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Half-Life 2: Play by Play Commentary (Part Two)

This entry continues on from part one, which I’m sure you never would have been able to figure out on your own. My second installment takes us through the next handful of chapters in the game, right up to Ravenholm.

Chapter 4: Water Hazard

- One interesting thing to note is that, this time around, I discovered that the game has a built in screen-capture function. This means that I won’t have to shamelessly burgle for my images anymore. The good thing about making my own images is that there was no guarantee I’d otherwise be able to find grabs of anything I’d particularly like to discuss. The bad thing about making my own images is that you’ll get to see my health and ammo readings, testifying quite loudly of the shitty job I’m doing.

- So first things first: this boating thing sucks. I’m glad they’re varying the gameplay and, in fact, I’m not even going to complain about it. But I stand by my charge: this boating thing sucks. I can’t stay oriented to save my life. Unlike when walking, looking around doesn’t change my trajectory. Which is okay, but now I have to get used to “looking” and “turning” being separate mechanisms. It’s good, I guess, that boating doesn’t feel like walking around (why should it?) but I wish it were a little easier to control. Hopefully there won’t be much boating.


- There is much boating.

- Eventually I come to an abandoned shed, where headcrab zombies rise up and throw crates at my head. Those shits. I kind of like that there was no music swell for this surprising encounter…for whatever stupid reason, I expected to find “live” NPCs here. Oh well. After I kill them I scuttle around in the rafters like a raccoon and get attacked by a headcrab of my very own. This really is a shitty day, isn’t it Gordon?

- Oh shit…I was fighting some Krytens and one of those camera things from City 17 flew in and took my picture! I have no idea what it was doing out here…maybe it’s on vacation. Does this thing actually report my presence to the troops? I mean, if I had broken it before it could snap a picture, would that have prevented a wave of enemies from showing up? Or is it just there to be nuisance? If it’s the latter, I’m going to stop wasting bullets on them. If it’s the former, I’m totally going to show the troops my anus.

- Very much dug the plastic barrel ramp puzzle. It was instinctive without being obvious. Very good design on that one. In fact, all of the puzzles so far have been instinctive. This is a good thing. A very good thing.

- The air boat, however, still sucks nuts. It’s fine when I’m driving straight ahead, but every time I think I’m doing well the game wants me to leap a line of flaming school buses by way of a ramp the width of a toothpick. And god forbid I look around with the mouse…by the time I re-orient myself I’m stuck in a corner somewhere getting shot through the head by helicopters. Honestly, I wonder if you can just walk through this area and leave the damn boat behind.

- Shit, another glitch. Actually, it’s the SAME glitch! Stuck in the side of a pipe. What the hell. I was on foot and the pipe was partly sticking up out of the ground. I tried to jump over it and ended up wedged in it. I couldn’t jump or move or anything…and this time I couldn’t even wait to drown. This sucks because I was really enjoying walking around and trying to find hidden things. Now I’m afraid to, lest I get stuck in more things and lose my progress.


- Looks like my friend the dentist was here. Let’s just say I’m glad our relationship is civil. Also, is this corpse’s FLY unzipped? Barney had better watch it. I’m not sure what the Combine’s position is on dentist-patient molestation. Actually, it’s probably looked upon favorably. It may even be why they keep ol’ Barney around.

- Observation: I’ve only been using the pistol. I know I have a machine gun and some grenades (I accidentally used the first grenade I found to kill…me…) but I’m always afraid I’ll run out of ammo for the “better” weapons and not have it when I need them. Which means I tend to rely too heavily on weaker weapons and the game’s probably harder than it should be. I’ve always been that way, as far back as Wolfenstein. And I have to at least partly blame Resident Evil’s “there’s limited ammo in this mansion, pal! Seriously! I know you think we’re kidding but you’d better not waste a single bullet!” mentality for reinforcing it.


- Who would have thought my experience in appliance sales would come in so handy? Yeah, bitch. Bet you didn’t plan on a visit from the Maytag Man today…

- Okay, I’m finally getting used to the airboat. For all of my whining about looking around with the mouse, I should have just decided NOT TO LOOK AROUND WITH THE MOUSE. If I just use forward, backward, left and right it’s about two million times easier. And I’m cruising along. This is nice now. Hell, this is fun, even!

- What. The. Fuck. Ambushed like a mother. All kinds of troops lined up high above, murdering me, sentries dropping in on wires…and you know what? I’m going to stop getting out to fight these fuckers. To hell with it. If they want to shoot me, let ‘em try. I’m going to be more concerned with running them down. If I miss them they ain’t worth my time. Fuck these guys.


