I’m about six hours into HL2 - I just got to the dune buggy/antlion part that you reach after you come out of the mines. So far, the game has absolutely no plot other than “run to the next place and try to stay alive!” Zero explanation of why anything is the way it is or what’s going on at all - just mindless setups for (incredibly fun and rewarding) shooting action.
Yep, you should already know some of the plot. If you didn’t play Half-Life 1 at all then you may not understand how you came into the game world. You were effectively removed from space and time by the mysterious G-man after H-L 1. In the interim you didn’t age whatsoever, for reasons known only to him, the G-man deposits you onto the train you are on at the beginning of the game.
(Note if you listen to some of the other passengers they wonder when you got on the train, as they didn’t see you board.)
You’re not really supposed to understand a lot other than that in the early part of the game.
The Half-Life series tells the entirety of its story through the first person perspective of Gordon Freeman. No cut scenes, ever. You never see the game from any other perspective.
Shortly after getting off the train you meet up with Barney (who you would recognize from Half-Life 1 only if you’d played it, if not then you’re probably still confused) he leads you on the path that gets you to Dr. Kleiner’s lab.
At Dr. Kleiner’s lab there is a newspaper article about the 7-Hour war, only if you move Gordon over to it and look at it will you hear a small bit of information about that war–which helps to explain how earth got into the shape it is in. Also, some of Dr. Wallace Breen’s PSAs over the video announcement system give you some information about what’s been going on in the world since Half-Life 1.
Right now you haven’t even gotten to Black Mesa East yet, (the reason you’re in the canals is because the teleportation device at Dr. Kleiner’s lab failed and couldn’t warp you over to Black Mesa East with Alyx.)
The game is sparse on traditional plot up through where you are, once you get to Black Mesa East you learn more about the games overarching storyline. But honestly a lot of stuff doesn’t really start to come together until the end of Half-Life 2. I will say that by the time you are much into Episode 1, the plot element is pretty strong, and you’re considerably less confused about what is going on.
Yeah, a lot of the confusion from the HL series stems from the fact that you’re only given ONE perspective. You never get any of the cut scenes and such that help explain plot elements in other FPS games. You’re supposed to be totally immersed as the Gordon Freeman character–furthermore, Gordon Freeman himself shouldn’t/doesn’t know what the fuck is going on for a large part of Half-Life 2, so neither does the player.
I actually kinda like this element of the game’s storytelling, because you get dropped right into the middle of a situation you don’t know anything about at all. But everyone seems to have absolute confidence in your abilities and expects that you know everything that has happened since the incident at Black Mesa. Most of the people in the game world that you interact with are just under the impression you were in hiding/incognito in the period between Half Life 1 and Half Life 2, so they never think to explain the massive change in humanity’s situation because they assume anyone who is alive knows about it. They don’t realize that Gordon Freeman knows nothing about it because he was pretty much out of known existence while it was going on, in some weird alternate existence.
Do you mean an overarching plot as to why things are the way they are now on Earth, or a specific plot as to why you’re currently driving a dune buggy and killing antlions? For the first -
It’s slowly and of course incompletely revealed to you over the course of the game and sequels.
For the second -
When you arrived in City 17, Barney found you and put you on the underground railroad to Black Mesa East. Since the combine was also aware of your arrival, they started a major assault on the rebels to find you. That’s the city & airboat part. Once you reach Black Mesa East, it was attacked, and Alyx sent you through Ravenholm to reach the next outpost on the coast. At the outpost, Alyx over the radio told you Eli had been captured and taken to Nova Prospekt, and asked you to meet her there, and you’re on your way now.
ETA: Beaten to the punch. Though, Martin Hyde, he said he’s at the antlion stage, so he has been through Black Mesa East.
Actually, that’s kinda what ticked me off. Did NOBODY notice that Gordon was a little confused and had not aged a day in the last howevermanyyearsitwas? Would it have killed them to make some note of this or explain something?
Well, Gordon has never said much so maybe no one noticed anything?
This site has a very detailed version of the story of all of the games (Both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 and both Episode 1 & 2). If you are too confused it may help. Warning: it (obviously) has spoilers for the entire series.
Well, Alyx went from a young girl to a very attractive adult, so it’s been longer than that. Also, Eli does say something like “Gordon Freeman, let me take a look at you. You haven’t changed a bit since Black Mesa.”
And every time someone who knew him in the past meets him, they’re under immediate time pressure from the Combine. The exception is at Black Mesa East, where they think they’ll have plenty of time. Maybe Eli was going to sit down with Gordon over drinks that evening and catch him up on everything they’ve been doing, but the Combine hits them too soon.
If I might, I would like to very briefly hijack the discussion to ask a question of the experienced HL2+ players. I’ve had loads and loads of fun in the first part of the game, and I’ve managed to do reasonably well throughout the game. Having said that, I’m now in the second half of HL2’s Chapter 11: Follow Freeman!, and I would just like to ask: how in the fricking hell do I take down Striders? Am I missing something extremely obvious, or is it really just a matter of finding the infinite rocket spawn in each level, finding something to hide behind, and slowly pounding each individual strider to death with eight gazillion rockets?
Yeah, you pretty much have to hit them with lots of rockets (I seem to remember it requiring 8 on Normal difficulty). There’s always an Infinite Rocket crate somewhere nearby, if it’s a scene where you have to kill the strider to proceed. They’re pretty dumb though - you can pop out, shoot a rocket, and pop back into cover. They’ll return fire for a while, but quickly forget about you and turn away, allowing the next shot. At least they don’t shoot down your rockets like the gunships do.
In the sequels, something happens to make striders much easier to kill. Of course, the game creators counter this by sending in lots more of them.
I recognize they were under some time rpessures. It just kinda weirded me out that nobody seemed to notice or care that Gordpn Freeman just came back from an alien dimension, years (maybe over a decade) later, unaged. You’d think they would have at least done a double-take on me.
Actually, it was also kinda funny how Gordon pops in, and everyone immediately pops back to doing some bit technical repairs and mostly ignores him.
It is stated early on in HL2 that the Combine is putting chemicals in the water to make people forget what life was like before the invasion. (One of the guys in the train station will tell you this but you can walk past him without talking so you may not hear it.) There is also the reproduction suppression field that Breen mentions in one of his broadcasts (and some of the other characters mention it later; in fact later when the field goes down someone suggests that Freeman and Alyx should get busy…)
It’s possible that there are other chemicals in the water that make people less questioning and more willing to accept things out of the ordinary. When the Combine raids the apartment block at the start of the game some of the residents start running around in a panic while others sort of stand around going “oh well”. Maybe something similar has happened to the others as well. Gordon Freeman shows up and all go “Gordon Freeman? Wonder where he has been. Oh well.”
I’ll second the bewilderment, tho. Half-Life 2 is the most immersive game… ever, full stop. Every little detail and plot development is served in a way that makes you feel more like an immutable part of the world, not less. Characters talk to you through intercoms or radios; they point at maps and dynamic radar screens rather than inviting you to hit the pause menu to see vital information. The story is long and drawn-out between sections of intense gameplay, sure, but the simple fact that it doesn’t get interrupted unless Gordon Freeman is physically restrained leads to a level of storytelling that I’m pretty sure only Valve can pull off, and they do, with remarkable skill.
Still, I think I prefer Bioshock for straight strength of story.