Episodic Content…

I have no idea why I put an ellipses in the title of this post.  Honestly, now that I’m thinking about it, “ellipses” is a funny word.  It sounds plural.  I don’t think it is plural, I think it’s just a singular word for a plural object – in this case, three periods.

I didn’t get much sleep last night.

Where was I?  Oh, yes, episodic content.

I’m really not a fan of games – or movies, for that matter – that are designed to require a sequel.  Not only are they generally unmitigated cash-grabs, I’m always worried that, even if I like the first installment in a series enough that I’ll WANT the sequel, there won’t be enough commercial interest to justify it ever being made.

Like, oh, I dunno, Shenmue.  Not that I’ve played the second one, mind you, but just knowing that there won’t be a third is quite vexing.

Episodic content is a little different from this, I guess.  The idea as I understand it is that you buy a full game – with an ending, presumably – in pieces.  The advantage being, I guess, that when it gets canceled 2/3rds of the way through the story, at least it’s cheaper.

…that may be a bit cynical.

On the other hand, I bought the Orange Box a couple of years ago when a combination of a sale and a surprisingly good coupon brought the retail price down to ten bucks, so I wound up with Half-Life 2 : Episode One & Two, which were kind of the vanguards for the whole concept.

I’ve been putting off playing them. After HL2’s cliffhanger ending, I decided that I wasn’t going to play through the episodes until Episode 3 came out.

Presuming, of course, that Episode 3 actually finished the story.

I did look up how HL2: Ep1 BEGAN, mind you, because I wanted to know what happened immediately after the credits, but that was it.

On the other hand, when Valve announced Portal 2 a couple of months ago and tweaked the ending of Portal 1 to make it more sequel-friendly, I decided that I wanted to play through Portal 1 again, but before doing that I should probably play HL2: Ep2 because I’d heard that there was a slim connection between the two games.

Then, I decided that if I was going to do that, I’d go back and play through HL2 before starting the episodes.  The first time I played HL2 was on the original Xbox, after all, and I’ve heard nothing but scorn for the Xbox port and wanted to see for myself whether it was justified scorn.

For the record: The PC version of HL2 IS quite a bit prettier than the Xbox version.  Apart from that, the Xbox version is a pretty good way to play through the game and doesn’t deserve the hate.

So, returning to my monologue here, I played through HL2 and started on the episodes.

HL2: Ep1, I have to say, was not as good as I was expecting.  It suffered a great deal from recycled-level syndrome, over-use of the gravity gun gimmick, and withholding your crowbar until 3/4ths of the way through the game.  It had a good final boss fight, but that was followed by a cliffhanger ending even more annoying than the original game’s.

HL2: Ep2, on the other hand, I wound up liking quite a lot.  It changed up the scenery a fair bit, added a new enemy type that ranks right up with Bioshock’s Big Daddies in terms of how satisfying it is to kill them, and ends with, well, something of a non-ending, but at least with an ending that isn’t a total cliffhanger – and the vehicle segments were better than those from the original HL2.

Oh, and the final boss event in Ep2 was REALLY fun.  It took me a few tries, I’ll admit, but I was playing on “Normal” so I expected to die a few times.

So short version:  I’m now eagerly awaiting the release of Episode 3, and I’m kind of vexed with myself from letting myself into this situation, but at least I held out until 2010.  I’m not some poor bastard that played through Ep2 in 2007 and has been waiting for the last three years.  It’s a small comfort.

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