating which one to go after next. Are people interested in more game write-ups?

[Poll #1223746]

Let me know. Thanks!
camwyn: (half-life)
Okay, so.

Before the interlude, I had reached the caverns of Xen. To get to the surfce I had to get on a rising and falling pillar and not die. This is harder than it looks, since not only does the pillar want to kill Gordon in that way that all moving objects in this game (other than the Cart of Adamantium- seriously, the carts in 'On A Rail' have to be made of the stuff, given what they stand up to) seem to want to do, but there is also the little matter of the Flying Guys With The Peel-And-Eat Heads. Okay, not really peel-and-eat, but jeez, that's an unnerving experience. I don't like them. I don't like their spitty balls of gold fire. I don't like the noises they make. I don't like the way their little red loincloths could be mistaken for extremely badly placed secondary mouths, and now you will never be able to un-see that image when playing, will you.

Anyway, they're the reason I spent most of Gordon's time in Xen with the alien gun on his hand, because it spits homing missiles that you don't have to reload or even target very well. It kills those things real good. Takes a while, but it's better than wasting ammo, I figure- and it killed 'em enough that I had the time to caaaaaaaaaaaaaarefully jump from pillar to rock platform to rock platform. It HURT, sure, but hey! I was jumping and not cheating! Go me! It didn't last, of course, because despite half an hour of trying I could not land on one of those dang manta ray things, so I had to enable cheating again. At which point I found out that the Vortigaunts on the ground could still target Gordon anyway, and that they hurt a lot. I wound up with a scene I would've paid to see: Gordon hopping off the last rock and running through the sky several inches above one of the manta rays, allllll the way to the teleporter. I only turned no_clipping off when he got there, because I didn't trust myself to get it right and get him onto the manta before he went splat.

Solid ground on the other side. Great. No testicle spiders. Even better. GIANT PARROT BEAK MONSTER OF THRASHY DEATH, aka pit full of Tentacles? Kind of a problem, but after taunting it enough and shooting it a couple of times it sulked in its pit and I ran like a bunny. Running like a bunny is a good strategy, as far as I'm concerned. (Just so you know, at Danii's place I found out that it works really well when you're in the Freezer of Death- if you just run like hell and keep on course for the far end of the room, the Vortigaunts and the headcrabs can't do more than tag you once or twice. If you hum classical music under your breath as Gordon slides across the ice, it's hilarious.) Too bad bunny running doesn't really do you much good once you're inside the factory. In fact it runs into serious metaphor breakdown, since the Xen masters (the Peel-and-Eat Head Guys) make hawklike noises and they're everywhere. And hawks do what to bunnies?

Yeah.

Anyway. Got through the factory, just barely. Those handrail-less catwalks and the spinny elevators left me wondering if this is what it felt like to be Winnowwill in the early days of Blue Mountain, where everybody in the friggin' place but her could fly. At least there weren't any monsters in the next area, just floaty rocks, AGAIN. But they were just floaty, not spinning or moving or any of those things. Positively restful by comparison.

Which is really really good considering that once I got across them and hopped into the next teleporter I found myself face to face with

A THREE ARMED ALIEN FETUS CREATURE THE SIZE OF THE STAY-PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN

and it was growling my name. I mean. It. The. The Marines had put up their graffiti and it was kind of cute to see YORE DEAD FREEMAN and DIE FREEMAN and all those other bits of slander on the walls, but hearing the

THREE ARMED ALIEN FETUS CREATURE THE SIZE OF THE STAY-PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN

rumble out "FRREEEEEMAAAAN", just before you plummet to the water below, is kind of a little bit unnerving! That was a serious moment of AND DATZ WEN I KNEW BEBE JEEZUS DIDNT LOVE ME NO MORE, right there...

(Yes, I knew what it looked like. Yes, I'd read the spoilers. Yes, I had a strategy guide open on my lap. But great googly moogly, none of it was really any kind of preparation whatsoever for that first sight of the Nihilanth. AT ALL.)

I'd've screencapped it if I didn't think taking the moment to do so would've resulted in my horrible and gory death. As it happens, I nearly got horrible gory deathed a couple of times anyway. The crystals were easy to blow up, but I couldn't always stay behind the spikes, and the THREE ARMED ALIEN FETUS CREATURE THE SIZE OF THE STAY-PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN hit me more than a couple of times with things that made me reload really fast. I used up all my Magnum ammo on it and its head finally opened, but I ran afoul of a horrible, true fact shortly after: I suck at using the trampolines. I couldn't get up to a vantage point without being splattered. So after a lot of saves and falls and loads and saves and zorches and loads and ow, I turned on a cheat again. Not noclip this time, because that was too slow and there was no cover, but notarget. Nothing was going to shoot at me until I got to my destination. (I should mention that the THREE ARMED ALIEN FETUS CREATURE THE SIZE OF THE STAY-PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN was not alone in the room; Xen masters and vortigaunts kept teleporting in despite my best efforts to the contrary.) It still took me forever to get to the high ledge, because I could never target where I was going to land with that damn trampoline, but eventually- after a LOT of error and trial, because the errors way outweighed the trials- I made it to the high ledge.

