The first part of this is cut & pasted from my earlier HL2 Nodding & Shaking post. I had written:
“My least favorite part of HL2 is the level just before Gordon finally enters the citadel. To get there, you have to lead dozens of cheerful, relatively competent folks to their death because there’s just too many f$%^ing Combine to keep a single squad alive through the whole level even with cheating! I know: I tried. You do get plenty of squad mates who replace the ones who just died, and they’re all “random” characters anyway, but that’s not the point: The point is that you’re not given the “NOBODY DIES ON MY WATCH!” option. I don’t have a problem sending wave after wave of Antlions to their deaths in Nova Prospekt because they’re expendable minions. But making it impossible to keep a human squad alive all the way through City 17 just irritates me.
To be absolutely clear: commanding the squads was fun, especially on the levels right after you get them. Making it impossible to keep them alive is not.
Thankfully, you get just one extremely competent Alyx all through Episode I instead of four folks who are constantly dying. And (minor spoiler) when you do get a chance to lead a squad again towards the end of Episode I, it is possible to keep them all alive. Huzzah!”
Having finished Episode 2 as well now, I feel I should comment on some of the other characters who team up with you. First, I love the Vortigaunt companion that I call “Bob”. (Though he’s probably named differently by everyone who plays through the game. Cecil is a nice fit as well.) He makes a nice contrast to Alyx who occasionally cracks wise but isn’t nearly as amusing or weird as the Vortigaunts. Bob reminds me a little of Martian Manhunter from the DC Universe (powerful and a bit of an oddball) but with a keen wit and impish sense of humor.
It’s slightly disturbing when the G-Man reminds you that back in HL1 the Vorts’ “only experience of humanity was a crowbar coming at them down a steel corridor”. I haven’t finished Half Life 1, and it’s been a few years since I had played and I had forgotten that the Vorts were an “enemy” in HL1. That I (Gordon Freeman) had killed a whole bunch of the same guys that were helping us out now. Gee, G-Man, thanks for rubbing it in. Jerk.
Speaking of the G-Man, a lot of players think of him as an antagonist, but I disagree on this one. He’s creepy, utterly manipulative, and almost certainly some sort of alien, but I don’t think he’s an enemy. If he’s actually telling the truth in his Episode 2 speech he is, at the very least, a grudging ally of Gordon Freeman. This is something I didn’t get from HL1, but did suspect from his appearances at the beginning and end of HL2. In fact, (minor spoiler) his mysterious message about “unforeseen consequences” turns out to be a genuine warning which almost helps the heroes directly. It certainly proves once and for all that he’s not working in the interests of the Combine.
At the very least, the G-Man seems to approve of what Gordon and Alyx are doing regarding the Combine in the same way that Stalin approved of what Roosevelt and Churchill were doing regarding the Nazis. He might not be “good” but he is certainly helping for now. Plus I think it’s fun to keep an eye out for his cameos. “Hi, G-Man, still stalking me? See ya later, buddy!”
Mini-Game Design Snippet
Now regarding matters that I shall not spoil, I would dearly love to see a new weapon in HL2ep3: an “Advisor Exsanguinator” of some kind. Something that not only kills Advisors but does so painfully and slowly. Or perhaps quickly but embarrassingly and messily, like some sort of psychic-brain-exploder. Or maybe just lock us in a large room with a tube that drops Death Frizbees and a bunch of Advisors we can slice and dice.
It isn’t often that a game makes me hate a character with such a deep loathing that I wouldn’t mind if HL2ep3 was essentially me using the Portal Gun to drop Advisors into incinerators for a few hours (or something like this) and not much else. At the very least, I hope I can do it with cheats. Or maybe actually learn the Source SDK and make a mod that’s all about vicious bloody retribution on Advisors.
If you don’t know what I mean, you should play through Ep2. You’ll understand my feelings precisely.