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Half A Life Is Better Than None

January 3rd, 2005

Haven’t had a chance to update my blog over the long holiday week. Well, okay, perhaps I did have a chance or two, but somehow I kept getting sucked back into such diversions as Half-Life 2, a first-person shooter computer game that Vicky bought me as a Christmas gift.

I’ve never played the original Half-Life, so as far as I know, the name refers from the amount of time it took me to install five CDs, download the updates, create an online account, and wait for the damned thing to load. (My PC is well above the minimum specs for the game, yet the load times are still lengthy.)

Actually, coming into this cold simulates the experience of the main character, who is awakened by some creepy, suit-wearing alien into a post-invasion, vaguely European landscape in which jackbooted police and flying cameras monitor the tamed human populace. A little disorientation suits the mood; the player is trapped in a nightmare in which the other characters know him better than he knows himself.

The game veers through all manner of cinematic experiences, from a scary-ass stalk through a zombie-infested village to a firefight between a squad of resistance soldiers and faceless Combine troops. One of the best setpieces I’ve experienced to date involved crossing the underside of a massive girder bridge while being hunted by an alien helicopter.

The action is intense at times and the atmosphere can be downright frightening, except for one thing. You see, one of the extraterrestrial species is known as a “headcrab” because of its desire to engulf the head of a human host, turning it into a shambling corpse. All very creepy…or it would be, if the things didn’t resemble ambulatory Butterball turkeys! Having one scuttle my way reminds me that Thanksgiving is only 11 months away, and seeing one perched atop the neck of a zombie looks like nothing less than the episode of Mr. Bean in which Rowan Atkinson got his head stuck inside the neck hole of a plucked bird.

It’s a great game, and I can’t wait to get back to saving the planet. I can’t let those turkeys win.

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