Half-Life 2 is a shining beacon of total beauty. It towers over all other artistic creation like a marvellous monolith of majestic magnificence. It has no flaws.
The weaponry is perfectly judged. Every single nuance is exactingly designed to provoke an instinctive, guttural response in the player. It will reach in through your chest and vigorously massage your stomach almost to the very point of violent and inexplicable explosion, before teasingly winding you down again. In particular, the choice to force the player to first select the melee weapon before using it is the very definition of inspiration. Neanderthal shooters like Halo or Call of Duty will allow more limited players to simply mash the pad with their rudimentary misshapen hooves to perform the same action. Half-Life 2, however, forces them to make a considered tactical decision beforehand. A masterstroke. Bravo!
The game opens with a man in a suit talking to the player with an odd inflection in his speech. He also appears at other points, including the splendidly avant-garde, peerless dénouement. His motivations and true importance are cleverly guarded from the player, who is constantly kept guessing by the mind-bending abilities of this deliciously ambiguous enigma. You’ll note that the player is never granted these powers, and so is led to feel a crisp, satisfying sense of futility. It makes perfect sense, and I’m 100% in my conviction that this is exactly what they were trying to do.
In fact, the philosophical ideas explored in Half-Life 2 completely decimate any previous efforts by anyone else in any craft ever. The message is focused and coherent throughout, especially during the sections where the player is tasked with piloting a “boat”, occasionally stopping off to twat wooden boxes in the face with a crowbar. Of course, as all those of purer intellect quickly come to realise, the “boat” represents the id, the water the ego, and the bouncing bomb-balls click into place as the super-ego. The boxes? They represent the greatest mystery of all. Love.
Bioshock can’t even understand that paradigm, or even the concept of a paradigm, mostly because it is not a body of sentient intelligence and is instead a collection of inert programming modules. This irrefutably proves beyond all reasonable doubt that Half-Life 2 is a far better game than Bioshock.
The basic structure of Half-Life 2 is a swirling cacophony of brilliant and all-encompassing genius. Much time is spent crawling through vents and hitting small crab-like creatures in the face with a blunt instrument. These fruitful times provoke intense and sincere existential rumination in the player. One memorable section tasks the player with hopping between pieces of driftwood on a sparse beach of ruined dreams. The driftwood represents hope. Masterful.
The decision to give the most prominent NPC in the game, Alyx, dark hair is one of the smartest clues to unlocking the secrets at the heart of our souls that Valve deign to dangle before us. Her hair is dark, and so is what is truly within us.
The physics engine showcased in Half-Life 2 is the most important single moment in the entire sphere of human scientific achievement. The developers utilise this exciting technology to create fresh and challenging spatial and logical puzzles in practical contexts. What could be more logical and practical than an entire city and coastline where every door is opened using some permutation of heavy objects, pulleys and see-saws? In an orgy of verisimilitude they have captured the very essence of modern society, and have boiled it down to its basic constituent elements – picking things up, and them putting then down somewhere else. The human condition, exposed in all its horrible glory.
If George Orwell was still alive, this is the Orwellian dystopia he would be most likely to cream himself over. The strongest evidence is in the health and energy stations dotted throughout the game world. The health stations are Winston, and the energy stations are Julia. Often together, sometimes apart, you’re left yearning for them to be united forever. Then we realise, perhaps with a sudden start in the middle of the night, that the player is O’Brien – draining Winston and Julia of their power, of their souls. Also, the lack of inventory management in the game represents the destruction of individuality. So I think we can all agree that this is an airtight line of reasoning.
The triumphant icing on the delectable cake is the gravity gun. A metaphor for the source of man’s power, the penis, it gives us all the opportunity to live out our deepest fantasies. Chiefly: ejaculating toilets and radiators at alien invaders. Yet more perfectly-judged social commentary ensues when the player finally reaches the Citadel and receives an upgrade to the gravity gun, thus increasing its potency. As we all know, the Latin for “citadel” is ” viagra”. Delightful.
All those capable of rational thought are able to acknowledge and celebrate the reasons why the developer has made these choices. They’re the choices we would all make if we too were perfect beings. The result is something that speaks to our very essence on a profound level.
Therefore, Half-Life 2 is not just the greatest game ever made, but also the best answer to every question that has been or ever will be asked, in any context.