Welcome. Welcome to City 17.

“You have chosen, or been chosen, to relocate to one of our finest remaining urban centers.”  Were the slightly haunting first words as the pictures appeared on the screen.  You appeared to be on a train but you didn’t know where you were going until you heard Dr. Breen’s voice.

It’s been 10 years – 10 years today – since Half-Life 2 was released.  One of the best games in video gaming history and it feels as though it has stood up to the test of time.

When you start the game you’re dropped into this dystopian world of City 17 where people live effectively as slaves of the Combine.  All of this is the fall out from the original Half-Life, which you as the lead character Gordon Freeman, are effectively part responsible for.  Now you’re doing your best to survive and find the handful of other people left over from Black Mesa.  It’s never simple though, is it?  You have to battle all sorts of aliens, people, headcrabs, machines and radiation.

At Christmas in 2004 I purchased Half-Life 2 for someone and sat and watched them play it.  I wasn’t particularly au fait with games in general.  I was in a relationship with someone who was an IT worker and they played a lot of games.  My PC gaming experience extended to Driver, Midtown Madness and The Sims.  I wasn’t wholly sure how I would handle a first or third person shooter, so I was a little reluctant to play them.  I was encouraged to play Max Payne.  I’m so glad I did.  Max Payne is a fantastic game.  It will look rather dated now, but it was the game that brought the world bullet time, and the gameplay was punctuated with stylised comic strips.  Once you could get past the constantly constipated look on Max Payne’s face, you were hooked.

maxpayneungh

Having completed Max Payne, and subsequently Max Payne 2, I decided to play the first Half-Life.  Now that is a game that does not stand the test of time.  It looks terrible now, but just remind yourself that it was released in 1998.  That’s 16 years ago.  Half-Life completed and I moved on to Half-Life 2.

halflife2combine

I’ve actually forgotten how many times I’ve played the game through.  It takes forever, and is far more difficult on the xBox 360 than it is on the PC, but it never gets old.  It doesn’t even really look old.  Sure, the rendering is a bit slow, and games no longer do the wonderful “LOADING” thing in the middle of a sequence, making you wait forever.  Half-Life 2 spawned so much from Day of Defeat: Source (which wouldn’t have been possible without the Source engine that HL2 was built on) to Team Fortress 2, and Portal.

HL2 was what turned me into a hardcore gamer.  I racked up thousands of hours on Day of Defeat: Source and Team Fortress 2.  I was a highly ranked medic on TF2.  Eventually life got too busy and I just don’t have time for it much anymore, but do like to pop up on European TF2 servers occasionally.  (Drop me comment if you want to hook up on Steam, and I’ll see what I can do.)

I wasn’t mesmerised by the graphics of HL2 or how realistic the weapons were.  Nah.  Sure, it did and still does look good, and any weapons that are based on real ones I guess are pretty accurate.  For me, it was the story.  It’s the fact that Gordon Freeman never speaks.  He is a silent participant in a dystopian world that he never wanted any part of.  There are no cutscenes to disturb the flow, try to make up time or used as a patch over a hole in the story.  What would people like Ubisoft do without cutscenes now?

The fact that Gordon Freeman didn’t speak means that you are wholly in control of his emotions.  He’s not putting words in your mouth, he’s not influencing how you make decisions or how you feel about your decisions.  All of that is your own and you make those decisions based on your experiences in life and in the game.  That’s powerful.  So many games now manipulate your emotions and decisions using dialogue.  HL2 doesn’t do this.  You are Gordon Freeman and Gordon Freeman is you.

The setting is so bleak that even years later it all stays with you.  I remember going to Frankfurt a good few years after it came out and getting the feeling that I was in City 17 by the way it looked.  I hate the Ravenholm level, and anyone who has played the game will agree it’s a creepy place.  The line spoken in the game “We don’t go to Ravenholm” should have been heeded.  It’s creepy as you like, especially if you’re playing with headphones.  It sticks with you.  Leaper zombies will haunt your dreams after the first time you play it.  The black headcrabs that lurk around each corner will have you on tenterhooks.  And Fr. Grigory?  Well, I never figured if he was truly a friend.

If you’ve never played HL2, please do.  You can buy the game here, or just watch a video of gameplay for a bit of nostalgia.

The game is still relevant today.  As a global society everything is actually quite fragile and I don’t doubt that there are a few world leaders out there who would like to create a dystopia for their own gain.  Half-Life 2 was almost a painting of what widespread Communism could have looked like.  The only people who benefit in those socities are those who are in charge.

gman

Remember, “The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world.”

TF2 Advice: How To Tell If You’re A Good Medic – Part 1

Short and sweet guys.

Here’s the best way to tell if you’re a good Medic.

Yes, RLY an MVP. (Click for big)

You’re the only medic who appears in the MVP list regularly.

Yeah, you knowz it. I'm there. (Click for big).

