Chapter 8: Sandtraps
Welcome to the second half of Half-Life 2. Its 8th chapter begins just after you’ve
driven over the large bridge. But the first half of this chapter is just the same as the
7th, with you driving along the coast in a dune buggy.
In this next tunnel is a scary fight against waves of zombies. If you’re quick enough,
you can clear the way and drive on without having to hang around but I doubt you’d
manage that on your first play-through. Ahead at this house, the combine are burning
bodies. Inside this building is a nasty surprise- those electrified balls come crashing through
the ceilings, making your escape more difficult! You must then clear several outposts. The
first is just full of enemies. But the second is attacked by enemies, and
then you must find the batteries to open the gate. I believe they’re hidden in different
places every time. I’ve heard all sorts of stories from people who don’t realise
they’ve got to do this and they end up building their own bridges out of stuff to drive over
the top of the gate, or they simply give up and leave their vehicle here.
It doesn’t really matter, since the coast section ends soon after. Which Valve might
have done intentionally. You help the rebels to fend off several dropships
full of combine, then you head on over to the lighthouse to take out the gunship from
the top. With that done, a rebel takes you by the hand
and leads you down into the basement. He opens a secret door and you’re on your
way again. THIS is when the 8th chapter starts for real,
in my opinion. And was exactly half-way through my 6 hour play-through. It starts with a true
tragedy, as the finest mind of his generation is killed by an antlion.
‘You there! Stop where you are- stay on the rocks! Don’t step on the sand, it makes
the antlions crazy. Laszlo, don’t move, no- HELP!’
‘Dear God… POOR LASZLO! The finest mind of his generation! To come to such an end…
we were heading for the Vortigaunt camp, hoping to pick up some bugbaits so these damn things
would leave us alone. But without Laszlo, what’s the point. I know you were trying
to help. I’ll stay with him a while. There’s something I must do. Go ahead. I hope you
have better luck than we did. Remember to stay off the sand, the antlions are edgy right
now!’ In case you hadn’t gathered, stand on the
sand and the antlions attack you. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase Half-Life
2’s physics, as you hop from rock to rock and improvise with props when needs be.
You can make it through this whole section without a single fight, but it’s hard and
takes time. I did my best to stay off the sand, but on a few occasions briefly touched
it and an enemy would burst out of the sand to get me.
What you really want is this wood prop here. It’s the longest thing in the game and is
ideal not just for bridging gaps, but for climbing up cliffs and other vertical obstacles.
But nothing will help you in this next bit, which is when you fight the antlions’ MUM.
Or something. This monster will take a lot of damage before
it goes down, so you’re best off strafing and launching objects at it with the gravity
gun- at least that way you won’t deplete your ammo. Once it’s beaten, a Vortigaunt comes out
of the base and extracts some pods from it. Since the antlions hunt on smell, having these
things make them think you’re their Mum and they’ll do what you want them to. It’s
a brilliant moment in gaming, to suddenly tip the balance by transforming your enemies
into allies to fight against a greater threat. This base is little more than an elaborate
training montage as you’re shown how to throw and squeeze the pods to direct the antlions
on where to go. You have unlimited pods, and unlimited antlions at your disposal.
And just like that, you head off to take Nova Prospekt.
As you head along this beach you must disable these thumpers, as the antlions refuse to
go near these while they’re on. At times it might be easier to shoot the enemies
myself, but I enjoy this segment too much to do that and instead enjoy commanding my
army of aliens to do my dirty work for me. As the sun sets, I approach the cliffs beneath
the prison and start my climb. This sequence is also awesome, as antlions
fly over the walls and destroy the guard posts. 2 gunships appear, which require you shoot
down with rockets. Then it’s time to enter the building, turning
valves to extinguish flames. Chapter 9a: Nova Prospekt
This chapter starts slowly as you explore this complex, encountering three-legged gun
turrets which will be a recurring feature in the coming levels.
There’s a rather nasty room full of headcrabs. Then you’ve got to drop down into the showers-
and onto another boss battle. With the boss defeated, you become the new
one and can start your assault on this base with your army of manipulated insects.
This generally involves approaching a heavily fortified position, using the antlions as
meatshields. Then you take out the gun turrets and flick a switch to open up the next area.
This bit’s unique, though. You take a break from the action to go through the vents and
must find a way of getting through this fan. Then there’s more fighting as you head higher
and higher up towards the control room. Now on, through the laundry room.
Then through the kitchen. Up into another control room…
…and down for one last boss fight. This is an odd bit, where you find yourself
between 2 rows of combine walls. These things slowly creep along, crushing anything in their
way, expanding the combines’ territory. If you’re not fast enough in this bit you
end up getting crushed by them yourself. Chapter 9b: Entanglement
The second half of your trip to Nova Prospekt is with Alyx. Clearly, Valve thought this
was one of the strongest parts of the game because they elaborated on this further in
Episode One, which is mostly spent with a companion.
