There is a wonderful moment in Fifty percent-Everyday living 2, during the ‘Water Hazard’ section of Valve’s FPS match, when you first arrive at 1 of the resistance outposts, Station 12. Earlier, you – or, if you want, Gordon Freeman – have been told that communications with Station 12 have mysteriously ceased. Overlooking City 17’s irradiated river, the Station is supported on stilts. Right away, you know that some thing is erroneous. The river is silent. No-a person exits the Station to greet you. A big wooden container dangles ominously from a pulley – the grand piano in excess of Buster Keaton’s head some stark realisation just waiting to drop.
When you go inside, obviously, every person is useless. A few of levels ago, you observed a missile land in entrance of you, then open up up to launch its payload – numerous headcrabs, employed by the Incorporate to turn the Resistance into zombies. Below, you find the same style of rocket, and a one headcrab nonetheless alive. The voice of some much-off Resistance member crackles about the radio: “Come in, Station 12.” With out any person saying what’s occurred, you can piece it all with each other intuitively.
This is where by Fifty percent-Lifestyle 2 excels. We have a simple, sci-fi horror story – creepy developing, everyone’s been killed by monsters – but it is all advised without having phrases. If the point of Gordon Freeman as a silent protagonist is that we, as gamers, can additional easily place ourselves in his spot, and react to gatherings in our individual way, it follows and coheres that Half-Existence 2’s story – and it’s small, isolated sub-tales, like Station 12 – are equally wordless, and understood through our personal engagement.
Gordon doesn’t discuss. The sport doesn’t communicate. Hunting close to, taking factors in, and independently locating your individual narratives and conclusions will become one particular of Half-Everyday living 2’s ‘mechanics.’
But then, just right after H2o Hazard, you get there at Black Mesa East. And Alyx is there. And Judith is there. And Eli is there. And they’re all chatting to Gordon about the truth they haven’t found him in 20 a long time, and how dangerous his journey ought to have been, and what took place soon after the gatherings of the resonance cascade. And he just stands there, staring – there is very little else he can do.
In idea, I suppose we’re meant to reply to these people in our heads. “Gordon Freeman!” suggests Eli. “Let me get a appear at you, guy.” And I guess we’re intended to consider to ourselves “Eli! So great to see you!” But of study course we never, due to the fact we really do not know who Eli is, or how Gordon is aware of him – and we simply cannot just improvise the proper line of dialogue and say it in our heads whenever 50 percent-Everyday living 2 instructions.
So, you just get these weird silences a character who looks removed and inhuman and a team of supporting figures who inexplicably adore Gordon, ignoring the fact that he won’t even converse to them.
Possibly if this impacted just 1 scene, or one contained component of 50 percent-Lifestyle 2, it would be permissible – it would be some thing you could settle for, under the agreed policies of suspension of disbelief. But Gordon’s silence, and the rest of the cast’s inexplicable eagerness to see and converse to him, compromises the narrative and the fiction of the activity.
It is really hard to feel, for illustration, notably sympathetic in direction of Gordon when he behaves so inhumanely. Not only do we as players have in essence almost nothing to attach to or recognise about his temperament, we regularly view Gordon refusing to discuss to any person, staring at every little thing blankly, and acting like a weird, impolite, aloof robot. I really do not assume it’s inquiring also significantly of a game to make the central character – our avatar, our protagonist – at the very least to some degree emotive.
Usually, with out at minimum a semblance of a thing, a bit of persona, likeable or not, it is hard to care what occurs to them. In gameplay terms, the central tension of 50 percent-Lifestyle 2 is that Gordon could die – you’d greater do very well in this gunfight, or you’d better successfully navigate this physics-based platforming segment, or Gordon will die. But so what? Gordon is not a human being. In a good deal of scenes, Gordon hardly appears to be sentient. And when it is correct that his silence and his emptiness make it possible for us to challenge on to him, and also, for Gordon to turn out to be an in-universe symbol for the Resistance, that dynamic, way too, is skewed by his silence.
The survival of Gordon Freeman in 50 percent-Life 2, and the completion of his quest, gets to be a metaphor for the full fight between humankind and the Blend. He’s a flag. He’s a statue. He’s an icon. To this extent, the character operates. The stage ‘Follow Freeman,’ where you mechanically recruit liberty fighters anywhere you go, illustrates how each and just about every member of the Resistance sights and employs Gordon as a blank slate, onto which they can job their particular person hopes.
When they see Gordon Freeman, absent of ideas or words and phrases of his individual, they are ready to see them selves. But once more, when these individuals attempt and converse to Gordon, he says nothing. He is the chief of humanity, but by definition, has no charisma, no vision, and, most tellingly, no humanity. We see the folks of Metropolis 17 getting overwhelmed, queuing for meals, sobbing in just one another’s arms. In the afterwards degrees, under Gordon Freeman’s command, we see them dying in the streets.
And still, Gordon has nothing at all to say – not a syllable – about any of it. Subsequent your orders, 50 percent your squad in the later amounts could possibly get blown up by a Incorporate grenade, and as the other 50 % stand there on the lookout at you, the only point you can do as Gordon is glance back again, say not a word, and go on like practically nothing took place.
A superior chief, someone men and women can believe in and get behind, may well perfectly direct with actions, but Gordon Freeman, simply because of his perpetual silence, can only guide by motion, singular – shoot and destroy the Mix. It offers you, the moment all over again, with these absurdist, absorption-spoiling moments, when all all around Gordon Freeman there is spectacular, human drama, and all he does is silently stare.
50 percent-Daily life 1 has improved crafting than 50 %-Everyday living 2, then, simply just for the reason that it has significantly less composing. The narrative is a lot more easy. There are much less figures who communicate to Gordon Freeman (and, by association, less characters at whom Gordon weirdly stares). And there is no emotional stress for Gordon, as a character, to bear or recognise.
In Fifty percent-Lifestyle 2, we have scenes wherever Alyx is offended or unfortunate, where by Barney is cracking jokes, the place Eli is remaining warm and welcoming – all these little, emotionally pushed moments, framed by a broader narrative whereby Gordon is the hope for all humanity. In Half-Everyday living 1, for the most portion, he is on his very own and with the easy objective of escaping Black Mesa. A physicist and an engineer, who does not discuss, and can only interact with the entire world by opening doors, turning valves, pressing switches, and capturing guns, Gordon Freeman is all action, all practicality.
In Fifty percent-Lifetime 1, this is all he wants. The recreation is intended all around his silence. In 50 %-Everyday living 2, Gordon is confronted by interpersonal, spectacular, and human troubles, all of which really should be basically part of any game’s story, but his character has not transformed. He is a set of socket wrenches and a handgun, that the rest of the solid speak to about their emotions.
Like in Drinking water Hazard, the writing and supply of story get the job done very best in Half-lifestyle 2 when they, like Gordon, are wordless. The resolution, potentially, is constantly to design and style the Half-Everyday living video games (if Valve at any time would make yet another) all-around Gordon Freeman becoming by himself. Possibly that, or just let him talk.
Looking at about the vintage 50 percent-Everyday living collection could possibly have you in the mood for some other excellent old game titles. Alternatively, you may well want to know no matter what occurred to Fifty percent-Lifetime 3, or maybe just take a search at some other sturdy story game titles out there on Computer.