- What the hell is this room? Is this where the Combine conducts their job interviews, or something?

- Note: THE MAGNUM ROCKS. I didn’t even realize I had it…I was just trying to kill the starship troopers and I noticed a huge recoil and a long delay between shots. A moment later I noticed EVERYONE WAS DEAD. Fuck yeah. To hell with the pistol.

- I really hate these helicopters. I think these sections rely on me being at least a better boater than the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, but I can promise you now that that is not the case. I get stuck on EVERYTHING. When I go for my annual checkup the doctor is going to wonder why my body is something like 74% lead.

- Well. The stationary turret may well be drenched in my own blood…but I killed the helicopter! Now that’s a feeling of progress.

- Whoever left all of these airboat ramps laying around is probably going to get fired.

- Fucking hell…ANOTHER helicopter chase. No turret this time. AND it’s dropping mines. Jesus. I hit a bunch of mines on purpose, too…all they did was explode and make my boat jump, and I thought it made me look cool. I didn’t realize I was being injured, too, because, for once, the screen didn’t flash red when I took damage. What the hell! I thought that was my indication that I was being hurt. I can’t keep my eye on the health readout ALL the time…not if I have to consider speed, momentum, direction and looking around at the same time.


- Gordon is such a badass, all he’s got to do is point his gun at a crank to make it turn. Or threaten to sleep with its wife.

- Great, another ambush. I guess during sections like this, all you can really do is tank it, take loads of damage, and hope you don’t die…no? That’s part of what scares me about this game…I could enter a situation like this at any time…and if I happen to be really low on health, I won’t even be able to make it through. I’ll have to start far back and just hope I make it there with more energy the next time around. Bastards. Why can’t I carry a fairy around in a bottle for situations like this?


- Why, yes, I would love to continue to navigate the dangerous canal alone while you stand here and make sure flies don’t land on the map! Can I make you a sandwich while I’m at it? How about a shoulder rub? A kidney? Collect two hundred skulltula tokens for you, maybe? Here, just take a bucket of my own blood in case you need a transfusion at some point. Gordon Freeman, at your fucking service.

- Okay, so the alien who healed me earlier by giving me a handjob is now doing the same to my boat, which results in a big gun. Sweet. No, wait…that must mean that it gets even harder up ahead, if I NEED A GUN where I needed none before. Why does Half-Life hate me so much?

- And, sure enough, I have to use the mouse again while I’m in my boat, this time to control the direction of the gun…which does correspond to where I’m looking but since it’s possible to look further to the left or the right than the gun can actually aim I end up getting stuck on things and embarrassingly shot to death even more frequently. You bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard shits.

- It does feel good to take a helicopter down this way, though, I admit. The enormous, flaming wreck that hits the ground must smell something like Heaven. It sure is nice to see some mass destruction that I’ve caused, for a change.

- I think I’ve finally found Eli’s dam. I should ask him if it’s a God dam.

Chapter 5: Black Mesa East

- I’m stuck in some room and all the lights go out. People are talking but they don’t sound like grumpy robots so I must be in friendly territory. Yep. The lights come on and it’s the white-sweatered chick from the telescreen earlier and her quiet male friend who can’t seem to keep his eyes off of me. What a ravishing figure I must cut in my early Halloween costume. The girl says to me, “Gordon Freeman? Is that you?” I know that by its own nature the game doesn’t wish me to respond, but I move the mouse up and down to give her a nod. I am more polite than the game’s engine wants me to be.


- Oh hey, I made it to where I was supposed to have been teleported to in chapter two. I wonder what happens here. Maybe this new professor offers me an armored vehicle for the rest of my journey but Comedy Headcrab crawls into the tailpipe and the engine explodes.

- This chapter is kind of like being in Farnsworth’s lab at the beginning, only this guy is more gruff, and a lot sassier. And he’s black with a grey beard, and there’s junk everywhere. Basically he’s Professor Fred Sanford. I’m keep standing around instead of doing what he says because I want to hear him call me “ya big dummy!”

- Hmm…Judith or Alex. Judith or Alex. Judith seems like a bit of a bitch, but I can go for that. I get the feeling she hasn’t had sex in a while, which, historically, has always worked in my favor. Alex on the other hand is probably the refugee bicycle. Oh, hell, who am I kidding…


- Crosshairs engaged.

