The story in Half-life 2 isn’t that great either

mad breen

So, I’ve always been annoyed by some terrible aspects of Half-life 2’s story. I’ve already talked about Half-life 1’s being pretty silly, and how I don’t think Alyx Vance is a strong female character, so here we go again.

Are there people who claim that HL2 has a well written story? I don’t know, but here’s why they’re wrong if they exist.

Everyone is from Black Mesa:

I get that Kleiner and Eli are from Black Mesa. Turning generic NPCs into canon characters is kind of cool. And then Barney is the security guard from Black Mesa… okay, I guess. And Dr. Breen, the antagonist, is also from Black Mesa… what? But, then Judith Mossman is also from Black Mesa! Seriously?? They couldn’t have said she was from some other lab or research facility? Couldn’t they make something up? “Valiance Industries”. “J. Robin Dartmoore Laboratories”. “Hephaestus Technologies”. I just made those up, it wasn’t hard; I did it in about ten seconds.

And then in Episode 2, Magnusson is also from Black Mesa! Holy shit! Everyone is from Black Mesa. It’s like planet Earth consists of only two geographic locations: Black Mesa and City 17. Those are the only two places that anyone talks about. Sure, we hear a civilian NPC mention he’s been to City 13, but that’s probably just a typo. Valve probably meant for him to say he’s from Black Mesa.


Why not have the Vortigaunt in the lab coat be from Black Mesa. He could have been one of the invading vortigaunts. He could have been like, “We were there at the Dark Plateau and watched helplessly when the Free Man cut our brothers’ vortal essence. We fought many of your kind. What happened to the ninjas? Why aren’t they helping fight the Combine?”

Hell, at this point, I’m surprised that the Combine isn’t from Black Mesa either. I mean, why not? Everyone else is.

In all seriousness though, this is some of the most mind numbingly amateurish writing I’ve ever seen. This is the kind of mistake in world building that a teenager would make. Literally, every major human character is from Black Mesa. Every single one. This just makes the world seem small, claustrophobic, and narrow. Giving characters differing backgrounds would make the world seem more broad, rich, and alive. What Valve’s writers went with instead, is such a juvenile and amateurish writing mistake that I cannot understand what it’s doing in HL2’s story. Are they planning on doing something clever with this? Or do they really just not understand anything about story writing or world building?

Oh my GOD! I seriously can’t get over how bad this story decision is! I could talk about it for pages.

But, I won’t.

Father Grigori:

Hey remember Father Grigori? The half-insane, priest-lookin’, Eastern European caricature who calls zombies his “flock” and tends to his “congregation” by shooting them with a shotgun? Nope? Well, I certainly didn’t remember him until I read a synopsis of the Half-life 2 story while writing this article. He’s such a pointless and bizarre character that my brain wiped him from my memories of Half-life 2. I couldn’t even find any interesting pictures of him, not even one’s from Garry’s Mod.

What branch of Christianity does he belong to? Eastern Orthodox? Roman Catholic? We don’t know, and maybe Father Grigori doesn’t know either.

He doesn’t really fit with the rest of the Half-life universe. It’s not clear whether you’re supposed to take him seriously as a character, or treat him like dark comedy, or what.

He’s also responsible for building all the different traps around Ravenholm. Make of that what you will.

In “Raising the Bar”, Valve mentions that they don’t plan on reusing this character. Yeah? No, shit? You don’t plan on reusing your weird, tonally conflicting character who doesn’t feel like he fits in this universe and serves no purpose? Go figure.


dog v gunship

Oh my god, I hate Dog. Everything about him. He just doesn’t seem like he fits in the Half-life universe, doesn’t serve any real purpose in terms of gameplay or story, and he just creates holes in the Valve’s narrative. But, I guess playtesters responded well to him and Valve is their bitch (no pun intended).

Let’s look at the various things Dog has done in the HL2 series. He throws an entire car at some Combine soldiers. He personally attacks and defeats a Combine Armored Personnel Carrier. He attacks and defeats a Combine dropship which is a vehicle that can fly. He uses his body to improve Skype reception between Alyx and her father. He single handedly throws a car, with Gordon and Alyx inside, with ease and accuracy, across hundreds of yards, and into a small opening in the Combine citadel. Takes out a Strider by himself. Attacks two Combine Advisors and injures one of them so badly that both fly away, and then he yells, “This is MY house!” while thumping his metal chest.

Why the hell hasn’t the resistance more Dogs? He’s an army all by himself. He’s already Alyx’s personal deus ex machina. Why even bother with Gordon Freeman when Dog can win this war single handedly? I’m serious.

When we first meet Alyx she tells us that her dad, Eli Vance, built the first model of Dog in order to protect her. She says, “The first model was yay high [3 feet]. I’ve been adding to him ever since [currently, like, eight feet tall].”

dog and alyx

So, this massively powerful robot was built by one scientist. Then his young daughter, with no formal education, built onto him to make him powerful enough to take on every branch of the Combine military.

And since Eli built Dog in secret during the Combine occupation, he and Alyx probably had to build Dog out of scrap metal they found lying around. Dog even looks like he was made from random parts from a junkyard. So, it shouldn’t be hard to find more scrap metal to build more Dogs.

And the engineering of this machine isn’t the only thing that’s impressive. There’s the software, too. Dog must be an intelligent, at least partially sentient, AI. He shows emotions frequently throughout the series. He has complex problem solving skills and context based recognition of danger, enemies, friendlies, etc.