I sort of want to know what the suit cuts Gordon's morphine with, because while it keeps him moving when he's got fractures out the yin-yang, it doesn't seem to dope him at all. My guess is the same hyper stimulants that Black Mesa bribes its inspectors with. I mention this because Gordon was sure as hell pumped full of morphine by the time he made it up there. This might explain why he emptied the Egon Gun into the Nihilanth's head to no effect. Only then did I think to turn notarget back off and fire a single rocket grenade. That was a very, very, very satisfactory BZZZAARRHGHGAHHRAHRRHAHHRRARARRHGGAAAAAAAABOOOM!!! sequence on the Nihilanth's part. Truly.

And then...

Well, I figure by the time the G-Man appeared Gordon's stimulants had worn off, and maybe a chunk of the morphine, too. Who knows, maybe the G-Man even chelated the stuff out of his system. All I know is that I'm thinking Gordo was in the same mental place during the G-Man's speech as I was last year at mile forty-seven of a training ride where I'd bonked way back at mile forty, namely: "Sir, as long as there are no more THREE ARMED ALIEN FETUS CREATURES THE SIZE OF THE STAY-PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN involved and there's a bed and a sandwich waiting, I will do anything you say- just give me the bed and the sandwich in advance, please." I"m not even sure he realized that they were bouncing through other places in Xen; if he wasn't swaying on his feet with the aftermath of having spent every last point of willpower to keep moving, then I'm a blue-nosed gopher. I sent him through the portal at the end of it and was damned glad of it.

All in all, a fun, fun game. I'll be playing through again at Danii's place, on the PS2, and might well play it again here in the near future now that I have a better idea what I'm doing. And who knows? Someday I might be able to pull it off without cheating. That'll be fun. HL2 and the episodes are going to wait for a bit, probably until I snag a strategy guide and read through it and all, but for now? This was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it.

and dangnabbit, now I want to go to the hardware store and get a crowbar for the apartment. you know. just in case.
camwyn: (half-life)
ME: Okay, that was the last ninja. HOOK ME UP, BABY. *plugs into suit charger*
[livejournal.com profile] sylveraven: All right, it says there's a switch-
ME: Yeah, I remember this part. Don't read the rest.
*switches are thrown, doors are opened*
[livejournal.com profile] sylveraven: Okay! Guess those are your doors out, huh?
ME: Yup. Now pay attention to what happens next.
*WHOMP*
[livejournal.com profile] sylveraven: Did you just get mugged?
ME: Yeeeah. Can't be avoided. It gets worse.
*there is DIALOGUE*
*there is a TRASH COMPACTOR*

[livejournal.com profile] sylveraven: Did they take all your weapons?
ME: Yup.
*dawn breaks over a GREY AND TERRIBLE LANDSCAPE OF REALIZATION*
[livejournal.com profile] sylveraven: ... did they take your crowbar?
Me: Yup.
*there is DEAD SILENCE*
[livejournal.com profile] sylveraven: That's just wrong!

So that was last night at [livejournal.com profile] daniidebrabant's and [livejournal.com profile] sylveraven's. You'll get a proper Chicken Report on my progress at home once I've gotten a little further; Gordon's currently in the factory on Xen, hiding in one of the alcoves in the Room Full Of Barrels Which You Really Don't Want To Break, No, Trust Us On This.
camwyn: (half-life)
No, that's not a typo.

TESTICLE MONSTER.

WTF.

... okay, let's back up a bit first. When last I reported, Gordon had just made it into the Lambda Complex. Oh look! Headcrabs again! Gordon smash! Oh, look, a bullsquid! That's what they made the Manstopper for. One good shot from the Magnum and it's down. YAY. This is great! This is a positive relief! This is a nice buildup to the warehouse room where THERE ARE NINJAS TRYING TO KILL YOU.

No, seriously. Ninjas. The game walkthroughs and stuff call them 'human assassins', but they wear all black, they cover up everything except their eyes, they move in near total silence, and they're too fast to follow. Gordon had to deal with them before, I just didn't bother mentioning them. There's just... you know, four ninjas in the frigging Lambda Complex and the room is full of trailers and crates and barrels that go splody and did I mention the ninjas? Did I mention that they're actually patient enough to wait until you're just starting to think you killed them all before one of them moves, and your only warning is pattapattapat from their feet before they start shooting at you? They die just like anybody else, but they don't have the courtesy to drop ammo that you can use, which annoyed me mightily. Oh well. There's still something to be said for putting a tranquilizer dart in a ninja's soft parts. Too bad there's no ass jig of victory command in the game. I could see Gordon doing one at that point.

From there we had the running around and the killing and the Egon Gun. I'm not sure how I refrained from testing it, because really. Gordon hadn't come through fire and death to bandy words with a cowering hypocrite 'til the lightning falls, buddy. That may have been the closest I ever came to seriously considering violence against one of the NPCs on Gordon's side. I just picked up the gun and left, and fired it on the next alien I saw instead.

soooooooooooooooooooo pretty. SWIRLY PURPLE-WHITE FIERY NUCLEAR DEATH. Buddy, those uranium slugs died in a blaze of glory that would've done Papa Teller proud. Went back to regular guns after that, though. No sense using the firehose when you've got to- oh, great, you've got to swim to do half the reactor stuff. Great. Just great. WHO THE HELL DESIGNED THIS PLACE ANYWAY. That Knight of the First Crusade must've put some serious investments down before he left for the Holy Land and recouped them ALL when Black Mesa was built, because he had to pay off the NRC and OSHA with some of the designs that got implemented...