Sometimes I even make the top of the scoreboard.

TF2 Advice – How to piss off your Medic – Part 3

Today we could be on any map in the TF2 universe.  It doesn’t really matter.

It’s a hard game.  Both sides are fighting to the end.  If it’s CTF then the fight will be concentrated near to the intel room or in the neutral middle of the map.  If it’s CP, then my experience tells me that the middle point is often where the hardest battle takes place.  If it’s not the middle, then it’s normally one of the last ones because some teams fight darn hard for their first point.  People are getting wounded left, right and centre.  You’re part of an elite team: The Medics.  People need you, people love you, without you your team is screwed.

But, there are always a few who ruin your Übermensch mood.  Those people are the ones who never show the Medics any gratitude.

Now, you may wonder why it matters so much.  Well, morale is a big factor.  Yes, I know it’s a game, but Ragequitting is common among Medics who are undervalued.  All it takes is a player or two deliberately going against the usual common sense when towing a Medic, or who refuse to protect their Medic to make the career Medics quit.  Career Medics provide a service to the Team, and normally we’re a small bunch as not many people like playing the Medic anymore.  It’s frustrating when a couple of people on a team force a Medic to quit or switch class.  We’ve then lost a good Medic and that makes us weaker as a Team.

I have quite a high tolerance for other players in this game, and rarely ragequit.  However, the best way to piss off this Medic is to not thank me.  Oh, call me petty if you will.  I follow people around in this game, and I forever hear the different classes calling “MEDIC!” from all over the place and I respond.  You get some players who run around for entire map cycles constantly shouting “MEDIC!” when they don’t need any healing at all.  You heal them, as is your duty and you move on to someone else.  No thanks.  You might have to give in and Uber the person who constantly screeches for your assistance.  You Uber them, together you manage to take out a couple of Engineer nests allowing your team to move forward and capture the point or grab the intel.  Not a single word of thanks.

Nobody loves me, it's true. (Click for bigger)

I don’t mean that you have to come over the mic to me, or type into the team chat.  I mean you can just use the built in voice command which says “Thanks!”.  That’s fine.  It gives us Medics a nice warm and fuzzy feeling on the inside and keeps us going.

Guys of the TF2 world: Thank your Medics.  We become better Medics for it.

(Image made by me in Garry’s Mod.)

Team Fortress 2 – Meet your newest career Medic

Are you a TF2 player?  Are you sad that no-one comes to your rescue when you’re bleeding and calling out for help?  Is it a disappointment when you’re playing a hard game and there aren’t any Medics?  Is it a regular occurance that you do not have any Medics on your team?

Well, let me introduce myself.  I am your newest career Medic.  I have managed to amass over 100 hours as a Medic, since I got this game in February 2009.  That’s almost a third of my total play time.  It’s almost double the hours of my next class down: The Engineer.

I love being the Medic to a strong team who protect and respect their Medic.  It’s rewarding.

You know that you’re playing on a good team when your Medics are up in the top 5 players on the scoreboard, and even better when they’re one of the three MVPs.

Respect and care for your Medic.  If you fancy a game, or need a Medic drop me a line.

Ooops! Zat was not medicine! (Click for bigger)

(Image made by me in Garry’s Mod.)

After all, ze healing leaves little time for ze hurting.

TF2 Advice: How to take care of your Medic – Part 1

Today we’re in cp_gravelpit.

Being a Medic can be pretty heavy going.  Being a Heavy can also be pretty heavy going and that’s why a Heavy makes a great Medic Buddy.  A Heavy-Medic pairing can take out many an enemy with or without an ubercharge.  So, on maps such as cp_gravelpit where the defence of the points is all important, so is the defence of your medic.  Your first two caps are gone and all that is left is Cap C.  A Medic-Heavy pairing are keeping that point securely for your team.  Your medic is being attacked from a distance by soldiers and demos.  Without your Medic, as a Heavy you won’t last very long up there on your own.  What do you do?

You could keep pressing on and hope that your Medic’s health regenerates enough to stand some more hits.  Yeah, you could do that I suppose.  That’s probably the worst option though.  It’s pretty unlikely that your Medic can withstand much more pain.  Health in read = soon to be dead.

You could run away and hide.  Yes, true, you could.  However, you’re pretty likely to be ambushed on your way to a safe place and that puts both you and your Medic at a very significant risk.

You could throw your Medic a Sandvich.  BY THE WAY, THIS IS THE CORRECT ANSWER.  Yes, you could and that is a very good idea.  This whole article came to me after playing with a couple of really great Heavies who kept throwing me Sandviches when my health was down but theirs was okay.  Show your Medic a little love.  When their health is in the red ensure they get fed!

NOM NOM NOM! (CLIX FOR BIGS)

Plus, it will give you a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside to see your Medic all happy!

(Image created by me in Garry’s Mod).

TF2 Advice: How to piss off your engineer – Part 2

Today you’re on cp_well.