- Judith and Alex are having a cat-fight over me. Actually, it’s probably not over me, but that won’t stop old Gordon from shaking one out to the possibility.

- The gravity gun is FUCKING AWESOME.

- I’m separated from my sexy companion by a rockslide. Oddly enough the gravity gun is letting me remove rocks from the pile one by one but she’s having none of it. As far as she’s concerned, we’re separated. The NPC credo in this game must be something like, “I wish I could help, but then again I don’t.” She tells me to go to Ravenholm and fend for myself while she heads upstairs to her sofa and electric footbath.

- Wait, Ravenholm? B-but…we don’t go to Ravenholm!


- A dead body and a headcrab with a gaping vagina point the way to what I’m sure will be a nice easy chapter with no surprises whatsoever. It’s probably just Farnsworth again, asking me to towel him off after a bath.

Chapter 6: “We don’t go to Ravenholm…”

- Okay. Okay. It’s very dark. The music is coming up so I know I’m in trouble. Okay. Deep breath. This can’t be so bad. This won’t be so bad, if you just keep your wits about you. Look, there’s a tire swing off in the distance. Just head in that direction and we’ll get our bearings.




- Okay. Okay. Okay. I can’t…I can’t do this. I really can’t. This level is already too scary and all I did was walk into it. I’m not going to make it. Not all at once anyway. I’ll need to save my game regularly, and do this in chunks. If I try to do this in one sitting, I’m going to become mentally ill.

- Right. There are zombies everywhere. I so fucking called this level. Early on when I saw a zombie or two I knew there was too much effort invested in the enemy design for them to be throwaways. No sir. I knew at some point I’d turn into Jill Valentine. I fucking, fucking, fucking knew it. I mean, I like Resident Evil, but there’s a reason that I need to be in a very specific mood to play it.

- Zombies scare the fuck out of me. I think it’s because there’s no “main” monster to track down and kill, to neutralize the threat. No. When zombies come a-knockin’ (or a-shufflin’) you’ve got to take them all out. All of them. Don’t even save one for a pet, or you’ll regret it. (Your neighbors will regret it even more, though.)

- Okay, I just killed myself by walking into a mounted spinning sawblade. Don’t ask why I did that.

- Actually, you know what? That wasn’t such a stupid thing to do after all. If I had to go to fucking Ravenholm in real life, I’d walk into the sawblade too. To hell with this. What am I going to do, spend the rest of my life getting chewed on by zombies while I try to read or sleep? No way. I mean, the rent is probably cheap, but…no. No, not even if utilities were included. This is bullshit. I’m going to walk into the sawblade a few more times, just to get it out of my system. And crawl underneath it but stand up too soon.

- Ahh, that felt good.

- Okay, so there’s some weird guy who keeps talking to me but I can never find him. He’s more articulate than a zombie so I’ll hazard a guess that he’s…a good guy? Oh, and there he is, right up above the giant human barbeque pit.

- Speaking of barbeque pit, I think I’ve just been tremendously awful to a caged zombie. Wow. I…I actually feel bad about this.


- So the weird guy with the rifle said he was going to help me, but then he disappeared. Thanks. You’re going to help me to help myself, I guess.


- I mean, this level exists solely to give me nightmares, right?

- So up through the building, looking for my psychotic sidekick. Nope, can’t find him anywhere. Just a million zombies and headcrabs and all of a sudden they seem to take about a million shots. I get the feeling I should be using the gravity gun but if I throw something and then get cornered it takes forever to switch to a new weapon because I’m still not entirely used to the control scheme. Gah! Also, the odds of me blowing my own head off with an explosive barrel have been hovering somewhere around one in one. I also notice there’s no ammo laying around anywhere. Thanks again, Resident Evil.

- I found a napping zombie and beat his skull in with a crowbar before he could even get to his knees. Because that’s exactly the kind of yellow-bellied coward I am. (MEREDITH: Why would a zombie sleep? That’s stupid. ME: I guess he could have been meditating. MEREDITH: [pause] Okay, I’ll accept that.)

- I shut off the power upstairs so I can get through the electric fence now, but since I can’t climb out the window I’ll have to go back down through the house, where I know already I’m going to encounter more live zombies that were conveniently not there the first time. How much would you like to bet?

- Okay, I lost that bet. No new zombies. Just fucking swarms of bloodthirsty spidercrab bullshit fucks. If these things so much as wink at me I lose about five million health points. Yeah, that’s totally fair. What, can these things kill me with their minds, like the kid from that episode of The Twilight Zone? (He was a shit.)

