Half-Life 2’s Bizarre Legacy

I beat Half-Life 2 again for the first time in about 10 years. The game has aged INCREDIBLY well. Unbelievably well. For a game that came out in 2004, it has better animation, lighting and textures than a lot of games today. First person shooting and platforming feels just right. Physics-based puzzles are unique and feel like there isn’t always one, clear answer, and you won’t solve them the same way twice. There are some dull moments, parts that go on a little too long, and occasional instances where it’s unclear as to where the player is supposed to go next, and it can take you a little out of the experience. However, for the most part, HL2 still stands up as a masterpiece you must play before you die.

What’s really fascinating and amazing to me, is the fan-created content HL2 spawned that is sort of this bizarre legacy it has left behind. The Source engine was made with user generated content (UGC) in mind, but I think the users generated more content and WILDER content than Valve ever imagined. It started with just simple maps and mods, but Garry’s Mod changed everything when you could import any model made for the Source engine into a puppet playground. There are kids today who grew up watching GMod animated videos on YouTube with characters from the very serious video game Half-Life 2 doing very silly things, and that’s wild to me. And this was several years after the game’s release! Even today, people are still doing things with Source and HL2 content.

Everything from mods to games to obtuse film projects have been made using Source, and although the tools are quite old and many struggle to interface with current versions of Windows, they are still being used today to make art because of their accessibility. And I think that’s really fascinating, and makes Half-Life 2 one the most unique games in history, for its ability to tell a good story with quality assets, then make all of those assets available for others to make their own story.

The Source engine is a gift that keeps on giving, and while Half-Life 3 may not be a game we will get to play in the foreseeable future, Source will regardless forever be Valve’s greatest and most memorable contribution to mixed media storytelling and UGC.

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~ by The Retro Gamer on June 4, 2017.

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