It’s your average game of cp_well.  The middle point is hotly contested at the beginning, and it tends to pan out that whichever team captures the middle point quickly and first goes on to win the game.  This time, amazingly, your team has captured it.  While the offensive members of your team run off to get the next one, your wonderfully supportive Engineer is setting up his base on the middle point in the hope of keeping out any unwanted visitors who may try to commandeer it.  Wherever the Engie sets up his base, it’s always nice to think that someone might be doing a bit of spy-checking for the guy while he does the heavy lifting.

Too often that’s not the case.  Few people seem to see spy-checking as their job.  It’s something that other classes do.  Well the class that’s best at it is the Pyro.  They can set those pesky spahs on fire whether they are cloaked or not.

I see no spy! (Click to embiggen)

So many players just run out of the teleporter and forward.  This can be particularly frustrating when they can see that you are actively battling sappers, but if you try to take out the spah, then your buildings will die.  You have to weigh it up:

  1. Do you keep fighting for your buildings and hope that someone else will deal with the spah?
  2. Do you go after the spah and let your buildings die?
  3. Do you run away to hide somewhere so the spah can’t backstab you?

It’s a difficult decision, and I’m often with the first option.  The buildings are important, they really can mean the difference between getting and keeping a point or the intel.  However, if you die, then your buildings are very vulnerable to damage and spahs that are creeping around.

The moral of the story is: Spy-checking is everyone’s job, including the engineer’s.

Of course, there is a fourth option…befriend the pesky spahs.  Nothing like a BFF!

BFFs (Click to embiggen)

(Images created entirely by me using Garry’s Mod.)

TF2 Advice – How to piss off your Engineer – Part 1

The second in a series of ways that you can piss off the very important members of your team while playing Team Fortress 2.

Today, it’s ctf_turbine and you’re the engineer.

You’ve got a whole rig set up.  Teleporters to take your guys to the front line.  A dispenser is hidden away but easily accessible to your team.  Your sentry is up protecting the entrance to your Intel room.  You have guys down there defending it – the entrance that is, not your sentry.  I say that because it comes apparent pretty damn quickly that your team don’t give a damn about keeping your sentry alive and well.

Click to embiggen

One single Demoman comes in.  He doesn’t even have a Medic or an Uber with him.  What do your team do?  They go running like girls.  Or, as the Heavy would say “Like Babies!!”  Stand up and be then men that you are!  Fight back!  One little Demoman is no match for a Heavy-Medic pairing!

TF2 Life Lesson: Help your engie.  Without their defence, you can really be screwed.

(Picture created by me in Garry’s Mod.)

TF2 Advice: How to piss off your Medic – Part 1

Picture the scene:

It’s ctf_turbine.  You’re on the Blu team and you’re pushing hard towards the Red team’s intel room.  You are playing as The Medic.  You are the saviour of your team, and you’re one of the reasons that they’re able to get as far towards the intel as they have.  You’ve been healing them after Crits, fires, sentries and bonks.  You are one of their greatest assets, and they love you for the service you provide.  However, the Medic isn’t immune to damage and you’re not looking so good.  You’ve been hit by a sniper with a Huntsman, shot at by various little bitches with their pistols, suffered some splash damage from a rocket launcher, and now the final straw: a W+M1 Pyro is coming at you and your guys.  You’re now on fire.

What do you do?

Of course it is fair to say that the Medic’s health does regenerate, however that is not immediate and sometimes your health is just too low to make that your mainstay.  So, what do you do?  You do the sensible thing: go in the search of some health.

Some games aren’t as good as others, and this would be an example of that because there’s no engineer with a dispenser nearby.  And even worse: YOU’RE THE ONLY MEDIC!  Your team needs you, which means that you can’t afford to die at this critical moment.  You do the only thing you can and run back to where you konw the nearest health kit is.  All will be well, and before they know it you will be back fixing up your team.

Or so you think.

Just as you’re arriving at the health kit which has your name written all over it, some little punk-ass scout on your own team, who only has a boo-boo on their ankle which their mother could kiss better runs in and steals your saving grace.  You are then overcome with the flames and simply die, leaving your team without some vital support.

Click to embiggen

The moral of this lesson to all TF2 players?  If you see a burning medic, or one who you can see is a little low on health, but yours is not yet in the red and yet you’re running for a health kit, LET THE MEDIC TAKE THE HEALTH!

I can’t count how many times now I have died while trying to help the rest of my team, because one person whose health, like the scout here, is only down by 10% picks up the only medkit in sight letting the medic die before their eyes.  Seriously, being down 10% on health isn’t going to kill you, not when you’re looking at a medic.  However, having been at the front line, and now getting set on fire when your health was already only at 30 points WILL kill you.  And the same person complaining about the lack of medic support will be the first to take the health kit from the medic.  Think before you self-heal!

(The picture was created by me using Garry’s Mod).