Getting Into Gaming: Half-Life
Put the specimen under the radioactive laser thingy, they said. We’re reasonably sure it’ll be OK, they said. Besides, you’re wearing a hazmat suit. What’s the worst that could happen?
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not exactly the best nor the bravest when it comes to first-person shooter games. I become paralytically paranoid and I have a tendency to scream when taken by surprise. Naturally I waited to be home alone before I finally got round to playing Half Life, a game which I have often watched, but never actually tried to play. I had a rough idea of what to expect: jumpy-outy things, explody things and really freakin’ ugly things! In general, I was expecting to be utterly terrified and dead at alternating intervals. And yet, while I had a number of near death experiences, I managed to only actually die a handful of times and mostly due to falling off things.
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I realised early on that I’m clearly not a very logical gamer when I couldn’t work out how to open any of the motion-sensing automatic doors. This was eventually overcome (by accident) and I got the hang of it quite quickly after that. I had to remind myself to think like I was playing Portal: all the answers were there and everything was very logical once I started to notice the little clues in the game design (like the arrows on the doors, telling you which way to move to trigger the motion sensor). The second most important lesson I learned was to save every time I felt relief, happiness, contentment or any sort positive emotions because victory is very fleeting in Gordon Freeman’s universe!
Because it was my first real attempt at a FPS and I wanted to actually make progress in the game and not be stressing nuts the whole way through, I decided to play on easy. But I was hard on myself because of that, so every time I felt like I could’ve done something better or taken less damage or not let the scientist get his face eaten off I would reload and try over. And I realised that I’m actually not all THAT bad at shooting things, although I really do suck at avoiding damage. My overall strategy was to run at things and try to more damage to them faster than they were doing damage to me, and mostly it worked. I also realised that I’m quite a fast learner and given a couple of tries I could work out how to take down the aliens before they even knew I was there, or how to use the turrets to my advantage without taking damage, or even just find the most sheltered corner to hide in when the military was on my case. To some people this might not seem like anything to be proud of, but for somebody as unstrategic and untactical as me, being able to do those things felt like a major achievement… Also, being able to stealth around corners with my gun like a character in a cop show made me feel incredibly legit!
The only real problem I had with the game, and I realise this is only a problem because I’m technologically backtracking from Portal, was that the movements were almost too smooth. I had no real concept of motion because I felt like I was just gliding everywhere, which made judging the distance and height of jumps very difficult (hence falling to my death) and I would occasionally overrun my target and have to double back. Combine that with lasers connected to deadly turrets, bombs and climbing up elevator shafts and you have a death trap… well, more of a death trap.
In general I enjoyed fighting the aliens much more than the military, mostly because the aliens don’t throw grenades. Also, with the aliens it’s nothing personal really: they’re just doing their thing and I always happened to be in the vicinity of that thing. Whereas the military are seriously out to get old Gordon. I mean, tanks? Really? You don’t need a tank to kill one guy. It seems a little like over kill to me and to be honest, it was about fifty times more stressful fighting three soldiers than it was taking on a room full of aliens! I didn’t actually manage to finish the game before I had to write this, but I can’t imagine it gets any easier. I found the aliens a lot scarier to fight though. I only really screamed twice, both times because of an alien: once because I didn’t realise the little wriggly dog like things exploded and once because I hadn’t worked out how to turn on my flashlight before going into an air vent full of headcrabs. Rookie error, yes. Utterly terrifying, also yes.
This was quite a mile stone for me. I’ve now conquered the only genre on my list that I was genuinely worried about (read: terrified of) and I didn’t totally suck. My boyfriend says the next step is Mass Effect, but I’m yet quite confident enough in ability to rush into expanding my kill repertoire. So for now I’m quite happy just having Half Life under my belt and maybe some time when I’m home alone again I’ll get really brave and try my hand at killing Geth too.