From ColecoVision To iPhone Games: Some High Water
In this ongoing look at significant moments in the history of video game design, we have already taken a look at Bungie's Halo & Halo 2, Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series, Nintendo's Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and several others. The goal of this series is to go beyond simple gaming magazines and iphone apps reviews, and take a closer look at what defines memorability and quality in game design. In this tenth part of the series we will examine some more of those classic moments where video game designers undoubtedly got it right and delivered a memorable, enduring and progressive gaming experience. Half-Life 2: Years of perceived and actual delays, a highly publicized code theft and endless speculation made up just part of the massive discourse leading up to the release of Valve Software's follow up to their mega-hit Half Life. The rare sequel that surpasses the original in nearly every aspect, Half-Life 2 released to incredible sales and nearly universal praise from game critics and players worldwide. While trying to single out an element of Half Life 2 to praise above others is akin to locating a unique snowflake, we can simply play it safe and focus on the game's true star, the gravity gun. Manipulation of the environment in video games was not a new thing when Half Life 2 released in 2004. Classic games like Lode Runner and next generation titles such as Red Faction had used these kinds of tactics in the past and managed to make them an integral aspect of gameplay. However, where those games relied on environmental manipulation as a component of gameplay, Half Life 2 (HL2) used it as the central thesis for its entire gameplay strategy. As Half-Life will forever be known for its crowbar, its sequel has become synonymous with the gravity gun, and it is this single weapon/device that is the focus of this light of praise. One of the most well known promotional videos for HL2 involved a clip showing the player defending a home from invaders. The gravity gun was used in this video to push appliances in front of the door in order to block it from invading zombies, to pick up and hurl objects at said intruders and to perform other gravity defying tasks. This video served to prepare the player for what was to come and whet the appetite of mod developers worldwide. Despite this warning, players the world over were completely unprepared for the incredible leap forward in videogame weapon design that was the HL2 gravity gun. Perhaps the best aspect of the gravity gun was how incredibly diverse its usage was. Certain puzzles throughout the game depended on intelligent use of the gun in order to continue forward progress. At other points, the gun was critical in defeating enemies and completing specific goals. However, it was the non required use of this tool that makes it go down in videogame history as one of the most perfectly realized and designed objects of all time. Uses of the grav gun included: throwing pieces of the environment at enemies (including paint cans, saw blades and random garbage), using it to build a defensive position for yourself, overturning vehicles and, in the final sections of the game, using it to toss enemies around levels and at each other. For the purposes of pure fun, the gravity gun in HL2 is one of the most rewarding weapons in videogame history. The reason this gun is worthy of mention in this article series, however, is not due to its incredible fun factor, but is leveraging of technology and harmonization with videogame design. Simply put, the gun is fun, functional, incredibly progressive and allows the player to build their own experience and dictate the way they will interact with their gameplay environment. If you have never experienced the joy of HL2 and the pleasures the grav gun delivers, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy as soon as possible (you can thank me later!).