It is my private contention that most of the scientists at Black Mesa actually get around the place on modified Segways. It explains some of the size issues, and possibly the lack of handrails in places. Improve the Segway balance system a little and there's no longer a worry about falling off! Of course, that doesn't explain certain other aspects of the place, like oh, the staggered platform design for whatever poor SOB might find himself inside the reactor once it's activated. Getting straight up on a single ladder would be too EASY. Nope. Up one floor, run like hell to the right, up another floor, run like hell again... what did they pay the NRC inspectors off in, anyway? Freshly teleported-in space alien heroin? In what world did that design make sense? Other than the one where the rotating floaty platforms of AUGH DUCK made sense, I mean, because after getting out of the reactor (Gordon was probably running a mental tally of his remaining un-mutated germ cells at that point) there was the Room of Teleporty Things. Oh, God, that was a nightmare. It probably looked very good when it was an executive desk toy for somebody, but the idea of having to hop onto the rotating platform and go through the right opening to get into the teleportation sphere and land on the next rotating platform up without going crunch...

I take it back. Not space alien heroin. The NRC inspectors were paid off in Black Mesa brand hyper-stimulants, because whoever used that thing would've had to have had the reflexes of the Flash to get it right more than once. Of course, that wasn't nearly as bad as the room that followed it, which involved rotating platforms AND radioactive goo AND a rising and falling bit for no reason AND a ceiling that would mash your skull in if you stood in the wrong place AND buttons that had to be pressed AND- guuuuh. The only way that room made any sense is if the radioactive goo isn't normally radioactive. If it's normally some kind of coolant or fire retardant gel and the dimensional hoo-ha contaminated it with radioactivity, that could be sort of understood. But only sort of, because by then we were back in "WHOEVER WROTE THIS EPISODE SHOULD DIE!!!!" territory. I managed to get through it eventually, though.

And finally...

"Gordon Freeman, you've finally found us."

One scientist. One security guard (who, until I get hold of Blue Shift and it proves me wrong, is going to be Barney Calhoun in my mind). Piles and piles of equipment. And for the first time, after hours and hours of running and fighting and killing and hiding and God only knows how many strains and stresses and orders and demands... for the first time, somebody finally asks Gordon to do something instead of just telling him to do it. Oh, there's no question to the scientist's tone, and you can't finish the game unless you do, but "you owe us nothing" and "if you're willing"... Nobody's asked him to do anything before. They've just said 'go do this' or said 'somebody has to'. Granted, the guard's speech makes it pretty clear that if you don't do this the world's doomed, but the choice to say 'fuck the world, I can't do this any more' is still a choice. That felt good.

So did blowing the !*&()& out of those flying things with the opening heads and the zap hands as I waited for the scientist in the next room to get the portal open, for that matter. I used up all the Egon Gun's ammo there, I'm afraid. It was worth it, though. I think Gordon really needed to see that kind of power and carnage before running into the teleporter and OH HOLY !@*& WHERE IS THE GROUND????

... yeah, Xen is... Xen was special. Xen is where I finally broke down and activated a cheat code, because honestly, otherwise it would've been a case of me reloading the game for three hours straight. I cannot do the jumpity-skip thing. I got Gordon to one of the floating platforms and tried, I tried so hard, but... I'm not playing this game for the sake of PLUMMETY DEATH. After the fourth or fifth horrible death/reload repetition, I turned on no_clipping and steered Gordon over to the big rock, then turned no_clipping off and got back to work. I'm not ashamed of it. I would've gotten too frustrated to go any further if I hadn't done it that way.

And then I never would have met the TESTICLE MONSTER OMG WTF NKVD.

It's called the Gonarch. It's twenty feet tall. Technically that's an egg sac and it releases baby headcrabs, which are faster and nastier than their chicken-looking adult forms, but the thing jiggles and dangles and swings around and the designers admitted that they stuck a GIANT TESTICLE ON A TWENTY FOOT SPIDER, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU PEOPLE THINKING. And it had to be fought by shooting rockets at the testicle! That just- it- that- TESTICLE MONSTER. Oh, sure, venomous painful spit and fleets of horrible little OH DEAR GOD THEY MOVE LIKE THE CLOVERFIELD MONSTER'S PARASITES, THEY'RE TOTALLY THE DOGSPIDERS *twitch* *twitch* *CROWBAR OF DOOM*

[remainder of scene excised for berserker crowbar violence]

Erm. Sorry. But when the Gonarch drops out of its web and you shoot it in the Testicle of Doom several more times and it runs away and vanishes, it leaves behind a small fleet of baby headcrabs, and those things are more dangerous than the ones I'm used to. They're faster. They bite harder. They leap. It was EXACTLY like the parasitic dog-sized crab spider things that fell off the Cloverfield monster. And the glowing things that light the caverns in Xen go out when you get too close, so there was just a lot of ka-screekit! noise and the red flashes and the occasional movement in the dark to go by. You'd start whamming everything within reach with a crowbar, too. By the time the lights came back on there was ichor everywhere.

