I heard all Valve’s hype about their face animation technology but took it with a grain of salt, but they really pulled it off. I have to say the characters felt truly alive somehow. It was the eyes, I think. They look around, they look with their eyes before they turn their head, they look at the ceiling and the floor while they are talking, they raise their eyebrows and stare you down. I was enthralled. Alex was particularly well rendered—and I ended up truly feeling for her and her plight.
It’s funny as I look back on this game, the only really original part (game-play wise) was the gravity gun. Nearly everything else was rehashed from every other first person shooter I’ve played, but it was done with such aplomb and style and with such a sense of fun that I never cared. This is how all games should feel—Fun!
I was getting tired of the boat levels right when they ended, I was just getting too creeped-out by Ravenloft when I made it through and was getting just tired of the car levels when they came to an end. Everything was timed perfectly.
And there were moments I’ll never forget. Ravenloft was creepy and I dreaded entering when I first saw the humans taken hold of by the “fast” head crabs. The turnaround in my mind with regards to the Ant Lions has to be one of the greatest in video game history—I despised them with such vehemence and then in 5 minutes was calling them “My Guys” and despairing when the first one was shot. The bridge level was very memorable to be. Manipulating the large crane on one of the car levels was tremendously satisfying. Getting off the train in the first moments of the game and getting beaten by billy clubs by the local police was great—You instantly get the feeling that you are in some 1984 style oppressed world and you feel like a poor unarmed prole (until you finally get your crowbar back).
I’ll never forget the ending either, though that is one part that I don’t remember with fondness. Technically, it was ambiguous and left open some good possibilities, but it really ended on a somewhat dour note. Even that can’t take away from the rest of the game, which was just really fun overall. You should never play another video game unless you play this one first.