The goal here is to rescue her father, Eli. This chapter clearly shows Alyx’s handy
multitool and all-in-one-pistol, which would be cool if one day they were made playable!
She finds Eli somewhere inside this prison, which is kind of like the human-equivalent
of winzip. You see some lovely daughter-father interaction
in this scene. And soon you’re left on your own again,
with Alyx hacking the control panels to help open up doors and to warn you of when combine
are approaching. This is what I’d describe as a grenade segment
of the game. Yes, you can use guns. But a few well placed grenades will help immensely
in dealing with the headcrabs, then later the combine, then later, the puzzles, then
last, the gun turrets. Eventually you reach this control room, which
is the first of 3 hold-outs you’ve got to do with just a few friendly gun turrets for
company. I never realised before, but they’ve gone and done the same with these turrets
as they did with the antlions in previous chapters.
I always found these holdouts to be some of the hardest parts of the game. The turrets
can be useful, but combine head straight for them to knock them over and can use grenades
to great effect against them. I chose to keep them close to the main room so that I could
easily pick them up again if they went down. All was going well until I blew myself up
with a grenade just here. Hold out for long enough and Alyx drops into
the room and hacks a computer, discovering that Judith is a traitor and is working for
the combine! Eventually she lets the barriers down and
you head off to the basement for a room that’s more like something from Half-Life 1. The
water’s electrified, but these blue barrels can be used to build a bridge to safety.
Now for the second hold-out, this time with 3 turrets at your disposal. I put them all
in corners to make them more difficult to knock over, then if things got really difficult
I hid in these metal things for cover. Alyx arrives just a bit too late to help again
and clears the way into a dark basement. I took 2 gun turrets with me for fun.
It’s down here that all the lights are turned off and you’re both attacked by more combine.
Turns out it’s quite fiddly to fit these turrets down some of the corridors you traverse.
You’re eventually spotted, but Alyx is able to lock the doors down before the combine
reach you. And now it’s time to confront Mossman.
‘Leave the talking to me, Gordon’. The next room is a large teleport chamber
where you set up for the final hold-out against waves of combine, as people are teleported
out of the room one by one. But unsurprisingly to anyone watching, Judith
uses this opportunity to betray Alyx by slipping onto the teleport with Eli and teleporting
off to an unknown location. You and Alyx again have to survive until the
teleport can recharge. I was looking forward to this with my 5 gun turrets, but something
in the game broke and after the first wave, no more combine came.
You hop on the teleport with Alyx and the two of you teleport back to Dr Kleiner’s
lab. But a week has passed! It turns out the combine
have invented the slowest teleport ever. While you’ve been gone, your actions in Nova Prospekt
sparked an uprising and the city now finds itself in a state of war.
You and Dog rush off to help the rebels to reach the citadel.
Chapter 10: Anticitizen One This chapter starts with Dog showing how OP
he is. And just like that you’re left on your own
again as you trace your path back along corridors you visited early in the game.
Upon reaching this open courtyard, a bunch of rebels choose to follow Gordon and you’re
given a quick tutorial on how to boss them about.
This next courtyard is infested with mines. Don’t get too close to them or they’ll
hop up at your face and EXPLODE. But pick them up with the gravity gun and they become
your friend, ready to be used against the enemies.
You then encounter a Strider set to BATTLE mode.
After a few back alley encounters you meet more rebels and together you storm a building.
Then down into the street, and through a destroyed building to get around the back of the combine
outpost. There are a lot of enemies, but they’re
the easiest Civil Protection type who have less armour and weaker weapons than those
found in Nova Prospekt. You battle your way down to an underground,
partially collapsed tunnel and fend against waves of manhacks- which is made so much easier
with the gravity gun. As rebels work to clear the way ahead you
can man a gun turret to help mow down the attacking combine soldiers.
Don’t know what’s happened in the next room but there’s been a massive toxic leak
and you must hop from cover to cover, dodging the zombies hidden beneath the surface.
Finishing this, you open a door to let the rebels through and head back to the surface
again. Now you reach a neighbourhood that’s very
much ready to take on the combine. There are many rebel fighters in these parts, with make-shift
bridges and a good selection of arms. It’s a real maze as you go up and through
these buildings- combine shelling has resulted in a 3-way fight, with aliens in most of the
rooms. This whole section really does take a while
but it’s full of fun, close-quarters engagements. It ends with you going over one of these make-shift
bridges and into a completely bombed out house. In the next house along you meet up with Alyx
again, who’s ready to join with you to push on to the citadel, but first they need to
take a command post downstairs. You fight your way out to the street and your
team of rebels must defend her as she hacks a combine barrier.
This goes on for a while as wave after wave of combine attacks your position, but you
have plenty of allies, supplies and cover to help.