So, why haven’t we seen them program more AIs to work for the resistance, even if it’s in a purely digital form? Or why can’t they just copy and paste Dog’s code to create more intelligent, emotional, and loyal AIs?

Every time I see Dog do anything impressive in the game, it just pulls me out of the moment because I’m sitting there thinking, “Why isn’t this game about Gordon Freeman building more D0gs?”

Isn’t it negligent of Alyx to be running around playing Valkyrie when she should be concentrating on building more mechanical fighting machines? Isn’t it negligent of Eli Vance not to have built more robots like Dog to begin with?

Not only that, but Dog really serves no purpose other than to appeal to fans.

dog half life

I think part of his intended purpose is to show how resourceful and intelligent the Vance’s are, but is it worth it. The only thing he ever really DOES is come out of nowhere to save Alyx and Gordon when they’re in trouble. He doesn’t contribute anything to the story or plot, he doesn’t add any interesting game mechanics, and he doesn’t provide any interesting gameplay moments (except for the Gravity Gun tutorial) because all his actions are scripted. Dog is basically a cinematic that Valve inserts into their game every so often to make the fans go, “Oh cool! Dog!”

And, remember, that on top of adding nothing to the game, except fan appeal, Dog just creates these massive holes in the story. He’s an easily built, extremely powerful fighting machine. The Resistance should have dozens of Dogs that kill all the Striders and Advisors, and end the Combine occupation in a couple days.

But, I guess an army of Dogs would just be an army of deus ex machinas which would be stepping on the toes of Half-life’s other army of deus ex machinas.

alien slave

With every expansion, the Vortigaunts get more stupidly powerful. By the end of Episode 2, they are so powerful that it just doesn’t even make sense. Why haven’t they killed the entire Combine already? How has anyone ever been able to make them slaves to begin with?

Just look at some of the things the Vortigaunts are able to do.

Cook vegetable soup. Power an unplugged tv set. Recharge batteries. Weld guns onto hovercrafts. Recharge Gordon’s HEV suit. CONFRONT AND OVERPOWER THE G-MAN IN HIS OWN REALM IN ORDER TO FREE GORDON FREEMAN. Freeze time and teleport humans away from deadly Citadel explosions. Power electrical motors and engines. Fight antlions and zombies and Combine Hunters. Farm and herd antlions in their home dimension. Resurrect human beings or at least bring them back from near death. One Vortigaunt in Episode 2 even displays the ability to wear clothes, although it’s only a lab coat so maybe in Episode 3 they’ll have the power to wear pants, too.

That’s on top of being able to shoot lightening. And they can telepathically communicate with each other..


Honestly, how were they ever slaves to begin with. Because, keep in mind, in the original Half-life, they were “Alien Slaves”. At the beginning of HL2 we even see a Vortigaunt in a collar and manacles sweeping the Combine’s floor. How is anyone capable of enslaving this race of unstoppable lightening wizards? It just shouldn’t be possible. Unless of course Valve’s writers are just kind of making it all up as they go along.

It’s like every time Valve traps Alyx or Gordon in an impossible situation, the writers just give the Vortigaunts a new power to save the day. They are an entire species of deus ex machinas, and that’s just bad writing, and kind of stupid. Especially since Valve’s writers have two other characters, Dog and G-man, that serve that exact same role already.

Why are there Vortigaunts on Earth? Is it from the Black Mesa incident, because I thought they were all killed back then? Did they come from Xen? But, I thought the Combine took over Xen, so shouldn’t the vortigaunts be enslaved by the Combine? How are the vortigaunts roaming free on Earth when the humans are all captured in Cities? Shouldn’t the Combine have their own vortigaunts incorporated into their army if they captured Xen and Earth, the only two places where vortigaunts can be found? Seriously, I’ve looked online and found no answer to “where did the vortigaunts in HL2 come from” and “why are the vortigaunts on earth in HL2”.



Speaking of stupidly powerful alien powers: what about those pheropods that control the antlions? In terms of gameplay, they are a tremendous amount of fun, don’t get me wrong. It’s a unique and refreshing idea, and its execution is well done. I like the pheropods more than even the gravity gun, and I wish I could play the entire Half-life series with just pheropods. But, there are some definite questions raised by their existence in the story.

Why is Gordon the only person using pheropods? The vortigaunts clearly know about pheropods, how to extract them, and how to use them. Why haven’t they given them out to all sorts of Resistance fighters? Why haven’t the vortigaunts and the humans assaulted the Combine with an army of ant lions commanded by the pheropods?

The Combine have been around for about twenty years. They haven’t figured this shit out about controlling the antlions? Instead, they create giant thumping machines to keep antlions at bay? No one’s figured out how to synthesize pheropods in all those twenty years? Where are the human or Combine scientists working on studying this really powerful substance?

I mean, I know that pheropods come from dead Antlion Guards, which are hard to kill and there’s only so many of them. But, couldn’t the vortigaunts, the Resistance, or the Combine have managed it somehow?

Nope? Only Gordon can use the pheropods? Well, okay, I guess.



    • Philtron

      Wow, thanks for that compliment. I’ll definitely try to get out more articles like this in the future. Can’t say if they’ll be Half-life related, but I’ll try to make them entertaining.

      Thanks again for the comment.


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