About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

Spoiler Warning Half Life 2 Special EP7: Aunt Lyons

By Shamus
on Thursday Sep 8, 2011
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


For those of you who have been eager to hear us criticize Valve a bit… your moment has come.

Link (YouTube)

Comments (87)

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Its a good thing you were recording,because you arent repeating that.Its so cool.

    Also,HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE VALVE,RAAAURGH!!!But yes,the buggy was kind of annoying.I didnt mind the mines so much though.Oh and the tease in episode 2 with the sniper rifle(grumble).Still those are all minor complaints.

    What I dont get is why didnt they separate the suit and the flashlight retroactively after episode 2,like they did with the crosshairs.And its not that I mind them being bunched together,it is a suit with a single power source,but why does the flashlight draw so much juice?Its not like its a giant flood light used on stadiums,its a regular flashlight you can power for days with ordinary batteries.

  2. Lovecrafter says:

    Poor Ant lion. It finally musters up the courage to leap beyond the thumper, and then it overshoots.

    • Nyctef says:

      Antlion: OH HAI THERE *thunk*

      And yeah, I didn’t find the buggy to be too bad — it handled annoyingly sometimes but it was still an interesting way to get around. The car later was much better to actually drive, though.

      Also, can’t you join up the highway levels in a steam mod or garry’smod or something? I thought that was the sort of thing you could do

  3. JPH says:

    I’m ambivalent toward Highway 17. Yes, it stretched on for way too long and I didn’t like driving the buggy, but on the other hand, it has the bridge scene.

  4. Ander the Halfling Rogue says:

    1. Maybe G-man did plant Father Grigori there. He’s so mysterious, how’d anyone know the difference?

    2. Not that it should be a game or anything, but playing through Ravenholm, maybe right after the attack, as Father Grigori would be awesome if a good system for good, dynamic first-person speaking in a video game was made. Bastion+Half-life+The survivalist diaries. That’s what Bioshock: Infinite wants to do, right (the talking thing, not the +++ thing)?

    3. Who says those action heroes hitting without looking isn’t realistic? Maybe they all just get really, really lucky. Poor antlion…

  5. You talk about how the loading screens were perfectly placed in this game and here, RIGHT HERE, in THIS level, is where you are proven ABSOLUTELY WRONG Shamus. I could not have been more aggravated by the loading screen placement in the car level. Half the time it was just before a turn, so when the game finally did load up, my car would be face planted right into a wall. Got me so damn mad.

    • Shamus says:

      I criticized the loading transitions quite a bit in Ravenholm.

      Where would you prefer these transitions? In the open road?

      Remember that the point of the tunnel is to occlude your view of the other side. (Because it’s empty space until you go through the load.) To do that, you need a bend, and you need the transition to take place before the bend. I suppose they could have all tunnels be baffle-shaped, with a bend, transition, then another bend. And I suppose putting a LIGHT at the bend would have been a really, really good idea. But you can’t move those transitions without breaking something.

      • My beef isn’t that it’s in a tunnel, my beef is WHERE they are in tunnels. The game designers didn’t seem to take into account that when you’re in a vehicle, you are going significantly faster than when you are on foot and need more distance to alter your direction. If they’d allowed a few more hundred feet in those corridors to straighten out my car before slapping a loading screen on me (they actually do in some spots if I recall correct), it wouldn’t even be an issue.

        They ALSO didn’t seem to take into account the fact that when UNloading the content for the next level, the game essentially lagged. Unbeknownst to me, the game would be playing in the background while I was staring at the loading screen, using my last keystrokes to control the vehicle. This would mean that by the time the loading screen was gone, I’d be looking at a wall. Hell, I’d actually be able to hear the sound cues of my car crashing before I could regain control, like a taunt.

        This isn’t as big an issue anymore naturally, but using the technology of this game’s time…it struck me as remarkably poor design.

    • guy says:

      I’m going to explain the technical aspects of the Source engine which dictate the placement of loading screens, because I’ve been vaguely mentioning them every time someone complained about loading screens.

      The first thing to understand about the Source engine is quite simple: It doesn’t do dynamic loading. When you leave a loading screen nothing new is going to be loaded until you enter the next one.

      This is why loading screens are so mind-numbingly long, but it does mean you never have partially-loaded textures or slowdowns. I think technological changes may have made dynamic loading the superior option today, but Valve doesn’t want to switch engines. At the time, I think it may have been critical to having the open areas in the first place.

      Point #1 feeds into the second point: Any geometry you can see from both sides of the loading screen needs to be duplicated on the new level. So if you had a massive, open area full of plenty of objects and a loading screen halfway through it, when you passed through the loading screen the system would proceed to purge it from memory and load the whole thing up again. This is why most loading screens are in airlocks.