It was totally worth it.

As of tonight, Gordon's just in front of the pillar on the interloper level. I understand there is more jumpity-splat ahead; we'll see how frustrated I get with that tomorrow.
camwyn: (half-life)
No, this is not the report in which I finish the game.

As I said in the previous Homicidal Evil Space Chicken Report, I managed to slug my way through the building full of alien pods and Vortigaunts and Snarks (which, while they have a fun name, are forever and ever Tiny Little Time Bomb Aliens). There’s a room right before the end of that level that features Marines and aliens slugging it out, and the simplest thing to do with that room is to wait until all the shooting and shouting stops. As much as I dislike being shot by the Marines, I really do have to appreciate them during the scenes where they’re fighting with anything that isn’t me. A, they’re usually good at it, and b, even when they’re not good at it, hearing them shout “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?” *buddabuddabuddaBLAM* “THEN YOU GOT NOTHING!!” has its own appeal. Let them fight, then creep up to the door and kill whatever’s left before going inside, then deal with what happens when you try to make your way out of the room and into the hallway that takes you to Lambda Complex.

Unfortunately, ‘what happens’ is OH GOD MORE GREEN LIGHTNING, followed by OH GOD LASER HOWITZER, followed by OH GOD SPACE ALIEN HORNET HAND THINGIES, followed by DIDN’T I JUST KILL YOUR ASS because there’s three of the alien grunts in the next hallway, not just two. And if you’re like me, and I know I am, this translates to- Oh, wait, I forgot. Throw in AIEEEE, EVEN THE WALLS ARE TRYING TO KILL ME. Anyway, it translates to having about thirty percent health and no suit charge left by the time you reach the Shiny Yellow Button. And, y’know, when you’ve got save files, there’s no reason not to use them. So I went back a couple of saves instead….

Sometimes I think post-game Gordon has traumatic nightmares of every event the player puts him through that gets retconned out of existence by saving/reloading. Yes, I know how he gets to the sequel. Hush.

I reloaded from a game from the night before, and gave Gord the sniper crossbow. I am firmly convinced that shortly after he gets the crowbar early in the game, Gordon also finds a roll of duct tape, because I have no clue how he stores some of his weapons otherwise. I’m assuming the HEV suit has equipment storage capability for smaller things, like the pistol and the Manstopper, but when you pick up the shotgun or the M5 you start running into problems. Clearly, Gordon is using duct tape to create makeshift holsters for his weapons and sticking them to the outside of the HEV suit. The alternatives all involve some variant on the theme of Jack Harkness. Which: no. At least with the duct tape he can construct makeshift ammo bandoliers and grenade belts along with everything else.

Anyway. I reloaded from rather earlier and played through the TLTBA’s in such a manner that Gord had enough health and suit charge to satisfy me. I gave him the sniper crossbow. I got him started towards that room, and the music started. Atmosphere music in this game cannot mean anything good. EVER. I’m pretty sure that in-game, it’s actually Gordon developing a sudden horrible spontaneous earworm just as he’s trying to blank his thoughts and calm himself enough to continue rationally, although whether it’s what we actually hear in the game (hallo, guitar music!) or something like ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ that roars up out of nowhere varies. He managed to plug the last surviving alien grunt with the sniper crossbow, so I scotched him into the room for what must’ve been the eighth or ninth time. The words ‘the final apocalyptic battle of Gordon Freeman’ went through my head, even though I knew perfectly well that I wasn’t anywhere NEAR the final fight, and I realized that for the first time Gordon was admitting to himself he genuinely expected to die before he could accomplish the goal. He’d survived a lot, he’d seen a lot, he’d done a lot, he’d pulled off the freaking impossible…

But now he was looking at what remained of his task, and he honestly and truly believed that he was going to die.

I don’t think he even had enough mental energy left to have an emotional reaction to that. Just: I’m going to die. Master Chief or Samus Aran might have looked at an unrelentingly overwhelming situation- hell, even BJ Blaskiewicz- and snarled something about taking as many of these bastards with them as they could, or something similarly combat-poetic, but none of them are Gordon. He’s just a physicist. He doesn’t have a soldier’s spirit; he did what he had to do to stay alive, that’s all. And that was the point when he stopped and thought about it and said ‘yeah, I don’t think I can actually do this’.

And then he said, “but I’m going to do it anyway.”

The hallway in front of the tank promptly got loaded up with all of his blue laser tripmines, and a satchel charge for good measure, and he climbed up on the tank and blew the door open- then crouched as small as he could behind the tank’s opened door while the ‘splodeys happened. The strategy guides and walkthroughs all had lines at that point to the effect of ‘use the tank’s other gun to take out the incoming enemies’, but I gotta say that I tried doing that with other fortification weapons earlier in the game, and I could’ve gotten better results by having Jamie Lee Curtis show up and drop an Uzi by mistake. As soon as the splodeys went off I set off the satchel charge and switched to the laser cannon, because it’s precise and relatively easy to use even when you’re a spaz like me, and then started a rousing game of run-around-the-tank with the surviving invaders. (I will admit that in one of the earlier attempts on this room I used the RPG launcher. Satisfying as it is to use a rocket propelled grenade on a single entity, the reload time makes this one impractical.) And somehow at the end of all of it, I was still standing, and had nearly all of my health left.

