see nerd) blog — another boring bossman battle

I’ve finally gone back to finish Half Life 2 Episode 2.

The first time I played it through, I got stuck at the big battle. It was so boring, I gave up. It was more and more of the same but slightly different. Mmmm … I’m not going to be giving anything away, really, given the game’s been out for quite a while … one or two striders to battle with, ok, but much the same again and again, not ok.

Well, I’m back at the same scene and it’s just as boring as it was before. I’m only forcing myself through it because I want to see what happens afterwards. I wish computer games were like novels, when you can simply skip the bad parts and jump ahead to where the authors remember to get back to authoring.

This battle is as dull as a bossman battles which ruined the end of many an Id game, the repetitive bit to play just so you can say you’ve finished the game. Shoot the same way and dodge the same way and shoot the same way and dodge the same way and shoot the same way … again and again and again until the big bad bossman finally expires.

I don’t think the Valve game designers have quite grasped how strong their narrative has become, that it’s now the main part of their game, for me at least. I don’t thing they’ve grasped the shooting and the adventure are interludes to help make the story work. They’re the comedy scenes in a dramatic play.

The irony is they’ve clearly put a lot of effort into making this battle work. There are clearly many possible tactics you can use to shoot down the enemies. If I wanted to explore all those tactics, I’d much much prefer the option of replaying the scene. I don’t want to do that, it’s just not something that interests me.

Please, Valve (and many other games manufacturers), include a mechanism to bypass scenes that don’t interest us. You can do that in simple desktop games; import the feature.

Now, ok, you might be saying these are first-person-shooters, so you should expect to do some shooting! That’s true, that’s very true. It’s also true I enjoy the ordinary shooting scenes, the sweet and simple puzzles, and so on. But what appeals to me about these games, really, is not the shooter, but the first-person. It’s the only way to truly immerse yourself in the game world, for me. The shooter bit is how the games evolved, it isn’t history, but perhaps could be. To be fair, I think Valve are onto this, hence one of the other games that came with this one, Portal. It’s still stuck in shooting and silly bossmen, but most of the game is fun.

I wish they’d put the effort into getting the player into the narrative that they put into these big battles. Right now, the player’s a mobile couch potato; (s)he gets talked at, but communicates nothing. I understand why they’ve not done that; it’ll be very very difficult to make work. But surely, with the same effort in the huge battles, they could find a way forward for narrative.

Let’s see what happens in Part 3.

Oh, and incidentally, I’ve given up on the game again. The battle scene wore out my determination to see what happens next. Ah well.