The two of you push on, closing the barrier behind you and dooming the rebels to their
deaths! Up ahead the road is destroyed, so Alyx climbs
a building to scout ahead. BUT OH NO she’s captured by the combine,
leaving you alone yet again! The next area I can best describe as a well
lit Nova Prospekt. You fight against manhacks, clear some cool physics, probably placed in
to showcase the game during the teasers. Head down this deathtrap of a staircase, then through
a hugely infested sewer bit. There are a few cool setpiece things here which I’ll show
you. Then you get to this massive warehouse, with
the goal being to reach the top. It takes a while, using lifts and ladders while fighting
increasingly hard combine soldiers. Chapter 11: “Follow Freeman!”
You hear that Barney is pinned down in a house down the road by snipers. Suddenly your rebel
followers seem utterly pointless as they’re mowed down by snipers in a matter of seconds!
You can quite easily beat them by employing some Phoon-style bunnyhopping as you erratically
hop from cover to cover, until you make it to the basement- and the greatest Half-Life
2 Deathmatch level of all time. This poor guy isn’t in good shape- and soon
you learn why. You then head up through the building to Barney
and have at your disposal an unlimited supply of grenades to take down the snipers with.
Together, you head through some alley-ways until you come across this impressive looking
building. This is the Nexus Building, now a hub for Combine activity.
You head down to the street and must face another predictive weapon attack. Only this
one’s a bit more impressive looking than the snipers. Their ‘suppression device’
is kind of like an Ion Cannon that fires a massive beam down in whichever direction you’re
moving, so again you must bunnyhop from cover to cover as you clear out buildings on the
way to the Nexus. While I don’t like this combine rifle much,
its secondary fire does come in handy in situations like these.
Now in the Nexus, your goal is to find your way from room to room, disabling the forcefields
until you make it to the roof. There are 3 power generators to disable.
This bit of the game takes quite a while. There are these gun turrets hidden in the
floor, which a well-placed grenade can take out. This first Power Generator is easy, but
the ones after are in quite memorable rooms with various puzzles and enemy encounters
in. Honestly, I still get lost in this building.
It’s a maze. This second room is a laser maze. Activate them and you’ll get shot
up by turrets, so you’ve got to creep through the room, scaling cover and disabling tripmines.
With that one down, it’s onto the third room. You and your team get sealed inside
and combine begin breaking through the doors and shooting through the cracks around the
outside. With all those disabled, you fight your way
to a stairwell and up onto the roof of the building.
Up here you fight a gunship. You can also take out the striders in the streets below,
but they’re only replaced with others. You face a few waves of combine soldiers along
this roof, then drop down into the street again to fight back through the open plaza,
this time with striders everywhere to make your life more difficult.
One of these pursues you into the next level and you fight your way up several storeys
with the strider continually trying to get a good shot on you. You can take it out…
but I just moved on to the next level. You face some hard fighting in the next area,
both above and below ground, all the while dodging strider attacks. This is when the
game really throws everything it has at you, though you have a continual supply of fresh
rebels to cope with it all. This ends with a fight from this roof-top.
Take out the two striders and your route to the citadel is cleared. You head towards the
horse statue, then meet up with Dog again who proves to be quite useful.
Chapter 12: Our Benefactors You finally reach the Citadel, and must find
your way inside in this platform segment. It’s eerily quiet inside- it’s as though
nobody knows you’re there. You hop on this pod and are taken on a beautiful
tour of this place. Eventually it drops you down into this room
and strips you of all your weapons. But one of them refuses to be taken!
Your gravity gun is given super powers and is now much more powerful. You become an unstoppable
super-solder as you’re able to pick up and chuck the combine themselves!
All the while, Breen can be seen on the monitors trying to reason with you.
As you progress through this level and beat wave after wave of combine he gets increasingly
frustrated and desperate. The healing stations on the walls are super-powered
and charge you up quickly and to 200% charge. This sequence ends with a long hall-way where
you’ve got to use energy balls to take down a strider.
Then you hop on another pod. But you’re spotted, and are taken to the
top of the citadel. Chapter 13: Dark Energy
There’s a lot of cutscenes in this bit, but to summarise,
Breen holds all the cards now that he’s captured you, Eli and Alyx. Well, you kind
of captured yourself. But whatever. But Judith betrays him and sets you free!
You and Alyx chase Dr Breen but he manages to escape, and from the conversations you
hear him having, it sounds like he’s going to be put into a host body to let him survive
somewhere that’s not like Earth. Alyx says her farewells to you, and you return
the favour with a nod or something. Then it’s onto the final boss fight.
You must clear power generators and hop from platform to platform as you race Dr Breen
to the top. Once there, you’re attacked by gunships
and must destroy all of the shields surrounding the reactor core. And after the credits is this clip.