What do you do in a situation like that? You find the bag of squirmy squiggly time bomb aliens and start throwing them down the hall, that’s what you do. The trick is getting an angle for them that doesn’t expose you to the laser howitzer but does give them a target, because otherwise we’re back to the Looney Tunes scene as Gordon runs around the big empty room until WE JUST WANT TO HUG YOU AND ASPLODE becomes WE SPLODE NOW BYE. And then there’s the part I think of as Gordon going, “Oh, la la la, look at me! I am about to walk into a hallway from which my enemies have been eliminated! I am safe and confident and surely nothing could stop me!”, then running like a bunny, because he’s taunting the wall into falling down. (It’s a scripted event. Go past a certain point in the corridor and a hefty chunk of wall will fall. Your job is to not be there when it does so.)

He was still in kind of a daze, I think, when he finally got into the Lambda complex elevator area. On the way down, though, there was a familiar ka-squeekit noise, so I went to the crowbar. I don’t think Gordon’s ever been so happy to see a headcrab in his life. Beating that thing to a pulp was practically a return to happy fun joyful times, for him. It marked a definite switch from I expect to die to I’m not going to think about whether I’ll make it out or not, that’s for sure. Most of the rest of the next part is a blur, except for two events: one, spotting that GODDAMNED !*&(!&)! AGENT K WANNABE teleporting out of a room with headcrabs in it (Gordon shot them through the window, since, well, he’d probably end up in there later himself). And two:

"Were you in weapons research too? I built the gluon gun, but I just can't bring myself to use it on another living creature. You don't look as if you have any trouble killing things."

By now, Gordon’s got guns taped to most of his torso. He’s got blood on every conceivable part of his suit, both alien and human- and the human blood’s both his own and that of I don’t know how many Marines. He’s probably got ichor spattered across his glasses that he hasn’t bothered to wipe off, because the only accessible cloth at this point is the uniforms of Marines he’s killed. And here’s this snotwipe of a senior scientist who’s built the PROTON PACK OF SPLODEY DEATH (because that’s totally what it is- the fan base’s named it the Egon Gun, and I see no reason to argue), being all ‘I just couldn’t ever use my instrument of death!’. I’m pretty sure ol’ Gord just looks at the guy, resists the urge to flip him the bird, and stomps on the Tom Lehrer song “Werner Von Braun” as he starts rearranging his taped guns to make room for the backpack.

That was the point where I saved the game for the evening. If the ASCII game NetHack has taught me anything, it’s this: never never ever game when you’re tired, because you will make stupid decisions and even stupider mistakes. And NetHack is turn-based, so you have plenty of time to think. I wasn’t about to waste the Egon Gun on an exhausted brain. We’ll test it out tonight at Danii’s; I feel that since I’ve played up to Lambda Core on my own computer, I’m allowed to cheat-code my way to that point in the game now elsewhere. I kind of want to see if the Egon Gun can take out that *!&(!&)! Helicopter at the Taliban cave.
camwyn: (half-life)
....yeah, count the number of memetic references in that mish-mosh.

It took me several tries to get down the pipe yesterday. After the first one I realized there was a platform around the pipe that I should drop to if I didn't want Gordon to get shot up with more opiates than Rush Limbaugh. Of course, realizing this and actually being able to land on it were two different things, and more than once I was reminded of an old mental conceit of mine: the idea that somewhere in video game world there lay a place known as the Valley of the Dead Marios. Every time one of my characters fell to his doom in some vast echoing endless pit, their corpse landed there; it was like an elephant graveyard of squat Italian plumbers and Persian princes, all bones and turtle shells. Well, trying to creep around on the ledges yesterday, I figured that the Valley of the Dead Marios was probably in New Mexico. Lord knows the potential for plummety horrible death from a minuscule slip of the foot was high enough.

Funny. Even though I knew perfectly well that I could change Gordon's focus and look down or left or right without moving his position, I didn't dare look down, nine moments out of ten. I was just sure that it would be enough to make him slip and fall. I'd never pictured him having a breakdown in the game before then, but more than once as I inched him along the path and stopped to assess which key to press next, I pictured him plastering himself against the cliff and muttering, "No. No. No. No. No," and refusing to move a millimeter one way or the other.

He, um, wasn't in the best mental place when I finally got him to the supply cave. We're talking 'had to lean back against one of the cave walls and have a hysterical giggling fit' bad mental place, because when you have an RPG launcher and there is a helicopter outside and you've been running and fighting and running and crouching and beating horrors to death with a crowbar and almost but never quite dying and creepity creep creep creeping along mountain paths and jumping over gappy bridges, twice, and feeling them come apart under you as you leap, and you haven't eaten since morning, the thought 'I'm the Taliban! I'm the !*(&)&! Taliban!' is going to seem very, very funny whether it ought to or not. I don't know how it really is for people in combat, but I know what it feels like to be dehydrated and nearly out of glycogen. It does things to your head. I think that's about the point where ol' Gord lost it for a while. He got himself back together, of course, and the helicopter went down like a battle station with a torpedo down the exhaust port, but the cave was where things went to pieces for a while.

