Half-Life 2: Episode Two Impressions

Valve shows off a new Episode Two trailer behind closed doors at the 2006 Games Convention in Leipzig.

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LEIPZIG, Germany--We met with Valve earlier today and were treated to a behind-closed-doors showing of the latest Half-Life 2: Episode 2 trailer. We'll share the trailer with you just as soon as we're able to, but in the meantime, we thought we'd whet your appetite with a quick rundown of what we saw. We'll be talking primarily about what transpired in the trailer, so look away if you don't want it spoiled for you. Before you do that, though, know that Episode Two is going to look even better than its predecessors, thanks to the introductions of shadow-mapping support, new foliage and particle systems, multicore processor support, and real-time "cinematic physics."

The trailer, which uses in-game footage exclusively, kicked off in a network of underground tunnels, where Gordon is being accompanied by a pessimistic vortigaunt who believes that their "cause is hopeless." The dimly lit tunnels, which look great when using the flashlight, thanks to the game's new shadow-mapping, are home to large spiderlike creatures that have covered areas of the tunnel network with webs and have larvae that glow a bright green color. We were told that the lighting in the tunnel scene isn't final yet, but it was impressive nonetheless.

After spending a few minutes in the tunnels, the trailer moved outside to what appeared to be a ruined farmhouse. Gordon used his gravity gun to catch and throw back a grenade that was tossed in his direction, and then jumped into a buggy of some kind (or perhaps the bare bones of a regular car) and raced off along some railway tracks. Numerous enemies attempted to attack Gordon as he raced along the railway and went off-road, but it was the helicopter circling overhead that was the most menacing.

Sure enough, when the driving sequence came to an end, Gordon--along with a small number of allies--was tasked with taking down the helicopter by firing the large bombs that it was dropping onto the ground back at it with the gravity gun. The sequence was action-packed, but the best was most definitely yet to come.

The final sequence of the demo saw Gordon facing off against a number of tripod walkers in and around what appeared to be an abandoned cabin. Choosing to use his gravity gun almost exclusively, Gordon was forced to improvise as he moved in and out of the cabin by smashing windows and jumping through them to evade the enemies' attacks. Objects that got hurled at the walkers during the fight included old tires, an axe, a rock, a large water trough, and some kind of sticky bomb or magnetic explosive that landed on the walker's head and stayed there until Gordon detonated it with another well-placed shot.

We're sorry that we can't share the trailer with you at this time, but rest assured we'll do so just as soon as it's made available to us. Half-Life 2: Episode Two, which will ship along with Team Fortress 2 and Portal, is currently scheduled for release toward the end of this year.

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