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Half-Life 2: Episode One Review

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The bonus chapter of the franchise doesn't disappoint.

★★★★

When a gun totin’ sequel arrives that offers the same enemies, weapons and tactics as its predecessor, takes place in identical environments, and removes the driving sequences that helped punctuate the previous game’s intense gunplay, it’s hardly likely to make an impact in an already overcrowded market. But Episode One is a Half-Life game, and even though it lacks the epic sweep of earlier instalments in Valve’s dystopian fantasy, it’s still infinitely more accomplished than the majority of shooters on the shelves today.

A bonus chapter in the Half-Life mythos rather than a brand new adventure, Episode One picks up where the previous game left off, following Gordon Freeman and his partner Alyx as they try to escape the oppressive, Orwellian world of City 17. (Episode Two will be available later this year, and the third – and possibly final – Half-Life adventure will hit stores around this time in 2007.)

Fans of the first two H-Lives will feel immediately at home, Episode One offering the same tense blend of environmental puzzles, shooting and scarily-smart enemies that made the series a brutal classic. But while it lacks the freshness of Half-Life 2 – and takes less than five hours to complete – Episode One still allows players to use improved team tactics as Alyx fights alongside you at all times, and the claustrophobic streets, sharp storytelling and superb graphics once again make for an immersive and utterly compelling experience.