After that, the hoppity-jump to the ladder and the ledge and the pipe was... well, I won't say a cakewalk, but it wasn't nearly as scary as it might've been. On the other hand, Gordon had a lot of adrenaline to spare at that point. He left a pile of headcrab Rangoon at the mouth to the pipe- it just seemed natural to beat the corpse into pulp with the crowbar, after everything he'd been through to get there. Silly little space chicken, you were born to die.

Pipe crawl: not a problem. Maze full of soldiers on the other side: problem. Thank the little grey gods for the crossbow. There is something very satisfying about using sniper mode to put a trank dart capable of taking down the GIANT FISH OF DOOM in a Marine's ear (if all you can get is a headshot) or bum (if he's facing away from you). The part where they grab themselves and look pathetic before falling over is an added bonus. So that was fun. And then.

TANK.

THEY HAVE A TANK.

WHAT THE HELL.

Cue mad zigzag running and leaping into watery areas and praying the pipes lead somewhere viable, because: TANK. It was slow to change directions, yes, but still! TANK! Do I look like a Chinese student? NO. Run, little physicist! Run like a scared little newborn pony for the nearest Helm's Deep! Try the rocket laun- oh poo that doesn't work. KEEP RUNNING! Get to the door! Get through the door! Get to- oooh. Splodey boxes. That's not good.

... and there's another tank.

That sound you hear there is the sound of Gordon Freeman, yet again, wondering why the !&)*(! he didn't take the job at Aperture Science instead.

The blue laser things were a pain in the tuchus when I got to them, and the minefield was REALLY annoying, but by that point Gordon was in Angry Exhausted Nerd mode rather than Breakdown Nerd Mode, so there was a lot of excessive shooting to detonate objects from afar. It also meant that when he finally got into the building and looked around, his initial response was, "Oh !*(&)& me. There's enough blue lasers in here to choke a Ghostbuster." Okay, that was his second response. His initial response was "AUGH," because, um, the first time I got to that room? I shot one of the laser emitters.

The chain reaction made the entire screen go white. I'm kind of impressed.

I won't tell you how many times I set off the BOOM in that room, because if you know me at all, you know that I lost count early on. I don't think I've ever been happier to poke at a sparking, fizzing, angry-sounding elevator control than I was when I got Gordon onto the lift down. No more big booms! Just crates, innocent harmless non-explodey crates that could be MERCILESSLY BEATEN INTO PILES OF MICROSCOPIC SPLINTERS BECAUSE THEY HAPPENED TO EXIST, DIE DIE DIE DIE... um... yeah. (You'd do the same if you'd come from a situation as frustrating as I'd just been through.) Eventually he picked up the Creepy Alien Boogy Gun Thing and started easing his way down the hallway. Cue running footfalls and the sound of monstrous things; Gordon flattened himself against the wall, and the guard who pelted by, running for his life, cheerfully called out, "Hey there, Mr. Freeman" before the firefight started. (I like to think Gordon gets along well with the security people at Black Mesa because, as a very junior scientist, the senior scientists treat him like a pathetic lab monkey and he turns to people who won't be condescending. I mean, seriously, there hasn't been a single hostile security guard yet.)

The Prison Yard Maze (oh, come on, you can't tell me that part with the platforms and slanty bits and soldiers on the ground wasn't meant to resemble some kind of demented prison yard) was more entertaining than I'd expected. inching about and jumping from platform to platform? Not so big a thing when you're no longer overlooking the OH DEAR GOD HOW FAR DOWN IS THE GROUND drop. And if it means you get to hit a couple of Marines in the butt with tranquilizer crossbow shots along the way? So much the better. Look, I like the crossbow- it's clean, it's quiet, it's precise. And I wish I could've used it when I finally got to the far side, because... well. There was a hole in the floor of the building I emerged from, and I could see two Marines in hiding, waiting for the next alien to come around the corner. I could probably have pegged one with the crossbow before the other turned around and shot me, but I needed those guys out of the way. Now. The crossbow wasn't fast enough. The grenade capability on the M5 was.

That may have been the only real crisis of Personal Survival Conscience that Gordon's had so far. The guy who was muttering about 'I didn't sign up to kill civilians' back at the satellite launch facility almost triggered one, but all the marines started shooting at Gordon when he crept into sight, and that was pure survival. Cacking those two before they had the chance to shoot at me... that felt like murder even though I knew they'd never hesitate to blow Gordon off the map. I did drop the one on the opposite roof with the crossbow, though. At least then I could pretend I hadn't just slaughtered them all.