      Point #3 is presumably why they have bends: When there is any exposed empty space, it breaks more than graphics. It also means the game can’t generate the node map used for pathing, so hostiles can’t move. So they can’t just slap something non-solid on the end of the tunnel, there actually is something beyond the end and the less of it the better.

      These constraints shape where loading screens can be, and ultimately any other rules of game design must bow to making sure the minimum system requirements can run it at an average of 24 FPS without catching fire.

  6. littlefinger says:


  7. Ambitious Sloth says:

    The mine seemed rather pointless to me as well. Yes it made sense that the mine was there but we didn’t need to climb down into a large chamber filled with head crabs. Honestly if we had climbed down and saw a destroyed elevator with a combine shell going through it and then maybe 5 (at the most) zombies it would have made for better environmental storytelling. Heck throw in a corpse or two in those shacks with all the supplies and suddenly everything would be justified and even give you an idea of the hour when the combine attacked.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Indeed.Make it look like some people bunkered there waiting for rescue,but it never came,and they all got slaughtered/turned.

    • decius says:

      Fridge moment: Father Gregori (I presume) made that mine-cart-blade trap, right?

      How did he get out afterwards? Why didn’t he just leave it on, or provide some means of keeping the headcrabs and zombies from leaving the same way we do?

      • Ambitious Sloth says:

        I never understood that either. There’s no obvious way out unless he can jump 10 feet in the air or he doubled back after coming out the same way you do.

        Of course since he has strange ability to have access to every rooftop and travel across them quickly and freely, maybe he’s just some sort parkour master and can just run up the walls and leap across alleyways with ease.

        That’s actually a funny image.

  8. Bodyless says:

    I am pretty sure that Alex mentions the tau cannon when talking to the rebel.

    And the car section is a bit more fun in coop because its turn half life into a racing game for some diversion.

  9. Mogatrat says:

    You know, I didn’t like Coastline 17 at all at first – but after a few years and a really comprehensive playthrough, I found myself enjoying it a lot more. For the variable pacing dependent on your own exploration instincts, for the atmosphere, for the visuals, for the setpieces – I actually like it better than Ravenholme. Mostly the reason I didn’t like it at first was Rutskarn’s issue with the buggy, but I swear they’ve inserted some sneaky patch since 2004 that improves the vehicle handling and I haven’t managed to flip that thing in a long while.

    • McNutcase says:

      I know they’ve updated everything but Lost Coast to use the Orange Box build of the engine, which means that HDR is now baked in to the original Half-Life 2 (but can be left off in the graphics options if you so desire, since I don’t think the levels have the necessary information to make full use of it)

      And I don’t know about the buggy, but I definitely remember the airboat being more of a pain to control back in 2004, and that was when I still had reflexes (the subsequent decay being why I generally play Heavy in Team Fortress 2, since a Heavy with Natascha has little need for reflexes)

      • Destrustor says:

        Man, I hate all half-life 2 vehicles. The airboat, the buggy, the car when you’re with Alyx. I just can’t handle the controls and always end up in a wall as soon as the path bends a little. If only valve had made these levels in a perfectly straight line…

  10. McNutcase says:

    I’m currently in Ravenholm in my replay, and contemplating using the console to unlock chapters because dangit, I played through this in 2004, and I want to get to the part I consider FUN again. That means skipping the mine, and going to Highway 17. I really liked the buggy.

    And Josh punting the antlion off the cliff is one of the funniest moments I’ve seen in Spoiler Warning, all the more so for his reaction.

  11. Chairmaster Frog says:

    11:10 – My favorite song on the soundtrack.

    11:58 – … DANGIT, RUTSKARN!

  12. HeroOfHyla says:

    Wait, you could kill the snipers?

    Damn it, I ran the whole way trying to dodge them and wound up getting through with about 20 health.

  13. KremlinLaptop says:

    JRPG MENU MUSIC? We shall duel, sir. DUEL TO THE DEATH.


    Mind you, it might be more fitting depending on how you play. I sort of roleplay Gordon — a bit — so I went over to the guy with the two others around him and crouched down next to him for a moment. And it’s a very human, conventional sounding piece of the soundtrack landscape, sort of one for the humans while the rest is much more heavily electronic.

  14. Drexer says:

    Excuse me, I’ll give my honest and calm opinion about the episode later.

    For now give me an hour or two to rewatch the antlion scene fifty times while laughing myself into the ground.

  15. NonEuclideanCat says:

    You’re… you’re not supposed to just jump down that first mine shaft like that. You circle around the edge of it on the beams. There are bits that angle down as a “hey, this is your slope down” indicator.

