Reaching into new parts of the Orange Box, I had my first taste of Half Life (2) ever this weekend. Yeah, I’m a bit behind the times, but is the gameplay supposed to be this dull? The game world is beautifully done, but I feel like I’m playing House of the Dead or something, except that I have more freedom to look around as I follow the one possible path. It looks like a big city, but it really is just a decorated alley that twists around a lot. It is twisty, but it is still a tube. Oh, and there are things shooting at me.
I found that silly in Portal’s escape section. It made sense for the levels to have one forced path: it is a puzzle game, and the Aperture enrichment course is a course. Go from A to B, you win! And then you get behind the scenes … and still have one forced path, still with convenient signs along the way. This only makes sense if that is still a part of the course, one that is designed to look like everything has gone wrong.
We hate MMOs with invisible walls, unclimbable hills, and impenetrable forests. They are the wallpaper that poorly hides the theme park nature of a world that pretends to be larger. And some of them have parts with the same problem: not only is there a single possible path, but the decoration is clutter that makes it really annoying to find the one possible path.
Maybe the series gets better. I hear that it has a great story, while others enjoy shooting masses of aliens. The gravity gun sounds fun. But if we are still at the point of making games that run from A to B with no meaningful choices, we might as well keep making them 2D games where we run left to right. The prettier they get, the clearer it is that we have all this great technology and nothing to do with it.