The thing in the garage was kind of a letdown after that, mostly because it suddenly went from sniper-themed tension to very bad physical comedy. You have to run onto this organic-looking trampoline thingy to get over the wall and away from the monster, and I couldn't always trigger the trampoline, so Gordon had to run back and forth across it a couple of times. And then usually wound up with crunched shins on the other side of the wall, 'cos I kept missing the tower and the cistern... eventually I got a case of AIEEEEEEEEEEE*SPLASH* instead of AIEEEEE*CRUNCH*ow, and managed to call in the military to blow the monster up for me. Dealing with the things in the next building was nearly a piece of cake by comparison; I'd sooner face a room full of Vortigaunts than half their number of Marines any day. Grenades are fun. The gauss gun is more fun- especially when you use it on those pod things, because that means you can zorch them out of existence neatly and efficiently, and with enough of a headstart to run like hell from the eek! squeek! squeek! of the Tiny Little Time Bomb Aliens. It must've looked like a Looney Tunes episode, with Gordon running like a mad thing from hordes of five or six little squeaking red and green hoppy aliens before they could bite him and explode.

I wound up saving the game and going to bed after the Marines and the aliens cleared each other out in the room with the unmanned tank. Or, rather, I played through that room and up to the doors of Lambda Complex several times and was unsatisfied with how close to death Gordon was when he got to the yellow button, so I opted to play it over another time, when I'd had some more sleep. I'll write about that part next time, I think.
camwyn: (half-life)
I watched "Galaxy Quest" with Danii a few days ago. There's a section involving a chase through the ship and things that go SMASH SMASH SQUISH SPLAT SMASH a lot. The Sigourney Weaver character spends most of that part of the movie screaming about 'why do we even HAVE that on the ship' and 'this was a badly written episode' and threatening to kill the writer with fire.

Somewhere in the Half-Life universe there is a team of architects and engineers who've earned the same level of ire from Gordon Freeman, and they were responsible for designing the waste processing section of Black Mesa.

Oh, sure, the incident with DEAR LACK OF GOD IT'S A SEA MONSTER eating a scientist was impressive, but let's face it. I'm a Lovecraft fan. Being solemnly informed by a terrified scientist that 'they say it was hauled out of the Challenger Deep' is the fastest way to set off my RL warning signals vis-a-vis a monster. Adding anything about how you don't think it was ever in Earth's oceans before last week just sharpens it. Upon seeing that it was a reasonably rationally shaped sea monster with ordinary teeth and limbs and stuff it became a matter of 'peg it with the crossbow' and that was that. I was relieved at that point. It's like Stephen King says- yes, the door has opened to reveal a GIGANTIC TWENTY FOOT TALL SPIDER coming for you, but hey! At least it's not a hundred foot tall spider! I can deal with a hostile alien fish thing.

Playing hoppity-skip across rising and falling mashers of toxic waste (it's not radioactive, it's just toxic waste, so you start taking damage right away instead of waiting for it to get through your suit)? That's another story. Very much another story. That was a lot of AUGH AUGH AUGH because I suck at the aiming and the jumping. And there was the bit with the conveyor belts! Not only do you have to do the jumping and the not falling (you get knocked down in health far enough that you drain the health dispenser on the ground entirely), but then you have to place the satchel charge right to blow up both the lasers without the first laser's blowback hurting you... geh. Just lovely.

I got through that, though. That was something. It was what came next...

Finding the xenobiology labs was the first genuinely creepy moment of the game, for me. I mean, yeah, the AUGH SLICETY TENTACLES OF DEATH moment in the silo was a scare- but it was a scare of the 'you want me to do what?' variety. I have a habit of creeping up the ladders in this game a keypress or two at a time if I can't see where they open to, so the first thing I saw of the next room was a sliver of a waiting Houndeye. I poked up a little more and saw there were a bunch of them, so I threw my only explosive left in their general direction, slid down the ladder fast as I could, and set it off. Once the chunks stopped flying I went back up the ladder again...

And saw the dog carriers. One for every recognizable set of Houndeye remains.

They knew. They knew. They'd been studying these things long enough to know about the monsters. They knew.

I mean, yeah, I'd read enough Wikistuff to know that the IC reason for the guns being on the hazard course was just in case the monsters broke out, employees should be able to deal with them, even if they didn't know that monsters were on hand that COULD break out. But I'd pushed that out of my mind. The sight of the dog kennels in the room full of dead houndeyes creeped me the hell out. (Especially since I'd sort of jokingly wondered if you could tame one and keep it as a pet, since they were kind of cute in a disturbing way.) The room with the headcrab cage in it? Just made it worse. And then there was the grunt in the tank... but dear Lord, I don't think I've ever been more creeped out by the implications of a perfectly mundane object in a video game. Well played, Valve, well played.

Anyway, I managed to get through that section (I like the snarks, they're kind of entertaining) and up to the surface. Right now, the game is saved at a point where I'm apparently supposed to have Gordon slide down a concrete pipe and NO NO NO NO NO tends to take over the mental dialogue at that point, as, well, there's cliffs involved, long drops, and phrases like 'major fracture detected'. My whole experience with cliffs in RL is confined to climbing Granddad Bluff in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and to a mountain path in Denali National Park that at one point dwindled down to a section only marginally larger than my own feet. I made a point of not looking away from the ground in front of me when I did that. I'm not acrophobic, but I'm also not good enough at mind-body coordination to keep my course accurate if I'm also looking at several hundred feet of DOWN. I'll try getting Gordon down the pipe later. I tried several times last night and I think he just fell- I'm not sure how to slow down his sliding so he doesn't get knocked down to 20% health when he lands.
camwyn: (half-life)
CLAW TENTACLE THING OF SLICETY HUGENESS.