- Bah, everywhere I go I have to beat off spidercrabs. Now I remember why I only play Nintendo games; every other platform wants to scare the clitoris off of me.

- I just took out a room full of zombies, but one of the headcrabs survived. Only it didn’t decide to pounce until like 30 seconds later. I fucking jumped out of my skin. The only reason I didn’t piss was because I hadn’t had anything to drink in a while. A few minutes later I got a bottle of water and took a sip and the sip came right out the end of my penis. That’s how scared I was.

- The gravity gun is awesome, but this is NOT the place to be teaching someone how to use it. There are way too many enemies. If I grab an item and use it to kill a zombie, I have to switch back to something else immediately or I get attacked…so it’s actually been a lot easier to not even bother with the gravity gun at all. It’s a shame because I know it’s cool, but I never got the chance to practice it on a small number of enemies before I was expected to take down fucking hordes.


- Here’s my psychotic companion, again, on the housetop. I guess he built that spinning murder top. Funny how I never actually questioned the zombies having built it. (Ask yourself two questions…how and why?) Anyway he shoots a spidercrab and disappears again. What a guy. For every three hundred zombies I kill, he’ll pop in and give one of them a papercut. On the elbow. And then go away again. If you really wanted to help, do you know what you could do? THROW ME A FUCKING ROPE.

- Granted, Grigory is a bit of a badass. I think I just saw him kicking zombies through glass windows like it weren’t no thang. So, I mean, already he’s done more than any other NPC in the game. By a landslide. But my urge to give him a round of applause is counterbalanced by the fact that I’m continuously getting eaten by zombies. You might understand why that would put a damper on things.

- Now there are fucking zombie acrobats who come bounding over the buildings and swoop down on me like Batman. What the hell…STOP GETTING ZOMBIES WRONG. I am not going to make it out of this level. Ever. Am I?

- Oh, for fuck’s sake…zombies with armor? Oh, they’re headcrabs. Great. Zombies with armor made out of headcrabs. Also, they can throw headcrabs. Probably if they say the word “headcrab” three times while looking in my direction I’ll turn into a headcrab. I’m seriously about to cry.


- Done. Fucking done. I need a break. Half-Life 2 is making me want to eat bugs and die.

About this entry


Awesome article.

In the recent episodes I still don’t think there had been a level that has incited as much fear as Ravenholm.

Karrakunga's picture

By Karrakunga
September 26, 2008 @ 11:41 am

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>this boating thing sucks.

Have to say, I find the mudskipper sequence one of the most entertaining bits of the game. I could happily play it through countless times. But good to see you recognised the brilliance of the moment the helicopter finally comes down for good.

Man, I can’t wait until I get my new PC sorted, crack open Steam, and me and Capps get you going on some HL2 DM. You haven’t fully experienced the joy of the gravity gun until you’ve used it to kill one of your mates with a toilet or filing cabinet.

Seb Patrick's picture

By Seb Patrick
September 26, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

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Also :

>I move the mouse up and down to give her a nod. I am more polite than the game’s engine wants me to be.


Seb Patrick's picture

By Seb Patrick
September 26, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

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>I find the mudskipper sequence one of the most entertaining bits of the game.

The thing is, while I was “preparing” this article last night, I thought to myself that I’d like to replay that sequence. Here’s the thing: I think the first time through it’s probably frustrating because you have no idea when it will end. (It does seem rather long when you’re inside it.) Also, for a long time I was afraid to go too quickly lest I missed something.

But in retrospect, I remember it being pretty damn satisfying to thump over a soldier, and despite my horribleness with the control, mowing rows of them down with the gun is fun. Since it’s play by play I think only my initial irritations come through…but it says a lot that as soon as I sit down to talk about it, I wanted to play that segment again…wiser and less confused.

Phil Reed's picture

By Phil Reed
September 26, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

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Have you picked up the saw blades with the gravity gun and chopped the cunts in half yet?

Jonathan Capps's picture

By Jonathan Capps
September 26, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

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This just reminds me of how much I absolutely love Half-Life 2.

Austin Ross's picture

By Austin Ross
September 27, 2008 @ 12:31 am

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I cried my way through Ravenholm. On Easy, with the lights on, at 2:00 in the afternoon.

By Burnt Toast
October 01, 2010 @ 2:13 am

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