    • Robyrt says:

      A classic example of Half-Life breaking all that immersion they painstakingly generated. Jumping down ten feet onto an unsupported wooden beam? Sure, let me do that another half-dozen times! With my finger on the quicksave key because I don’t know if there’s any health at the end!

      Basically this entire section is why I don’t like Half-Life 2. It takes way too long for no real payoff. System Shock 2 had these same atmospheric scenes, but you didn’t have to jump through hoops to see them.

  16. Darthricardo says:

    Alright, I simply could not stop laughing at the Antlion bit at the end. That. Was. Beautiful.

  17. webrunner says:

    Hey, are you going to cover the “skip the bridge” thing?

  18. RTBones says:

    Ok, the last antlion was hilarious.

    There is one thing that is subtle which I havent heard you guys talk about yet. If you fast forward to 17:20 in the clip and pause – you see a orange-ish Half Life symbol on a door that Josh is about to throw away. If you have never played the game, these symbols indicate places you can look for ammo/power/first aid, and are all over the game. In fact, if you watch the episode carefully, there are several others scattered around.

  19. ProudCynic says:

    Oh, Highway 17. Probably my favorite level in any video game. Long and fun and a great atmosphere and the introduction of the crossbow. Oh, and it has that ‘Triage at Dawn’ song at the end of the Ravenholm level, which is also great.

  20. Wes1180 says:

    I finished half life 2 for the first time when you did the first half life 2 episodes, I was playing mostly blind, I don’t know how I managed to get to 2011 without having any spoilers :)

    It really does date well, if you didn’t know you could easily say that it came out this year or last. Personally I really enjoyed the story and found that the gap between the story segments was probably just right, if it was any longer you’d feel that it was too long and any shorter, too short.

    I really hope you can finish half life 2 and hopefully all the way to episode 2. Also I can’t wait till you get the super gravity gun

    p.s. I tried to spoiler it but didn’t work

  21. Eathanu says:

    I just wanted to point out that, having come from a New England state originally, it took me literally until the last three minutes or so of the episode to get the pun in the title. (In Massachusetts at least, “aunt” is pronounced with the same sound as “awesome” or “October.”)

    Pretty epic fail on my part.

  22. Skeletor says:

    im getting sick of these mainly because i don’t like valve. I have played all of their games except for Portal 2 and I havent enjoyed any of them. I can’t even finish them because they i just get bored or the game screws me over(Looking at you half life 2). Lastly most of those design decisions you guys praise I don’t like at all.

  23. Herrsunk says:

    I can’t hear that rifle (which can shoot a big ball, whatever they are called) sound without thinking about the Ballad of Black Mesa. Link below. Just something I realised while watching this.



  24. guy says:

    Highway 17 is the one part of Half-Life 2 I absolutely loathe. I keep flipping the buggy and then getting eaten by the infinite horde of antlions while trying to right it. I think the reason I hate the buggy but not the others is that when I slam the others into an obstacle I can just immediately keep driving. When I do that with the buggy I am forced to exit it and desperately try to right it before the antlions finish gnawing on my health bar. Then I do it again.

  25. qwksndmonster says:

    I love Highway 17. I loved the video as well. Your commentary, as always, was informative and funny. I just rewatched some FO3 videos and it wasn’t until after I watched this video that I realized Mumbles is gone. I also laughed out loud when Josh crushed the box on an unexpecting antlion, and it flew off into the horizon. I began laughing my head off, and then when Ruts and Shamus caught up to it in the stream they started laughing too.

  26. Fizban says:

    I absolutely loved the sandbuggy, while the mines scared the ever loving crap out of me. Of course I’d already trained on the warthog from Halo, which also had slightly wonky steering, so I was used to learning how to compensate and once I got it down it drove perfectly. I also didn’t mind the thumpers-the steady pounding marking a safe zone ahead was always nice. And the smg ammo crate was a nice touch that I didn’t even know about the first time, but came in real handy for later runs.

  27. swenson says:

    Whaaaat, you don’t like that song? I love that song! It ties in with what the one rebel lady says about Winston being hit. It’s a little moment, something people who just want to get to more of the game might not notice as much, but it’s a reminder that the rebels are real people, which might make you feel ever so slightly worse about the massive amounts of them you’re going to burn through later in the game. :P

    I have to agree with you on the buggy section. Some people think it’s the greatest thing in the world, but… not me. It’s difficult to control, especially in the steering. Granted, it’s a whole lot easier to control than most videogame vehicles I’ve driven (I’m replaying ME1 at the moment and I want to set the Mako on fire myself), but it’s still not very good. The airboat, on the other hand, is perfection. It goes on both land and sea, you eventually get a sweet gun for it, and it never ever ever can be flipped, no matter how hard you ram something. (because you don’t have the grav gun at that point)

    Also, the antlion part was absolute GOLD.