Yeah, I got to that stage of the game yesterday. The look on the guard's face in this picture kind of sums up my reaction better than any words could ever manage (although that's not what the graphics looked like on my system- I don't know what platform that picture came from). It was just... TENTACLES. With nasty sharp pointy seeky beaks. Taking up MOST OF A ROCKET SILO. I what. Guuuh. What.

Then I shook myself off and kept going and found out I HAD TO DO WHAT WITH THE GIANT FAN.

AND YOU PUT THE POWER SWITCH WHERE.

I'm pretty sure that that was the point when Gordon sat down in the hallway and wondered why the hell he ever left MIT in the first place...

Anyway, made it through that. And the thing with the train system. And the Marines. (The red-hatted ones look vaguely like a plaga-free Krauser from RE, which wouldn't be that much of a problem if a friend of mine didn't play Krauser in some RPG settings, which made for some interesting moments of 'I need more ordinance before I even think of firing on this guy!')I'll say this much: as dangerous as the tentacle thing was, and as nerve-wracking as dealing with the fan was, and the JUMPING OVER WALKWAY HOLES SO AS TO NOT DIE GREEN, GLOWING, AND CANCEROUS*, the fight with the three Marines to get across the open space and into the satellite launch building was almost certainly the hardest part of the game yet. Them: fortified position, good field of view. Me: entering the area blind, in a box canyon, with a suit whose power had been drained down to near-zero so ha ha ha what stealth field? Plus, they had better aim with their grenades than I did- and they only had to pitch into the box canyon.

Got the satellite launched, though. That was pretty.

*I get a little more twitchy about radiation hazards in-game than about equal volumes of fire, water, or pointy objects sticking out of the floor. Not sure why, but there it is.
camwyn: (half-life)
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I've been playing Half-Life lately. I'm really not good at first person shooters, and even worse at FPS games that have jumping puzzles, because the perspective graphics almost inevitably leave me over- or under-estimating my abilities. There's a couple of elevator shafts at Black Mesa that're pretty much paved with skull fragments right now, not to mention the Room of the Hanging Boxes, I Mean Seriously, What The Hell.

Apparently at least one of the architects behind the Black Mesa complex was a Knight of the First Crusade, because there's one part in the game segment I finished last night where you have to take a running jump across a freight elevator shaft, climb a ladder, inch around the inside of the shaft, climb another ladder, inch again, climb a third ladder, watch a scientist fall screaming to his death (the walkthroughs say you can't save him, alas)... and then, from a ledge that is narrower than the length of your feet, jump halfway across the elevator shaft again and climb up a ladder on the outside of the elevator. I tried, man. Believe me, I tried. I tried every jumping technique I could think of. I tried squinching backwards for some kind of forward momentum in my jumps. It did not work. The squelches of my character hitting the bottom of the shaft forty or fifty feet below kept getting longer and wetter. So, finally, I gave up and just pressed the joystick forward in the 'walk, dammit' mode....

... and apparently WALKED ACROSS THE EMPTY OPEN ELEVATOR SHAFT right to the ladder.

Seriously. We got us a leap from the lion's mouth here, people. WTF.
camwyn: (half-life)
Half-Life for the PS2 arrived in the mail today. Danii and I've been playing it. Which is to say I've been getting killed a lot and shouting, and Danii's been cackling. That's okay. I have fun, Danii has fun, and I don't have the slightest bit of motion sickness at the graphics the way I did in college. I just, y'know, run poor Dr. Freeman RIGHT over edges and down lifts and into the face of the Maw Men and... yeah.

It is my and Danii's firm and certain determination that the headcrabs in Half-Life resemble raw plucked chickens more than anything else, and so we have spent several hours shouting about EVIL CHICKENS and singing "There Are Chickens In The Trees" as I try desperately not to get poor Dr. Freeman killed by HOMICIDAL CHICKEN OF DEATH. We now knew exactly what Kahlan had to deal with when Terry Goodkind wrote "This was no mere chicken. This was pure evil." It's just a pity it didn't leap at her and start eating her brains. Headchicken zombie Kahlan would've made the Sword of Truth books a lot more fun.

Suggested post-game therapy for Dr. Freeman, should he ever find himself anywhere/anywhen even remotely normal ever again: that fair down in Texas or Arkansas or wherever that has the Great American Fry-Off contests. Because then he'd get to buy equipment capable of deep fat frying entire birds, or entire headcrabs, at one go...

For the record? I'm not even past the bridge where the bull slug materializes yet. I stink that much. But it's a fun kind of stink! and a social one, since Danii and I are hanging out and commenting and all those good things.

It's just that we're, y'know, dealing with homicidal evil space chickens.

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camwyn: Me in a bomber jacket and jeans standing next to a green two-man North Andover Flight Academy helicopter. (Default)
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