How Half-Life2 ’s Highway 17 changes the pace. By Robert Yang
Halfway through Half-Life 2, Valve gives you a car and sends you off on a road trip. It makes sense considering the other first-person shooters released in 2004: Halo 2 and Far Cry both emphasised driving across huge levels, and even Unreal Tournament 2004 added vehicles with large landscaped arenas. Now in 2017, so many big releases are big open world games. It’s funny to think such a scripted rollercoaster of a game like Half-Life 2 was part of that design shift as well.
But Highway 17 works. The open coastline contrasts well with the previous chapter, Ravenholm. Instead of fighting zombies in alleyways, now we’re literally going on a sunny holiday to the beach! And sure, maybe it’s a beach swarming with antlions the second you hit the sand, but at least there’s plenty of parking.
Here’s a guided tour of the chapter’s second level.
A collapsed pier forces you to detour to this scenic beachfront property, where you expect more zombies and headcrabs after surviving the first house. Surprise, it’s actually a Combine spying post! Well, fortunately they’re terrible at spying and they won’t notice you sneaking up behind them. Once you clear out all the soldiers, you can use their binoculars to spy on your own friends, and catch a rare G-man sighting. Maybe the Combine knows something you don’t. Valve likes mixing it up every few minutes, so this encounter is pretty different from the other houses. Instead of hiding enemies inside, there’s already some Combine soldiers battling some antlions outside. Watching stuff fight other stuff is perhaps one of the great eternal pleasures of the FPS. For bonus fun, try to ram the Combine APC into the ocean. These tall craggy antlion hills hint at a network of tunnels buried deep underground. They remain unexplained until Episode Two, when you also find out antlions drown easily in water. Good thing they nested near the beach! Notice how the highway just suddenly ends? Well, you wouldn’t be able to see that break in the game. Levels are almost always constructed like elaborate film sets – when something is out of view, it’s better to stop rendering it. It saves your PC some work, and it saves the designer time. S P Y PO S T A NT L I ON HILL B OAT H O U S E H I G HWAY