  28. Meredith says:

    I finally remembered to watch this Ravenholm series. I love that level, but I was an idiot the first time through. I hadn’t mastered the grav gun at all yet and really struggled with the low amount of ammo. Now I almost never touch my guns going through.

    As for this video: argh, I hated the car so much. I thought I hated the boat from the beginning until I drove the car for a while, then when I went back to the boat I found I loved it. The car in episode 2 was a bit better, but I still prefer the non-driving portions.

  29. Jjkaybomb says:

    I know the buggy was mentioned a lot but… it made me sick. like, actually nauseous. The airboat too. Dunno why, maybe I’m motion sick *shrug*

    • Neil D says:

      You might just be too close to your monitor (or otherwise too narrowly focused on it). Much of the time motion sickness is the result of the confusion in your brain when the sensory input from your eyes is out of sync with the balance and motion input from your inner ear.

      If you can see enough of the room around you, it should be easier for your brain to understand that you aren’t actually moving, and that the stuff on the monitor is just something else moving around in your field of vision. It might be less immersive, but at least you won’t have to clean vomit out of your keyboard.

      Or, you could just be one of those people who gets nauseated playing video games.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Half life 2’s engine itself is, iirc, more likely to cause the motion sickness than other engines. I don’t know if it’s due to their default FOV setting, or some rendering procedure, or the way they handle perspective as such, but for me anything in source – especially if running at lower framerate – has been more ‘queasy’ than any other game / engine.

        • somebodys_kid says:

          That’s a good point. The default FOV is 75 I think for Half Life 2. I always try to kick it up to near 90 and that takes care of any (admittedly slight) consequences of everything being a bit “zoomed in”.

      • Meredith says:

        I still get a little sick sometimes when I play first person games. The very first one I played was actually HL2 and by the time I got halfway through the train station, I was having to take long pauses and look away from the screen to turn. I got used to it eventually, but every so often I still have to take a break and let my stomach settle. Some people are just prone to motion sickness (cars are a misery for me) and people who aren’t will never understand what it’s like.

    • Kyrion says:

      Alternatively, you could just play all those sections whilst actually driving a car.

      Maybe not…

    • guy says:

      I found that I mostly get HL2-sick when I’ve eaten a bunch of candy immediately prior and seemingly more often in dim sections for some reason.

    • ps238principal says:

      I find that motion sickness for vehicle sections in Half Life (at least for me) has more to do with me not keeping Freeman’s “head” pointed in the same direction as the vehicle is going. I think it has to do with one’s brain anticipation motion along one vector but seeing motion along a different one, coupled with the inner ear not feeling any motion at all.

      • decius says:

        That reminded me of one of the early Terminator FPS game’s vehicle sections. It required independent aiming and steering, with the added bonus that steering didn’t change where you looked, and the vehicle wasn’t rendered at all. If you weren’t moving, you really didn’t know which way you were pointed.

  30. Vect says:


  31. ps238principal says:

    So here’s a question for us Valve fanboys: Is Valve’s recipe for games like Half Life (assuming they ever continue it, given recent statements about embracing the TF2 micro-transaction model of money generation) one that will ever be emulated? I ask this because even though HL has surely been a money-maker for Valve, some of the biggest games on the market right now are abominably stupid shooters festooned with chest-high walls, characters you’d rather kill than have at your side, etc.

    I guess I’m wondering if Valve’s method of gameplay/storytelling can stand up to what appears to be a Hollywoodization of games, in the way that a thoughtful sci-fi movie can easily be trounced by some drek from Michael Bay.

  32. ben says:

    Unfortunately they cannot simply recompile the chapter as a single level. The Hammer editor for HL2 has a hard coded limit for the number of brush faces.
    The counter for the brush faces is an INT var, and I actually ran into it when trying to compile a large custom map.

  33. Epoetker says:

    The mine level was originally supposed to have you destroying a Gonarch-type mother headcrab that was actually producing all the crabs that eventually found their way into Ravenholm. (They changed the delivery method to headcrab shells later on in production.)

    Going down into the mine slowly and seeing all the spidery skittering by the fast headcrabs (that would have been endlessly respawning in the original version) far below you is a great underrated creepy moment, BTW.

    Not to mention coming out of the mine into the daylight and finally being all IM FREE and having a poison headcrab jump up right behind you.

    Moments like these are why we love Valve playtesters so very, very much.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>