Half-Life 2

I just finished playing HL2 for the 10th time and it still doesn’t get boring… How does VALVe manage to make such addicting games?

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Good question, I played it many times, too (although not in recent years). I would say they did a lot right and generated a great atmosphere, but the high replay value of it stems mostly from great level design and gameplay variety while sticking to a few basic principles… and a grav gun…

Another game I played many times (and still replay from time to time) is the first Deux Ex, I think mostly due to its story, atmosphere and music.

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I never tried Deus Ex, I definetly have to check it out!

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I think part of the reason Half Life games hold up so well is there isn’t a lot out there like them anymore. The levels are pretty large for a linear story (in particular I’m thinking of really open sections like Highway 17 and the following Sandtraps), but they’re still really focused and ultimately linear in their design - though it doesn’t feel that way.

The closest equivalent I can come up with in the last 5 years or so is Metro Exodus, but that plays more like an open world game with the size of it’s levels (and doesn’t have open ended physics based puzzles/combat either). I think that’s the thing, for single player games since about 2012 (and you can thank Far Cry 3 for this) have more and more gone open world with an exploration focus. There’s nothing wrong with that, but so far I haven’t really seen a developer who can make an open world game crafted with the same focused level design you can get out of a linear game, and I definitely haven’t seen any that can do the kinds of physics we had in Half Life 2. I’d argue Metal Gear Solid 5 got closest, but that had several other problems that held it back, and I would say no open world game has had level design/puzzling as good since and that one came out in 2015.

I’m curious, since Valve seems to be releasing games again, beyond VR where they might take future half life releases? Do they go open world? Stick to linear level design and do it better than ever? Or do they do some sort of hybrid with open sections for parts of the game. I feel like there are a lot of devs landing somewhere around there, like the aforementioned Metro Exodus (which has old school linear levels between it’s larger open levels to connect them) and Last of Us II, which has an open section as you get past all the tutorials but before the game really kicks into gear (it’s mostly skippable, but if you stick around the area and explore you have the opportunity to get a bunch of supplies and weapons you wouldn’t normally get so early in the game).

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Half Life 2 is definetly a marvel in game and level design.

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